Why Dental Care is Healthcare
Your oral health is more than having healthy teeth. According to Oral Health in America (2000) report, oral health includes the health of anatomical structures like ligaments, muscles, nerves, glands, bones, and gums. It also affects basic functions that represent the real essence of humanity. Although taken for granted, these functions shape one’s sense of well-being and self-confidence. This is because they allow one to speak, smile, chew, swallow, and convey emotions and feelings through facial expressions.
Moreover, the World Oral Health Report (2003) brought to light to the fact that the mouth is a window to the rest of the body. Oral health and overall health are linked in two main ways that will be discussed in the article.
- Oral health is significantly related to chronic health conditions
Cardiovascular Diseases (CVD)
A cardiovascular ailment affects both the blood vessels and heart. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it is a common and severe disease with approximately 630,000 Americans succumbing to it annually (that is one in every four deaths). Despite significant treatment advancement, it remains the most expensive; costing around $200 billion every year.
People with chronic gum diseases like periodontal disease or gingivitis are at a higher risk for heart conditions. Even when you do not have significant gum inflammation, accumulated plaque and poor oral hygiene increase the risk for CVD. Bacteria could migrate into the bloodstream leading to elevated C-reactive protein. C-reactive protein is an indicator of inflammation in blood vessels. This puts you at a higher risk of stroke and heart conditions.
For almost 30,000,000 Americans living with diabetes, many will be surprised to know the unexpected complications related to diabetes. American Diabetes Association suggests that the relationship between diabetes and oral health is two-way. That means not only are diabetes patients more vulnerable to severe gum diseases but also gum disease affects blood sugar regulation hence contributing to diabetes progression. Patients who have diabetes are susceptible to bacterial infections and have a reduced immune system. Common gum diseases experienced include periodontitis and gingivitis.
According to a study published in the Journal of Periodontology, maintaining oral health contributes to a healthy respiratory system. The research suggests that oral diseases increase the risk of developing respiratory conditions like pneumonia and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These infections occur when you inhale bacteria from the upper throat into the lower respiratory system.
The study in question involved twenty participants who were between twenty and sixty years of age and had more than twenty natural teeth. Ten participants were patients with respiratory disease, while the remaining ten were control subjects without respiratory disease history. All subjects went through oral evaluation to determine their oral health status. It was discovered that participants with respiratory conditions had poor oral health compared to the control group.
Uncovering the Relationship Between Dental Health and Stroke
Gum disease and stroke have several things in common, one of them being inflammation. Also, periodontitis patients are at a higher risk of developing a stroke. Fortunately, periodontitis is treatable either through laser or the conventional procedure using a suture and scalpel. Contact an experienced dentist to help you lower the risk of both conditions.
Kidney (renal) disease happens when your kidneys are damaged and can’t remove extra water, blood, and waste from your body. People living with kidney ailment often experience bad breath, dry mouth, tooth loss, inflammation of the salivary glands and mouth, gum disease, plaque, and difficulty with chewing. This happens because the kidney does not get rid of urea from your blood, which breaks down forming ammonia hence the foul smell.
Moreover, you are likely to experience bone changes since the body is not able to absorb calcium. This could result in bone loss from the jaw.
If you’re on dialysis, make sure you schedule an appointment with your Los Angeles Dentist a day after the dialysis. Before receiving any treatment, show the dentist your medication. The dental expert will take into account your medicines before prescribing others. This is because there are drugs that could worsen the kidney disease or build up in your body.
Most expectant mothers don’t know that pregnancy and dental health are closely related. Hormonal level changes increase the chances of having dental problems like gum disease, dry mouth, enamel erosion, and pregnancy tumors. For instance, morning sickness comes with a lot of concerns about dental health since the acid from the stomach is very strong and can cause tooth erosion.
Moreover, approximately 75% of expectant mothers suffer from gingivitis (a condition that occurs when gums are swollen and red as a result of inflammation). If not treated, the gums become infected, and the bone supporting teeth could be lost. Gingivitis has also been linked with adverse pregnancy effects like low-birth weight and premature births.
Visiting a dentist immediately after you realize you are pregnant can significantly help you keep your mouth and your unborn baby healthy throughout the pregnancy. They could adjust medication and procedures until after you deliver.
A study conducted by the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry included brain samples of ten participants with dementia and ten participants without dementia. Researchers found Porphyromonas gingivalis in the brains of four subjects with dementia. Porphyromonas gingivalis is the bacteria that causes Alzheimer’s disease and has symptoms such as memory loss and confusion.
Reacting to the above findings, Alison Cook from the U.K Alzheimer’s Society said that despite the many studies conducted to investigate how oral health causes dementia, the relationship is not fully understood.
Is Poor Dental Hygiene the Primary Cause of Oral Cancer?
According to a journal published in HealthDay News, approximately 3,400 people who described their dental health as fair or poor were at a higher risk of having human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes cancer. However, the results reported in the journal don’t suggest poor dental health cause HPV infection.
