Skip to main content

The connection between oral and overall health

Your dental health is part of a bigger picture: whole-body wellness. Unhealthy teeth and gums are often found in combination with heart disease and other life-threatening conditions, and many health issues can also affect your oral health.

Chronic conditions and their effects on the mouth

  • Diabetes. People with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease (swollen, red, infected gums) and tooth loss. Researchers think this occurs because diabetes reduces the body’s overall resistance to infection.
  • Cancer. During your dental exam, ask your dentist to conduct an oral cancer screening to help detect lumps or other changes in your throat, neck, jaw, skin or thyroid.
  • Heart disease. If you have moderate to advanced gum disease, you’re more likely to have cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, than someone with healthy gums. Gum disease increases the amount of inflammation affecting your body, which can increase the burden on your heart.
  • Kidney disease. Chronic bad breath, an unpleasant taste in the mouth and dry mouth are often signs of kidney issues. When the kidneys don’t function properly, the by products of incomplete protein breakdown are released, causing an unpleasant taste or mouth odor.
  • Anxiety. Did you know that anxiety can affect your oral health? Stress affects the immune system, reducing your body’s defense against the bacteria that can lead to gum infection.

Other medical conditions that your dentist may detect include: thyroid problems, high blood pressure, asthma, sleep and breathing disorders, skin rashes, bruxism (teeth grinding), HIV, tuberculosis, drug abuse, anorexia, digestive disorders and upper respiratory problems.

What you and your dentist can do

The best thing you can do to prevent serious dental issues is to treat them while they're still small. For that reason, visiting your dentist for regular exams is an essential tool for managing your oral health. Brush and floss twice a day to fight cavities, plaque buildup and inflammation. Let your dentist know about updates to your health, including by sharing a list of the medication you currently take.

Last updated February 11, 2022

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.