Our Guide to Whole Body Health
Regular dental care and good home hygiene have a direct benefit to the look of your smile. According to the latest research, there are even more reasons to give your smile the attention it deserves. We now know that oral health will directly affect whole body health. When you brush and floss every day and see your dentist as needed based on your unique needs, you are actually improving the health of your entire body and decreasing your risk of chronic diseases such as:
Cardiovascular disease has been identified as the leading cause of death among American adults. The term describes conditions in which the blood vessels have become blocked or narrowed. Cardiovascular conditions include heart attack, stroke, circulation problems, angina, rhythm problems, valve defects and pumping problems, and coronary artery disease.
Through extensive research, a connection has been made between gum disease and coronary artery disease and stroke. Coronary artery disease is a condition that results from the accumulation of fatty plaques in arteries. The more plaques that accumulate, the less efficient the delivery of oxygen and nutrients is to the body. This reduction in oxygen leads to stiffening of the arteries and the restriction of blood flow. The primary risk here is stroke or heart attack.
The symptoms and risk factors of cardiovascular disease vary widely. Because we recognize the relationship between oral health and the heart, we provide care that is focused more on total health rather than teeth alone.
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The link between gum health and diabetes has been well documented. The two conditions are interrelated in that they feed off one another. Diabetics have an increased risk of periodontal disease and periodontal disease challenges the management of glucose levels.
Diabetes is diagnosed when too much glucose is present in the blood and your body is unable to control the levels of glucose in your body. Glucose, often referred to as “blood sugar,” is an essential component to health. Derived from foods and from the liver, it provides energy to cells and acts as fuel to the brain. The liver, in addition to releasing glucose into the blood, stores glucose that comes from food. After a meal, insulin helps cells absorb sugar needed for energy. The lower blood sugar becomes, the less insulin we produce. When too much glucose exists on an ongoing basis, serious health complications may develop. The goal in managing diabetes is the regulation of blood sugar.
Diabetes does increase a person’s risk of periodontal disease. This is tied to the fact that diabetics are generally more at risk of infection and periodontal disease is an infection. Poorly regulated blood sugar increases this risk. When blood sugar is out of control, infection-fighting white blood cells are affected. Unregulated blood sugar also causes the mouth to become dry and the gums to become inflamed. Without proper moisture, the mouth can become a breeding ground for unhealthy bacteria. Diabetes also inhibits the influx of nutrients to tissues and the elimination of toxins, making it more difficult for the body to heal, if infection does occur.
On the other hand, periodontal disease affects a person’s success in managing blood glucose levels. The active infection in the mouth causes an elevation of glucose in the blood. At the same time, it affects metabolism, making it harder to regulate the increase. Unregulated blood sugar increases the risk for conditions such as high blood pressure, neuropathy, and glaucoma.
Infertility, which affects a woman’s ability to become pregnant or support a full term pregnancy, may occur for a number of reasons. In women, difficulty or inability to conceive may be attributed to a primary condition such as hormonal imbalance, uterine fibroids, damage to fallopian tubes, or endometriosis. It is possible, as well, that infertility may be a male health issue, caused by low sperm count or poor sperm motility. Either male or female partner may experience infertility linked to genetic factors, disease, or age. Approximately 15 percent of couples struggling with infertility cannot determine the cause.
Researchers have discovered that the presence of advanced gum disease can have a negative impact on an otherwise viable pregnancy. Women with uncontrolled oral infection are at an increased risk of birthing a low-weight or premature baby. An oral or periodontal infection can make it more difficult for a couple to get pregnant, more difficult to stay pregnant, and more difficult to have a healthy, strong baby. Pregnant women are highly encouraged to visit their dentist for routine periodontal care and preventive care.
Tooth loss occurs for a number of reasons: injury, disease, infection, or another dental concern. Gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults. The loss or extraction of a tooth can lead to additional concerns, affecting:
Tooth loss affects more than the look of the smile. Speaking is also aided by our teeth, allowing us to form certain sounds and letters. If a tooth or multiple teeth are missing, one’s ability to speak clearly and to be understood by others may be diminished. The development of a lisp or other speech problems can cause embarrassment.
One of the benefits teeth give us is facial support. If we had no teeth, our lips and cheeks would have nothing to hold them in position. Most people have seen someone with very few or no remaining natural teeth and have witnessed the telltale “sunken” appearance due to lack of support. This makes the person look older than he or she really is. The face is also supported by the jawbone. When natural teeth are lost, the stimulation transferred from chewing to bone tissue is lost as well. Without stimulation, bone breaks down and is resorbed by the body. The recession of bone tissue in the jaw can have a dramatic effect on a person’s facial profile. Finally, teeth are mutually supportive of one another. The alignment of teeth may be affected when a tooth is lost or removed and not replaced right away. Teeth that are out of position are less effective to chew with and prone to more problems and discomfort. If teeth shift enough, the bite may become unhealthy and the joints unduly stressed. Overworked joints can lead to problems such as chronic headaches and pain in the shoulders and neck.
The primary role we identify with our teeth is chewing and biting. Tooth loss affects this ability and may lead to the avoidance of certain foods, thus depriving the body of necessary nutrients. Insufficient chewing and a limited diet can each lead to digestive issues such as indigestion and constipation and ultimately unwanted weight loss.
A person who develops one of the more than 150 primary immunodeficiency disorders may experience frequent infections and health problems. Some disorders that weaken the immune system are very mild and are not diagnosed right away. Others cause severe symptoms that cannot be ignored. Immunodeficiency disorders can be diagnosed at any time, from very early after birth to very late in life. Untreated immune disorders can have long-term effects on health and well-being.
Primary immunodeficiency often makes itself known through an increased susceptibility to infection. When the immune system is compromised, a person may require longer treatment for health concerns than someone with a healthy immune system. Additionally, the weakened immune system will be more susceptible to a wider variety of infections than one that is healthy and functioning.
According to research, periodontal disease increases a person’s risk for secondary infection. Through infected, inflamed gums, bacteria find an entry point to the bloodstream. Here, these microorganisms gain access to the entire body. If an immune disorder already exists, the development of periodontal disease can greatly affect overall health and wellness.
We want to help you remain as healthy as possible. We invite you to schedule your periodontal evaluation with our friendly, experienced dental team.