Have you ever found yourself wondering what’s the point of having regular dental checkups and cleanings, especially if you feel like you have good teeth? Besides a professional cleaning and ensuring your teeth and gums are healthy, dental professionals also check for abnormalities and symptoms of larger health issues.
Research has shown the connection between some chronic health conditions and gum disease. While it may not be clear whether one drives the other, there is definitely a mouth-body connection. In this article we will explore that connection and identify some of the most important reasons why you should see your dentist regularly.
Ever wondered why your hygienists looks under your tongue and feels under your jaw and around the sides of your neck during your visit? This brief but effective exam is to inspect for signs of oral cancer and swollen lymph nodes. Oral cancer is a serious disease that can manifest itself in various ways. Dental professionals are specifically trained to recognize these signs and symptoms. So with regular dental checkups every six months the likelihood of catching oral cancer in time is dramatically higher.
Checking around your neck and jaw will help us find any swollen lymph nodes or other lumps. These are areas that do not necessarily hurt or seem out of the ordinary, but abnormalities could be a sign of a major health issue that your dentist will alert to you and refer you to the appropriate medical professional. This brief exam could mean an extremely serious condition is identified early enough to make a huge difference.
Lowering Risk of Heart Disease
Did you know that chronic inflammation from gum disease has been associated with the development of cardiovascular problems, including heart disease, artery blockage, and strokes? Researchers haven’t found a cause-and-effect relationship, but the link has been shown in many studies.
We have more than 300 different kinds of bacteria that live in our mouths. While some of these are beneficial and help protect us from disease, others can cause an infection in our gum tissue. These bacteria develop in plaque, which is a sticky film that’s always on our teeth, and can irritate your gums.
If left unchecked this infection can lead to periodontal, or gum, disease that affects the tissues and bone that support your teeth. This is the most common reason that adults lose teeth.
Most people aren’t aware when they have gum disease. The early stage is called gingivitis and is characterized by red, tender gums that may bleed when you brush and floss. The good news is that gingivitis can be reversed. You may simply need a professional cleaning and follow a strict oral health routine of flossing and brushing.
As the disease progresses, it’s known as periodontal disease, and is characterized by inflammation of your gum tissue and infection below the gum line. Signs of periodontal disease include bad breath, puffy or receding gums, loose teeth, and pockets of pus between teeth and gums.
Since periodontal disease is an inflammatory condition, if left untreated it can trigger an immune response in the body. Recent research shows that people with periodontal disease have three times the risk of heart disease and stroke. So treating and preventing periodontal disease can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Link to Diabetes
There is also a link between gum disease and diabetes. Having diabetes can make you less able to fight off infection, including gum infections, that can lead to serious gum disease. And some experts have found that if you have diabetes, you are more likely to develop more severe gum problems than someone without diabetes. That, in turn, may make it more difficult to control blood sugar levels.
This occurs for a variety of reasons. First, diabetes sufferers are more prone to infections, and it reduces the body’s resistance to infection. Second, periodontal disease elevates blood sugar levels in the body. Diabetics with periodontitis are more likely to suffer from high blood sugar levels. Lastly, high glucose levels promote the growth of gum disease-causing bacteria.
Reducing your risk of gingivitis by protecting your oral health may help with blood sugar control if you have been diagnosed with diabetes. When these patients undergo treatment for their periodontal disease, their diabetes status significantly improves.
What can you do to keep your mouth healthy?
The phrase “healthy mouth, healthy you” really is true. Taking the following preventative measures can help lower your risk of developing these systemic health problems and may be an important step in maintaining overall health.
- Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day.
- Clean between your teeth with floss or another between-the-teeth cleaner every day.
- Your dentist may recommend using a germ-fighting mouth rinse.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit snacks, which may reduce your risk of developing tooth decay and periodontal disease.
- Don’t use tobacco in any form.
- Inform your dentist of any changes in your overall health, including recent illnesses and any medications you are taking.
- And schedule regular dental checkups. Professional cleanings are the best way to prevent gum disease and identify early warning signs of illness.
If you are considering skipping a dental checkup because of cost or another factor like time or dental anxiety, make sure to consider all the risks. It may not seem like a big deal, but oral issues can develop and progress extremely quickly whether or not you notice it. By keeping on top of your dental cleanings and checkups you’re doing yourself a big favor in the long run.