Oral Health - A reflection of your overall health!

Oral Health: A reflection of your overall health

Jan 4, 2023

Let’s say your mouth is the entrance to your body. Afterall, it is through the mouth that the essential nutrition required for life goes in. It's also the main body part used for communication that let’s people in and out of your life. Intimacy also begins in the mouth in the form of kisses. The oral cavity, therefore, has an indispensable and un-neglectable role to play in first impressions. Just like how the cleanliness and maintenance of the entrance and hallway of a house can tell you a lot about the general condition of the house, your oral health or lack of it can speak volumes about the general health and hygiene of your body. 

You can do everything that’s right for your overall general health like eating right and working out and still see it deteriorate if you neglect the health of your oral cavity. The oral cavity is home to around seven hundred types of bacteria whose numbers exceed millions. As scary as that sounds, this indigenous bacterial flora in its right amount and balance actually plays a huge role in keeping us healthy and free of infections. They are like a standing army to the gate of the body, which is the mouth, preventing it from being colonised by more harmful bacteria that tries to sneak in through food or anything else that we put in our mouth. They also help prepare the food for better digestion and plays a role in freshening the breath. Ensuring the health and sustainability of the good bacteria in the mouth may be even more important for your oral and general health than eliminating the harmful ones.

The cause of most oral health issues can be traced to a breakdown in equilibrium between the good and bad bacteria of the mouth. Hence, when the first line of defense of the body gets breached in the mouth, it isn’t just the mouth but the entire body that gets threatened. This is why oral health is a mirror of the general health of the body. Read on to find out how you can improve your general well-being through proper oral care and hygiene.

The ability to eat and drink properly

Nutrition is essential for the body to survive. Pain and discomfort in the oral cavity generally leads to a decrease in appetite which overtime prevents the body from getting adequate nutrition. Chewing is an integral part of digestion that increases the absorption of nutrients from food. It is while chewing properly that the enzymes from the saliva act on food to convert it into a bolus that is better digested or absorbed in the stomach. Hence, any injury to the dental, skeletal or soft tissues of the mouth can severely impede one's eating habits rendering the body weak.

As mentioned before, when oral health is neglected, the number of harmful bacteria exceeds the number of good bacteria in the mouth leading to either tooth decay or gum diseases. In the first case, these bacteria ferment sugars in the mouth to produce acids that destroy the hard structures of the teeth and in the second case, it causes a buildup of plaque and calculus that can cause gum problems which further progress to the damage and destruction of the skeletal structures that support the teeth. Apart from the pain and discomfort, the inability to eat and drink comfortably and the hesitation to speak and smile with confidence, here's how poor oral health can be linked to various general health conditions.

Oral health for Cardiovascular health

Studies have found a strong link between periodontitis (gum disease) and heart disease. When one’s gums have remained inflamed for a long time, the bacteria that caused it along with the toxins they produce get absorbed into the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body. This results in the formation of clots and inflammation of various blood vessels including those that supply the heart leading to various heart problems, the most prominent of which is Infective Endocarditis.

Oral bacteria are most likely to cause infective endocarditis especially in people with prosthetic heart valves as it helps the bacteria to easily colonise the lining of the heart. 

Therefore, practising good oral hygiene is of utmost importance for people with coronary artery diseases or congenital heart problems because inflammation of the heart valves caused by these visiting oral microbes significantly increases the mortality of these patients.

Oral Health and Diabetes

If you are a diabetic or have a diabetic among family or friends, you would know that periodontitis is one of the 6 major complications of Diabetes Mellitus. But did you know that this is a two way street and that periodontitis can in fact make your diabetes worse? Periodontitis is characterised by tooth mobility, receding and inflamed gums and the destruction of the underlying alveolar bone. People with periodontitis have poor control over their blood sugar levels as evidenced by various studies thus increasing the risk of further diabetic complications. 

This is the perfect example of a vicious cycle caused by an oral and a systemic disease, each making the other worse. As a person’s diabetes worsens, he/she becomes more immunocompromised, rendering the oral cavity susceptible to further infections by opportunistic microbes. As a result, dry mouth and oral thrush ( a funky smelling fungal coating on the tongue) can be regularly seen in people suffering from periodontitis and diabetes.

Oral Health and respiratory problems

Poor oral hygiene is associated with an increased incidence of community and hospital-acquired pneumonia according to NHS, England. As oral health gets neglected, the colonization by harmful microbes in the mouth spread over time to the oropharynx causing respiratory illnesses. This is common in hospitalized patients. Caregivers and bystanders often forget to tend to the oral health of such people, especially the ones who are in the ICUs and are unconscious. 

Frail people with psychiatric challenges, speech impairments from brain damage and learning disabilities are also at a higher risk of contracting pneumonia through the pharyngeal spread of microbes from a neglected oral cavity. These pneumonia, especially the ones acquired from hospital stays are dangerous and can even be fatal.

 Oral Cancer

Cancer of the mouth precipitated by adverse habits such as gutka or tobacco chewing are more often than not malignant and they rapidly spread to the neck through the large number of lymph nodes that lie interconnected between the mouth and veins of the neck. This makes oral cancer one of the deadliest cancers there is. They are never easy to detect until it is too late and has high mortality rates once they spread to the neck or mediastinum (the thoracic cavity). 

There have also been sporadic studies linking poor oral health to a number of systemic conditions including stroke, dementia, premature births and certain types of cancers. But there isn’t sufficient evidence in the literature to conclusively back these claims as of today.

Needless to say, it is high time people understood that the role of good oral health and hygiene isn’t limited to looking good, keeping bad breath at bay and comfortably chewing and gulping down food. Protecting your oral cavity from injuries and infections will help you protect your body and its systemic health in general. 

The best way to keep your oral cavity free of diseases is by having regular dental checkups and undergoing oral prophylaxis at least twice a year. Oral Prophylaxis refers to the professional cleaning of the teeth and gums by a dentist. A dentist uses an ultrasonic scaler which is a device that employs ultrasound to break down calcified deposits on the teeth and crevices of the gum formed by bacterial aggregation. There are a lot of myths surrounding this procedure that mislead people and prevent them from coming forward to get it done. Getting a ‘teeth cleaning’ done once every 6 months plays a significant role in preserving periodontal health. The purported loss of enamel that makes people apprehensive about getting this procedure done regularly is in fact quite minimal and inconsequential when done only once or twice in a year. On the other hand, certain mineralized deposits in the mouth created by the harmful microbes cannot be eliminated by brushing, flossing or rinsing with mouthwashes. These deposits if left unchecked can progress to full-blown periodontitis over time and can only be dislodged through scaling. And we know now what periodontitis can do to your health in general.


Hence, there is no substitute for an in-office ultrasonic scaling procedure. This is exactly why routine dental check ups should also be an integral part of one’s life. See a dentist immediately if your mouth gives you any warning signs in the form of spontaneous toothaches, pain while chewing, sensitivity, bad smell, bleeding gums, ulcers or even a visible discoloration on a tooth that you haven’t noticed before.