Powell Dental Group
Shelley D. Shults, FNP, MSN, DDS, D.ABDSM
Emily Hutchins, DDS
Joseph E. Touhalisky, DDS

39 Clairedan Drive
Powell, Ohio 43065

Oral Systemic Health (Health Beyond the Mouth!)

A new understanding of the oral-systemic connection can empower you to a healthier life!


The number of bacteria in your mouth is closest to the population of..................? The answer is: The Earth!


A typical human mouth contains billions of bacteria. If you haven’t brushed your teeth lately, you might well have more bacteria in your mouth right now than there are people living on planet Earth. Scientists have identified more than 700 different species of mouth-dwelling microbes. Most of the bacteria in your mouth are part of a sticky film on your teeth known as plaque, which is the main cause of tooth decay. A single tooth can hast 500 million bacteria. This is, of course, why you brush, floss, and rinse your teeth. The American Dental Association recommends rinsing your toothbrush with tap water after you use it, then let it air dry. Replace your toothbrush every 6 months or after an illness.

The mouth is like the body’s mirror. We can identify disease earlier than ever before. Today, we know that decay, periodontal disease, and bite problems are more than just dental disease. They are significant risk factors for general degenerative conditions such as heart disease strokes, headaches, diabetes, premature births and certain types of cancer. We often see inflammatory reactions in the oral cavity that can be related to local or systemic processes such as infections, autoimmune disease, inflammatory processes etc. Observing structures and recognizing complaints of physiologic anomalies, tumors, disease processes i.e. hypertension, obstructive sleep apnea, non-compliance (“I HATE MY CPAP”), insomnia/sleep related breathing disorders, digestive disorders, thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiency, anemia, metabolic imbalance, allergy, hematologic, respiratory & cardiac disorders, orthopedic/bone density disorders, osteomyelitis, bleeding disorders, xerostomia (dry mouth), polypharmacy/drug interactions, etc. are just a few of the frequently encountered processes that may have remained unidentified but influenced by the oral-systemic connection.

We are able to check vitals, measure your oxygen saturation, review your medical history, medications and concerns, and proceed with testing or referrals as needed. We additionally offer salivary diagnostic testing, consultation and education, basic blood test screening (serology), radiographic screening, home sleep apnea testing with sleep medicine physician diagnosis, and coordination for time sensitive medical referrals.

The dentists at Powell Dental Group understand the emerging science-driven relationship between mouth & body. We have developed an interdisciplinary communication and professional referral relationship with many medical and dental specialists, creating a team that understands the relationship between mouth & body and how, as a team, we can best provide care and direction for your whole body optimal health & lifestyle.

Our experience, education and team approach matters….it could make the difference towards your optimal health!

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For the Public

The American Academy for Oral Systemic health is a collection of dentists and allied health professionals dedicated to changing professional and public behaviors and addressing the importance of oral health as it relates to the body in general. You should feel comfortable that your dentist understands the importance of this “oral-systemic connection” and has the experience, interest and ability to properly diagnose and evaluate risk factors and health conditions related to the mouth and which affect the rest of the body.

You can learn more about your dentist and their philosophy and knowledge about these matters by asking them directly. You may also learn from their practice website and by asking their staff. There is also a wealth of general information about the oral-systemic connection available on websites like this one and from other organizations and institutions. Becoming educated about oral health is a good idea and it will allow you to ask better questions, especially as it relates to your individual needs and concerns.

Often the selection of a “good” dentist includes just feeling good about your experience with them. Will they or their staff take the time to give you necessary information? Did they provide you with a thorough evaluation and communicate its results to you in an effective manner? Does the dentist and staff take a keen interest in helping you be healthy and in giving you the right tools and resources to make you successful at home?

These and many more questions and considerations can help you determine who the right dentist is for you and your family. One word of caution is always in order, and that has to do with the economic considerations of oral health care. Some people choose their dentist on the basis of price alone. While price and fees for professional services is an important consideration it shouldn’t be the sole or determining factor. Taking short-cuts or choosing less than adequate care will only serve to short-change your health and create costly consequences down the road when it possibly becomes more than teeth that are involved.

