The road to a healthy life lies starts from your mouth.
Good Oral and Systemic Health are bi-directionally related to each other . For one to prosper, the other should flourish too.
The term ‘health’, though quite prevalently used and understood throughout the world, is yet among the most misinterpreted concept worldwide. To a layman, it means ‘a state of not being diseased’. According to World Health Organization (WHO),” Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”.
When WHO says ‘a state of complete physical health’, it refers to well-being of every organ and tissue within your body. And it includes your mouth too. Being a gateway to your body doesn’t exclude it from being a part of it.
Before diving further into the topic, I want to say that, being a Dentist myself, I solemnly swear that whatever I’m about to say is 100% true, and have sound scientific basis.”
Dentists and Physician agree that ‘a mouth is a window to overall general health’. It means, both oral and systemic health are interconnected. Whatever happens,, or is about to happen within your body is manifested as signs and symptoms here. Just like whenever a guest wants to enter your place, they ring your ‘doorbell’. All the systemic revelations about to occur or occurring within your body ring the bell here. It is us who are apparently deaf to them.
Mouth, designated as oral-cavity in medicine, is an intersection between external environment and body’s internal environment. It has a lot of important anatomic structures within it like teeth, gums, tongue etc. This place is continuously bathed in saliva, and is home to around 500-700 species of bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. There is a very intricate balance among all the commensals and their environment which if disrupted, will lead to a plethora of complications not only within your mouth, but also within your body.
How the damage starts?
The bacteria inhabiting your mouth are eagerly waiting to pave their way into your body, but denied access due to mucosa lining it and your entire digestive system, and Hydrochloric acid (HCL) in your stomach. When you stop taking care of your oral hygiene, plaque (bacterial biofilm) starts to buildup on your tooth surfaces and within your gums. This eventually leads to inflammation of gums (Gingivitis) which then deteriorates their mucosal barrier and granting access to bacteria into the blood vessels supplying them (Periodontitis). And that’s how your sterile bloods becomes infected— called bacteremia in medical terminology, which then circulates throughout your body and adversely affects all your organs.
EFFECTS OF POOR ORAL HYGIENE ON OVERALL HEALTH
- Heart and Vessels
Atherosclerosis means narrowing of blood vessels, and it is the most common cause of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD), Heart Attack , and Stroke.
The bacteremia coupled with the inflammation attributed to poor oral hygiene initiates a cytokine surge (compounds released within body incase of inflammation) which in turn, make vessels’ inner lining more susceptible to injury and expedite cholesterol deposition.
- Thrombus formation
Thrombus basically means ‘clot’. Streptococci viridians, the most prevalent bacteria in the oral cavity, facilitate platelet aggregation and in turn, ‘thrombus’ or ‘clot’ formation.
- Infective endocarditis
Attributed to entry and aggregation of bacteria ( predominantly Streptococcus Viridians) on prosthetic valves within a patient’s heart, and causing infection. It is a life threatening medical condition
Studies have proved that a healthy individual normally swallows 50% of his oropharyngeal contents while sleeping. Hence, patients with poor oral hygiene and periodontitis, along with chronic underlying pulmonary conditions like pneumonia, COPD, chronic bronchitis, emphysema etc. have increased susceptibility for exacerbation of their innate conditions.
- DIABETES MELLITUS
Diabetes Mellitus and Periodontitis have a bidirectional relationship. Uncontrolled diabetes deteriorates oral and periodontal health. Similarly, poor oral hygiene and periodontitis aggravate diabetes. Hence, designated as a ‘sixth complication’ to Diabetes.
Gingival pockets greater than 2mm depicts a pre-diabetic condition. Similarly, gingival pockets greater than 4mm signify severe, uncontrolled diabetic state. Hence, immediate consultation to physician is required on observing such situation.
During pregnancy, drastic increase in the estrogen and progesterone hormone cause swollen gums and consequent inflammation (periodontitis). The bacteria facilitating their way into the bloodstream of mother induces inflammation in the endometrium (inner lining off uterus), inducing labor and premature births consequently.
Recent studies have shown that female with periodontitis also have difficulty conceiving, but this finding needs further research, in o. Hence, it is imperative that females who are pregnant or are trying to conceive maintain optimal oral hygiene to dodge any such complications.
- CHRONIC KIDNEY DISEASE
Patients with chronic kidney diseases along with periodontitis have shown increased incidence of systemic inflammation/infection, protein wasting, and ischemic lesions in the kidney. But this conjecture is much less explored and need further research to support its claim.
Recent studies have developed a positive causal relationship between periodontitis and osteoporosis. The inflammatory mediator IL-6 increased in the blood due to bacteremia, is also a predictor of bone loss. But it not confirmed yet and need further research.
Multiple ailments discussed above are commonly encountered in our society in large number of groups. But I am sure, that never did one wondered that the main cause might be lying in their own mouth. The approach and outlook of people must change. They should understand that each and every organ of their bodies are working in harmony. Ignorance and neglecting one will ultimately bring detrimental effects throughout the body. Similarly, not maintaining one’s oral hygiene will consequently lead to multiple severe systemic complications which will in turn, deteriorate the health of the individual.