Healthy Bodies Start With Healthy Mouths
(Michigan Dental Association)
Since the condition of the mouth mirrors the condition of the body as a whole, your dentist may be the first health care provider to see signs of a health problem. If something out of the ordinary is discovered, a follow-up with your physician may result in early detection and successful treatment of a more serious medical problem. So, if you know you are at risk for certain illnesses, such as heart disease or diabetes, be sure to inform your dentist.
How can my dentist find illnesses like heart disease and diabetes?
Your dentist doesn’t diagnose these illnesses, but may find oral symptoms that could relate to problems that might affect the rest of the body.
But shouldn’t I count on my physician to find any health problems?
Yes, but that’s only part of the strategy. Your oral health is an important part of your overall health and your dentist is a key member of your personal health care team. The lips, tongue, gums, salivary glands and oral tissue can all warn of trouble in your general health. What your dentist sees in your mouth may reveal the first signs of systemic disease, or a disease that affects the entire body, rather than a single organ or body part.
If my dentist says my oral health is good, should I still see my physician?
Absolutely. Regular dental exams, just like an annual physical, are an important part of your overall health care. Dental visits should never replace the care of your physician in any way.
So, what can my MDA-member dentist do?
A regular oral exam allows your dentist to keep your mouth in first-class shape and watch for any changes in your oral health or signs that may indicate problems elsewhere in the body. A dental exam also picks up on poor nutrition and hygiene, growth and development problems and improper jaw alignment.
By scheduling regular dental visits and talking with your dentist, you can help keep your mouth…and body…healthy throughout your life.
Medical Conditions and their Oral Symptoms
Your dentist can screen for precancerous changes in the oral tissues. This early detection of oral cancer can result in successful treatment. Even better, oral cancer can be prevented if found and treated at the precancerous stage. About 25 percent of people diagnosed with oral cancer — the sixth most common cancer in the U.S. — have none of the traditional risk factors associated with the disease, such as the use of tobacco products or drinking alcohol.
Dentists can now use a new tool to detect oral cancer in its earliest stages. The brush biopsy allows the dentist to scrape cells from the tissue and send them to the lab for analysis. This simple screening device represents a breakthrough in the fight against cancer. It is expected to aid in the early diagnosis of the disease, and improve the survival rates for those who develop oral cancer.
Infants born prematurely in the U. S. account for six to nine percent of all births, but 70 percent of all prenatal deaths. The National Institutes of Health reports that as many as 18 percent of the 250,000 premature low-weight infants born in this country each year may be the result of inflammatory gum disease. Surprisingly, this is about the same as the percentage explained by cigarette smoking.
Studies show that pregnant women with severe gum disease have seven times the risk of delivering a low-birthweight baby. These pregnancy complications may be partially preventable through improved oral health during pregnancy. It only makes sense to safeguard your oral health, and your baby’s, through proper oral health care.
Studies have shown that people with severe periodontal disease, an inflammation of the gums that affects an estimated 200 million Americans, are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than those without gum infection.
A study released in February 2005 shows that older adults who have higher proportions of four periodontal-disease-causing bacteria in their mouths also tend to have thicker carotid arteries, a strong predictor of stroke and heart attack. The study was published in the journal Circulation, and is supported by four agencies of the National Institutes of Health.
The report is the first to draw a direct connection between cardiovascular disease and bacteria involved in periodontal disease.
Research has also shown that other predictors of heart disease are inflammation of the gums around the teeth due to improper hygiene, cavities and missing teeth.
Many people who have diabetes may not know they have it. Your dentist can play an important role in discovering the oral symptoms of diabetes and helping to manage its oral effects. Diabetics tend to get periodontal disease at a rate three to four times higher than people without diabetes.
Other oral problems that diabetes can cause are dry mouth, a burning of the mouth or tongue, a fungal infection called thrush that causes painful white patches in your mouth, or a distinct breath odor. Diabetics who are not diagnosed are at a greater risk for infections following dental procedures such as extractions and root canals.
Want a Healthy Body? Start with a Health Mouth! See your Michigan Dental Association dentist every six months. And smile on!
This article was taken directly from the Michigan Dental Association website.