The link between oral health and general health

Image of a thumbs up and thumbs down image to suppoert The DHAA are supporting World Oral Health Day 2018 to raise awareness around the importance of good oral health

Jenny Lam discusses how oral health and general health are intrinsically linked and are integral to each other.

Oral health-related diseases often share common risk factors to a number of major chronic diseases; particular determinants of disease can include poor diet choices and excessive alcohol consumption.

Dental caries and periodontal disease are very common oral health problems in Australia. In a 2004–2006 survey, Three in 10 adults aged 25-44 have untreated tooth decay and 53.4% of people aged 65 and over had periodontal disease (AIHW, 2016). With sugary food and drinks, it’s the amount and frequency of consumption that affects the development of oral diseases. Additionally, excessive alcohol intake can have a number of impacts in the mouth, including increased risk of oral carcinogenic pathology (Boteva & Peycheva, 2016). These oral manifestations can often result in difficulty undertaking daily activities, which include speaking, chewing and/or swallowing causing a deterioration of health due to compromised nutrition intake. Additionally, poor dental health status can be connected to major chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, stroke and dementia (NACOH, 2004).

Likewise, poor diet choices and excessive alcohol consumption can lead to the development of general health problems. A diet high in sugar and fat, and low in essential vitamins and minerals contributes to an increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes (NACOH, 2004). Misuse of alcohol can contribute to the development of liver cirrhosis, and heighten the risk of cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, liver and breast. The burden of symptoms and problems from these chronic diseases in turn can have a considerable impact on self-esteem and quality of life.

Recognition that oral health and general health are intertwined is essential for determining appropriate oral health care strategies at both individual and community care levels. By promoting good eating and drinking habits, individuals can reduce the risk of oral and general health complications later in life, minimising the need for chronic disease management.

Thank you to Jenny Lam for providing this content for the DHAA as part of WOHD 2018.

AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). (2016). Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures 2015. Cat. no. DEN 229. Canberra.

Boteva, E., & Peycheva, K. (2016), “Effect of Alcohol to Oral Health”. Acta Medica Bulgarica, 43(1), 71-77.

NACOH (National Advisory Committee on Oral Health). (2004) “Healthy Mouths, Healthy Lives: Australia’s National Oral Health Plan 2004–13, National Advisory Council (2012)”, Report of the National Advisory Council of Oral health: Outcomes and Impact of oral disease. Available at: