Researchers at the Mayo Clinic — one of our nation’s most trusted sources of medical research and health information — say poor oral health can be one of the first indicators of disease elsewhere in the body.
According to a report released by the clinic in February of 2009, common symptoms of HIV/AIDS include ulcers, dry mouth and mucosal lesions, and a weakening of the bone that supports your teeth could indicate osteoporosis. Other conditions that could make their presence known in your mouth before you’ve detected other symptoms include certain cancers, syphilis and gonorrhea.
In addition, the Mayo Clinic reports, poor dental health may even be at the root of or contribute to other health problems that would seem unrelated to dental health. This is because infections of the mouth such as gum disease can let bacteria enter your bloodstream and wreak havoc elsewhere in your body, they say.
Gum disease has been linked to premature birth among pregnant women, for instance. And poor oral health can make it more difficult to control diabetes. There is even evidence linking poor oral health to cardiovascular disease, including clogged arteries and stroke, although further study is needed to confirm this suspicion.
This is useful information that sends two important messages to each and every one of us: 1. Pay attention; and 2.) Use prevention.
If anything in your mouth looks, feels or smells unusual, see your dentist right away. Toothaches, mouth pain, bleeding gums, oral lesions and persistent bad breath are not normal. Symptoms such as these indicate infection and should be treated by a professional.
Dentists and dental hygienists can identify infection quickly and easily, and with prompt treatment they can usually correct problems with minimal invasion and discomfort. They can refer you to a periodontist for more advanced problems; and, if they detect oral cancer or other conditions such as diabetes, they can refer you to the appropriate specialists.
Also, an annual physical examination by your family physician is always a good idea, but this is especially true if you have dental health problems.
Prevention is your best defense. It saves you time, money, discomfort and pain. Most importantly, it could save your life. Brush your teeth at least twice daily, and floss at least once daily. All it takes is five minutes each day and the cost of a brush, paste and floss. Anyone can do it, regardless of schedule or budget, and it’s the most important factor in maintaining oral health.
Furthermore, make two hygiene visits to your dental office per year. You’ll get your teeth cleaned, perhaps some x-rays and have your mouth inspected for signs of disease and decay. It takes about two hours per year. Most insurances cover 100 percent of these visits, and even for those who are uninsured, these are generally affordable … more so than treatments to correct dental health problems, at any rate.
We are about to start a new year. If you are not already on top of your dental health, make this the year you turn that around. Many of our goals and aspirations are difficult to achieve, but this one is easy. You can do it!
Curtis H. Roy, D.D.S., has served Acadiana residents with a general dentistry and specialty practice since 1970. Find his practice on the Web at www.drcurtisroyandassociates.com, visit the office at 3703 Johnston St., Lafayette, or call 981.9811.