A primary tenant of functional and holistic medicine is everything is connected, including the teeth. As a biological dentist and functional medicine practitioner, I believe health starts in the mouth. Because of the mouth-body connection, good oral health translates to good overall health and quality of life. Your mouth and teeth significantly impact organs and body systems.
Today’s article will dive into the mouth-body connection, which is a concept dating back thousands of years. Keep reading to learn more about:
- The mouth-body connection
- What is holistic medicine?
- The connection between teeth and organs
- The Tooth meridian chart
- Interactions between teeth and organs
Let’s dive in!
What is the Mouth-Body Connection?
The mouth and body connection is the idea that oral health and your teeth don’t exist in a vacuum. Our current medical system sees body systems as separate. You go to a dentist for your teeth but see various doctors for issues with your body. You might see a gastroenterologist for digestive symptoms and a dermatologist for a rash, but the two issues are likely connected.
Seeing the mouth-body connection is the foundation of biological dentistry, which isn’t just about your teeth. It takes a holistic approach to total body wellness.
Holistic Approach to Oral Health
The functional and holistic medicine definition honors the connections between the body, mind, and spirit. It provides the framework to see that everything in the body is connected, including the mouth.
Functional and holistic medicine is patient-focused and personalizes care. Two people with the same condition might have differing root causes and require different treatment plans.
Additionally, the relationship between the provider and patient is paramount for success. The holistic medicine doctor or dentist isn’t the dictator but works collaboratively with the patient, providing time and a listening ear.
Holistic medicine examples include:
- Biological dentistry
- Functional medicine
- Naturopathic medicine
- Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine
Does Dental Health Affect Other Parts of the Body?
Research shows dental health affects multiple organ systems and body-wide health. Dental infections and disease may be the root cause of chronic conditions outside the mouth. Let’s look at some of the specific organs impacted by oral health.
What Organs Are Affected by Teeth
Inflammation, infections, and poor oral health may drive disease in organ systems. Some teeth and organ connections include:
- The heart– Gum disease correlates with heart disease
- The brain– Poor oral health may contribute to Alzheimer’s disease
- The pancreasand endocrine system – Poor oral health may influence diabetes risk
Tooth Meridian Chart
Modern biological density and functional medicine weren’t the first modalities to see connections between teeth and organs.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture are based on body meridians, the energy channels in the body that move qi. Each tooth and the teeth number chart correspond with a specific meridian and organ.
A problem with a specific tooth can affect the energy flow in a particular meridian, causing stagnation and contributing to disease.
Mapping Teeth to Organs
A map of organs in the body as related to specific meridians and teeth makes the TCM model come alive. Here is a visual of teeth and corresponding organs, called a tooth meridian chart or tooth map.
Can a Tooth Infection Affect Your Organs?
A tooth infection or periodontitis (gum disease) allows bacteria to enter the systemic bloodstream affecting other body areas and systems. Bacteria and inflammation create the interaction between teeth and organs.
Which Body Systems Are Most Affected by Dental Disease?
The mouth is a significant source of chronic inflammation. Underlying inflammation contributes to all chronic diseases. It’s reasonable to assume that dental disease and infections impact all body systems and organs. Let’s look at some of the specific systems where there’s been research.
A lot of research on the mouth-body connection specifically looks at cardiovascular health. There are significant associations between periodontitis (gum disease) and cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, and peripheral vascular disease.
Severe periodontitis also contributes to liver disease. Bacteria from the mouth enter the digestive tract, increase inflammation, and impact liver disease progression.
Epidemiological studies show a correlation between perinodal disease and specific types of cancer, likely because of the increased systemic inflammation associated with gum disease. Researchers see similar connections with autoimmune disease, lung diseases, kidney disease, and pregnancy complications.
While these chronic diseases and conditions likely have multiple contributing factors, including diet and lifestyle pieces, we can’t overlook the role of oral health. If you are ready to dive into your teeth and organ connection to prevent disease and optimize wellness, schedule an appointment today.
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