Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body

By Nora Heston Tarte

The mouth is the window to your health. It is impossible to be truly healthy if your mouth is not?

The Surgeon General estimates that up to 80 percent of Americans suffer from gum disease, ranging from a minor infliction to a serious bacterial infection that affects the hard tissues attached to teeth. And while tooth loss and cavities are very real consequences of gum disease, so are heart attack, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.
To get a handle on your health, start with your mouth. Early intervention is key in making a diagnoses and establishing a treatment plan to reduce or eliminate gum disease and the negative effects it has on your health.

Cardiovascular Disease & Gum Disease:

The heart-mouth connection was one of the first oral systemic relationships recognized by professionals. The consequences of an unhealthy mouth on the cardiovascular system are alarming. That’s because the bacteria in the mouth affects the blood vessels in the rest of your body. Swelling of these vessels can increase risk for blood clots, while fatty plagues can cause blockages in the arteries that lead to heart attack and stroke. Some bacteria in the mouth can harden the arteries, as well.

What to look for: Swollen, bleeding gums are indicative of periodontal disease, which can increase the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease.

Diabetes & Periodontal Disease:

Periodontal disease doesn’t per say cause diabetes, but the two conditions can worsen each other when a sufferer has both. It’s a two-way relationship, and not a good one. So, if you have diabetes, not taking care of your teeth can worsen the systemic condition.

Gum disease is most common in those that have diabetes, making tooth care more important for these individuals. The body with diabetes is less adept at fighting infection, which makes the gum disease harder to get rid of, and lingering gum disease can lead to a slew of other health concerns. According to the American Dental Hygienists Association, almost one-third of Americans with diabetes also have periodontal disease.

What to look for: In addition to swollen or bleeding gums, diabetics should be wary of loose teeth, gum recession, pus between the teeth and gums, a change in bite or jaw alignment, and persistent bad breath.

Oral Health & Cancer:

The potential connection between oral health and cancer is newly discovered, so more research is needed to understand the connection, but scientists have theories. One includes the possibility that inflammation and the chemicals that accompany it can promote the formation of cancer cells. Some studies have linked those with gum disease to increased instances of specific cancers.

On the flipside, the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research notes that one-third of cancer patients develop complications that affect the mouth.

What to look for: If you have cancer, oral health issues become more prevalent. Be wary of dry mouth, mouth sores, sensitive gums, jaw pain, and oral infection.

Gum Disease & Birth Complications:

For pregnant women, gingivitis is more common because it is cause by a fluctuation in hormones. While many women avoid the dentist during pregnancy—often under the guise there isn’t much they can do while pregnant—they may in fact need more frequent cleanings to cope. What they don’t know is that gingivitis could lead to complications with childbirth including pre-term delivery and preeclampsia. Both conditions can have lasting effects on the baby.

What to look for: Those with gingivitis, also know as gum inflammation, may experience bad breath, loose teeth, receding gums, tooth loss, toothache, ulcers, increased dental plaque, and redness.

See a dentist:

The only surefire way to know if you have gum disease is to see a dentist. Approximately 62 percent of Americans see the dentist each year, which means 38 percent don’t. Rule of thumb suggests an appointment every six months.
Some think brushing and flossing regularly is enough. And while these good habits may keep cavities at bay, they don’t eliminate the risk for gum disease. When you don’t see a dentist, you don’t know if you have a serious oral problem that could affect overall health.
Colgate estimates that up to 15 percent of Americans avoid seeing the dentist out of fear, and they’ll put up with a lot of discomfort to get around a visit.

“It is important to understand that during pregnancy the entire body is affected. With higher levels of inflammation there can be an increase in heart problems, pregnancy diabetes, and possible changes to the development of the child before birth.” — Todd Franklin, DDS, Lodi

Put your fears aside:

Stockton Dental Care
2389 W. March Ln., #1, Stockton
(209) 477-0278
DrLouieStocktonDentist.com

Suzuki DMD & Associates
801 S. Ham Ln., Lodi
(209) 334-0630
SuzukiDMD.com

Todd A. Franklin, DDS
1208 W. Tokay St., Lodi
(209) 334-4370
ToddFranklinDDS.com

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