Oral Health and Overall Wellness
Oral health is a key part of overall well-being and physical health.
We believe that excellent oral health has a significant impact on our patients’ lives and provide services to help our patients maintain or improve their oral health. Keeping the mouth free of harmful bacteria, infection and inflammation helps to prevent the entry and spread of germs or illness. Having strong, healthy teeth, gums and proper bite are also critical to a beautiful and healthy smile. For patients who have already experienced tooth loss, implants can help repair and maintain oral and overall health by replacing natural teeth and minimizing bone loss.
Great oral health helps you to:
- Eat and chew healthy, nourishing foods
- Defend your body against infection and illness
- Get a good night's sleep
- Enjoy a feeling of well-being
- Have the confidence to smile
Recognizing the important connection between the mouth and the body, we routinely watch for signs of problems that may affect your overall health such as:
- Signs of oral cancer
- Ability to chew and eat without unnecessary sensitivity
- Quality of sleep by checking for evidence of bruxism (or teeth grinding) and also watching for signs of snoring and sleep apnea
Although scientific research is just beginning to provide us with more conclusive information, it appears that gum disease may have links to some of the following health problems:
Research has indicated that people with diabetes are more at risk for developing gum disease and that diabetics who have advanced periodontal disease may experience some additional challenges in managing their blood sugar.
Although the scientific research at this point remains inconclusive, these diseases appear to have a link to periodontal conditions:
Osteoporosis – Bone loss not only affects the bones that support healthy posture and movement, but can affect the jaw bone and lead to tooth loss due to the loss of a solid foundation to support the teeth.
Respiratory Disease – The aspiration of bacteria growing in the oral cavity can contribute to the development of respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.
Cancer – According to the American Academy of Periodontology, men with gum disease are more likely to develop specific types of cancer such as kidney, pancreatic and blood cancers.
Scientists are also currently researching to determine if there is a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, memory, and pre-term or low birth weight babies.
Gum Disease and Overall Health
Advanced, untreated gum disease degrades the tissues and bone structures that surround the teeth and very often causes tooth loss. But the effects of gum disease can be felt well beyond your mouth and jaw. Research links gum disease to a variety of systemic conditions that affect overall health, including heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. We refer to this as the mouth-body connection.
In some cases, gum disease can cause problems in other parts of the body, while in other instances, conditions seemingly unrelated to the mouth can contribute to the development or advancement of gum disease.
It’s important to let us and your general dentist know about any illnesses or conditions you are experiencing. An awareness of difficulties outside your mouth can help us treat certain problems related to your teeth and gums.
In turn, we may be able to identify diseases that are affecting other areas of your body based on the symptoms we observe inside your mouth. The following is a list of conditions known to be related to gum disease.
If you have diabetes, it is especially important to take good care of your teeth and gums, because gum disease and diabetes can affect each other adversely. Diabetes can disrupt the immune system’s ability to fight infection, making diabetics more susceptible to gum disease, which is essentially an infection of the tissue surrounding the teeth. And advanced gum disease can boost the level of blood sugar in the body, and further complicate your diabetes.
Heart Disease and Stroke
The American Academy of Periodontology cites research to indicate that people with gum disease are nearly twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery (heart) disease as those without gum disease. Currently, the actual link between the two diseases is not entirely clear, though some scientists believe that bacteria from the mouth travel through the blood stream to affect the arteries in the heart.
Other research points to a link between gum disease and stroke, with one study finding higher instances of oral infection in a group of stroke survivors than in a control group.
In a normal body, bone growth slows over time, and bone density decreases due to age and other circumstances. But in people with osteoporosis, bones are weakened to the point that they are fragile enough to fracture easily and frequently.
Although we most commonly hear of hip or back fractures, all bones are affected, including the jaw. A jaw with decreased bone density can’t support the teeth as well as a healthy jaw, which leaves those who suffer from both gum disease and osteoporosis with a heightened risk of tooth loss. If you think you might be at risk for osteoporosis, talk to your doctor about having a bone density test. If this condition is identified early enough, treatment can help.
Research indicates that bacteria from the mouth — including those present in someone suffering from gum disease — can be inhaled down into the lungs, leading to respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. Smoking is a primary cause of respiratory diseases, and it is also a risk factor in gum disease. Quitting smoking can improve your health in myriad ways. Please get in touch with us or your general dentist if you are looking for help with kicking the habit.
During pregnancy and other phases of increased hormone levels (puberty, menstrual cycle, menopause) the risk of oral health problems is higher than normal, due to increased gum sensitivity. Some studies have linked gum disease to low birth weight and premature labor. If you are planning to become pregnant, be sure to assess your oral health first and begin treatment if you have gingivitis or periodontitis.