Dr. Aarthi Raghavan, DMD

The Story of a Healthy Mouth and a Healthy Body

Is a healthy mouth literally a gateway to a healthy body? A growing body of scientific evidence says, YES! 

Every body part has been given to us for a unique function and optimal health comes from the harmonious and integrative function of all of our body parts. 

Let’s take a deeper dive into some nitty-gritties of how the health of the gums affects the rest of the body. 

More often than not, some of the first signs of “dis-ease” are reflected in the mouth. Infectious diseases like syphilis often manifest as a granulomatous lesion in the gums. Too often, the first sign of an aggressive leukemia, a form of blood cancer, is puffy gums that do not respond to routine preventative treatment or constant bleeding or oozing past the average clotting time, after extraction when other comorbidities are insignificant. Uncontrolled diabetics have a unique mouth odor that happens as a consequence of diabetic keto-acidosis, which can eventually lead to an emergent situation. Certain diseases like Pemphigus have unique signs that show up in the gums and can be life threatening if not diagnosed or treated in a timely fashion. Oral cancers can manifest as a very normal looking “lump or bump” in the mouth as well.

Yes, the mouth is often the gateway to a healthy body or a give-away to a not so healthy one.

Let’s talk a little more about chronic low grade gum inflammation. While an “infection” is caused by a live foreign organism (like bacteria), inflammation is a HOST response. It is something that our body does, and a lot of times, it can be protective, for eg. when we have a cut or a wound, it is this inflammation that brings in all the blood cells necessary for healing.

Chronic, or long term low grade inflammation on the other hand is like a slow burning fire. Long term inflammatory changes, regardless of the origin of the inflammation, have been linked to a lot of degenerative lifestyle diseases like Diabetes, Stroke, Myocardial infarction, Alzheimer’s etc. This chronic inflammation leads to more detrimental changes within our body tissues, leading to increased pain as well as all of the other life-style diseases mentioned above.

How does gum-disease cause problems? 

Chronic or long term untreated gum disease does not cause pain for starters. There might be other signs and symptoms like bleeding, occasional low grade pain, bad odor or halitosis, but the bacteria progressively burrow into the health gum system and the body responds by eating away at the bone because of this continuous assault. These bacteria and the inflammation caused as a response have been directly found to be a cause for coronary artery disease, which causes heart attacks due to thickening of the arterial wall with plaque there by cutting off essential blood supply to the heart. It’s no surprise that bacteria can travel through the arteries. 

These bacteria, called the red complex, have also been found in the brain cells of patients with Alzheimers. Research is still ongoing on if they are directly causative of the disease.

What can you do?

Do not miss your dental check-ups! Routine diagnostic appointments, early recognition and early treatment followed by a good maintenance regimen, both at home and in the dental office, may not just save your teeth, it might save your life and help you lead a healthy one in the long run!

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