The Oral-Systemic Connection: Dental Conversations That Support Health

There is an old proverb that says the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In practical terms, this means that cooking for someone is a way to show love and care. In reality, what we put in our mouths and how we care for our teeth and gums is directly related to our overall health. After all, when it comes to the human body, everything is connected.

According to the American Dental Association, recent scientific studies show a strong correlation between oral health and a variety of general health conditions — including diabetes and heart disease. In addition, the World Health Organization has integrated oral health into its chronic disease prevention efforts "as the risks to health are linked" … but what does this mean?


Well, it all Begins With Food

The fact that oral health affects overall health should not come as news to most of us. As the mouth is the main point of entry for all nutrition, it only makes sense that we need to be mindful of what we are eating.

The beginning of the digestive system is the mouth; it is the action of chewing that prepares the food to be broken down and used by the body. The role of the gums is to provide a seal for the teeth. Healthy gums can provide long-term retention of teeth. Unhealthy gums can become a gateway for disease, and later, spread deeper into the body which could affect its systems.

The gums can become inflamed by the entrance of bacteria--a result of poor oral care. Inflammation typically begins locally, but can rapidly spread throughout the entire body. The body’s response to inflammation of this type is similar to that for any infection or wound. This is why “a little inflammation” now, can have serious consequences down the road.

A low-grade inflammation, such as periodontal disease, can add to the total inflammatory burden on the body. This could, in turn, cause a decreased immune response. The resultant damage to the immune system could be irreversible, leading to increased susceptibility to disease and vessel and organ damage.

Systemic disease is responsible for a host of symptoms and can rapidly degrade quality of life. Some examples of common systemic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis. Adequate oral care can be a good step towards better health in general.


How to Practice Proper Oral Health Care

The American Dental Association recommends the following to practice good oral hygiene for a healthy mouth:

  1. Brush your teeth twice a day.
  2. Clean between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner like a water floss.
  3. Replace your toothbrush every 3 or 4 months.
  4. Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
  5. Schedule regular dental check-ups. Sometimes, this means more than twice a year, especially if you are trying to reverse gum disease.


A Chicken and Egg Situation

While the relationship between periodontal disease and systemic disease is not yet fully understood, research is being done to determine if this is an associated or causal experience. An associative condition suggests that periodontal disease does not actively cause the systemic disease, but increases the risk of such.

A causal relationship, on the other hand, refers to a situation where periodontal disease directly causes or initiates the system disease. In addition, a codependent relationship may occur, where both causal and contributory responsibility falls to both the periodontal and systemic diseases.



The oral-systemic connection is at once recognized and, at the same time, not totally understood. We do know that there is a link between oral health and overall health. Forming healthy habits at a young age and committing to them life-long can take you a long way towards a long and healthy life.

All researchers can agree that there is an association between oral health and overall health; an oral-systemic connection. Periodontal disease itself is an inflammatory disease process caused by a combination of a bacterial attack and the body’s inflammatory response. Both of these conditions together can result in a multitude of systemic diseases.

All of the members of your healthcare team can help to keep you healthy. In partnership with your dentist and your other healthcare providers, you can practice healthy habits and avoid many systemic diseases.


CONTACT US TODAY! Let Advanced Health help you to get on the path to lifelong wellness by caring for your whole body.


Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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