Oral health touches every aspect of our lives but is often taken for granted. Your mouth is a window into the health of your body. It can show signs of nutritional deficiencies or general infection. Systemic diseases, those that affect the entire body, may first become apparent because of mouth lesions or other oral problems.
Whether you are 80 or 8, your oral health is important. Most Americans today enjoy excellent oral health and are keeping their natural teeth throughout their lives; however, cavities remain the most prevalent chronic disease of childhood. Some 100 million Americans fail to see a dentist each year, even though regular dental examinations and good oral hygiene can prevent most dental disease. Many people believe that they need to see a dentist only if they are in pain or think something is wrong, but regular dental visits can contribute to a lifetime of good oral health. If you are experiencing dental pain, don't put off seeing a dentist. With dentistry's many advances, diagnosis and treatment are more sophisticated and comfortable than ever.
You can practice good oral hygiene by always brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner, replacing your toothbrush every three or four months and by eating a balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks. Don't forget to schedule regular dental check-ups to keep your smile, and yourself, healthy.
Heart Disease and Oral Health
Take care of your gums...help your heart?
The American Heart Association published a Statement in April 2012 supporting an association between gum disease and heart disease. The article noted that current scientific data do not indicate if regular brushing and flossing or treatment of gum disease will decrease the incidence, rate or severity of the narrowing of the arteries (called atherosclerosis) that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. However, many studies show an as-yet-unexplained association between gum disease and several serious health conditions, including heart disease, even after adjusting for common risk factors.
Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth and is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. The ADA and MouthHealthy believe that the most important thing you can do to avoid gum disease and maintain good oral health (including prevention of tooth decay or cavities) is:
- Brush teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
- Visit your dentist regularly for oral examinations and professional cleanings.
If you have diabetes, you are at greater risk of developing some oral health problems. The most common oral health problems associated with diabetes are:Diabetes is a chronic disease which affects your body’s ability to process sugar. The resulting high blood sugar can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body. Diabetes can lower your resistance to infection and can slow the healing process.
- Gum disease. Recent research suggests that the connection between gum disease and diabetes goes both ways. On the one hand, because of lowered resistance and a longer healing process, gum disease appears to be more frequent and more severe among those with diabetes. Conversely, it appears that treating gum disease in people with diabetes can help improve blood sugar control.
- Fungal infections. Since diabetes compromises your immune system, you may be prone to developing fungal infections. Symptoms include painful sores and difficulty swallowing. If you develop a fungal infection, see your dentist.
- Infection and delayed healing. If you are having extensive oral surgery, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to minimize the risk of infection. To help the healing process, keep your blood glucose levels under control before, during and after surgery.
Manage Your ABCs from the National Diabetes Education Program
Control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol—also known as the ABCs of diabetes—to take care of your teeth and your overall health. Teach your family about your diabetes and the ABCs so they can help you, too.
- A is for A1C: The goal set for many people is less than 7 percent for this blood test, but your doctor might set different goals for you.
- B is for Blood pressure: High blood pressure causes heart disease. The goal is less than 140/80 mmHg for most people, but your doctor might set different goals for you.
- C is for Cholesterol: LDL or “bad” cholesterol builds up and clogs your blood vessels. HDL or “good” cholesterol helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from your blood vessels. Ask what your cholesterol numbers should be.
- Don’t smoke: Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for support.
Good oral hygiene habits, including professional cleanings at the dental office, are important if you are to control the progression of gum disease and other oral health problems. Regular dental checkups and periodontal screenings are important for evaluating overall dental health and for treating dental problems in their initial stages. Your dentist may recommend more frequent evaluations and preventive procedures, such as teeth cleaning, to maintain good oral health.