Oral health is about more than your mouth

February 07, 2024
red heart shape between two teeth

3-minute read

Did you know that oral diseases can impact health conditions outside the mouth and vice versa?

Taking care of your mouth leads to much more than a bright smile. Here’s how.

Your mouth and body are connected

Your mouth is full of many kinds of microorganisms, including bacteria. Thankfully, most of them are harmless, and practicing good oral hygiene can help reduce the amount of bad bacteria in your mouth. But if you do have too much bad bacteria in your mouth, they can create acids and cause inflammation that lead to oral infections like tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.

Bacteria from gum disease and inflammation in your mouth can influence other diseases and health conditions throughout your body.

Overall health issues are linked to your mouth

Gum disease—especially in its advanced stage—has been linked to a higher risk of the following conditions:

  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Respiratory diseases like bronchitis and pneumonia
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Bacterial pneumonia

Researchers continue to investigate connections between gum disease and other diseases like Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In addition, more severe gum disease in pregnant women may be a risk factor for delivering a premature or low-birth-weight baby.

Research suggests that people with gum disease are more likely to die from heart disease or stroke than those without it.

Gum disease and overall health issues intensify each other

Not only is gum disease more frequent and often more severe in diabetics, but it can also make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar. Treating gum disease can help diabetics better manage their blood sugar levels.

In addition to diabetes, other diseases such as HIV infections, AIDS and blood cell disorders like anemia can make it more difficult for the body to fight infection, resulting in more severe gum disease.

Other health conditions that can damage oral health

  • Osteoporosis can lead to tooth loss when the jawbone becomes less dense.
  • Sjogren’s syndrome is an immune system disorder that leads to cavity-causing dry mouth.
  • Eating disorders can cause many oral health problems, including bleeding, dry mouth, brittle teeth and more. 
  • People with mental health issues are more likely to have oral health problems. This is most often due to poor diet and neglect of regular oral health care.

You can protect your oral and overall health

You can help prevent health issues with a regular at-home oral health routine, including:

  • brushing twice a day with fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush for two minutes each time;
  • flossing daily;
  • replacing your toothbrush or toothbrush head every three to four months or sooner if your bristles fray or spread out;
  • eating a healthy, balanced diet that limits sugary and starchy foods and drinks; and
  • scheduling regular dental visits. Your dentist can uncover oral problems such as mouth lesions or infections that may be the first sign of an underlying health problem.

This information is provided by Delta Dental Insurance, the administrator of the State of Texas Dental Choice PlanSM PPO and DeltaCare® USA DHMO. While your dental plan doesn’t cover everyday items like toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss, it does cover two routine exams and cleanings per calendar year. Coverage is available for diagnostic and preventive services, basic services, major services and orthodontic services.