I recently came across an article in the Optometry Times entitled: “How Oral and Dental Hygiene Plays a Role in Glaucoma,” by Benjamin P. Casella, OD, FAAO. Interestingly enough, the article talks about a possible link between our “oral biome” (or mouth bacteria – the good, the bad, and the ugly) and one of the more severe ocular diseases (glaucoma).

Citing a case-control study (where 119 case subjects with primary open-angle glaucoma and 78 control subjects without glaucoma were tested), researchers found that the case group “had fewer remaining natural teeth than the control group,” which suggests that “having more natural teeth may indicate a lesser chance of having glaucoma.”

Casella goes on to say, “Further investigational studies regarding a relationship between oral and dental hygiene and the incidence of glaucoma need to take place. If such a relationship exists, and was found to be at all causal in nature, then we as ODs would have something specific to help us guide our patients—other than just advocating for routine physicals and an overall healthy lifestyle.”

He also states, “Such insights into the potential causes of glaucoma on a cellular/molecular level may have the potential to lead to novel concepts in highly targeted, and highly individualistic, glaucoma therapies in the future.”

Making a Connection?

Obviously more research needs to be done, but this is quite an interesting topic nonetheless. Staying on top of oral hygiene is an extremely important aspect of our health. In fact, most oral care professionals will get a pretty clear handle on the overall health of a person through examining their mouths (just like the eyes).

As far as the eyes are concerned, eye care professionals will always welcome more information regarding the causes of glaucoma and the detection of it. However, the disease is still very much a mystery in several regards.

Risk factors for glaucoma include:

  • Family history
  • Trauma
  • Increased eye pressure
  • Increased cup to disc ratio (regarding size of the optic nerve)
  • Systemic diseases (e.g. diabetes)

Basic Oral Hygiene:

In the future, if oral hygiene can be significantly linked to glaucoma, it will provide another tool in the battle against vision loss. In the meantime, I’m no dentist, but I can suggest the following basic oral hygiene tips:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day (and after meals if possible)
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Drink more water
  • Decrease sugar intake
  • Increase probiotic rich foods (for good bacteria production in the mouth)
  • Check with your dentist regularly for more advanced care procedures