As a family dentist in SW Portland, our team at Terwilliger Dental wants every patient to enjoy a healthy, great-looking smile for a lifetime.

While it’s easy to think of your oral health as only having to do with the health of your teeth and gums, many years of advanced research has found surprising links between your oral and your overall health.

Research has shown that individuals who deal with common dental issues like tooth decay, gum disease, and tooth loss have a significantly higher risk for developing a range of chronic illnesses that include heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and even cancer.

What could possibly connect our oral health to such serious health problems? Let’s take a look.

Understanding the Mouth/Body Connection

Researchers don’t fully understand what creates the connection that links the health of our teeth and gums to our overall health. However, they do have a few theories about a possible explanation.

First, we need to examine what primarily links oral disease and systemic diseases that attack the body. The primary trait both of these issues have in common is inflammation.

Inflammation is often referred to as the primary contributing factor in systemic diseases within the body.

Gum disease, a chronic infection of gum tissue, is caused by harmful oral bacteria commonly referred to as plaque. When plaque builds up on the surface of our teeth, it uses the sugars we consume to produce harmful substances that erode away at tooth enamel and causes gum tissue to become inflamed.

Once the gum tissue becomes inflamed, red and swollen, it will bleed easily especially after brushing and flossing. When left untreated, the inflammation caused by gum disease will result in our gums pulling away from the base of our teeth, creating small pockets. Plaque builds up in these pockets and starts to accumulate below the gum line, slowly destroying the underlying tissue and bone structure that holds our teeth into position.

So, What Links Gum Disease and Heart Disease?

Researchers hypothesize that when cracks develop in our gum tissue as the result of early stage gum disease, the plaque and bacterial associated with it can enter our bloodstream through these cracks.

Once in the bloodstream, plaque has the freedom to move throughout the body, accumulating in foreign areas such as the joints and heart valves. Once plaque has settled, the bacteria starts the process of causing inflammation in whatever part of the body it now resides.

Researchers have found evidence that support this theory. Studies have actually found oral plaque deposits in the joints of patients suffering from rheumatoid arthritis and in the valves of patients with heart disease.

Protecting Your Health Requires Seeing a Family Dentist in SW Portland

As research continues to explore what links our oral health to our overall health, one thing has become perfectly clear – our oral health matters.

To protect your teeth and gums from disease, you need to to be diligent in brushing and flossing your teeth, and receive regular dental care. Regular cleanings in our office will remove plaque deposits from the surface of our teeth. Frequent exams conducted by your family dentist in Portland can spot the early signs of tooth decay and gum disease while still easily treatable.

Your oral health may not seem like that big a deal, but research has shown that caring for your teeth and gums will do far more than just give you a great-looking smile. Don’t neglecting your oral health.

Contact our office today to schedule your next exam with Dr. Hoang, and feel confident about your smile.