Updated: 1/29/2020 As we age, experiencing some type of medical problem is pretty much inevitable. And while our focus, and the doctor’s, is solely on treating it, few think about…

doctor giving patient diagnosis

How Can Medical Conditions Affect Your Oral Health?

Updated: 1/29/2020

As we age, experiencing some type of medical problem is pretty much inevitable. And while our focus, and the doctor’s, is solely on treating it, few think about the effect it’s having on their oral health.

Here we’ll talk about what you should be aware of when it comes to how your medical conditions affect your oral health.

Understand What Diseases Affect Oral Health the Most and Vice Versa

  • A Weak Immune System. Many people can get more infections in their mouth if they have a weak immune system. Your immune system helps protect your body from illness and infections; without a strong immune system, your body is more susceptible to diseases and ailments. Even those who have strong immune systems can find it weakened by disease or as a side effect of chemotherapy.
  • Iron Deficiency/Anemia. People who have an iron deficiency can sometimes develop sores at the corners of their mouth, their taste buds get smaller, their tongues become sore and they can even have scarring on their throat and esophagus. If it progresses to anemia, their immune system will suffer, which as we mentioned above can lead to an increased risk of diseases and ailments.
  • Diabetes. If you’re diabetic, it’s entirely possible that your oral health can positively or negatively affect your diabetes. For a diabetic, getting a mouth infection can cause blood-sugar levels to fluctuate, making it harder to control. Therefore, it’s critical that you maintain good oral health.
  • Obesity. Obesity can have a negative impact on your oral health. Researchers believe periodontitis can progress faster if the patient has high body fat.
  • Gum Disease. More research is being done on the correlation between periodontal (gum) disease and various medical problems, including: heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Maintaining good oral health may also reduce your risk of experiencing any of these diseases.
  • Thyroid Problems. Thyroid problems have been associated with oral health problems. There are specific problems associated with each thyroid disorder:
      • Hyperthyroidism: Sometimes an overactive thyroid gland can lead to advanced gum disease.
      • Hypothyroidism: This is a common disorder in the elderly that can make it difficult to maintain healthy gums, which can result in periodontal disease.
      • Thyroid Cancer: Thyroid cancer is sometimes treated with high doses of radioactive iodine, which can cause increased salivation and gum pain—both of which can make a person more susceptible to tooth decay.
      • Rheumatoid Arthritis. By taking care of your oral health, you can decrease the amount of pain you experience from rheumatoid arthritis. Although this connection is still under investigation, being able to reduce the pain you feel because of your arthritis by taking care of your oral health is great news! Why not start taking care of it now?
      • Pneumonia and Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. If you have either of these conditions, take care of your oral health to avoid getting periodontal disease at all costs. Periodontal disease can increase the amount of bacteria that gets into the lungs.

Don’t Let Sickness Interfere with Your Regular Dental Routine

It’s common to let being sick interfere with your regular routine. When people are really sick, they usually stay home from work, forego the cooking and household chores to another family member, reschedule previously-made plans, etc. One of the regular routines that is also pushed aside is the regular dental routine—especially at night. Once it’s time for bed and you’ve been sick, you just want to sleep. You don’t want to mess with brushing and flossing your teeth, but it’s really important, especially when you’re sick.

As we’ve seen, diseases can affect your oral health and so can typical sickness rituals. For example, that juice and Ginger Ale you’ve been drinking to make you feel better contains a lot of sugar that will sit on your teeth and encourage tooth decay.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to remind yourself of your regular dental routine when you’re sick:

  • Make yourself go to bed earlier than usual so you have time to brush and floss your teeth before crashing on the bed.
  • If you’re feeling nauseated, find a toothpaste that doesn’t further contribute to that feeling.
  • Ask for some accountability from a family member to help you remember to brush and floss your teeth before you go to bed.
  • Play some calming music to make the experience a relaxing one.
  • Substitute water for some of those juices and Ginger Ale’s you’re consuming so there isn’t as much sugar coating your teeth.
Oral Hygiene With Medical Conditions

Photo by eltpics / CC-NC

Protect Your Oral Health

Your oral health and your overall health are intricately connected. Each one affects the other. Don’t ignore either. Prioritize the care of each and you’ll be better off for it.

How have you become more aware of the connection between your oral health and overall health? Have you been sick due to poor oral health? Have you experienced poor oral health after a sickness? Share your experience with us in the comment section below.

Natasha is 1Dental’s managing editor and copywriter, focusing content on dental and health news, advice and tips straight from the experts. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and has since been a book editor and now copywriter and managing editor on dental and health. You can find her on Twitter and all of 1Dental’s social networks.

  1. I had absolutely gorgeous teeth (naturally w/o braces or cosmetic procedures) & a big beautiful smile until a few years ago. Was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Fibromyalgia & Sjogréns Syndrome 14 years ago in September 2000. I have always taken excellent care of my teeth (worked for an orthodontist as well). Within the past 3 years my teeth are completely deteriorating on a daily basis. Strange, my teeth are decaying from the top of the tooth (at the gum line). I believe this is a direct result of my medical disorders as well as from all the pain medication I have taken for 14 years. I’ve done everything I could possibly do to keep my mouth, teeth & gums healthy, even using the Biotene products for dry mouth etc. At this point, I no longer smile or remotely open my mouth enough so that my teeth are visible. The majority of my teeth have just crumbled away. I would really love to have dental implants but being disabled, I’m certain I cannot afford them. At this point, I’m not certain that I could even afford dentures (in which I cringe thinking about having dentures) but whatever I ultimately end up with I will be most thankful to have a somewhat ‘normal’ mouth again. Going to check out the different plans offered; hopeful this will help a little with the expense. Thanks for sharing the information as your blog is most enlightening!

    • Thank you for reading and sharing your story with us. We are so sorry to hear about everything you’ve gone through and are going through. We hope our plans, or any plans out there, can help you find the affordable dental care you need so you can feel more comfortable with your smile again.

  2. Interesting, i have noticed that if i am sick in bed for a couple of days my teeth and gums will be sore or sensitive from now flossing or brushing. it is amazing how much build up on you teeth and acquire in such short time frame.

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