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Self-Reported Oral Health Shows Strong Correlation With Systemic Health

New research indicates that individuals reporting poor oral health face similar systemic health risks as those diagnosed with periodontal diseases.

Increasingly, regular dental visits and oral healthcare are being associated with overall wellness.

According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, those reporting poor oral health are at a significant risk of experiencing long-term systemic issues on a par with those previously diagnosed with periodontal diseases.1

Researchers from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine wanted to see if those not diagnosed with periodontal diseases, who self-reported poor oral health in response to oral health questions, were as likely to experience the same kinds of comorbidities and negative long-term systemic health outcomes as those diagnosed with periodontal diseases.1,2

The study revealed a significant correlation in the level of systemic co-morbidities between those who had been diagnosed with periodontal diseases and those who had not.

INDEPENDENT DATA SETS

The researchers analyzed the responses of women 45 years and older who took part in Harvard Medical School’s and Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Women’s Health Study. In that study, the women self-reported their experience with periodontal diseases and oral health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis beginning in 1992. The research team also examined National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) data, linking responses to oral health questions and mortality from 1999 to 2018.

STRONG CONNECTION

Among those self-reporting fair or poor oral health in the Women’s Health Study, the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis was shown to increase. NHANES participants self-reporting fair or poor oral health were shown to have higher risks of all-cause mortality.

The study’s authors concluded that self-reported oral health among those not diagnosed with periodontal diseases could be as much of an indicator of the same level of systemic comorbidities as for those previously diagnosed with periodontal diseases. In addition, they associated increased all-cause mortality with self-rated fair or poor oral health, suboptimal dental visits, or even infrequent flossing.

PRACTICALLY SPEAKING

The researchers believe their findings support the use of oral health questions designed for self-reporting, particularly in cases of limited access to dental care. In fact, lack of accessibility became an important factor in the study, which found that nearly half of the NHANES respondents had not visited a dental practice within the past year. Such a lack of dental care was associated with poor oral and overall health outcomes.

Due to the gravity of this situation, the researchers propose that such questions become a part of primary care evaluations to give physicians a more comprehensive picture of a patient’s overall health.

Further, there is a need for additional studies combined with biobanking efforts to bolster our understanding of the link between oral and overall health outcomes and the effect of lack of access to dental care.

References

  1. Yu YH, Steffensen B, Chasman DI, Buring JE. Self-reported oral health is associated with systemic health outcomes and all-cause mortality. J Am Dent Assoc. 2024;155:233-243.
  2. Wencis V. Study shows correlation between self-reported oral health and systemic health outcomes. Tufts Now. March 4, 2024.
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