Brushing your teeth may be more important than you think.
Good dental health helps keep your mouth in better shape. That means fewer cavities, stronger teeth and less chance for periodontal — or gum — disease. Importantly, good oral health is part of overall health and well-being. In fact, your mouth can be a window into many general health problems.
Many diseases and conditions are visible through the mouth. In fact, sometimes the first sign of a general health problem shows up in the mouth.¹ And a dental professional can spot signs of many of them. As infections in the mouth may affect other parts of the body, this means good oral health has never been more important — or the potential advantages more clear!¹
If you are pregnant or have diabetes or heart disease, you can received an extra cleaning or visit to a dentist to treat gum disease. Please click on each topic to learn more about how certain health conditions and diseases affect dental health.
Many adults have some form of gum disease. If left untreated, gingivitis, an early form, can become a serious infection, destroying the gums and tissues surrounding the teeth. Gum disease usually begins when bacteria that aren’t properly removed during brushing and flossing inflame the gums. Serious gum disease may not stop in the mouth. Bacteria may enter the bloodstream. There, they may complicate diseases in other parts of the body.
Research suggests that serious gum disease, known as periodontitis, may be associated with many health problems. This is especially true if serious gum disease continues without treatment.¹
Now, here’s the good news. Researchers are discovering that a healthy mouth may be important to your overall health.²
Pregnancy causes changes to the body. Sometimes it can cause changes in the mouth. This may affect your health and the health of your unborn baby. Knowing what might happen is helpful.
- Serious gum disease. Serious gum disease, periodontitis, may produce a chemical in the body that may cause early labor. By visiting the dentist while pregnant, you can check on gum health. If you have a problem, treatment can begin right away.
- Pregnancy gingivitis. This condition is caused by pregnancy hormones. These hormones can make the gums red or swollen, even bleed. Your dentist can give you a home-care program to help control this condition.
- Morning sickness. If you get sick often, stomach acids can wear down tooth enamel. Your dentist can provide a fluoride mouth rinse to help fight the effects. Morning sickness also may cause appetite loss. This may lead to poor nutrition. A prescription vitamin or supplement can help.
Diabetics are more likely to develop mouth and gum conditions than non-diabetics.3 For some, bad breath or bleeding gums may be the first signs of diabetes.
Diabetics also may develop:
- Dry mouth, which may increase tooth decay
- Receding gums, especially if their diabetes is poorly managed
Treating the gums can help make diabetes easier to control.
Heart disease is the number-one cause of death for Americans. There are several theories as to how periodontitis may have an impact on heart health. One theory is that bacteria may enter the blood stream through the mouth and have the potential to attach to fatty deposits in the blood vessels, which may contribute to heart disease.³ Another theory is that the inflammation associated with periodontitis may play a role.³
Regular dental checkups also help detect signs of oral cancer early on. If a warning sign is found, a more complete examination is needed.
Your dentist may suggest a monthly self-exam. Find out how to do one properly during your next visit.
For more information, check:
¹ Academy of General Dentistry. Oral warning signs can indicate serious medical conditions. Available at: www.knowyourteeth.com/infobites/abc/article/?abc=o&iid=320&aid=9433. Accessed September 24, 2018.
² American Academy of Peridodontology. Periodontal disease and systemic health. Available at: www.perio.org/consumer/other-diseases. Accessed September 24, 2018.
³ American Academy of Periodontology. Diabetes and periodontal disease. Available at: www.perio.org/consumer/diabetes.htm. Accessed September 24, 2018.