Good news for health care patients everywhere, more and more physicians are joining natural practitioners such as Chiropractors and Naturopaths in assessing and treating the body with a holistic approach. This entails understanding that the body is not merely the sum of its parts, rather an integrative organism that thrives as a whole or fails as a whole meaning a deficiency somewhere can wreak havoc in multiple regions of the body.
Certain practices, such as reflexology, iridology, and Chinese Medicine assess a portion of the body (the feet, eyes, and tongue/pulse respectively) to determine overall health concerns. The same can be said for dentistry and their assessment of mouth and gum health, as a surface problem here could mean underlying pathology. The mouth can be seen as a gateway to the body. Redness, inflammation, bacterial build-up, infection and more can raise red flags beyond missing a flossing here and there.
- Saliva & Disease: One popular method of testing for illness is the diagnosis of saliva to identify markers that reveal different pathogens representing endocrine, immunologic, inflammatory, and infectious conditions (ex. HIV, Viral Hepatitis, Helicobacter pylori infection, etc.) along with neoplasms (tumors or cancer such as breast, oral, pancreatic), adrenal concerns (like Cushing’s and Addison’s), hormonal issues (menopause, PCOS, etc.) and more. The mouth reveals valuable information in terms of where to start and what to correct. (reference Saliva testing)
- Oral Health & Diabetes: One specific condition that requires constant monitoring and check-up by a dental professional is that of Diabetes as periodontitis or inflammation of the tissue surrounding the teeth can result in the loosening and loss of teeth. Diabetes affects the patient’s blood sugar levels and the body’s ability to metabolize sugar. With inflammation in the mouth, the saliva is affected and further reduces the enzymes (insulin) necessary to process the sugar. Diabetes and periodontitis are a vicious cycle as having the diabetes puts you at greater risk for gum infection, and high blood sugar found with uncontrolled diabetes provides the ideal growth conditions for bacteria. The moral of the story is to keep the diabetes well looked after by your health care professionals, and make sure a dentist is part of the team!
- Oral Health and Heart Disease: Another group of conditions that have complications affecting the mouth is that of heart disease. It has been recorded that 91% of patients with heart disease have suffered from periodontitis compared to 66% of those without. They share risk factors such as poor diet, smoking, and obesity along with the theory that increased inflammation revealed in the mouth may be linked to increased inflammation in blood vessels through the body. This can lead to complications in the cardiovascular system resulting in potentially fatal results like heart attack or stroke. Quitting smoking and improving diet are two lifestyle changes that will significantly improve your oral and overall health!
- Oral Health and Osteoporosis: Healthy teeth and bones are by-products of good habits and personal dental hygiene and bone loss can affect them both. Some studies suggest those with osteoporosis are more likely to suffer from periodontitis and vice versa. Further studies are required but the bottom line is to manage calcium and practice healthy bone diets and regimes.
Overall, the message is clear—there are clear correlations between oral health and total body wellness and it is imperative to brush, floss, and see your dentist for regular check-ups to maintain good mouth health and catch any conditions that may be rearing their ugly heads!