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Understanding the Connection Between Oral & Overall Health

As a biological dental practice, we’re often contacted by patients who have struggled for years, even decades, with an array of chronic health problems. They’ve bounced from doctor to doctor, treatment to treatment, yet never found much long-term relief or healing.

That’s because no one ever thought to look in their mouths.

Then these individuals began to learn how conditions in the mouth can trigger or fuel problems elsewhere in the body. Sometimes the problem is poor gum health; sometimes, toxicity from “silver” mercury amalgam fillings or hidden infections in old root canal teeth or at old extraction sites.

Improve conditions in the mouth, and you can set the stage for healing:

In this case, our doctors first safely removed her amalgam fillings, then treated the osteonecrotic lesions (popularly called “cavitations”). She received ozone, platelet rich fibrin (PRF), and a customized supplement regimen to support healing. Once both procedures were done, the patient happily told us that the headaches, fatigue, and joint pain had stopped – a significant resolution of her systemic complaints.

Best of all, any further medical treatments should be much more successful now that the oral burdens on her total health have been resolved.

Different Facets of the Mouth/Body Connection

The most obvious link between mouth and body is physical. Each tooth is connected through its roots to the bloodstream. The gum tissue has many blood vessels close to the surface. Through the circulatory system, oral pathogens have an easy path to migrate through the body and cause trouble elsewhere. Over the years, scientists have identified oral bacteria in the hearts of cardiovascular patients, the brains of Alzheimer’s patients, and the knees of arthritic patients.

The idea that local infections can have distant effects is what’s known as focal infection theory. For years, it was dismissed by conventional dentists – until mounting evidence of a link between gum disease and other inflammatory conditions forced them to reconsider. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, mental health issues, chronic kidney disease, respiratory issues, rheumatoid arthritis, cognitive decline, certain cancers and more have now all been linked with periodontal disease.

The mouth/body connection also plays out in the fascia. This connective tissue forms a continuous network throughout the body, including the oral cavity. Restrictions in oral fascia, like a tight lingual frenulum or “tongue tie,” can impact functions like breathing, swallowing, and speech. They can even affect posture and bodily movement. Infections from teeth, especially lower molars, can spread through fascial spaces in the head and neck, potentially leading to serious complications like airway obstruction or sepsis.

The oral microbiome plays a key role, too, as part of the body’s overall microbial ecosystem. Imbalances in oral bacteria can affect the gut microbiome and overall health. Similarly, systemic health issues can manifest in the mouth, like dry mouth in diabetes or oral thrush in immunocompromised individuals.

But mouth/body connections aren’t just physical. They’re connected energetically, too, by virtue of the meridian system. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the meridians are pathways along which subtle energy called qi flows. As we wrote before

Like the electrical signals that facilitate communication between body and brain – and between individual cells – qi also conveys information, only vibrationally rather than electromagnetically. It does so along 12 major pathways, running from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, passing through numerous organs, structures, and other tissues along the way.

Because of this, any disturbance or blockage on one of these pathways can affect all of the physiological structures that the path runs through. That includes your teeth. Each one is a unique organ in and of itself, with its hard outer enamel protecting the living tissues within, loaded with blood vessels, nerve endings, and other delicate structures.

Understanding these connections highlights the importance of maintaining good oral health as part of overall wellness. Issues in the mouth can have far-reaching effects on the body, and vice versa. This is exactly why a holistic approach to health is needed.