How many times have you filled out paperwork at your dentist’s office and wondered – why do they need to know all of this? I just have a toothache! You are not alone. Most people do not know that there are actually very valid reasons for sharing this information with your dentist.
Much of traditional dental care has focused on teeth and gums in isolation, but dental hygiene is not just for your mouth – it benefits your whole body! Modern research has changed the culture of oral health and the approach that dentists take. Study after study have demonstrated that there is a clear connection between our mouths and our bodies.
For example, people with diabetes are at higher risk for advanced gum disease. One reason for this is that in diabetic patients, bloodflow to the mouth is reduced. Another is that high glucose levels in the bloodstream make the mouth a prime location for bacteria and plaque to flourish. Furthermore, this leads to a self-sustaining cycle. The bacteria that breeds between gums and teeth can enter the bloodstream, triggering an increase in blood sugar.
Bacteria in the bloodstream can also lead to other conditions such as inflammation in blood vessels, muscles and joints. This inflammation can lead to heart disease and stroke. Rheumatoid arthritis has also been linked to gum disease.
These connections have caused dentists to look at oral hygiene in a more holistic way with an approach based on education and prevention. Rather than perform invasive procedures, dentists may recommend a change in diet to help bring mouth chemistry back into balance. They will also look at the whole picture of a person’s health, and look for ways to avoid traditional treatments that might adversely affect the body, such as mercury fillings.
Of course the best prevention for oral health is to maintain your brushing and flossing regimen and keep your regularly scheduled cleanings. If you find that your gums are swollen, sore, or bleeding when you brush or floss, or that your gums are receding from your teeth – get in to see your dentist. Your body may thank you later!