Although the link between oral health and overall health is extensively documented, it’s often not a focal point of discussions during dental visits. A report from The National Institutes of Health in April 2022 revealed that 90% of adults aged 20 to 64 experience tooth decay, with nearly half of adults aged 45 to 64 affected by gum disease.

How Oral Health Affects Overall Health

Research demonstrates a clear association between oral health habits and the development of conditions such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s, stroke, and heart disease.

Dr. Michael Roizen, the Chief Wellness Officer at the Cleveland Clinic, emphasizes the significant impact of oral health on our general well-being. Neglecting oral health can lead to dental caries (tooth decay) and gum disease entering the bloodstream, potentially causing arterial plaque disruption or inflammation in the brain and other parts of the body.

In 2019, the World Health Organization identified tooth decay in permanent teeth as the most prevalent health condition globally, affecting approximately 3.5 billion people. Despite this, many fail to recognize that tooth decay not only impacts oral health but also poses risks to overall health.

The Connection Between Mouth and Body

Many dentists stress the interconnectedness of the head and body systems, underlining the importance of maintaining good oral hygiene for overall wellness.

Healthy teeth and gums serve as a protective barrier against harmful microbiomes from entering the bloodstream. Once decay and gum disease set in, this barrier is compromised, increasing the risk of heart disease and other complications.

Research published by the American Heart Association indicates that individuals with gum disease are twice as likely to experience a heart attack and three times as likely to suffer a stroke compared to those without inflammatory gum disease.

The Importance of Flossing

An essential preventive measure against such diseases is daily flossing, which Dr. Roizen equates to the equivalent of taking 8,000 steps a day in terms of its health benefits.

To safeguard oral health and overall well-being, prevention and education play pivotal roles. Initiatives like Colgate-Palmolive’s Know Your OQ oral health literacy aim to raise awareness and promote simple and consistent oral hygiene practices.

The American Dental Association and WHO recommend six fundamental steps for preventing gum disease, including brushing twice a day, daily flossing, biannual dental check-ups, limiting sugary snacks and drinks, avoiding tobacco products, and using protective equipment during sports activities.

Dr. Tien Jiang, a practicing dentist and educator at Harvard School of Dental Medicine, emphasizes the importance of preventive care. Early detection of dental issues through regular check-ups can prevent complications and alleviate the need for costly treatments.

However, misconceptions and access barriers to dental care remain challenges. Ryan emphasizes the need for education and normalization of oral health priorities to shift perceptions and improve access to care.

Additionally, individuals should be aware of alternative sources of dental care, such as dental schools and federally qualified health centers, to ensure timely management of oral health issues.

Steps You Can Take to Prevent Cavities, Gum Disease & Bad Breath

Early detection and prevention can help stop diseases from progressing. Follow these thirteen tips to promote your oral health and healthier future.