According to the American Dental Association, two-thirds of Americans seek care from a dentist on a regular basis. Many remaining individuals and families face challenges accessing dental care because they prioritize other health care, and crises and financial barriers can put dental care on hold.
Quality dental care is important to one’s overall health. A dentist can frequently tell if a person has a serious medical condition by examining their mouth. Moreover, recent research has found a number of links between oral health and overall health.
Doctors have known for years that type 2 diabetics have an increased incidence of gum disease.
Researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health followed 9,296 nondiabetic participants, measuring their level of periodontic bacteria over the course of 20 years.
“We found that people who had higher levels of periodontal disease had a twofold risk of developing type two diabetes over that time period compared to people with low levels or no gum disease,” said Ryan Demmer, PhD, associate researcher at the department of epidemiology at the Mailman School and the lead author.
Heart disease may be linked to bad bacteria from an infected mouth where plaque lodges itself inside blood vessels. Scientists have looked at blood vessels and have found oral plaque contributing to blocked arteries.
Pregnancy, because of fluctuating hormone levels, can also trigger gum infections but many pregnant woman put their oral care aside since their minds are on other issues.
Frank A. Scannapieco, DMD, PHD, Professor and Chair, Department of Oral Biology at the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine suggests that periodontal disease has been linked to an increased risk of respiratory diseases, such as COPD and pneumonia.
Several lines of evidence indicate that people with poor oral health or dentures that have not been taken care of can lead to bacteria that can enter the lungs. Organisms living in dental plaque are shed into saliva; small droplets can then be aspirated into the lungs.
In periodontal disease, oral inflammation due to chronic infection of the tissue around the teeth results in destruction of oral bone and periodontal ligament and contributes to osteoporosis.
Bridging the Dental Gap executive director Marcia Olson says preventing and promptly taking care of dental issues can stop serious health conditions.
“We are here to assist children and adults in the area who are in need and do not have access to preventative dental care,” Olson said. “We are seeing an increase in emergency cases and people who are experiencing severe health problems related to poor oral health.”
It is important for children and adults to brush and floss their teeth twice a day to remove plaque and keep their mouths healthy. The American Dental Association recommends using fluoride toothpaste and using a new toothbrush every three months. Those with dentures should always remove while sleeping and have them realigned for a good fit.
Regular visits to the dentist will not only ensure a healthy smile but also help to avoid long-lasting health problems.
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