general healthWhen visiting the dentist Grand Rapids patients often bring along concerns about other health issues as well. Sometimes that’s because they know that oral health affects overall health. Other times it’s because people are concerned about a symptom or health problem, but don’t necessarily think about how it relates to other body systems. It can be surprising the sheer number of ways that dental health affects a person’s total health picture.

Bacteria, always present in the mouth, can generally be kept in check through good oral hygiene, a healthy diet, and the body’s natural defenses. However, when bacteria builds up, it can result in decay, which in turn can bring about various dental diseases. Periodontitis, for example, is a serious gum infection affecting the gum and tissue around the tooth. Researchers have linked many general health issues have been linked to periodontitis, and it’s suspected that the bacteria and inflammation associated with periodontitis may contribute to these issues:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Bacterial pneumonia
  • Heart disease, arterial blockages, stroke
  • Preterm and low birth weight babies for pregnant women


It goes both ways. In other words, it’s also suspected that dental issues can be brought on or exacerbated by other health issues. Medications and treatments for other diseases can affect oral health too, so it’s important to keep your dentist informed of your general health picture. These are a few diseases that seem to lower the body’s resistance to infection, and increase the severity of oral health problems:

  • Diabetes (and periodontitis makes harder to control blood sugar)
  • Blood cell disorders
  • HIV and AIDS

Research into the relationship between teeth and overall health is ongoing, and in most cases it’s not clear what causes what. It’s sort of like the chicken and the egg.

Although we don’t yet know exactly how dental diseases contribute to development of other diseases, we can say with some certainty that maintaining your oral health is one valuable way to keep your whole body healthy. That means, among other things, making sure your dentist knows about any changes in your health, or any medications you are taking. And of course practice good oral hygiene – brushing, flossing, and regular dental checkups and cleanings.

Maintaining your health means maintaining your teeth as well. In some cases, that requires regularly scheduled checkups, and in other cases it requires emergency dental care to address sudden changes or issues. Your dentist is your partner in dental care and overall wellness. Contact Dental Associates of West MI at 616-554-5970 today to help keep your teeth and your body in top condition.

Photo: Ben Aston

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