The mouth is the gateway to your overall health.

There is a direct relationship between diseases of the mouth and their effect on the body. This means improper care of your teeth and gums can lead to more health problems in other areas of the body.

In this column, we will discuss how maintaining good oral health not only prevents pain and suffering, it also reduces medical diseases.

Your oral health offers clues about your overall health. Your mouth is immersed with millions of bacteria. Your mouth is the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts and some of these bacteria, if lodged in the wrong place promotes disease.

Normally the body’s natural defenses and good oral health care; such as daily brushing and flossing, help keep bacteria under control. However; without proper oral hygiene or proper treatment bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease.

Dental diseases that adversely affect your overall health are as follows:

  1. When a large cavity extends to the nerve, leading to intense pain, root canal or severe infection
  2. When gums are severely infected as a result of gum disease and abscesses causing pus development
  3. Bacterial infection from the mouth causing a weakened immune response resulting in medical disease

Oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with gum disease (periodontitis) is the culprit. Certain diseases, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 lower the body’s resistance to infection making oral health problems more severe.

Some of the diseases oral bacteria and gum diseases can contribute to:

  • Infectious endocarditis. This infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves usually occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body; such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Research shows that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke can be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
  • Pregnancy and birth complications. Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight babies. Bacteria from the mouth travel through the blood system and could affect the placenta causing premature contractions.
  • Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing primary pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
  • By reducing the body’s resistance to infection, diabetes puts your gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. People who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
  • This bone-weakening disease is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

Tell your dentist about the medications you take and changes in your overall health; especially if you’ve recently been ill or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.

To protect your oral health, practice good oral hygiene daily. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day for two minutes each time. Use a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste. Eat a healthy diet and limit sugary foods and drinks. Replace your toothbrush every two to three months, or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn. Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings. Avoid tobacco use.

Protect yourself by learning more about the connection between your oral health and overall health. Investment in your overall health by taking care of your oral health prevents unnecessary pain and suffering.

Many other diseases are associated with a dental origin



Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is Founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau and Freeport. He is the first Bahamian Specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He also is a certified Fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or [email protected]

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