The Mouth And Body Connection
The mouth reflects what happens in the body, and the body reflects what is going on in the mouth. Biological dentistry is an approach to oral care that accounts for the dynamic relationship between the mouth and the rest of the body. Biological dentistry goes beyond the traditional – and often mindlessly mechanical – approach of filling cavities, removing plaque and pulling teeth. Instead, the innovative approach of biological dentistry treats the oral cavity as one part of the larger body. The biological dentist creates an oral health plan that benefits patient’s entire body and not just the teeth and gums. Keep in mind that the oral cavity serves as a portal to the rest of the body, especially to the lungs and digestive tract. Because it is a warm, wet place exposed to the outside world, the oral cavity provides a continuous source of infectious agents. Until recently, most dentists thought these infectious agents and the diseases they cause stayed in the mouth. Now biological and holistic dentists appreciate how these infectious agents and oral diseases affect the rest of the patient’s body.
How Gum Disease Leads to Other Health Problems
Bacteria can build up on teeth, making the gums more prone to infection. The immune system kicks in to fight the infection -- this battle causes inflammation of the gums, resulting in red, swollen and painful gums. Inflammation continues as long as infection persists. Inflamed tissues release chemicals that, along with the inflammatory action, can eat away at the gums and bone that hold teeth in place. Inflammation and the chemicals it causes can also cause problems in the rest of the body. Left untreated, inflammation can lead to the serious form of gum disease, periodontitis. This inflammation causes much more damage than just sore gums – swelling in the mouth increases the risk for medical problems affecting the rest of the body. The American Dental Association says that periodontitis may be associated with other serious health conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Chronic inflammation can interfere with the way the body uses insulin, which is a hormone that body cells need to absorb sugar from the bloodstream for energy. Studies suggest chronic periodontal disease can increase the risk for diabetes. Because of the two-way street between the mouth and the body, diabetes can also increase the risk for gum disease and inflammation in the mouth may be associated with heart disease too, according to a 2006 study. Teeth, gums, tongue, palate, cheek, jawbone and tonsils are important features in the oral cavity and each plays an important role in a person’s overall health. The mouth-body connection works in reverse too, with the mouth reflecting the overall health of the body. Biological dentistry practitioners examine the mouth carefully for signs of ill health in other areas of the body. Practitioners who use a biological and holistic approach to dentistry understand this deep connection and therefore provide treatment that benefits the whole body as well as the patient’s mouth.