Integrating Oral & Physical Health: Part 2

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Oral Health Strategic Framework 2014-2017, “Total health and wellness are inextricably linked to oral health—it is impossible to have one without the other. The effects of oral disease on overall health are alarming. Oral disease has an impact on physical, psychological, social, and economic health and well-being, often resulting in pain, diminished function, and reduced quality of life.”

Because of this link, keeping a healthy mouth does not stop at a dentist’s office. It takes an ongoing, daily effort, but despite a person’s best efforts, certain medical conditions can directly or indirectly have adverse effects on oral health. According to the Mayo Clinic:

  • Oral health may contribute to various diseases and conditions.
    • Endocarditis: Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of a person’s heart. Endocarditis typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of a person’s body, such as the mouth, spread through the bloodstream and attach to damaged areas of the heart.
    • Cardiovascular disease: Some research suggests that heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
    • Pregnancy and birth: Periodontitis has been linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Certain conditions also might affect oral health.
    • Diabetes: Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, putting the gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Research show that people who have gum disease have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels, and that regular periodontal care can improve diabetes control.
    • HIV/AIDS: Oral problems, such as painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
    • Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a small risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
    • Alzheimer’s disease: Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses.

Next month, we will feature Oregon’s First Tooth Program, as we continue to explore how oral and physical health are related and the opportunities primary care clinics have to integrate and coordinate dental services. For more information about integrating oral health programs and services in your clinic, please contact us and let us know you would like to be connected with one of our dental coordinators. 

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