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Most people do not realize that our dental health and our general health are inherently linked. Below is a discussion of the various links to be aware of to maintain your health.

Oral Health = Overall Health?

 Just like most areas of the body, your mouth is full of various bacteria — most are just harmless but others can be far more dangerous. Your mouth is the beginning or entry to the digestive and respiratory tracts, and some of these dangerous bacteria have been found to cause disease in the body.
In normal situations, a person’s natural immune system and maintaining good oral health can keep this bacteria in check. However, not following dentist recommended protocols can allow bacteria levels to reach new heights leading to oral disease and infections such as tooth decay and periodontal disease.

Prescription medications can also play a role — such as decongestants (example Sudafed), antihistamines (example Benadryl), painkillers, diuretics and antidepressants — can cause a condition known as dry mouth. Saliva is necessary to wash away food and neutralizes the acids that are produced by bacteria in the mouth. Saliva plays an important role in helping to protect you from bacteria that can quickly multiply and lead to disease in the mouth and body.

Recent scientific studies have been released suggesting that bacteria found in the mouth and the inflammation associated with the severest form of periodontal disease (periodontitis) might play a factor in some systemic diseases. General disease also has an affect on the oral cavity as well. Diseases such as diabetes and HIV(AIDS), can lower the body’s immune reaction to infection, making oral health problems even more severe.

Conditions can be linked to oral health?

Oral health might contribute to various diseases and conditions, including:
-Endocarditis - This is an infection of the inner lining of your heart chambers or valves (endocardium) and typically occurs when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body(possibly even the mouth) spread through your bloodstream and attach to certain areas in your heart.
-Cardiovascular disease(Heart Disease) - Although this connection is not yet fully understood, there has been some research suggesting that heart disease, clogged arteries and even stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
-Pregnancy and birth complications - Gum Disease (specifically Periodontitis) has been shown to be linked to premature birth and low birth weight.
-Pneumonia - Certain bacteria in your mouth can be pulled into your lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.
Certain conditions also might affect your oral health, including:
-Diabetes - Acts by reducing the body’s resistance to infection, diabetes can put your gums at risk. Periodontal disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. Studies have shown that diabetics who have periodontal disease have a more difficult time controlling their blood sugar levels. Regular periodontal care can aid in diabetes control.
-HIV/AIDS - Oral issues, like painful mucosal lesions, are common in people who have HIV/AIDS.
-Osteoporosisis a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue, typically as a result of hormonal changes, or deficiency of calcium or vitamin D. This disease is linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss. Certain prescription drugs used to treat osteoporosis carry a risk of damage to the bones of the jaw.
-Alzheimer’s disease - Worsening oral health is seen as Alzheimer’s disease progresses probably due to inability to maintain proper dental regimen at home.

Other conditions that are believed to be linked to oral health include eating disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, certain cancers and an immune system disorder that causes dry mouth (Sjogren’s syndrome).

It is important that you tell your dentist about the various medications you take and about any changes in your overall health, especially if you’ve recently been ill or you have a chronic condition, such as diabetes.

How can I protect my oral health?

 To protect your oral health, practice and maintain a good oral hygiene regimen.
-Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a soft-bristled brush using fluoride toothpaste.
-Floss after every meal.
-Use an antiseptic mouthwash to remove food particles left after brushing and flossing.
-Eat a balanced diet and limit food with excessive sugars.
-Replace your toothbrush every three months or sooner if bristles are splayed or worn.
-Maintain a regular schedule of dental checkups and dental cleanings.
-Avoid tobacco use. This includes chewing tobacco.

Conclusion

 Contact your dentist as soon as an oral health problem arises. The longer you wait the bigger than issue it may become both for your dental health as well as your overall health. Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health.

Dental health has been shown to be directly related to a person’s general overall health.  Your mouth is connected to the rest of your body so it makes sense that what happens in the mouth (teeth and gums) can have a profound impact on the rest of your body.  Scientific research also shows the reverse, the breakdown and disease processes of the body can directly affect your dental health.

1.  Stress

Oral Symptoms: Headaches with flat, worn down teeth.

Stress is one those things that people underestimate. It takes a tremendous toll on the body and mind. Teeth grinding and clenching during sleep is a classic sign of emotional or psychological stress factors. People who grind or clench their teeth tend to be quite surprised to find out they are doing it. After all, this activity generally occurs in their sleep, when they’re not aware of it, unless a partner hears the noise and tells them.

