There is much evidence to prove the risk that goes with poor oral health. The fact is, it’s hard to have a healthy body if oral health concerns are ignored. For example, when oral infections spread throughout the body, they can raise the risks for heart disease and diabetes.
How Oral Plaque Attacks a Healthy Body
Food particles stick to your teeth when you eat. These attract bacteria. Unless you brush and floss each day, the bacteria turn into plaque and that turns into tartar, which may lead to gum disease.
Symptoms of gum disease include bad breath, painful chewing, sensitive teeth, or swollen gums. Any of these should prompt you to see a dentist. They will be able to tell if gum disease is present, and they can remove any tartar that has formed.
Without dental care, though, tiny pockets can form between your teeth and gums. Then, as more bacteria gets in, the pockets may grow worse. Finally, the oral bacteria can enter your bloodstream.
Once they enter your blood, bacteria can inflame other parts of your body. For example, if you are at risk for heart disease, your heart could find it hard to relax and contract as needed.
Scientists have confirmed oral bacteria’s link with heart attack. And they have reported that when plaque s is scraped away by a dentist, the heart works better.
Once they enter your bloodstream, oral bacteria can also cause glucose levels to skyrocket. This failure to process sugar can be hazardous to diabetics and pre-diabetic alike.
However, studies show when dentists remove plaque the blood sugar levels return closer to normal.
Stroke and Alzheimer’s
The effect of oral bacteria on the brain is very similar to its effect on the heart. It makes the brain’s vessels more vulnerable to developing plaque, which is the key factor for a stroke.
In 2016, British researchers monitored Alzheimer’s patients and saw that those with gum disease experienced mental deterioration six times faster than those with healthier gums. Alzheimer’s patients are also more likely to suffer from poor oral health because they forget daily habits like brushing teeth.
Doctors and Oral Health
More and more, doctors ask their patients about dental visits before drawing conclusions or moving forward with operations, according to Men’s Journal.
Cardiologist Melvyn Rubenfire, for example, schedules dentist appointments for patients going into surgery in order to eliminate the risk of complications from oral infections.
Harvard endocrinologist William Hsu tells his diabetic patients their worries about glucose levels will decline significantly if they see the dentist every six months for an exam. When he observes a rise in blood glucose, his first question to the patient is, “When was the last time you had a dental cleaning?”
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The effect of pot or marijuana on oral health is unclear due in large part to its status as a controlled substance. That alone has stalled much research on the plant’s uses for years.
Science has shown that cigarettes cause a slew of potentially fatal diseases. But they have yet to show a direct link between regular pot use and any single health condition.
A recent study at Columbia University (CU), though, suggests that people who smoke marijuana often may be at an increased risk for gum disease.
Who the Team Looked At
CU researchers led by Dr. Jaffer Shariff enlisted 1,419 Americans who had not used cannabis one or more times per month throughout the last 12 months. The study also had 519 people who had used pot at least once per month in the same period.
The team took variables such as income level, alcohol use and tobacco use into account. Each participant had a dental exam to look for symptoms of gum disease. These include plaque, inflammation, bleeding, and gum recession.
Pot Use and Oral Health: Interpreting the Results
The team found that frequent pot smokers were more likely to display signs of moderate to severe gum disease than those who had abstained or those who had used pot less often in the last 12 months.
“Even controlling for other factors linked to gum disease, such as cigarette smoking, frequent recreational cannabis smokers are twice as likely as non-frequent users to have signs of periodontal disease,” said Dr. Shariff.
5 Positive Oral Health Benefits – Learn why keeping your dental appointments can help boost your chances for a bright future.
The researchers aren’t sure what it is about pot use that could reduce oral health. Some ideas include the fact that smoking marijuana can lead to dry mouth, and gums need saliva in order to stay healthy. Pot users may also be less likely to seek health services of any kind.
Dr. Shariff plans to do more studies that might shed some light on marijuana and its link with oral health.
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The observations your dentist makes during a dental exam aren’t just limited to oral hygiene. Certain oral health problems can actually be early signs of increasingly dire conditions. These may effect your entire body, even conditions you didn’t know you had.
Good oral health is an indicator of good overall health. It significantly decreases your risk for a wide variety of diseases and disorders. These range from highly-preventable to life-threatening. The following conditions are just a few that your dentist can detect simply by looking inside your mouth.
It is extremely common for people to experience high levels of stress. Therefore it’s difficult to determine when that level becomes unsafe. One way to tell that stress is on the verge of impacting your overall health is bruxism. This is the medical term for teeth grinding. Dentists see bruxism more frequently in patients who have trouble sleeping due to stress, anxiety, or sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
Dentists can detect bruxism when they see a healthy tooth that is smaller and duller than it should be. “The surfaces of the teeth become flat and the teeth get worn down,” Charles Rankin, DDS and professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, told the Huffington Post.
