It is possible a dentist could save your life. They check their patients not only for tooth decay but also for infectious sores and gum disease. Both dentists, and hygienists, know that bacteria from a problem in the mouth can spread to other parts of the body. Routine screenings can also detect some serious illnesses that show oral symptoms before any others. A regular dental check up is good not only for the care of teeth, but is health protection for the entire body.
Any person with a history of heart problems, or a family history of cardiac disease, greatly benefits from regular dental visits. An infection of the heart lining, called endocarditis, can originate from bacteria due to periodontal disease. Many doctors already believe that the build up of plaque in the arteries is related to oral health as well. There are studies being run to find out if this is true. Since cardiovascular illnesses are the number one killer of both men and women it would benefit everyone to have scheduled dental check-ups.
Several years ago it was discovered that ninety-five percent of Americans diagnosed with diabetes had minor to severe problems with oral health. Serious gum problems are found in up to one third of all people managing diabetes and is considered a complication of the illness. Diabetics need regular oral exams to take care of their mouth and also to learn about special procedures recommended for people with this illness. It is especially important since periodontal problems make it more difficult for diabetics to regulate their blood sugar.
All mothers want their babies to be born healthy. A visit to a dentist can help assure that. Bacteria from periodontal problems in pregnant women have been linked to premature births and babies with low birth weight. In fact, mothers with oral disease are up to seven times more likely to have an underweight or premature baby. Asthma, ear infections, birth and behavior problems have also been tied to poor mouth hygiene.
Several other illnesses can be noticed or avoided by having regular oral check-ups. Dentists are often the first to spot cancerous sores in the mouth. Oral cancer is more common than most people realize. It is diagnosed more often than lung, liver, cervix, brain or gland cancers, leukemia or skin melanomas. Sleeping disorders have been the result of periodontal problems, and bacteria can travel from an infected mouth to the lungs and cause a respiratory infection. Another common diagnosis, osteoporosis, is correlated with tooth and surrounding bone loss. Bone and tooth problems, or thinning of tooth enamel, may indicate that a patient is suffering from an eating disorder.
Mouth pain can cause people to stop eating, or at least to stop eating foods that are painful to chew. This is one cause of malnutrition. Even people who simply put off visiting a dentist because of pain that makes eating difficult can inadvertently end up with mild to moderate vitamin or mineral deficiencies. If it hurts to chew food, the discomfort indicates the time to visit a dentist is now. Malnutrition, however, is a more common problem in areas where dental services are scarce or when individuals or families cannot afford to pay for them.
Doctors and dentists would like people to include oral care when they think about health care. Doctor and dentist visits have long been viewed in a compartmentalized way rather than being seen as related. Many people visit their medical doctor regularly but do not consider seeing oral doctors as part of a thorough exam. Health professionals hope to bring the two types of doctor visits together as complimentary parts of one health check-up. One more thing that dentists and physicians want the public to know is that cigarette smoke damages tooth enamel and the surrounding bone. The number one risk factor for periodontal disease is smoking.
Visiting a dentist regularly can help protect not only teeth but a person’s complete well-being. Dentist’s still recommend that toothbrushes be replaced every few months and that everyone brush and floss every day. The fact still remains that some problems will not be discovered, or discovered early, unless a dentist looks in a patient’s mouth.
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