Patients can sometimes see the flatness of their own teeth, or even feel it with their tongue. They may notice their jaw feeling sore and achy upon waking. Headaches, which are caused by spasms in the muscles during and after clenching or grinding. Often the pain can radiate from the the teeth and TMJ and head down to the neck and upper back. Night guards can relieve the symptoms and protect the teeth from the harmful effects of grinding and clenching.

2. Diabetes or Sjogren’s Syndrome

Oral Symptoms: Dry Mouth or Xerostomia

Dry mouth can be casued by a variety of things. These can include dehydration and taking a new medication.Hundreds of drugs list dry mouth as a side effect. These include medications commonly prescribed such as muscle relaxants, antianxiety medications, and antihistamines. A lack of saliva in the mouth can also be an early warning sign of two different autoimmune diseases. These diseases are Diabetes and Sjogren’s sundrome.

Sjogrens syndrome is largely unknown. It is when the white blood cells of the body attack the salivary glands. This affects many, approximately 4 million Americans suffer with Sjogrens. It is much more prevalent in women, 90% of those diagnosed are female. In Sjogren’s, the eyes are dry as well as the mouth, but the entire body is affected by the disorder. Sjogren’s symptoms often appear like other diseases and often goes misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.

Diabetes affects about 24 million people in the United States alone. It affects both men and women. It is a metabolic disorder caused by the bodies inability to process blood sugars properly. Other symptoms of diabetes include excessive thirst, dry mouth, tingling in the hands and feet, frequent need to urinate, blurry vision, and loss of weight.

3. Lichen planus

Oral Symptoms: White webbing inside cheeks.

Many people would never imagine they can discover a skin disease through an oral examination but you can. Lichen planus is a mild disorder that affects both men and women in the age range of 30-70. The cause is unknown. It affects the mucus membranes in the mouth.

Oral lichen planus  appears as a whitish, lacy pattern on the insides of the cheeks. About 70% appear in the oral cavity before they show up in other parts of the body.

The vagina is another common area where lichen planus can also appear. Lichen planus often goes away on its own, but sometimes further treatment is needed.

4. Oral Cancer

Oral Symptoms: Sores that just will not go away in mouth.

Marielaina Perrone DDS VelscopeMany people bite the insides of their mouth as a nervous habit. Sometimes people bite their cheek accidentally, creating a wound or sore. But when an open sore in the mouth does not go away on its own within a week or two, it needs to be shown to a dentist or doctor.

More than 20,000 men and 10,000 women a year are diagnosed with oral cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most are over the age of 60. Oral cancer has a survival rate of only about 35 percent. This is mainly due to late detection. Smokers are six times more likely to develop oral cancer, but one in four oral cancers develop in non-smokers.

Suspicious oral sores or ulcers tend to be raised sores and often have red or white borders. They may hide under the tongue, where they’re hard to see. Bleeding and numbness are other signs, but sometimes the only sign is a sore that doesn’t seem to go away. A biopsy usually follows a visual check. At each dental visit you can increase your chances for early detection by seeing a dentist that uses a Velscope oral cancer screening system. This tool is effective in detecting precancerous changes in the mouth. Earlier detection means better chance for survival and cure.

5.  Aspiration pneumonia

Oral Symptoms: Crusting Dentures

Connecting pneumonia and dentures may seem like a real stretch but they have a deadly connection. A leading cause of senior deaths is from aspiration pneumonia. This is caused by inhaling debris from around teeth and dentures.

In aspiration pneumonia, foreign material is breathed into the lungs and airway, causing dangerous inflammation. This often occurs in those who fail to clean their dentures properly. Dentures need to be removed every day from the mouth. They should be properly cleaned daily with a brush and stored in a cleansing solution.

6. Angular chelitis and Candidiasis

Oral Symptoms: Mouth Irritation

Itching, burning, chronic irritation found at the corners of the mouth and inside the mouth and throat. The irritation in the mouth tends to be bright red with or without a white, creamy, layer. The corners of the mouth tend to crack and bleed easily. Both of these are caused by the same culprit, yeast. Chronic yeast infections tend to be a sign of immune system issues, extremely dry mouth, and/or  a collapsed bite.

Conclusion

The above six issues are just a sampling of the many symptoms that can be seen in the mouth. While you care for your dental health, you should be doing a routine thorough self examination for changes. You should know what the normal appearance of your mouth is, so that when something changes, you can have it checked early. Know your body, and find an experienced dentist who you feel comfortable with, so that all of your questions can be answered satisfactorily. Regular dental visits are usually key to early diagnosis for any of the diseases listed in this article..