How your Oral Health Relates to your Overall Health
Seeing your dentist regularly for cleanings and checkups is important for maintaining healthy teeth and gums. But visits to your dentist do more than help maintain your oral health. Studies show numerous links between your oral health and various health conditions, and oftentimes, your dentist or periodontist may be the first one to detect these conditions.
Routine dental exams have been known to reveal problems with a person’s bones, heart, digestive system, and several other areas. In addition, regular teeth cleanings have been shown to lower the risk of certain conditions. ABC News reported on a study done in Taiwan on 100,000 patients over a 7-year period, half of whom had teeth cleanings and half of whom did not. The study found that the patients who received cleanings had a 24% lower risk of heart attack and a 13% lower risk of stroke than those who had not had their teeth cleaned.
There are several things your dentist or periodontist may be able to tell about your overall health based on what is happening in your mouth. Here are some examples:
Bacteria buildup in your mouth can contribute to heart disease and stroke. This is because the bacteria in your gums can contribute to the formation of clots in your arteries, which can hinder blood flow to the heart. Some of the warning signs of bacteria buildup in the mouth are inflamed gums and loose teeth.
One of the most common conditions among diabetics is gum disease. Diabetes reduces the body’s ability to fight infections, which puts the gums at greater risk. Gum infections can also worsen the state of the diabetic condition and contribute to other health conditions. Regular periodontal care can help combat gum disease.
Receding gum lines or loosening teeth can be signs of bone diseases such as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis does not affect the teeth themselves, but it can cause the bones that support the teeth to become weak and brittle.
Kidneys that are functioning improperly release by-products that indicate an incomplete breakdown of proteins. One of the common signs of kidney disease is bad breath. Bad breath can also be caused by not brushing, flossing, and tongue scraping enough, but if you are doing all these things properly, then it could point to an issue with the kidney. Other oral signs of possible kidney problems include dry mouth and an unpleasant taste in the mouth.
Other conditions that are sometimes detected early by a dental professional include:
- Oral Cancer
- Alzheimer’s Disease/Dementia
- Anxiety and Stress
- Eating Disorders
- Sleep and Breathing Disorders
- Upper Respiratory Problems
Make Regular Dental Checkups a Priority
Seeing your dentist for cleanings and checkups every six months is just as important as an annual physical exam and other preventative screenings. The importance of taking care of your oral health is well-documented, and dentists are often the first ones to detect other health conditions before they progress to more severe stages. If you have not been seeing the dentist regularly, make a commitment to make this part of your routine; it is one of the best decisions you can make to maintain your overall health.