It’s almost the new year and if you have thought about making any resolutions, especially for your overall health and wellness, think about including your dental health. The article below dives into dental problems that can arise if you don’t take good care of your teeth. Learn about them and how to prevent them.
Taking steps toward a healthier 2018 requires more than improving exercise and diet, according to Dorothy Randler.
The SUN Area Technical Institute instructor of Dental Health Technology suggests not forgetting your teeth.
Dental health is imperative in maintaining a healthy body, she said. The care of the mouth maintains so many other systems such as nutrition and digestion.
Joshua McMillen, a dentist from Middleburg, suggested taking things a step beyond the teeth.
Everyone thinks that the only thing important about the dentist is your teeth and that if you dont have any cavities or tooth pain, then youre in the clear. This is far from the truth, he said. Your gums are just as important. Your gums are like the foundation of a house. If the foundation is weak, then there isnt a good prognosis for the house.
According to McMillen, there are two diseases that affect the gums and can cause a variety of health issues.
Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that causes redness, irritation, bleeding and swelling of the gums.
Pretty much everyone has gingivitis at some point, said McMillen. This results from plaque an invisible, sticky film of bacteria that forms on your teeth when they interact with sugars and starches and eventually tartar (a plaque that hardens and becomes difficult to remove) staying on the teeth and not being removed.
Periodontal disease, according to McMillen, is a more severe stage of gum disease that can have the same symptoms as gingivitis along with persistent bad breath, loose permanent teeth, a change in how the teeth come together and tooth loss.
It is usually caused by untreated gingivitis from poor oral hygiene, he said. Other risk factors include pregnancy, genetics, crooked teeth that are difficult to keep clean, diabetes, smoking and certain medications (steroids, cancer therapy drugs).
Both types of gum disease, if left untreated, can have major effects on a variety of health issues.
Research has found there is prevalence between gum disease and those with diabetes, McMillen said. Gum disease can make controlling blood glucose levels more difficult. Diabetics also may experience dry mouth, which can lead to a higher risk of developing cavities.
According to McMillen, those with periodontal disease are twice as likely to have heart disease.
Oral bacteria have been found in the fatty plaques in the arteries. There is always the risk of these plaques breaking off from the arteries and traveling through the system until it causes a blockage, leading to stroke or heart attack, said McMillen. The thought is that in individuals with periodontal disease, the continual bleeding of the gums and continued presence of bacteria in the plaque/tartar of the oral cavity leads to the bacteria getting into the bloodstream and sticking to the plaques in the arteries.
Oral cancer is also a concern that can be addressed through regular checkups to the dentist.
Cancer can be located anywhere in the mouth the tongue, lip, cheek and back of the throat, McMillen said. At all of our exams, we perform a cancer screening that only takes a minute. We check for any odd lumps, bumps, ulcers or abnormal color changes in the soft tissues.
The screening is one of many reasons it is important to maintain regular dental visits, according to Randler.
It is recommended for adults and children to be seen twice a year for a cleaning and thorough exam that can help reduce the chance of something major developing, she said.
It is important to be open and honest with your dentist about any medical history you may have.
We need to know your medications. For example, if you are on blood thinners, it can definitely affect treatment such as tooth extractions, said McMillen. It is also important to know if you have had any joint replacements, pre-existing heart conditions and cancer treatments especially those around the neck or head.
McMillen urges everyone to brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes each time.
Research has shown that if you give someone a toothbrush and tell them to brush for two minutes, they average about 30 seconds. But to really clean the teeth and maintain good dental hygiene, you need to brush for two minutes each time, he said. It may mean taking a timer with you to the bathroom.
McMillen agreed that regular appointments are also important for a healthier lifestyle.
Ive had people come in and find out they have cavities they never realized because they werent big enough to start hurting yet. The sooner you deal with the cavity, the easier it is and the less it will hurt, he said. A cavity that has only developed for two months is easier to treat than someone who let the cavity grow and eat away at their tooth for a year or two.
He also urged anyone experiencing tooth pain to see a dentist right away.
If a tooth starts to bother you, dont wait weeks or months to get it checked, he said. By the time these patients come into me, about half the time, the tooth is beyond repair and needs removed. Something that would have been a simple filling can turn into an extraction.