Are you aware of the link between your mouth and your entire body?
All of us at Farmington Village Dental are dedicated to educating our patients about dentistry. One topic that has been of great interest to us is how oral health reflects overall health. While some may mistakenly think that what goes on in the mouth stays in the mouth, the truth is that your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body. Health problems and medications that you may be taking have an important interrelationship with what is happening in your mouth.
If you’re interested in dentistry, you may already know that periodontitis is the most serious stage of gum disease and can cause you to lose teeth.
What you may not know is that gum disease is a continuum. In its earliest stages it is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is when gums are red, swollen, and/or bleed easily. This stage is when the gum tissue is inflamed but the bone around the teeth remains intact. It is during this inflammatory/gingivitis stage that patients will often ask our hygienists whether the bleeding seen when flossing or brushing is normal. The answer is it’s not; however, the good news is that gingivitis is reversible with the help of a professional tooth cleaning, and with good brushing and flossing habits at home.
When gingivitis progresses, the gums not only remain inflamed but the bone begins to disintegrate around the teeth. When the bone is lost around the teeth it is called periodontitis. When periodontitis is present your teeth and oral health are not the only things at risk.
Scientists are discovering that the inflammation involved with both gingivitis and periodontitis is a contributing factor to many other diseases. The chronic inflammation with gingivitis and periodontal disease has been linked to blood vessel diseases, heart attacks, strokes, and Alzheimer’s disease. Furthermore, head and neck, pancreatic, and kidney cancers are more likely if one also suffers from gum disease. For those who also have diabetes and gum disease, the risk of premature death increases by 400 – 700%! In fact, gum disease and diabetes have a two-way connection – if you have diabetes, your body can’t heal from inflammation and gum irritation as quickly and having gum disease makes it harder to control your blood sugar.
At least 80% of Americans have either gingivitis or periodontitis in varying degrees, but gum and bone problems aren’t the only way what’s going on in your mouth affects the rest of your body.
Bite & Airway Issues
While there is much you can do at home to prevent gum disease – regular tooth & gum care, sound nutrition, and regular dental appointments – there are conditions in your mouth that you can’t correct without the help of your friendly neighborhood Farmington dentists.
If you have problems with your TMJ (jaw joint), this can irritate the nerve that runs from your brain, alongside your jaw joint – the trigeminal nerve. This increased nerve traffic can cause migraines and central sensitization. If you’ve ever had migraines, you know how bad those can be – and central sensitization can be worse. That’s a condition that’s associated with the development – and maintenance – of chronic pain. It can cause you to feel intense pain at the lightest touch or bump.
A bad bite can cause many problems, but when you combine it with poor oral-facial development, this can lead to an increased risk for Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). While this condition is heralded by heavy snoring, what is actually happening is that you stop breathing while you sleep – sometimes several times each hour. OSA puts sufferers at risk of motor vehicle accidents, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and more. In kids, OSA can affect their growth and development, ability to learn and socialize and can also cause behavioral issues, depression, and a decreased quality of life.
The human body is adaptable, so if you have airway issues like sleep apnea or even just sinus trouble, your jaw may clench or brace to prevent airway collapse. This serves the purpose of helping you to breathe safely, but also contributes to morning headaches, jaw pain, cheek damage, and cracked/ broken teeth and/or fillings.
The culprits behind tooth decay and gum disease, oral bacteria, don’t like to stay put. Oral bacteria get into your bloodstream and scientists have found these bacteria in brain tissue, heart vessels, joints, and many other parts of the body.
Oral bacteria can also travel from your body to someone else’s body. Kissing, sharing utensils, or even sucking your baby’s pacifier can spread the oral bacteria.
The Good News
The good news is, at Farmington Village Dental, we can help you avoid many of the complications that come with oral health concerns. As your partners in oral health, we will work with you to help you establish and maintain excellent home care routines in addition to keeping you on track with your regular dental and hygiene visits. When we meet you for the first time, we’ll ask for a complete health history before we do a thorough assessment of your gums and bone, your teeth, your jaw joints, and your bite so you can feel confident that all aspects of your oral health have been examined and are optimal. Of course we want you to have a healthy and beautiful smile, but we also deeply care about your overall health as well. Contact us today! We’d love to be the reason you smile today.
Are you looking for a general family dentist in the Farmington, CT area? We are accepting new patients and we’re looking forward to seeing you soon.
Yours in continuing dental health,
Dr. Monique Nadeau, your Family Dentist in Farmington, CT