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Did you know that good oral health care may have even more value than just preserving your smile? Did you know that researchers are continuing to find associations between cavities, gum disease, and heart disease? Or that there are some diseases that are associated with an increased risk of infections – diabetes increases the risks of gingival and periodontal inflammation and infections? Or that loose teeth can be a warning sign for osteoporosis? And a misaligned jaw can cause chronic migraines?

In recent years, a growing number of oral health professionals including orthodontists, periodontists and dentists agree there are links between the health of your mouth and the overall health of your body. Like all health science, the subject can be complex. But, in its simplest from, the message is that good oral health improves whole body health.

Every one of us has millions of oral bacteria naturally occurring in our mouths. But when oral bacteria go too far, they can form sticky plaque, which can lead to gum or periodontal disease. Researchers believe overall health risks arise when bacteria in the mouth reach advanced levels and move into other parts of the body. Some of the findings, so far, make a very strong case. A number of studies have found that blood sugar levels in diabetics with periodontal disease were significantly reduced when the patients’ gum disease was treated. A study done by the American Society of Microbiology identified genes in certain oral bacteria that allow the organisms to invade and infect human arterial cells, weakening the walls of the heart. Other medical scientists are concerned that excessive oral inflammation can contributes to clogged arteries.

Studies also show that osteoporosis, a disease that causes the bones to become less dense over time as the body loses calcium, could be at the root of tooth loss. Though more research is needed to establish a link, osteoporosis and gum disease have been shown to cause significant tooth loss. One study shows that the risk of tooth loss is three times greater for women with osteoporosis than for women who do not have the disease.

Be sure to talk about whole body health with your orthodontist during your next visit.