There is much evidence to prove the risk that goes with poor oral health. Damage to overall health can happen quickly 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 Plaque Gets Around

man in a dental chair

When oral infections spread through the body, they raise the risks for problems in other areas.

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.

Heart Disease

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.

Diabetes

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.

When was the last time you had a dental cleaning?

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. 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?”

Read Next: 5 Positive Oral Health Benefits | The benefits of seeing your dentist every six months stretch far beyond simply having healthier, better-looking teeth.

Dental health screenings can help keep you healthy from head to toe.

Dental health screenings can help keep you healthy from head to toe.

One of the great benefits of having a good dental insurance plan is that regular appointments for teeth cleaning and oral exams are covered. One big reason for this is that insurance companies know a focus on prevention can actually help an individual lower their future costs for dental repairs.

But there’s another reason why your dentist and oral hygienist want to see you twice a year: to help keep you healthy from head to toe.

During a routine visit to the dentist, several serious diseases (such as cancer, diabetes, and heart disease) can be detected. If you’re like many people, there’s a good chance you see your dental hygienist more frequently than you see your general practitioner.

So how great is it that dental hygienists are trained to screen their patients for signs and symptoms that may indicate problems in other parts of the body?

Pretty great.

In fact, during a dental health screening, a trained oral health practitioner can spot over 120 signs and symptoms of non-dental diseases.

…a trained oral health practitioner can spot over 120 signs and symptoms of non-dental diseases.

If that sounds like it would be time consuming, well, it is. Trying to fit an oral hygiene exam, scaling and polishing, and a doctor exam into a one hour appointment can be a major challenge.

Early detection and prompt referrals

The good news is: the more frequently you have your teeth professionally cleaned, the less time your hygienist will need to spend scaling and polishing your teeth, and the more time will be available for your oral care team to devote to overall health screening, early detection of any concerns, and prompt referral to a primary care provider.

If all you want is a brighter smile, then that may sound like it’s a waste of time.

But if you ask them, your dentist and oral hygienist will very likely tell you they have a bigger goal in mind for you: keeping you healthy all over, so you’ll have every reason to smile.

Learn more about your oral health.

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perio chart

Preventive oral hygiene includes regular checkups and cleanings to remove plaque and tartar that build up on teeth even with dedicated daily care.

Rotten teeth, tooth decay, and gum diseases like gingivitis or periodontitis are usually the result of poor oral care. These health conditions cost far more to repair than to prevent.

You may not be able to kill two birds with one stone, but when it comes to oral health there is one very simple and affordable thing you can do to avoid these serious – and potentially expensive – problems. That is: take preventive oral hygiene seriously.

Tooth decay and gum diseases get their start with a substance called plaque. Preventive oral hygiene includes daily efforts to eliminate plaque and prevent its build up. It also includes regular checkups and professional cleanings to remove plaque and tartar that can build up on teeth despite dedicated daily care.

What is plaque?

Plaque is the name for a sticky and translucent substance that is constantly being produced by our mouths. The bacteria in plaque consume sugars that are contained in various types of food. This creates acids that attack the surface of the teeth and toxins that may attack the bone beneath the gums.

The acids assault tooth enamel for 20 or more minutes after you have sugary food or beverages. Eventually, the acids may begin to destroy the enamel, which is how tooth decay gets a foothold, so to speak.

Plaque can also penetrate below the gum line, where the toxins can threaten the underlying bone.

Plaque can also penetrate below the gum line, where the toxins can threaten the underlying bone. The result is gingivitis or periodontitis. Obviously, neither situation – a rotten tooth or poor gum health – is high on anyone’s wish list.

Treatments and costs

Not least among the reasons for avoiding tooth decay or gum disease is the expense involved in treatment. In either case, treatment options depend on the severity of the problem, and as the severity mounts, so do the costs for professional care.

…as the severity mounts, so do the costs for professional care.

Milder cases of tooth decay may be treated by simply using a fluoride-based treatment. If cavities have developed, however, a filling will be required. More severe cases may require that a dentist fit the tooth with a crown, perform a root canal operation, or even pull the tooth altogether.

Gum disease is likewise increasingly more expensive to deal with the longer it is ignored or left undiagnosed and allowed to progress. If a milder case of gum disease is caught in time, patients may be able to simply brush and floss their way back to optimal health. More serious cases will require professional cleaning by a dental hygienist to get rid of built up plaque. A severe case of gum disease may require antibiotics or even surgery.

Preventing tooth decay and gum disease

Repair or prevent? Well, we think it’s a “no brainer” – but then, consider the source

If you really need any more convincing, try plugging the phrases “Oral Conditions and Diseases” or “Tooth Conditions and Disorders” into your browsers’ search bar and see what images come up. YUCKA!!!

But, if you’re already convinced about the power of prevention – and could use a brush up on oral care basics – check out this overview of basic dental care in our blog archives.

While you’re at it, why not call to schedule your next dental checkup?

Happy flossing!

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