Thursday, December 8, 2011
Every dentist hears amusing and creative excuses for missed appointments—you know, variations on the dog ate my homework theme. Some patients just flat out admit they had something better to do. But the real truth is they only think they've got something better to do. Your oral health is precious—and without regular care—precarious.
Let me explain. Your body is its own ecosystem. When your gums are healthy, bacteria in your mouth usually don"t enter your bloodstream. However, gum disease may provide bacteria a port of entry into your bloodstream. Gum disease can let bacteria enter your bloodstream and wreak havoc elsewhere in your body. Or sometimes, signs of a disease may first show up in your mouth.
Here's a look at some of the diseases and conditions that may be linked to oral health:
* Cardiovascular disease. Research shows that several types of cardiovascular disease may be linked to oral health. These include heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke.
* Pregnancy and birth. Gum disease has been linked to premature birth. This is why it's vital to maintain excellent oral health before you get pregnant and during your pregnancy.
* Diabetes. Diabetes increases your risk of gum disease, cavities, tooth loss, dry mouth and a variety of oral infections. Conversely, poor oral health can make your diabetes more difficult to control. Infections may cause your blood sugar to rise and require more insulin to keep it under control.
* Osteoporosis. The first stages of bone loss may show up in your teeth. Systemic loss of bone density in osteoporosis, including bone in the jaw, may create a condition where the bone supporting your teeth is increasingly susceptible to infectious destruction. We may be able to spot this on a routine clinical examination or with dental X-rays.
* Other conditions. Many other conditions may make their presence known in your mouth before you know anything"s wrong. These may include Sjogren's syndrome, certain cancers, eating disorders, syphilis, gonorrhea and substance abuse.
If you didn't already have enough reasons to take good care of your mouth, teeth and gums, the relationship between your oral health and your overall health provides even more. Resolve to practice good oral hygiene every day. You"re making an investment in your overall health, not just for now, but for the future, too.