Regular dental visits do more than just keep your smile attractive; they can tell a dentist a lot about your overall health, including whether or not you may be developing a disease like diabetes. Recent research suggests that the health of your mouth is a reflection of the condition of your body as a whole. Meaning, if your mouth is healthy, chances are your overall health is also good. It’s kind of like hand in glove. So if you have poor oral health, this may be a sign that you may have other health issues.
There is further indication that a healthy smile may actually prevent certain diseases from occurring, such as gum precipitated heart infections. As of late, a lot of orthopedic surgeons are requiring a blessing from your dentist before they operate. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, there is a relationship between gum (periodontal) disease and health complications such as a stroke and heart disease. Women with gum disease also show higher incidences of pre-term, low birth-weight babies. Recent studies also have shown that there are microbiologic and immunological findings that strongly support the association. The studies indicate that periodontal infection can lead to placental-fetal exposure and, when coupled with a fetal inflammatory response, can lead to preterm delivery.
Further research shows that more than 80 percent of all systemic diseases (involving many organs or the whole body) have oral manifestations, including swollen gums, mouth ulcers, dry mouth and/or excessive gum problems. Such systemic diseases include:
- heart disease
- kidney disease
Since most people have regular oral examinations, their dentist may be the first line of defense to diagnose a health problem in its early stages.
Failing to take care of your teeth and can actually lead to other health problems, including:
- Oral and facial pain. According to the Office of the Surgeon General, this pain may be largely due to infections of the gums that support the teeth and can lead to tooth loss. Gingivitis, an early stage of gum disease, and advanced gum disease affect more than 75 percent of the U.S. population.
- Problems with the heart and other major organs. Mouth infections can affect major organs. For example, the heart and heart valves can become inflamed by bacterial endocarditis, a condition that affects people with heart disease or anyone with damaged heart tissue.
- Oral cancer. Poor oral care can contribute to oral cancer, which now takes more lives annually than cervical or skin cancer.
- Digestion problems. Digestion begins with physical and chemical processes in the mouth, and problems here can lead to intestinal failure, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestion disorders.
Seeing a dentist regularly helps to keep your mouth healthy and allows your dentist opportunities to examine developments that may point to other health issues. A dental exam also can detect poor nutrition and hygiene and growth and development problems. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact our office in Sandy Springs for a consultation.
Novy Scheinfeld, DDS, PC
290 Carpenter Drive, 200A
Atlanta (Sandy Springs), GA 30328
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 JADA, 2006, Exploring the relationship between periodontal disease and pregnancy complications
Yiorgos A. Bobetsis, DDS, PhD, Silvana P. Barros, DDS, PhD and Steven Offenbacher, DDS, PhD, MMSc