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Dentistry is important — so far, you’ve learned enough to understand that. But, maybe you’re still wondering: does dental care actually improve the overall health of patients, helping them live better and longer?
The mouth harbors a rich and heavily populated microbiome of 500-700 different species of bacteria. Of course, it also serves as the gateway to the rest of the body.
Dental diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease are exactly what their names state: diseases.
Those who suffer from dental diseases will often find that their overall health suffers greatly while leaving these untreated. Dental diseases increase the risk factors for other systemic diseases greatly. And that’s not the only reason it’s important to care about them. Leaving problems untreated can lead to the loss of teeth, collapsed bites, and eating and speech problems. Therefore, fixing dental problems helps patients to live longer AND to live better.
One of the most important concerns regarding the connection between dental and overall health is inflammation. The mouth is recognized to be the #1 source of inflammation. According to recent studies, every inflammatory disease is significantly affected by oral inflammation. Doctors heavily emphasize that controlling oral inflammation is a key step in preventing and controlling other inflammation-related diseases. Take a look at the picture below to get an idea of what inflammatory diseases this includes — and keep in mind: it is not limited only to those on the list.
Treating & Educating Patients About Oral Inflammation
As dental providers, it is important that we utilize our time spent with our patients to educate them on how to treat and prevent oral inflammation. This will improve their oral health, thus improving their overall health, and quality of life. Because of the significant impact that oral inflammation can have on the body, dental teams are absolutely essential.
But preventative measures aren’t just limited to the advice above, either. The fact that oral and overall health are so interconnected also means that the patient’s overall health can impact oral health, too. This means that maintaining a healthy lifestyle, on top of the oral hygiene maintenance, is key to avoiding dental diseases.
Dental providers can help their patients even better by educating them on living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle. By incorporating these tips into their daily lives, patients will have healthier mouths, healthier bodies and ultimately, they will live both longer and better overall.
WATCH: “Overall Inflammation and Oral Health”
READ: “Mountain Dew and Oral Decay”
READ: “The Benefits of Vitamin D”
Commonly Asked Questions From Patients
“My dentist and hygienist told me that I could not have a regular cleaning, and that I need a deep cleaning instead. Why?” This is likely because the dental provider has found signs of inflammation in the gum tissue, or changes in the bone levels on the patient’s x-rays. This indicates the presence of a chronic inflammatory condition called Periodontitis. Leaving periodontitis untreated will lead to the patient losing a significant amount of bone around their teeth, ultimately meaning that those teeth will fall out. Pursuing periodontitis treatment before patients lose too much bone can stop this from happening. Additionally, managing gum disease will also improve the patient’s overall health and well-being — the inflammation that is caused by gum disease will worsen other systemic conditions.
“Do baby teeth with cavities need to be filled? Won’t they just fall out anyway?” Leaving cavities in baby teeth can lead to dental infections, which cause both pain and swelling. Also, it’s important to help children keep their baby teeth for as long as possible: they help to guide the development and positioning of the adult teeth.