While you expect Clackamas dentist Dr. Hickade to spot the signs of tooth decay and gum disease, did you know your favorite doctor of the dental drill can also spot problems that extend beyond the health of your pearly whites?
To many within the dental community, the time has come to start integrating oral and general health care, say researchers at the University of North Carolina’s Center for Oral and Systemic Diseases. Because the oral cavity acts as a mirror to the rest of the body, dentists are often the first health care practitioners to spot systemic problems during routine dental exams, claim researchers. In other words, the state of your smile may help to shine a light on your overall health – occasionally even before other symptoms begin to manifest.
While your teeth can tell the tale of a number of related health conditions, they can provide valuable clues about these three chronic, long-term illnesses:
Dr. Hickade isn’t just worried about improving the whiteness of your teeth. A 2014 study found that nearly 66 percent of dentists said they’d refer a patient with periodontitis – a severe form of gum disease – for a diabetes evaluation. Why you may ask? Not only is diabetes a serious health threat, the disease often goes undiagnosed, claim researchers. Considering that millions of Americans suffer from undiagnosed diabetes, you shouldn’t take a recommendation to be tested lightly just becomes it comes from a health practitioner other than your physician.
So what’s the link between diabetes and your oral health? High blood sugar may cause as much damage to your oral health as the sugar found in a bottle of soda. That’s because diabetes can cause dry mouth, a symptom that increases the risk of plaque build-up, making individuals suffering from uncontrolled diabetes at higher risk of developing oral problems.
And in case you’re wondering, gum abscesses and bad breath rank as two of the most common signs of gum disease.
Your teeth may actually give a good indication of what’s going on with your heart. A study from 2007 found that individuals suffering from periodontal disease have a significantly higher risk of developing heart disease when compared to those with good oral health. Among individuals suffering from both conditions, their heart disease was improved dramatically after they received treatment for periodontal disease.
The common link between between these two diseases is once again inflammation. When Dr. Hikade looks at your mouth and sees chronic inflammation it’s a clear sign of systemic stress.
Can tooth loss really lead to memory loss? A recent study published in the U.K. found that individuals suffering from a loss of permanent teeth had a higher rate of suffering mental decline. A 2012 study found that seniors with poor oral hygiene regimens were 76 percent more likely to develop dementia. Researchers are just starting to delve into this field of study, so a link between the two conditions isn’t entirely clear. However, a small 2013 study found a specific type of bacteria linked with gum disease in the brains of individuals suffering from dementia, suggesting that the bacteria may play a role in creating the inflammation associated with mental decline.