Open female mouth during oral checkup at the dentist

Poor oral hygiene linked to 23 systemic diseases, five types of cancer

Egaz Moniz School of Health underlines importance of regular dental checks

In a country that traditionally only goes to the dentist ‘when there is a problem’, a new study released today stresses the risks associated with lackadaisical dental care: “poor oral health is directly related to 23 systemic diseases, including diabetes, obesity and asthma, and five types of cancer”, namely lung, pancreatic, breast, prostate, and head and neck cancer, explains Lusa.

“A global review of the evidence linking oral health and non-communicable systemic diseases”, published in Nature Communications by the research centre of the Egas Moniz School of Health and Science commemorates World Oral Health Day today.

Among the ‘23 systemic diseases’ are diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, neurodegenerative, rheumatic, inflammatory bowel diseases, as well as obesity and asthma, says the school in a statement 

“This is the first research that, combining all the scientific information produced worldwide, shows that there is an association between oral health and 28 different pathologies, reinforcing the importance that this has for health in general and justifying why it should be an integral part of clinical monitoring,” the statement continues.

According to researcher João Botelho, the results of the study coincide with the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Oral Health Report 2022, which alerts to “the urgent need to definitively incorporate not only oral health care, but also oral health education into health systems” (something that is still only sketchily done in Portugal).

“In this sense, based on our research, we intend not only to confirm the correlation between oral health and other pathologies, but also to reinforce the importance of the role of dentistry as a guarantee of health in general and the focus on prevention as a complement to care and treatment,” he explains.

For Botelho, this issue is of “extreme importance” when it is clear that “oral health care, even the most basic, is not accessible to all“.

According to the WHO’s Global Report on Oral Health, diseases involving the oral cavity affect half of the world’s population.

Egas Moniz’s research also alerts to the high prevalence of risk pathologies in Portugal when compared to other European countries (where citizens have much easier access to good oral hygiene).

Says Lusa, the centre’s researchers “also argue that preventive measures in oral health have an economic impact, giving as an example that, in 2018 alone, periodontitis, a disease that affects the gums, caused an economic loss in the European Union estimated at €159 billion.

Source: LUSA