Oral health far reaching

Getting the jitters just looking at a photograph? Dentists recommend an holistic approach to oral health to keep you out of the chair. Photo: SUPPLIED.

SOMETHING many people don’t know is how closely their oral and general health is connected, and how oral hygiene can have a marked effect on their overall wellbeing.

The theme of this year’s Dental Health Week (DHW), from August 7-13, aims to change that by shining a spotlight on the importance of that connection.

The messaging of ‘Mind, Body, Mouth. It’s all connected’ aims to drive home the point to people that brushing and flossing their teeth, seeing their dentist regularly, and eating well all play key roles in their body’s health.

It’s a timely message, with a variety of studies confirming that a majority of those polled are unaware that medical conditions could be impacted by or can impact oral health.

A 2021 study out of James Cook University underscored how little awareness there is of this link, with Professor Alan Nimmo seeking to examine “what people knew about the link between oral health and disease – in particular how poor oral health can affect other areas of the body”.

“It’s been recognised for decades that systemic inflammation can influence the onset and severity of oral disease and that it goes both ways; inflammation of the gums can affect inflammation in other parts of the body,” said Prof Nimmo.

His work referenced a 2016 World Health Organisation study that revealed that more than 3.5 billion people had an oral disease of some kind, with more than 100 systemic diseases associated with ‘oral manifestations’, and that people are in need of health education overall, especially those with heart disease and diabetes.

In light of these and other findings, this year’s DHW campaign will explore six connections: atherogenic cardiovascular disease; type II diabetes; adverse pregnancy outcomes; inflammatory bowel diseases; respiratory conditions and; neurodegenerative disease.

It’s well recognised that the promotion of the oral and systemic health connection increases awareness of the importance of practising good oral health and, to that end, the ADA has worked closely with organisations such as the Cancer Council, the Heart Foundation and the Australian Medical Association.

Dentists have a key role to play in the identification of oral health diseases, and Dental Health Week is
the perfect opportunity to educate patients about the possible connections between oral health and systemic health conditions.

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