Your dentist might suggest a night guard to prevent bruxism. In addition, exercise or even psychological counseling can help. Stress management is reportedly the most effective method for eliminating the habit for good.
Like severe stress, acid reflux is so widespread that many don’t even know they have it. Your dentist, however, might confirm your suspicions of the disorder. The warning sign: erosion of tooth enamel and dentine, the soft layer beneath the enamel. Acid reflux causes gastric acid, or stomach bile, to move up your esophagus. This can erode tooth enamel, particularly in the upper back molars.
In addition, an excessive amount of saliva could clue your dentist in to acid reflux. This symptom involves the same nerves and reflexes as vomiting, since the body is trying to flush out something that is irritating your esophagus.
Your dentist will be one of the first people to notice you are drinking too much. A number of observations could lead to this conclusion. However, the most common is the decline of previously good oral hygiene habits. Alcohol inhibits the production of saliva. This causes the mouth to dry out. Saliva helps wash oral bacteria away to help prevent many conditions and oral problems.
When a patient who used to have good oral health shows high levels of plaque or gum disease, alcoholism might be the reason. Both of these symptoms evolve at a faster pace than usual in people who increase their alcohol consumption.
A string of oral health problems, such as gum disease, bleeding gums, enamel erosion, or loose teeth, may point to diabetes. “Among people that are unaware of whether they have diabetes or not, poor gum status has been shown to be associated with diabetes,” Panos Papapanou, DDS and professor of dental medicine at Columbia University told the Huffington Post. “This is a pretty critical situation in which a dentist can help to identify undiagnosed diabetes.”
Diabetics are reportedly three times more likely to experience the most severe type of gum disease. Bacterial infections can also worsen other diabetic symptoms. In addition, they may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. You can help prevent these outcomes with regular dental visits. That’s because cleanings help stop bacteria from getting under the gums.
Wouldn’t You Rather Not Deal With These Problems At All?
It’s very important to tell your dentist about any oral problems you are having, even those that seem relatively negligible. You may be surprised to learn that the dentist can bestow more advice than just brushing or flossing.
If dentist suspects the presence any of the conditions above, you should take it as a warning that your overall health is at risk. For those who don’t want to develop the conditions in the first place, begin by visiting the dentists every six months. That alone is a major step towards living a longer and healthier life.
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You’ve probably already heard that you should go to the dentist regularly to maintain good oral health. A reliable rule of thumb is to go twice per year. However, you may not have been told about the full benefits of regular cleanings and checkups. To help you understand the importance of taking the time to schedule an appointment, here are some of the biggest reasons why doing so is a good idea.
Improving Your Confidence
Have you ever had bad breath? Of course you have! Everyone gets it. But if you don’t see your dental health professional and get your mouth cleaned occasionally, it could get much worse. Dentists can also help you keep your teeth bright and white. Many everyday products we consume, such as coffee or tea, can leave stains on them. At the dentist’s office you can get them whitened and polished, eliminating those unsightly stains and giving you a more attractive and confident-looking smile.
Preventing Gum Disease
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in American adults, and most adults will face gum disease at some point in their lives. One of your biggest oral health goals, therefore, should be taking efforts to prevent and minimize this problem. Regular checkups will help you do that. Your
dentist has special tools that check to see if your gums are still healthy. If there’s a problem, he or she will tell you how best to fix it before it costs you your smile.
Over time, tiny food particles in your mouth convert to plaque, an acidic substance that clings to and slowly eats away your teeth. Regular flossing and brushing can help slow this process, but they can’t prevent it entirely. Over time, these cavities get worse and worse until they begin to cause you tremendous pain. A tooth isn’t like skin; it won’t regenerate to repair itself. Therefore, if you let the cavity get bad enough, you’ll lose it.
Fortunately, oral health professionals always check for cavities in their earliest stages. They use x-rays and other medical equipment to find them before they start to hurt you or cause irreplaceable damage. When cavities are in their early stages, repairing them is no problem. You’ll also get a good cleaning at every checkup, which prevents the buildup of plaque and lowers the likelihood that you’ll get cavities in the future.
Preventing Oral Cancer and Other Life-Threatening Conditions
Oral cancer is a deadly serious problem. Experts estimate that nearly 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with it every year, and nearly 10,000 will die from it. Almost half of those diagnosed with oral cancer will die within five years of their diagnosis.
The Oral Cancer Foundation notes that this high mortality rate is mainly caused by the fact that oral cancer is usually detected at a very late stage. It can be hard to detect early because the symptoms are relatively mild at first.
Fortunately, dentists know how to recognize the signs of cancer early and will be able to detect it during a routine check-up. But that’s not all. Getting your mouth checked by a doctor has other major health benefits.
Dental check-ups have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and strokes, as well. Seeing your oral health-care professional regularly, therefore, could do more than save your teeth. It could also save your life.