October of every year is the National Dental Hygiene Month! We celebrate together with dental health professionals all over the country by highlighting the importance of dental and oral health. Back in the day, dental and oral problems were considered a separate health matter with no possible link to other more serious health issues (e.g. diabetes, heart disease).
But times have changed, and it is undoubtedly for the better. With the help of continuous medical researches and modern technology, a newfound interest is sweeping the medical industry when it comes to the possible links between dental and oral health and your overall body health. It’s a good thing physician are taking more holistic approach when it comes to health. As recent studies have revealed that people with gum disease have a 40% higher chance of having a coinciding chronic condition elsewhere in their bodies.
As a pain relief specialist, I understand that pain can occur in any part of the body including the mouth. I am sure you’ll agree with me that a seemingly simple toothache can deliver a level of pain that can immobilize any person for days without treatment. What most people fail to realize is that having these “simple” mouth-related pains can also be a sign of other issues within the body. That is why it is important to also understand how the mouth can trigger other, more severe conditions.
MOUTH: DOORWAY TO THE BODY
We utilize our teeth, tongue and mouth muscles to breakdown the food we consume daily. In turn, bacteria can start to accumulate in our mouth. Without proper dental and oral hygiene, bacteria build up will eventually cause infection to the gums.
Inflammation will follow as the immune system attempts to fight off the infection. If ignored, the inflammation will persist and eventually eat away at the gums and the very structure that holds your teeth in place. This resulting condition is called periodontitis or severe gum disease.
While the mouth is considered the doorway to the body – the entry point of the food we eat to power up our bodies – it may also be a doorway to infection, body pain and diseases, especially without appropriate dental and oral hygiene.
ORAL HEALTH AND BODY PAIN
Some people might find it hard to believe that poor oral hygiene is linked, or may even directly affect, different kinds of body pain. This in understandable as researches on the impact of dental and oral health on the body are all relatively new.
Take joint pains, for example.
Researchers in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Rheumatology have found traces of bacteria usually found in gums in the knees of patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Another research from the Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland looked into 36 cases of knee arthritis and found that mouth bacteria made its way to the synovial fluid which surrounds the kneecap. The bacterial DNA revealed that it entered the bloodstream through the gums and settled in the synovial fluid in the kneecap. What is fascinating is that in two (2) of the 36 patients studied, the bacteria found in their mouth and synovial fluid are genetically nearly identical, which is an undeniable evidence to the ability of bacteria to relocate in other parts of the body.
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine also did a research in 2016 to try and uncover the root cause of RA. Researchers have found evidence that a bacterium associated with chronic gum infections may trigger the inflammatory response of rheumatoid arthritis. They also found that patients with periodontal disease experience a similar process of inflammation with RA patients called hyper-citrullination.
These researches all point to the same conclusion that oral diseases such as advanced periodontitis may lead to bad bacteria flowing into the bloodstream and targeting an already existing inflammation (i.e. knees). Hallmark researches such as these prove more and more the connection between poor dental and oral health and the presence of joint-related pains.
Although there is more research to be done to fully establish the link between poor oral health and body pain, it is certain that the presence of bacteria, wherever it originates from, can deeply worsen the already pained and disease-stricken part of the body.
There a lot of other possible pain areas and conditions linked to poor dental and oral hygiene. Some of these are:
- Diabetes – inflammation due to periodontitis seem to weaken the ability of the body to control blood sugar. At the same time high blood sugar is an ideal scenario for growth of infections including those in the gums. Experts recommend managing one condition to further control the other.
- Heart Disease – Statistics show that about 91% of patients with heart disease also have periodontitis as against 66% of people with no heart disease. Risk factors such as smoking, excess weight and an unhealthy diet are risk factors of both conditions. Which is why some experts believe that periodontitis has a direct role in increasing the risk of heart disease.
Similar to how it affects the joints, the inflammation starting in the mouth can cause inflammation in the blood vessels. With inflamed blood vessels, less blood can travel between the heart and other organs in the body which then raises blood pressure. There is also a greater chance of a stroke or heart attack with the possibility of a fatty plaque breaking away from a blood vessel wall and traveling to the heart or brain.
- Pregnancy – Hormonal changes during pregnancy increases the risk of developing periodontitis in women. Once a mother is affected by this, researchers say it may also interfere with the development of the fetus in the womb as infection and inflammation generally has a significant effect on a fetus’ growth.
ORAL HEALTH AND HOW IT AFFECTS YOUR ORGANS AND EVERYDAY EMOTIONS
You read that right.
Good oral health can also influence our everyday emotions. How?
Our teeth are connected to our gums which in turn are linked to our bloodstream. Poor dental and oral hygiene can lead to teeth and gum infections and bacteria accumulation which in turn can result in an increased susceptibility to a myriad of diseases. Being chronically ill affects not just our physical well-being but also our emotional and psychological health.
This is where the Meridian Tooth Chart comes in handy. It shows which specific organs each individual tooth is connected to. It takes influence from traditional Chinese medicinal practices which value a holistic approach in healing an individual.
For example, pain you feel in your stomach now may be traced to an infection. Infection that started in your second molar on the top right part of your jaw. Feelings of anxiety, low self-worth, obsession, hatred and a need for self-punishment may be rooted from this area according to the Meridian Tooth Chart.
EASY TIPS ON MAINTAINING GOOD DENTAL AND ORAL HEALTH
Needless to say, dental & oral health are essential to your overall health. Maintaining good oral hygiene will give you a boost in confidence. It will also lessen your risk of developing infections and diseases caused by inflammation in your gums.
Here are few tips you can try at home. They will help you maintain a good dental and oral hygiene, and keep you smiling:
- To combat gum bacteria, you can use nascent iodine . Use 3 drops in your water pick at lowest setting to flush out the bacteria. It also can help clean deep pockets in the gums
- Use a saltwater rinse up to 3x daily to ease pain caused by inflamed gums
- Try all-natural, homemade mouthwashes such as lemongrass oil, tea tree or aloe vera
- Try Organic Clove oil on the gums for pain
- For more adventurous folks try ozone therapy
Remember that a simple toothache may be a warning sign for something much worse. Be aware of the changes in your mouth feel. If any inflammation is building or if there are any sores present in your mouth please consult your dentist.
Want to learn more about body pain and pain management? Schedule an appointment today!