Improving overall employee health starts with good dental hygiene

Good overall health and good dental health are generally considered separately and mutually exclusive. What people do not always realize is the two are related and one impacts the other.

“Research has been done that demonstrates regular dental care not only improves overall health but can also help to reduce medical expenses and hospitalizations,” says Dr. Richard M. Celko, MBA, regional dental director for UPMC Health Plan.

Smart Business spoke with Celko about the connection between dental health and overall health for you and your employees.

Is there any correlation between oral health and overall health?

Good overall health and well-being begins with good dental health. Many people don’t realize the connection the mouth and body have. There is an oral systemic connection, and good oral habits and a healthy mouth can lead to better health and wellness.

For instance, periodontal disease is a bacterial infection. It is now widely accepted that periodontitis has effects beyond the oral cavity. There is literature that associates pregnant women with periodontal disease and low-birth-weight babies as well as preterm deliveries. The bacteria associated with periodontal disease have even been found in the bloodstream and on heart valves.

Is there a connection between periodontal disease and diabetes?

Adults with periodontal disease have an increased risk of respiratory infections, stroke and severe osteopenia, in addition to uncontrolled diabetes.

Plaque can build up on teeth and harden to form calculus. Chronic calculus irritation causes gingival inflammation and, if left unaddressed, leads to further destruction of the supporting tissues and ultimately to the development of periodontal disease. In addition, diabetic patients require longer periods of time for healing following periodontal treatment.

Studies have shown that people with diabetes who were treated for periodontal disease had a 39 percent reduction in hospitalizations, people with stroke had a 21 percent reduction, and people with heart disease had a 28 percent reduction in hospitalizations.

Is there a connection between oral health and heart disease?

Yes, studies show that cardiovascular disease is the most commonly found systemic condition in people with periodontitis. Approximately 90 percent of patients with heart disease also show a degree and presence of periodontitis. By comparison, only 60 percent of people without heart disease have some form of periodontal disease.

What are the dangers for pregnant women?

The presence of periodontal disease in expectant mothers has been an area of research recently. Mothers with a history of preterm delivery or low-birth-weight babies have shown various stages of periodontal disease compared to mothers who have delivered normal size, full-term babies, even after adjusting for confounding factors, such as age, smoking, drug use, nutrition and systemic disease. Furthermore, infection and inflammation can also interfere with a fetus’ development in utero.

It’s recommended that pregnant women have comprehensive periodontal exams to identify if they are at risk and seek treatment accordingly.

Does regular dental care improve overall health?

Research done by the University of Pennsylvania shows that regular dental care not only improves overall health, but can also help to reduce medical expenses and hospitalizations.

For anyone, regardless of the presence of a chronic condition, it’s especially important to be diligent with oral health care at home and to visit the dentist on a regular basis, usually every 6 months. It is recommended to brush your teeth after every meal and floss daily.

Enjoying a well-balanced, nutritional diet with minimal consumption of snacks between meals, partnered with exercise, leads not only to a healthy mouth and a healthy mind, but also to a healthy body.

Insights Health Care is brought to you by UPMC Health Plan