The Mouth-Body Connection: Unlocking Excellent Health

Your mouth is the gateway to your body. The food you eat comes in through your mouth, and many pathogens enter the body through the mouth, too. Poor oral health can lead to an entire suite of health problems throughout the body, including many chronic health issues.

If you want overall wellness, you can’t neglect your oral health. There’s an ever-growing body of scientific evidence showing just how important your dental health is and how maintaining your oral health can keep your body healthy over the long term.

What is the mouth-body connection?

What is the mouth-body connection? The mouth-body connection is the way that your oral health affects the health of the rest of your body and vice versa. It is also the title of a book by Dr. Gerry Curatola, DDS, in which he describes the link between the mouth and body.

Here’s an example of the mouth-body connection: inflammation in the gums from periodontal disease (gum disease) causes inflammation throughout the body. Mild-to-moderate gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, a gum infection that can lead to tooth loss, bone loss, or even sepsis.

Oral bacteria in and around the gumline activate the immune system. The immune system creates an inflammatory response and produces molecules like inflammatory cytokines and chemokines to fight the bacteria.

These molecules travel through the bloodstream and cause inflammation throughout the body. Systemic inflammation can cause all sorts of health issues, including cardiovascular disease and even Alzheimer’s disease.

Many toxins also enter the body through your mouth. You ingest any number of chemicals from personal care products or food, as well as certain types of fillings. (Biomimetic dental materials are a much safer alternative.)

The bottom line: Your mouth says a lot about your health, including indicating the levels of inflammation in your body. That inflammation can lead to serious chronic health problems.

Conditions Connected To Oral Health

Poor oral health care is linked to many conditions in the rest of the body. Your mouth can affect organs all over your body, from your heart to your brain. Untreated oral infections can do even more damage and can potentially lead to serious illness or death.

Chronic conditions linked to oral health include:

  • Cardiovascular disease: Inflammation from periodontal disease can cause heart disease and even lead to a heart attack.
  • High blood pressure: High blood pressure is linked to the bacteria that cause gum disease. High blood pressure can lead to thickening blood vessels, which can cause coronary heart disease, kidney disease, and other health problems.
  • Type 2 diabetes: Chronic gum disease can cause type 2 diabetes and vice versa. It’s essential for diabetics to have good oral hygiene to keep their blood sugar levels under control.
  • Pulmonary disease: Respiratory diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia are linked to poor oral health and hygiene.
  • Low birth weight and premature birth: Pregnant women should monitor their oral health closely because periodontal disease is linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
  • Alzheimer’s disease and dementia: Inflammation caused by periodontal disease can travel to the brain, where it can lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s.
  • Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis in the jaw is directly linked to periodontal disease. Severe periodontal disease leads to bone loss around the tooth and can eventually lead to tooth loss.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: The inflammation from untreated periodontal disease can also cause rheumatoid arthritis. The bacteria that cause gum disease can even travel directly to joints, where they can cause damage.

Some of these conditions, like Alzheimer’s disease, don’t have a cure. It’s imperative to take care of your mouth now so that you don’t develop conditions in the future.

What is the connection between the mouth and the heart? The connection between the mouth and the heart is that oral health problems like gum disease can lead to heart conditions like cardiovascular disease and even heart attacks.

The Oral Microbiome

The mouth plays host to a suite of beneficial and harmful bacteria, just like the gut and other parts of the body. Having a balanced oral microbiome, or the collection of microbes living in a mouth, is vital to both oral health and overall health.

There are somewhere between 500 and 700 species of bacteria that live in our mouths. Some are pathogenic bacteria that can cause periodontal disease, tooth decay, and other health problems.

Others are beneficial bacteria in our oral microbiome. These bacteria help fight off the pathogenic species and keep our mouths healthy.

It’s critical to support these beneficial bacteria through probiotics, healthy foods, and good oral hygiene — these tiny microbes have a significant effect on our immune response throughout the body.

A balanced microbiome supports your body in defending itself against pathogens and environmental toxins.

What are the benefits of having a healthy mouth? The benefits of having a healthy mouth include reduced inflammation throughout the body, keeping your own teeth, a lower risk of certain chronic diseases, and the increased confidence that comes from having a healthy smile.

5 Ways To Maintain A Healthy Mouth-Body Connection

Your mouth is a mirror to your body. If your mouth isn’t well, chances are your body isn’t either.

To maintain a healthy mouth-body connection, it’s important to keep your oral microbiome in balance and to reduce inflammation throughout your body, including your mouth. Building healthy habits can support your mouth-body connection and discourage disease.

The primary ways to encourage a healthy mouth-body connection are through: 

  • Diet
  • Supplementation
  • Exercise
  • Stress reduction
  • Proper oral care

1. Diet

A nutrient-rich diet with lots of fruits and vegetables will help reduce inflammation and give your body the nutrients it needs to fight periodontal disease. Eating enough calcium and vitamin D will also help your body repair any damage done by cavity-causing bacteria.

Overall, your diet should be alkalizing, antioxidant-rich, and anti-inflammatory for optimal oral health. Choose whole foods and steer clear of artificial ingredients for a healthy mouth.

2. Supplementation

Supplements can help you keep your mouth and body healthy, too. Taking an oral probiotic and prebiotic will help you support the healthy microbes in your mouth, restoring bacterial balance and fighting pathogenic bacteria naturally.

There are also vitamin and mineral supplements you can take to support your oral health. Calcium, vitamin D3, and vitamin K2 supplements will keep your teeth healthy, and vitamin C, fish oil, and turmeric help combat inflammation throughout the body.

3. Exercise

Regular exercise can help reduce inflammation in your body. Chronic inflammation puts you at an increased risk of many diseases, so move your body regularly to support your physical and oral health.

4. Stress Reduction

Chronic stress also increases the inflammation in your body. When you’re stressed, your body releases cortisol and other stress hormones, which promote inflammation and can eventually lead to many chronic diseases.

Stress can also make you grind or clench your teeth (leading to a suite of jaw problems), cause dry mouth, lead to canker sores, and a whole suite of oral health issues. Trying out a stress-reduction technique or two will do wonders for your mouth.

5. Proper Oral Care

Don’t forget to brush and floss, too! Proper dental care is still one of the best ways to maintain good oral health. Regular dental exams and cleanings are also essential for dealing with tartar that can build up and is not removable at home.

Choose a toothpaste that harnesses natural ingredients. Avoid one with harsh chemicals like SLS, artificial sweeteners and colors, and parabens. If you use mouthwash, choose an alkalizing one to balance the oral microbiome instead of one that contains alcohol and kills beneficial bacteria.

Fostering A Healthy Connection

You can nurture your oral health, benefitting your overall physical health by extension. With proper care, you can foster a healthy mouth and reduce disease-causing inflammation throughout your body.

If you want to learn more about the mouth-body connection and how your oral health affects your entire body, pick up a copy of Dr. Curatola’s book The Mouth-Body Connection. You’ll also get some great tips for keeping your mouth and body healthy.

When it comes to maintaining a healthy mouth, trust the experts. Regular dental cleanings are a pillar of this connection. Click here to schedule a cleaning at our Manhattan or East Hampton offices with our expert team and cutting-edge technology.

Dr. Gerry Curatola is a renowned biologic restorative dentist with more than 40 years of clinical practice experience.

He studied neuroscience at Colgate University and attended dental school at the New York University (NYU) College of Dentistry where he now serves as Adjunct Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Cariology and Comprehensive Care.