Oral Health Resources | 23 August, 2019

10 Facts About the the Relationship Between Oral Health and General Health

The mouth cannot be considered in isolation from the rest of the body.

Oral health and general health have a close two-way relationship – the mouth is the mirror to the body and offers clues about the status of overall health.

It can reveal nutritional deficiencies; signs of systemic diseases like bacterial infections, immune disorders, and oral cancer; and unhealthy habits such as tobacco or alcohol use.

Many general health conditions increase the risk of oral diseases and problems in the mouth can also negatively impact the rest of the body.

For example, diabetes and HIV/AIDS can lower the body’s resistance to infection and make problems in the mouth more severe. Patients with diabetes have an increased risk of periodontal (gum) disease. Gum disease may also be associated with cardiovascular (heart) disease, respiratory disease and pancreatic cancers.

Here’s 10 facts to make the mouth-health relationship clearer to us non-dentist types!

  1. Oral health is essential to maintaining general health and well-being.Oral health affects general health by causing considerable pain and suffering and by changing what people eat, their speech and their quality of life and well-being.
  2. Oral diseases affect 3.9 billion people worldwide, with untreated tooth decay (dental caries) impacting almost half of the world’s population.
  3. Globally, between 60–90% of schoolchildren and nearly 100% adults have tooth decay.
  4. Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory diseases, and mental and neurological disorders – are responsible for an estimated 5 million deaths every year. Oral diseases are important NCDs, with untreated tooth decay (dental caries) being the single most prevalent and preventable disease in the world.
  5. An examination of the mouth can reveal initial signs of systemic diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and unhealthy habits such as tobacco or alcohol use.
  6. Oral diseases are associated with a number of other NCDs, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and gastrointestinal and pancreatic cancers. Some of these relationships appear to be bi-directional — e.g. people with diabetes have an increased risk of periodontal disease, and treatment of periodontal disease improves blood glucose levels.
  7. Many general health conditions increase the risk of oral diseases, such as an increased risk of periodontal (gum) disease in patients with diabetes; and vice versa, poor oral health can have a negative impact on general health conditions and their management.
  8. All major NCDs – including most oral diseases – share the same social determinants, including poverty, and some common risk factors: an unhealthy diet (particularly one high in sugar), tobacco use and harmful use of alcohol. Oral health should be integrated into general health promotion.
  9. Prevention, early detection and treatment are key to ensure the best outcome and reduce oral disease and associated general health complications.
  10. Effective regional and national strategies and programmes to promote oral health and prevent oral disease show population-wide improvement of oral health can contribute to preventing the leading NCDs.

Thanks to the FDI World Dental Federation for this content. Learn more about World Oral Health Day.