The researchers, therefore, put other factors that affect oral health or cause HPV like multiple oral sexual partners and smoking into consideration. That means to have a better explanation for the relationship; more research is needed.
According to the CDC National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) data brief, the prevalence of overweight and obesity was 39.8% in 2016 (affecting approximately 93.3 million adults). It is, therefore, essential to share the relationship between dental health and obesity. It will help you stay educated and well informed about your health.
Obesity affects oral health in two main ways:
- Obesity affects what you eat and how often you take it. Sometimes, this can increase the risk of cavities and tooth decay, particularly in children.
- An obese person is more likely to develop gum disease.
- Dental Health Problems and Chronic Diseases Share Risk Factors
There are strong arguments among researchers for the common risk factor approach to the prevention of the conditions in question. For instance, oral cancer is linked to alcohol consumption and smoking, whereas lips cancer is caused by sun exposure. Dental health itself is determined by several factors like hygiene, smoking, diet, trauma, stress, and alcohol use. These are the same factors common in several chronic diseases.
Moreover, there are instances when poor overall health and poor dental health can happen simultaneously and have an effect on each other. For instance, a poor diet and immune system impairment cause both general chronic conditions and oral diseases.
How to Protect your Oral Health
Now that you know your dental health gives a clue about your general health, learn to protect yourself by having a dental healthcare plan. Here are the factors you need to consider:
Understand your dental health needs
Consult your dental healthcare expert about any condition in your mouth, teeth, lips, or gums and how the health condition affects your dental health. For instance, pregnancy, cancer treatments, dental appliances like braces, heart conditions, and diabetes may demand a change in your teeth or mouth care. Remember to tell your Los Angeles Dentist about any changes in your overall health and medication.
Develop and Follow a Daily Dental Health Routine
Based on the recommendation given by your dentist, develop a dental health routine that you can adhere to daily. If you have other health conditions, be sure to include additional care, and be committed to the additional daily tasks.
Both adults and children benefit from using fluoride. Fluoride not only strengthens teeth but also prevents tooth decay. Mouth rinses and toothpaste contain fluoride. The amount of fluoride in water is not adequate without supplementation to stop tooth decay. Consequently, it is still essential to ask your dentist if you require fluoride supplementation.
Floss, Brush and Rinse Your Teeth Daily
Always floss your teeth once a day and brush your teeth in the morning and shortly before going to bed. Doing this removes plaque which if not removed forms acid when combined with sugars. Bacterial plaque could result in tooth decay and periodontal disease.
Consume a Balanced Diet
Make sure you eat a wide range of healthy foods. Also, limit yourself from consuming foods with starch and sugars like pie, ice cream, cookies, and potato chips. Sugary foods produce acid in your mouth that starts the decay process. Always brush or chew sugarless gum after taking a snack.
Smoking increases the chances of developing cancer, tooth discoloration, bad breath, gum disease, and respiratory system conditions.
Examine your Mouth
Be acquainted with how your teeth and mouth look like through regular examination. That way, you will be in a position to identify changes and have the changes checked by a professional. Look for any cuts, growths, lesions, spots, and swelling on the tongue, gums, cheeks, your mouth’s roof and floor, and inside of the lips. A regular dental examination is critical, especially to smokers, since they are at a higher risk of getting oral cancer.
Visit an Oral Dental Expert Regularly
Normally, you should visit a Los Angeles Dentist two times a year for cleaning and checkups. However, your dentist should be able to tell the best frequency for you.
Stop Using Whitening Strips
According to Kelly Keenan, a professor at Stockton University in Galloway, N.J, over-the-counter whitening strips could cause choppers’ structure erosion. This is because the whitening treatments contain hydrogen peroxide which converts protein in your dentin into small fragments.
Action for Dental Health Act
No one wants a tooth cavity, but most people with a dental issue know that the condition is best managed if it is affordable. That is the reason why President Donald Trump signed the Action for Dental Health Act bill on 11th December 2018 into law.
The law allows more organizations to be eligible for Health and Human Services (HHS) that support actions that improve dental health through oral disease prevention and education. Also, the grant will expand and develop outreach programs as well as dental centers for children, adults, the elderly, and those living with a disability.
This comes almost twenty years after Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher released an “Oral Health in America” report. In the report, he stated that one couldn’t be healthy without dental health since poor oral health is associated with chronic diseases and lost working hours”.
Although Action for Dental Health is a good starting point, long-term solutions to support dental healthcare and coverage are required for the most vulnerable members of the society. One of the solutions is ensuring people who depend on Medicare for health insurance and can’t afford dental insurance are covered. Including comprehensive oral care to Medicare will automatically improve the well-being and health of millions of Americans. It will also prevent incurring costly medical expenses originating from dental conditions.
Dental Health Should be Viewed as Healthcare
Because the human body is made of a system that interconnects with other body parts, it is vital to take care of your mouth, gums, and teeth. Like mentioned earlier, poor oral health could lead to several chronic conditions. Brushing twice a day, flossing, watching what you consume, regular dental visits and practicing other good dental hygiene practices are the important steps in maintaining good oral and general health.