Often underestimated as both a diagnostic tool and treated as separate from the body as a whole, oral hygiene is more intrinsically tied to your body’s well-being than you might think. Taking care of you teeth by not only brushing and flossing but also maintaining regular appointments with a dentist can have a positive ripple effect on the health of your body in so many ways. Not only does good oral hygiene prevent harmful bacteria from being introduced into the rest of your system, but the monitoring of your dental hygiene by a seasoned professional can act as a strong indicator of other health problems, potentially leading to early intervention and more effective treatment.
Clues to Diabetes
One of the first key indicators of diabetes can be seen in the mouth. Gum disease is often one of the first problems that many people living with diabetes encounter, sometimes before they even know they have a diabetic condition. This is due to changes in blood flow that, according to studies conducted by Ohio State University, can cause a reduced flow to the gums causing them to weaken and become vulnerable to infection. This telltale sign of diabetes is easily detected by trained dentists who can alert the patient to the need for further treatment. As an indicator of diabetes, this is highly accurate with dentists able to correctly identify patients with diabetes in over 70% of cases based on inspection of missing teeth and gum abnormalities, achieving a correct rate of over 90% when they were able to examine blood tests.
Dental Hygiene and Pregnancy Complications
The body goes through tremendous changes during pregnancy, and the added demands on the body often result in dental hygiene suffering. Many parental programs suggest that pregnant women visit a dentist during their pregnancy just to stay on top of such issues like gum disease. There are additional reasons that it is important to consider your oral hygiene if you are expecting or even trying to conceive.
Preterm births can be a terrifying prospect for expectant mothers, so the links that have been made between periodontal disease and the likelihood of preterm births is another reason to visit a dentist during your pregnancy. There is also an Australian study which indicates a link between periodontal disease and decreased fertility.
Deterioration in Oral Hygiene can also effect your:
Heart disease has also been linked to periodontal disease, with the long term bacterial infection of the gums potentially leading to increased likelihood of heart attacks and strokes. There is still a lot of research to be done into this link, and the causal relationship between gum disease and heart disease is not definitive at this stage. There is, however, more a more established body of research that indicates that bacterial heart conditions such as Endocarditis can occur when bacteria from an infection in the gums enters the blood stream, perhaps due to a tissue tear from brushing teeth. This condition is rare and not a serious concern for those with an otherwise healthy heart.
Similarly, the link between bacterial respiratory illness and bacterial gum disease is the subject of numerous studies. It has been posited that bacteria being inhaled through the mouth into the respiratory system can worsen preexisting chronic conditions, and even cause pneumonia and other respiratory diseases in those whose immune system is already compromised.
The link between osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and dental hygiene may not be immediately apparent, but a study conducted to investigate the link between oral bacteria and bacteria found in the synovial fluid of the knees of people living with arthritis found the same types of bacteria in both areas. Bacteria found in arthritic joint undoubtedly worsen the condition, but the study as mentioned above was not of a sufficient sample size to be conclusive and additional research is required.
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Why your Dentist needs to know your medical history
It is incredibly important to disclose to your dentist a detailed medical history. Certain conditions can either exasperate dental problems or be exacerbated by dental procedures undertaken without the dentist having the knowledge of the situation. As part of the professional, medical role taken by a dentist they have the knowledge and ability to avoid conducting procedures which may effect the overall health of the patient or to take precautions to prevent harm.
Medical conditions such as certain forms of cancer, predominantly breast cancer and prostate cancer, and osteoporosis often involve medications that can make it very challenging, if not virtually impossible for a patient to recover from certain procedures and a dentist will be able to let you know if you have a condition that may prevent your body from healing correctly after dental surgery. However, if you have these conditions, it is important to still maintain regular dental appointments as your dentist will be able to help you manage your dental hygiene in other ways. Make sure you inform your dentist of any medications you are taking and they will be able to assist you in a dental hygiene program that is best for your circumstances.