Most of us have heard the phrase “the eyes are the window to the soul.”  By analogy, when it comes to the relationship between our oral cavity and the rest of our body, the oral cavity can be thought of as the “window” as well.

Though this example is abstract, it is important for all of us to see, in concrete terms, that our oral health is an integral part of our systemic health.  This notion is certainly intuitive and logical, however, prevailing notions up until fairly recently have worked to psychologically separate our dental and systemic health.  We think of dental decay and gingival disease as health concerns confined merely to our teeth and the gums which surround them.  However, did you know that oral health affects sleeping, breathing, respiration, heart health and even diabetes status? 

This fact may be surprising—but research conducted over the past several decades definitively points to a link between oral and overall health.  To illustrate just one example, let’s talk about diabetes.  

Diabetes is a condition in which our bodies are unable to use blood sugar properly.  As a result, blood sugar builds to such high levels that our bodies release inflammatory chemicals.  This affects our gum health because, as we discussed in a recent post, inflammation is what eventually causes breakdown of the bone supporting our teeth.

Importantly, the link between diabetes and our oral health is a two-way street.  Just as inflammation from diabetes adversely affects periodontal health, inflammation from the gums affects diabetes status.  This is because poor gum health causes inflammatory chemicals to increase throughout our entire blood stream.  These chemicals further damage the ability of cells to properly take up sugar from the blood, thus making diabetes worse. 

Our mouths are involved in many functions—speaking, breathing, chewing and digesting food, and of course, smiling!  Therefore, it’s only natural to expect that our oral cavities are integral to the health of many organ systems.  So the next time your dentist says “open wide!”, be assured that he or she is checking up on far more than just whether or not you have cavities.  For more information on all topics oral health, be sure to visit us at www.watergatedental.com.  Thank you for reading!