At First Choice Dental, we believe, and research has shown, that your dental care team made up of your dental hygienist, dentist and oral specialists is a key part of your overall healthcare team. We believe in oral wellness, taking care of your smile, and avoiding problems down the road wherever possible. We are committed to helping our patients achieve oral and overall wellness.
First Choice Dental's Dr. David Gundersen echoes this truth. "Over the last few decades, as the population ages, more people have made regular dental visits a priority. Every time a patient opens wide for the dentist, there's a chance the dentist will find valuable information about his or her general health in addition to the health of the mouth," said Dr. Gundersen.
As research emerges about the links between oral health and overall health, routine dental visits offer an opportunity for the dentist to help patients manage chronic conditions. In some cases, a dental visit can find early signs of disease such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Given that dentists and hygienists see patients more frequently for regular check-ups than any other health care provider, dentists are taking on an increasingly important role in monitoring and addressing chronic health care issues.
The connection between oral health and overall health includes several health conditions.
Diabetes and Dental Health Are Linked
The correlation and sometimes causal relationship between diabetes and periodontitis may be the strongest of all the connections between the mouth and body. Research points to the likelihood that inflammation due to periodontal disease can impact the body's ability to control blood sugar. Dr. Gundersen says, "Diabetics can't process blood sugar because of a lack of insulin, the hormone that converts sugar into energy. In addition, diabetes and periodontitis can enable each other. High blood sugar can nourish bacteria that cause gum disease. As noted before, the resulting inflammation then undermines the body's ability to control blood sugar."
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Happy Heart
Although there is no clear causal relationship, gum disease and heart disease often go hand in hand. Up to 91% of patients with heart disease have periodontitis, compared to 66% of people with no heart disease. The two
conditions have several risk factors in common, such as smoking, unhealthy diet, and excess weight. The inflammation caused by gum disease could also be causing inflammation in the blood vessels and increase the risk of heart attack and increase blood pressure.
Pregnancy & Perio Health Link
Hormonal changes during pregnancy increase a woman's risk for gum disease. There is growing research that gum disease can contribute to premature or low birthweight babies. The mechanism is similar to the role gum disease plays with heart disease. It is clear that infection and inflammation in general seem to interfere with a fetus'
development, and the mouth can be an actor in both for expectant mothers with gum disease. To eliminate one more concern about the health of their babies, pregnant women should get regular dental care, and some insurance plans will even cover extra cleanings and exams during pregnancy.
Smoking and Tobacco Use Sabotage Your Smile
According to the CDC, smokers have three times higher risk of gum disease than someone who does not smoke. This is because nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict and interferes with your gums' ability to fight infection. Dentist and dental hygienists can be vital partners in helping tobacco users quit, by both supporting quit attempts and providing access to nicotine replacement and quitting medications. Smoking is the number one preventable cause of death and disease in America, and the dental team can be a partner is stopping the damage
tobacco causes to your mouth and the rest of your body.
Oral Cancer: What You Need to Know
How often does the physician do a thorough mouth exam? Physicians will poke and prod just about everywhere else, but the mouth is often foreign territory. This fact makes it even more important that dentists make it common practice to check for oral cancers. Particularly for patients with high risk behaviors or family history, the dentist has the best chance of catching a cancerous lesion early, before the disease has spread.
Dr Gundersen says, "When you open wide for the dentist, he or she will see much more than your teeth. In the best interests of patients, it's essential dentists and physicians alike foster greater coordination between dental care and overall health care."
To help stay healthier overall, keep up on regular preventive dental care. Schedule appointments online today. Or see all Locations.