Saturday, 24 January 2009

How Dental Hygiene Affects Your Health

When dentistry became a practicing field in the 19th century patients could hope for little more than the pulling of infected teeth and possibly some primitive fixing of broken teeth. Beyond that there were not much people could do to promote their own dental health. Needless to say those who made dentures (wooden teeth) had a thriving business as many adults faced the loss of many, if not all of their teeth. Thankfully today dentistry has evolved into a highly technical field capable of fixing even the most severe and sometimes complex problem that can be presented by patients. Patients have never had so many choices available to them in promoting good dental hygiene. While that alone is good news recent studies indicate that good dental hygiene does not just improve things in the mouth but may be an indicator for a patient’s overall health. So, let’s take a look at how dental hygiene affects your health in general…

Studies have shown that when patients go to see dentists they often have no idea that they may have undiagnosed and uncontrolled health problems. Some of these are problems which can affect their oral health and dental treatment.

One such study indicated the following: Most of the time dental patients routinely complete medical questionnaires and review their health histories with dental professionals during their initial visit. The dentist will then check their mouth. Often, if they find signs of serious gum disease, they will compare the health histories of these patients with moderate to advanced periodontal disease with laboratory data obtained when patients who were then referred to a hospital for a urinalysis, complete blood count and a standard blood chemistry panel many times serious health concerns became apparent. Gum disease can be an indicator, and a lead in to other serious problems.

Many of these patients when filling out the health history did not report having diabetes, yet they find that they do. When all of the test results were in 15% tested positive for diabetes. In addition only a small percentage reported a history of abnormal cholesterol. Once again when all the test results were in 56% tested positive for exceptionally high cholesterol values. This test result alone put these patients at an extreme risk for stroke and heart attack.

These types of studies about underreported conditions are very alarming. It is extremely important for patients to know what diseases they have or are at high risk for so that they can take steps to control the risk factors before the disease becomes full-blown. Dentists are quick to point out as well that these types of findings also indicate they may not know what they are up against when treating potential patients. For example, undiagnosed and uncontrolled diabetes can have a profound impact on oral health and can greatly affect treatment procedures and outcomes.

There has been a very strong connection between periodontal disease and diabetes. Diabetics are more likely to develop infections like periodontal disease, and periodontal disease makes it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar. Furthermore, people with diabetes and periodontal disease are more prone to recurrent periodontal abscesses (areas around teeth that are inflamed, infected and painful).

Research also points to a link between periodontal disease and heart disease. People with periodontal disease may be almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease as those without periodontal disease. All of these studies indicate that it is especially important for patients to not only treat any dental problems but seek information concerning possible underlying problems as well. There is some indication that treating dental problems early and preventing any periodontal disease from fully forming patients can prevent even more serious complications from happening. This represents the need for increased collaboration between the dental and medical professions. Many patients could benefit from working with both their dentists and their doctors. Today good oral hygiene just won’t leave you with a smile of pearly white teeth it may indeed save your life.

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