What do you tell your kids to go to the dentist, even when they may be complaining? Make sure your teeth are clean, keep them from falling out, right? You’re not wrong in this case, but you’re also only scratching the surface. You may like your dentist’s personality or the fact that they are a convenient match for your lifestyle, but again, there’s a lot more to things than that. Testimonials on dental care may cover the success of your practitioner or how well they explained procedures to you, but—well, you get the idea. The fact of the matter is that oral health is not a vacuum, and a dentist’s good work here can lead to you being healthier in a variety of ways. Surprised? Here’s how things are all connected.
What Do I Stand To Gain?
In many ways, those of us in the developed world are lucky to have the means we do in regard to handling oral health, as many others do not. To give a bit of perspective, data from the World Health Organization shows that oral health diseases are not only the most common of the chronic illnesses, but depending on where you live, they may be a full-on public health problem. This stems from of their prevalence, their impact on individuals and society, and the expense of their treatment. In some areas, oral health diseases are the fourth most expensive category to treat.
Moving things a bit closer to home, it may be a surprise to you that certain oral health conditions can be an indicator of other potential health issues. For example, gum disease may seem like more of an inconvenience than a life-threatening condition, with symptoms including swollen gums, irritation and bleeding. This is actually the sixth most prevalent chronic condition in the world, affecting 743 million people. In one study of a population of African-Americans with normal kidney function, those with severe periodontal disease went on to develop chronic kidney disease at four times the rate as those without severe periodontal disease after an average of nearly five years. Other stories show potential links between gum disease and other ailments, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. The exact relationship is unknown, but any sort of correlation is enough to raise eyebrows.
What we do know about oral health is that part of the reason why there may be a link between it and so many other conditions are the nature of the mouth itself, serving as a portal of entry for infection. Inflammation in the mouth, from conditions such as gum disease, lets bacteria into the bloodstream, where it can enter areas where it may be more damaging, such as the heart. This is also part of the reason why many doctors take saliva as a diagnostic tool, as it can provide an accurate measure of many levels of various substances in the body, including illegal drugs, environmental toxins, hormones, and antibodies.
Getting On The Right Path
It’s easy for us to forget that the body is one linked thing, and while different organs and different systems play different roles, they also are linked. Ever wonder why dentists ask for your health history when you first start with them? This isn’t just about making sure that varying treatments you have don’t clash, but getting a full picture of how your various body systems work with each other. For this reason, it’s important for you as a patient to be forthcoming about all your health issues, as you never know how things may play into each other.
Along with seeing a dentist regularly and taking their advice into account, it is important to try and minimize risk factors in your lifestyle that may increase your chance of running into other health issues. These include overall hygiene, smoking, drinking, behaviors that can lead to injury, as well as general stress. Some may be easier to avoid than others, but your dentist’s guidance can count for more if you act accordingly.
Because of all these reasons, finding a proper dentist and not faltering in an oral health regimen is a lot more than a slight concern. One issue likely won’t lead to much, but as smaller and smaller issues pile up, they may lead to a variety of health issues as well as an overall lost quality of life. If you are looking to learn more, ask both your dentist and family doctor. The way things intertwine may surprise you, but you can also take a combined approach to health issues, eating and living right to help your mouth and beyond.