Dental Health Week (DHW) is a major annual oral health campaign that is run by the Australian Dental Association (ADA).

It takes place every year in the first full week of August and focuses on the importance of taking steps to care for your teeth and gums to ensure you keep your teeth and smile for life!

This year we are focusing on the mouth and whole-body connection, there are several links between diseases in the mouth and diseases in the body. Bacteria in the mouth travels to different parts of the body and inflammation in the mouth can increase the body’s overall inflammation.

There are six conditions that have been researched and explored in how they link with the mouth:

Heart Disease

Heart DiseaseDid you know that every 3 in 10 Australian adults have moderate to severe gum disease?

Gum disease occurs when the tissue that surrounds and supports your teeth becomes inflamed and there is a strong link between severe gum disease and conditions such as heart disease with research showing you’re twice as likely to have heart disease if you suffer from gum disease.

In fact, gum disease increases a person’s risk of heart disease by about 20%. Why you may ask? Well, bacteria from severe gum disease can spread through the bloodstream contributing to build-up within arteries and other blood vessels.

It is essential we stay on top of our oral health and hygiene to prevent and reduce your risk of gum disease and keep that smile for life!

Diabetes

DiabetesWhen looking at issues associated with diabetes, the mouth is often an overlooked area of the body.

However, for people with diabetes, the risk of developing gum disease is greater, especially when blood sugar levels are not controlled. Diabetes and oral health have a widely recognised interconnected relationship. People with diabetes often experience elevated blood sugar levels, making it crucial to maintain proper control over these levels. Failure to do so can lead to various health problems within the body.

Moreover, poorly managed diabetes can exacerbate gum disease, while having gum disease can pose challenges in effectively controlling diabetes. Thus, it is essential to address both aspects for overall well-being.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer's Disease Severe gum disease is primarily triggered by various types of bacteria, resulting in inflammation.

Consequently, it is believed to contribute to systemic inflammation within the body. Preliminary evidence indicates a potential connection between severe gum disease and Alzheimer’s disease, along with cognitive decline. Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia affecting 1 in 10 Australians over the age of 65, the disease affects a person’s memory, thinking, and behaviour. The bacteria responsible for severe gum disease can spread to other parts of the body through the bloodstream.

In relation to Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, specific bacteria associated with gum disease have been observed to travel to areas of the brain responsible for memory. Caring for oral health can be challenging for individuals dealing with dementia or cognitive decline. Despite the difficulties, it remains crucial to prioritise dental checkups. Communication barriers may hinder patients from expressing their pain, making regular visits to the dentist even more important.

Maintaining regular dental checkups is vital for monitoring and stabilising oral diseases. Practicing good oral hygiene, such as brushing twice a day and flossing once a day, is essential to reduce the risk of gum diseases. Additionally, staying physically active, following a balanced and nutritious diet, and attending general health checkups with a healthcare professional contribute to overall well-being.

Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes

Adverse Pregnancy OutcomesSevere gum disease during pregnancy has been linked to adverse outcomes like preterm birth and low birth weight.

Treating gum disease during pregnancy can help reduce complications. Hormonal changes during pregnancy may cause gum inflammation, if you experience persistent gum bleeding, consult your dentist. Pregnancy-related factors can increase the risk of tooth decay and erosion. Avoid brushing teeth immediately after morning sickness or reflux to protect tooth enamel. Instead, use fluoridated mouthwash or rinse with water.

During pregnancy, red shiny lumps along the gumline may appear due to growing blood vessels. They usually resolve after childbirth. Regular dental check-ups during pregnancy are essential to prevent or address mouth diseases.

Lung Conditions

Lung ConditionsNumerous studies highlight a connection between mouth bacteria and lung conditions.

Oral bacteria can influence lung bacteria, and an imbalance due to oral disease may contribute to lung illness. COPD and severe gum disease are prevalent, leading to long-term disability. COPD affected 251 million people in 2016, and the numbers are expected to rise. Gum disease impacts 45-50% of adults worldwide. Recent data links COPD, OSA, COVID-19, and severe gum disease.

Gum disease can also affect lung function. Oral disease can lead to aspiration pneumonia, especially in those with swallowing difficulties and the elderly. Dental treatment can reduce this risk. Inhalers prescribed for lung conditions may increase the risk of dental cavities and fungal infections. Using a spacer and rinsing the mouth with water after inhaler use can help.

To minimise gum disease’s impact on lung health, prioritise regular dental check-ups, brush and floss daily, and follow a nutritious, low-sugar diet.

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Inflammatory Bowel Disease Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD) encompasses Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease, involving gut inflammation. Severe gum disease also triggers inflammation and tooth support loss. Studies suggest a connection between the two conditions, possibly due to shared mouth bacteria in the gut. Bacteria traveling from the mouth to the gut can trigger the body’s defense system, leading to gut reactions and abscesses.

Severe gum disease in conjunction with IBD may increase overall inflammation, exacerbating disease progression. Controlling gum disease could potentially benefit IBD management. IBD patients may experience specific mouth conditions linked to the gut, including mouth ulcerations during or before gut attacks.

Regular dental visits are crucial for managing oral diseases and monitoring signs of IBD in the mouth. Dentists can help alleviate ulcer pain and ensure other conditions are addressed. Professional cleanings improve gum health. Maintain oral health by brushing twice a day, flossing daily, consuming a balanced diet, and choosing water for hydration.

If you’re due for a dental check-up, seize the opportunity during DHW and make that appointment. Our team of specialists can answer any questions you might have.

If you would like to enhance your smile or impress a special someone, book an appointment with us today!