The Importance Of Oral Health In Overall Wellbeing


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), oral health encompasses the condition of the mouth, teeth, and orofacial structures, enabling individuals to perform essential functions such as eating, breathing, and speaking. It also includes psychosocial dimensions like self-confidence, well-being, and the ability to socialize and work without experiencing pain, discomfort, or embarrassment. In essence, oral health extends beyond mere comfort with one's smile.

Indeed, oral health holds paramount importance in overall well-being. Numerous studies have proven the association between oral health and general health. This connection underscores the significance of maintaining good oral health for overall well-being. In this article, we will discuss the various links between oral health and overall well-being and how to promote overall health by adopting effective oral care measures.

The impact of oral health on overall health

Oral health has been extensively demonstrated to be closely intertwined with systemic diseases. Here are a few of the recurring ones in the literature.

A. Effects of poor oral health on cardiovascular health: Poor oral health, particularly conditions like gum disease and tooth loss, has been consistently linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease.

The link between oral health and heart disease is multifaceted. Gum disease increases the risk of heart disease, as bacteria from the mouth can spread to the heart through the bloodstream, leading to inflammation and conditions like endocarditis, atherosclerosis, and stroke. Even chronic gum conditions that may not show obvious signs of inflammation can elevate heart disease risk, as oral bacteria affect blood vessels and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.1 Symptoms of gum disease, such as red and swollen gums, bleeding, pus, bad breath, and loose teeth, can serve as warning signs for various conditions, including heart disease.2

One theory suggests that the bacteria responsible for gum infections can travel to blood vessels, causing inflammation, blood vessel damage, and potentially contributing to heart problems. Another theory highlights the role of the body's immune response and inflammation in causing vascular damage throughout the body, including the heart and brain. It's important to note that while some studies suggest a direct link between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, others propose that other factors, such as smoking, may contribute to both conditions.1

B. impact of oral health on respiratory health: Poor oral health has been strongly linked to respiratory diseases, with some of the implicated pulmonary conditions including pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).3 This connection arises from the potential for bacteria aspiration from the mouth.3Aspiration is particularly concerning for individuals with swallowing disorders, impaired consciousness, and those who are intubated. Therefore, proper oral care is highly recommended, especially since many of these vulnerable patients also experience compromised immune systems due to their critical conditions. 

C. Oral health and Diabetes: The relationship between diabetes and oral health is known to be bidirectional. When diabetes is poorly controlled, the risk of experiencing periodontitis triples. Interestingly, periodontitis has also been discovered to negatively impact the management of blood glucose levels.4 Various studies have underscored the beneficial outcomes of dental treatments targeting the gums and other tooth-supporting structures in enhancing blood glucose control.5

The psychological and emotional aspects of oral health

A. Influence on self-esteem and confidence:

Numerous dental conditions have been shown to significantly affect aesthetics and the psychological well-being of individuals. For adolescents, dental issues such as malocclusion, fractured front teeth, and untreated tooth decay led to reduced self-esteem.6 In addition, a noteworthy link is found between self-esteem and school performance.7 This suggests that oral health, particularly its impact on aesthetics, plays a crucial role in promoting optimal academic achievements.

B. Social implications and relationships:

You might be astonished by the number of individuals who refrain from smiling due to their dental appearance. Moreover, oral and facial discomfort stemming from issues like dentures, temporomandibular joint disorders, and oral infections can significantly impact social interactions and everyday activities. These challenges not only affect personal confidence but also influence how individuals engage with others and navigate their daily lives.8 

C. Impact on Speech and Communication:

The loss of teeth, which is one of the consequences of poor oral health, can have a profound negative impact on speech and communication, thus reducing an individual's overall quality of life. In fact, any oral disease that impairs functions such as feeding, smiling, and chewing will typically result in a decrease in an individual's quality of life.

Oral health's role in preventing chronic conditions

Maintaining proper oral health is crucial for preventing a range of chronic conditions and promoting overall well-being. The state of oral health encompasses the condition of teeth, gums, and the entire orofacial system, which impacts essential functions such as speech, smiling, and eating. Several common oral health problems, including cavities, gum disease, and oral cancer, can have far-reaching implications for an individual's health and quality of life.

Gum disease affects  approximately 4 in 10 adults above the age of 30 in the United States.9 This can lead to tooth loss if not properly managed. The condition is often influenced by both individual oral hygiene habits and underlying health conditions. Gum disease as earlier discussed has been linked to more severe health issues, including cardiovascular problems. In fact, chronic oral infections have been associated with conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, highlighting the interconnectedness of oral health with overall well-being.

Furthermore, oral cancer poses a significant health risk and can lead to devastating consequences. It was responsible for over 10,000 deaths in 2016 alone.9 Prevention efforts primarily target risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol use, as well as early detection to improve survival rates. The link between human papillomavirus (HPV) and throat cancer underscores the importance of awareness and regular screenings for early detection.9

To address these challenges, proper education of patients on the connection between oral health and general health is necessary. Promotion of proper oral care practices, regular dental checkups, and a balanced diet are essential for everyone, particularly those with chronic conditions. By recognizing the intricate link between oral health and overall well-being, individuals can take proactive steps to prevent chronic conditions and maintain their health and quality of life.


In conclusion, the significance of oral health extends far beyond the confines of the mouth. Enlightening patients about the consequences of inadequate oral care is pivotal, underscoring the need for comprehensive patient education and awareness. Recognizing the profound impact of poor oral health on overall well-being, it becomes imperative to prioritize oral hygiene as a fundamental pillar of a healthier and more fulfilling life.


  1. MD RHS. Harvard Health. 2018 [cited 2023 Aug 7]. Gum disease and the connection to heart disease. Available from:
  2. How oral health and heart disease are connected [Internet]. [cited 2023 Aug 7]. Available from:
  3. Mahant B. The impact of oral health on systemic health: current challenges and future prospective. International Journal of Medical and Biomedical Studies [Internet]. 2018 Jun 30 [cited 2023 Aug 10];2(3). Available from:
  4. Alpert PT. Oral health: the oral-systemic health connection. Home Health Care Management & Practice [Internet]. 2017 Feb [cited 2023 Aug 10];29(1):56–9. Available from:
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  6. Kaur P. Impact of dental disorders and its influence on self esteem levels among adolescents. JCDR [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Aug 10]; Available from:
  7. Maharani DA, Adiatman M, Rahardjo A, Burnside G, Pine C. An assessment of the impacts of child oral health in Indonesia and associations with self-esteem, school performance and perceived employability. BMC Oral Health [Internet]. 2017 Dec [cited 2023 Aug 10];17(1):65. Available from:
  8. Hollister M, Weintraub J. The association of oral status with systemic health, quality of life, and economic productivity. Journal of Dental Education [Internet]. 1993 Dec [cited 2023 Aug 10];57(12):901–12. Available from:
  9. Oral health conditions [Internet]. 2022 [cited 2023 Aug 11]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Nneamaka Mirian Nnebedum

Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) University of Ibadan, Nigeria

Nneamaka is a dentist with profound commitment to public health advocacy. Nneamaka has amassed extensive experience through active engagement with various non-profit organisations. Her notable roles include chairperson of a Dental Education Committee and leading the Media and Communications unit of a non-profit health organisation. These roles reflect her ardent dedication to advancing health education and promotion, underscoring her impact in fostering healthier communities. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
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