If you are in need of a good dentist who understands and practices with an “oral-systemic” mindset, you can use our Find an AAOSH Health Professional tool to find a dentist in your area who is a member of the American Academy of Oral Systemic Health.

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Oral Systemic FAQ

What is “oral systemic health”?
Get an answer
Where can I find healthcare providers in my area who understand oral-systemic health? Get an answer
How much does it cost to treat gum disease?
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Why should I go to an AAOSH dentist?
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I am worried that conditions in my mouth may be impacting my general health – what can I do? Get an answer
Is gum disease the only oral health problem that is tied to the rest of the body? Get an answer
Is bad breath a sign of gum disease?
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What can I do at home to protect my oral health?
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The Heart and Mouth Connection

How heart disease and oral health link

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease will claim an estimated 600,000 lives this year, making it America's number one killer. Did you know that heart disease and oral health are linked? There are two different connections between heart disease and your oral health:

  1. Studies have shown that people with moderate or advanced gum (periodontal) disease are more likely to have heart disease than those with healthy gums.
  2. Oral health holds clues to overall health. Studies have shown that oral health can provide warning signs for other diseases or conditions, including heart disease.

Link #1: How gum disease increases risk of heart attacks

Because the mouth is a pathway to the body, people who have chronic gum disease are at a higher risk for heart attack, according to the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD). Gum disease (called gingivitis in its early stages and periodontal disease in the late stages) is caused by plaque buildup.

Some researchers have suggested that gum disease may contribute to heart disease because bacteria from infected gums can dislodge, enter the bloodstream, attach to blood vessels and increase clot formation. It has also been suggested that inflammation caused by gum disease may also trigger clot formation. Clots decrease blood flow to the heart, thereby causing an elevation in blood pressure and increasing the risk of a heart attack.

Risk factors: Studies have not established that either heart disease or gum disease actually causes the other. This is a difficult task because many of the risk factors for gum disease are the same as those for heart disease: smoking, poor nutrition, diabetes, being male.

Link #2: How oral health warns about heart disease

More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases — including heart disease — have oral symptoms, research suggests. In addition, dentists can help patients with a history of heart disease by examining them for any signs of oral pain, infection or inflammation. According to the AGD, proper diagnosis and treatment of tooth and gum infections in some of these patients have led to a decrease in blood pressure medications and improved overall health.

Warning signs for gum disease: gum disease affects 80 percent of American adults, according to the AGD. Warning signs that you may have gum disease include:

  • Red, tender or swollen gums
  • Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing
  • Gums that seem to be pulling away from your teeth
  • Chronic bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Teeth that are loose or are separating from each other

Prevention is the best medicine

Although gum disease seems to be associated with heart disease, more studies are needed before we can say with certainty what the relationship is. Research has not shown that treatment for one of these diseases will help control the other, but we do know that regular dental checkups, professional cleanings and good oral hygiene practices can improve oral health and that good oral health contributes to good overall health.

While regular dental exams and cleanings are necessary to remove bacteria, plaque and tartar and detect early signs of gum disease, you can play a major role in preventing gum disease:

  • Brush for two to three minutes, twice a day, with fluoridated toothpaste. Be sure to brush along the gumline.
  • Floss daily to remove plaque from places your toothbrush can’t reach.
  • Use a mouth rinse to reduce plaque up to 20 percent.
  • Eat a healthy diet to provide essential nutrients (vitamins A and C, in particular).
  • Avoid cigarettes and smokeless tobacco.

If you have heart disease...

  • Establish and maintain a healthy mouth. This means brushing and flossing daily and visiting your dentist regularly.
  • Make sure your dentist knows you have a heart problem, and share your complete medical history, including any medications you are currently taking.
  • Carefully follow your physician's and dentist's instructions about health care, including using prescription medications, such as antibiotics, as directed.

Some information courtesy of the Academy of General Dentistry.
The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III).
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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