Why separating oral health from overall health is impossible

Julie Frantsve-Hawley, PhD, executive director of the Chicago-based TAG Oral Care Center of Excellence, spoke with "Becker's Dental + DSO Review Podcast" to discuss how oral health and overall health are interconnected.

Note: This is an edited excerpt. Listen to the full podcast episode here. This episode was sponsored by the Aspen Group.

Question: Why is oral care a critical part of overall health?

Dr. Julie Frantsve-Hawley: So intuitively when you think about oral health and your mouth, you think about smiling and eating. Oral health is really that and plus so much more. Smiling is a source of self-esteem and can really impact someone's emotional health. We know right now there's such a crisis in this nation with mental health issues so being able to have that self esteem is really, really important. Eating is part of nutrition. When people cannot eat appropriately and have a well-balanced diet, it's gonna affect their overall health. We know that pain can impact people's ability to function. So kids at school aren't doing as well and aren't going to school. We also know that it impacts job performance and also having that smile and having that confidence actually impacts someone's ability to actually apply for and succeed in getting jobs. So that has an economic impact.

But I think more importantly, when you think about some of the impacts of poor oral health, it really leads to inflammation throughout the body. There's a lot of evidence that shows that oral health is directly associated with a variety of systemic health conditions. The association is most closely evident with diabetes. When people have uncontrolled diabetes, it can affect their oral health and their [risk] for gum disease and vice versa. Gum disease can have a negative impact on diabetes. We also know that oral health is associated with cardiovascular disease, stroke, adverse pregnancy outcomes and lung health, which again is becoming more and more important as we get further along in the pandemic. So really, oral health is part of the overall body. We need to have a healthy mouth to be healthy in general.

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