Look after your mouth, your body will thank you.

September is World Oral Health month, a time to increase awareness about oral disease and how to prevent it 1.

For decades, oral health was considered a secondary health concern, and did not get the full attention of government and international organisations 2. Fortunately, oral health is today considered “integral and essential to general health and a determinant factor in quality of life”2.  Oral health is now defined as ‘multifaceted and includes the ability to speak, smile, smell, taste, touch, chew, swallow, and covey a range of emotions through facial expressions with confidence and without pain, discomfort, and disease of the craniofacial complex 3”.

Evidence now shows that we cannot isolate the mouth from the rest of the body.  The mouth and the body have a two-way relationship and can assist each other in maintaining good health and identifying any underlying health and nutritional issues 4.

Negligence in oral care can have a far-reaching negative impact on our physical and mental well being, even going as far as to affect self–confidence, personal relationships and the ability to enjoy food 4. In some cases, the mouth can assist in flagging up a more serious health issue 5.

Oral disease and other disease share some risk factors

Research has shown that periodontal gum disease has a strong link to certain diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, respiratory disease and cancer.  Although the biological interactions between oral conditions and these medical conditions is still not fully understood, it is clear that major chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease share common risk factors with oral disease 6, 7.

Despite being very preventable, oral disease is the most widespread chronic disease. The following are the common risk factors that oral disease shares with other chronic diseases/conditions 7:

  • Diet – risk factor for dental cavities, coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancers, obesity and pregnancy related problems.
  • Tobacco smoking/chewing – risk factor for oral and other cancers, periodontal gum disease, coronary heart disease, stroke, respiratory diseases, diabetes and pregnancy related problems.
  • Alcohol consumption – risk factor for oral and other cancers, cardiovascular disease, liver cirrhosis, trauma and pregnancy related problems.
  • Hygiene – risk factor for periodontal gum disease, other bacterial and inflammatory conditions and pregnancy related problems.
  • Injuries/Trauma – risk factor for trauma and dental trauma
  • Stress – risk factor for periodontal gum disease and cardiovascular disease and pregnancy related problems.

Unfortunately, despite being preventable, dental decay and gum disease are the most common chronic diseases in the United States and the biggest threat to oral health 8.

Looking after our teeth and oral health should be far more than the routine we adopted in childhood, which includes brushing twice a day, flossing, rinsing with mouthwash and regular trips to the dentist.  It is now essential to address our lifestyles and the changes we can make to ensure optimum heath in our minds, bodies and mouths 4.

DISCLAIMER: This editorial has been commissioned and brought to you by iNova Pharmaceuticals. Content in this editorial is for general information only and is not intended to provide medical or other professional advice. For more information on your medical condition and treatment options, speak to your healthcare professional.

Name and business address of applicant: iNova Pharmaceuticals (Pty) Limited. Co. Reg. No.1952/001640/07, 15E Riley Road, Bedfordview. Tel. No. 011 087 0000. www.inovapharma.co.za. For full prescribing information, refer to the individual package inserts as approved by the Medicines Control Council (MCC). Further information is available on request from iNova Pharmaceuticals. IN2869/18


  1. Oral Health Month. The South African Dental Association. (https://www.sada.co.za/oral-health-month/) (Website accessed on 4 August 2018)
  2. Glick. M. et al.FDI Vision 2020: Shaping the Future. (https://www.fdiworlddental.org/sites/default/files/media/resources/idj_vision_2020_final.pdf) (Website accessed on 4 August 2018)
  3. World Dental Federation. Vision 2020 Think Tank. A new definition for oral health. (https://www.fdiworlddental.org/sites/default/files/media/images/oral_health_definition-exec_summary-en.pdf) Website accessed on 7 February 2018.
  4. World Oral health Day 20 March. Say Ahh Think Mouth Think Health (http://worldhealthday.org/)(Website accessed on 4 August 2018)
  5. Oral Health. American Dental Association. (https://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oral-health) (Website accessed on 4 August 2018)
  6. American Academy of Periodontology: Gum Disease and other Systemic Diseases.  (https://www.perio.org/consumer/other-systemic-diseases)  (Website accessed on 4 August 2018)
  7. Links between oral & general health: The Mouth-Body Connection. (https://www.dentalhealth.ie/dentalhealth/causes/general.html) (Website accessed on 4 August 2018)
  8. Oral Health: The Silent Epidemic – NCBI- NIH Regina M. Benjamin.  (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2821841/) (Website accessed on 4 August 2018)