Oral Health and Overall Health
By CareerSmart® Learning Contributor, as published by Healthcare Hot Spot
The eyes might be the windows to the soul, but the mouth is the window to the body. Or to be more accurate, the mouth can be a barometer for a person’s overall health. That is not to say that a person’s blood pressure can be determined based on their smile, but rather that the mouth is like a microcosm of the entire body. There are three ways that this can be seen:
- Oral health corresponds to mental health. People with mental health issues are 2.7 times more likely to lose all of their teeth than the general population (Kisely, 2016). This increased likelihood could have many factors, such as people with depression are more likely to have poor oral hygiene as a result of self-neglect and are 20 to 30 percent more likely to have lost all their teeth than the general population (Kisely, 2016). However, there are also many psychiatric medications that result in decreased saliva production, leading to cavities and gum disease because saliva is not there to cleanse the teeth after eating and naturally decrease the acidity in the mouth caused by bacteria. Additionally, missing teeth can alter speech, leading to social isolation that can further exacerbate depression. Studies have shown that there is a connection between mental health issues, from depression to schizophrenia, and poor oral health (Kisely, 2016).
- Many health conditions unrelated to oral health can present in the mouth and vice versa. There are many diseases that have associations with oral health issues. For example, people with HIV/AIDS are more likely to develop oral thrush and painful mucosal lesions in the mouth. And alternatively, diseases like endocarditis can occur when bacteria from the body (or mouth) get into the bloodstream and damage areas of the heart (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2016).
- Several diseases can exacerbate oral health issues. For example, diabetes can weaken the body’s resistance to infection, making it more difficult to manage oral health. Daily oral health maintenance is focused on keeping the bacteria in the mouth at bay so that teeth and gums remain healthy. Additionally, research has found that diabetics with gum disease have more difficulty controlling their blood sugar levels, but regular oral care can lead to improved glucose control (Kisely, 2016).
Just like the entire body, the mouth is teeming with bacteria. If proper oral care is not maintained and the bacteria run rampant, then the consequences can be more systemic than just a cavity. Oral health plays an important part in patients’ overall health, from their mental health to preventing diseases. So take the time discuss oral health with patients and ensure that patients are receiving the oral care that they need.
Kisely, S. (2016). No mental health without oral health. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry; 61(5): 277-282. Doi: 10.1177/0706743716632523
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2016). Dental care. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/basics/dental-care/hlv-20049421