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The Mouth-Body Connection

You may have heard of the mind-body connection, but what about the mouth-body connection? To many people, a dental visit is about getting their teeth cleaned, having a tooth pulled, or getting a filling. However, a dental visit is not just about teeth. It is also about your overall health. What goes on in your mouth can affect the rest of your body. What goes on in your body also can have an effect on your mouth.

Many diseases and conditions can affect your oral health. For example, people may get more infections in the mouth if their immune system is weak. The immune system protects your body from illness and infection. It can be weakened by disease, by drugs taken to prevent the rejection of transplanted organs, or as a side effect of cancer chemotherapy drugs.

Medicine for other conditions also can affect the health of your mouth. For example, many drugs cause dry mouth. This can increase your risk of dental decay and yeast infections. It also can affect taste.

While examining your mouth, your dentist might see a sign or symptom of an illness or disease that you might not even know you have. The dentist may perform tests and/or refer you to a specialist for treatment.

If you have certain medical conditions, you may need specialized oral and dental care. If necessary, your dentist can refer you to an expert in oral medicine.

Your oral health also can affect other medical conditions. For example, if you are diabetic, a mouth infection can disrupt your blood-sugar levels and make your diabetes harder to control. Researchers also are exploring whether periodontal (gum) disease may increase the risk of various medical problems. These may include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and premature births.

About 35% of U.S. adults have some form of periodontitis. Another 50% have gingivitis, the mildest form of gum disease. Because gum disease is so common, its treatment and management can have important implications for overall public health.

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3/1/13

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