The medical-dental connection

The medical-dental connection


Did you know that visiting a
dentist could save your life? If you have regular,
twice-a-year checkups, your dentist could well be the health
professional you see most often. And, in fact, more than
120 medical conditions — many of them life threatening — may possibly be detected in the early
stages by a dentist. These include thyroid problems,
high blood pressure, sleep and breathing disorders, HIV, tuberculosis
and kidney disease. Let’s look at a few of the connections
between oral health an overall health. People with diabetes are more
likely to have gum disease than people without diabetes. Researchers think this is because
diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection. Oral health problems,
in turn, may affect a person’s ability to control
his or her blood sugar. Smoking, other tobacco use and heavy
alcohol consumption are all risk factors for oral cancer. While reducing the use of alcohol and
tobacco can help prevent the disease, regular visits to the dentist
can mean early detection. Dentists screen for oral cancer
and other diseases of the mouth as part of routine dental exams, and early detection
could save your life. Studies have shown that people with
moderate to advanced gum disease are more likely to have
heart disease and stroke, compared to people
with no gum disease. While we still don’t know the exact
relationship between these diseases, inflammation is common to both. In cardiovascular disease, inflammation
causes narrowing of the coronary arteries. With gum disease, inflammation breaks
down the tissues and bone that support the teeth. During pregnancy, hormonal changes may
result in tender, swollen and bleeding gums, called pregnancy gingivitis. Research indicates that there may be a
connection between gum disease and preterm delivery and
low birth weight of the baby. Studies have shown that
treating gum disease may reduce the risk of these
pregnancy complications. Preventive dental care is safe during
most of pregnancy, and it can improve the overall health
of the mother and baby. Although a visit to your dentist is not a
substitute for a visit to a medical doctor, you should provide your dentist
with a complete medical history, and tell him or her about any
recent health developments, even if they don’t seem
related to your oral health. Remember to brush
and floss regularly, and build a good relationship
with your dentist. That way, you and your
dentist can work together to improve your dental health
and your overall health, and keep you smiling!

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