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Patient Education

The Oral-Systemic Relationship

Approximately 1 in 10 cases of death from pneumonia in elderly nursing home residents may be prevented by improving oral hygiene.

Source: The American Geriatrics Society (2008)

An Oral-Systemic Relationship is the involvement and connection between the mouth and the rest of the body. It should come as no surprise that our oral health has a great deal to do with our overall well-being. We ingest and inhale everything from foods and beverages to bacteria and airborne toxins through our mouth. Therefore, if a patient’s oral health is poor, chances are the problems do not end there.

Dry mouth is very common among the elderly and often goes untreated and undiagnosed in long-term care facilities. Dry mouth can negatively impact digestion, and it can result in “burning tongue” syndrome, oral yeast infections, the breakdown of fillings, and rampant tooth decay. Early diagnosis is critical to avoid the severe, long-term impact, and simple treatments are readily available and can eliminate many of these unfortunate complications.

Poor oral conditions can also cause an increase in plaque buildup, and this condition can lead to many serious conditions – especially if the plaque gets into the lungs. This can cause a life-threatening condition known as aspiration pneumonia which starts when the bacteria associated with gum infection (red, puffy gums) enters the bloodstream and stimulates clotting or damages the lining of the blood vessels. This can lead to strokes.

Neglecting oral health can also lead to cardiovascular or heart disease. In these circumstances, biofilm and bacteria from plaque may enter the bloodstream and attach to fatty plaques in the coronary arteries. Gum disease can increase blood sugar, putting patients with diabetes at an increased risk for many health complications.

Without a doubt, there is a direct link between the health of your teeth and your overall health. Again, helping patients realize and work within this connection is our core priority at Lifecycle Dental. We strive to provide elderly patients in long-term care facilities with conservative, expert dental care. Our goal is to help them want to smile, and we hope we can minimize pain and enhance their quality of life through improved oral health.