Dental Health and its Impact on Overall Health



Dental health can help ensure a confident smile, but it’s actually a crucial factor in overall health. Your entire body can be affected by oral problems, according to the American Dental Association and virtually every dental expert. Proper oral hygiene involves daily brushing and flossing, and it keeps potentially hazardous bacteria under control. If dental hygiene is lacking, however, bacteria multiplies and results in such oral infections as gum disease and tooth decay. Some serious cardiovascular problems are directly connected to dental disease. Dental hygiene can be complicated by certain medications that reduce saliva flow. The following is basic information that can help you avoid health problems caused by oral issues.

Common Dental Diseases
The mouth is the gateway to the body, and it is constantly barraged by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites. The most common infectious diseases that affect dental health are dental caries and periodontal diseases, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR).

The term “caries” is from the Latin word for “rotten.” Dental caries has long been more widely known as “cavities.” Risk factors for developing cavities are strongest among infants and children and include:

  • Not enough fluoride, which is more pronounced in children who drink from water bottles rather than drinking fluoride-enhanced tap water.

  • Eating certain foods that cling to the teeth for long periods of time, such as candy, chips, and soda.

  • A dry mouth, which can be caused by medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics, antidepressants, and painkillers.

Periodontal Disease
Periodontal disease has three phases, and your symptoms provide a clue as to what type of dental disease you may be suffering from. Colgate provides the following signs that you likely have periodontal disease:

Gingivitis is phase one, and it is a reversible condition. Symptoms include: swollen, red gums; gums that bleed easily when brushing and flossing; a receding gum line; and bad breath.

Periodontitis is phase two, and it involves damage to the soft tissue as well as loss of bone that supports your teeth. Symptoms of periodontitis include: bright, swollen red gums; tender gums; the development of spaces between the teeth; pus between gums and teeth; loose teeth that don’t form a proper bite; and bad breath.

Advanced periodontitis is the most severe stage of periodontal disease and is characterized by actual loss in the bone and periodontal tissues that support your teeth. The condition leads to shifting and loosening of teeth. Other symptoms include: swollen and bleeding gums; severe receding gums; loose teeth; misaligned teeth; deep periodontal pockets; and chronic bad breath.

Health Conditions Linked to Oral Health
The Mayo Clinic provides details about health conditions that can occur as a direct result of various dental conditions. For example, endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart, and it can occur when bacteria and germs from the mouth spread through the bloodstream and attach to the heart in damaged areas. More examples follow:

  • Cardiovascular diseases such as strokes and clogged arteries may be linked to infections and inflammation caused by oral bacteria, research suggests.

  • Periodontitis can affect pregnancy and birth, sometimes causing low birth weight and premature birth.

Health Conditions that Affect Oral Health
While some conditions can be caused by dental diseases, some health issues cause oral problems. Anyone who suffers from the following health problems is more at risk for experiencing poor dental health:

  • Diabetes puts the gums at risk because the disease reduces the body’s ability to resist infection. According to the Mayo Clinic, people with diabetes are more prone to have frequent and severe gum disease.

  • The progression of Alzheimer’s disease commonly leads to worsening oral health.

  • Osteoporosis causes bones to become weak and brittle, and the disease is linked with tooth loss and periodontal bone loss.

  • People who suffer from HIV/AIDS commonly experience painful mucosal lesions and other oral problems.

In addition to daily brushing and flossing, dental health is promoted by being careful to brush and floss hard-toreach teeth and by regular visits to your dentist. A wellmaintained mouth means a more healthy body.

Missouri Medicaid
Medicaid coverage for dental services is now available for about 282,000 adults in Missouri. The expanded coverage includes oral surgery, infection control, restorative services, preventative services, extractions, periodontal treatment, pain evaluation and relief, general anesthesia, and radiographs. The coverage is retroactive to January 1, 2016. Funding for these important dental services has already been approved in the Missouri governor’s 2017 budget.
 

About the Writer

Stephanie McHugh

Contributing Writer

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