Your mouth is part of your body, too!

Awareness of health has certainly come a long way in the last few decades. Unfortunately, many people still do not understand the importance of good oral health. Patients often tell me that they can't worry about their teeth when they have so many other health problems. This is kind of like trying to bail out a sinking boat without plugging up the leaks!

The mouth is the gatekeeper of our bodies. Our entire well-being begins with not only what we put into our mouths for food, but also how well we take care of it. Because gums and bone attachment to teeth can become infected, inflamed, and plaque-ridden, oral health has been linked to many other systemic issues. It has been shown that periodontal (gum) disease can make it difficult for diabetics to control their sugar, make you seven times more likely to have low birth-weight or pre-term babies, increase the chance of heart disease and stroke, and cause or worsen infections in the lungs.

If your gums regularly bleed when you brush your teeth or floss, or you have a mouth odor that doesn't seem to go away with brushing, you likely have gum disease. This is typical in patients who either lack proper home care or who haven't had a professional cleaning in a few years. What we see is hardened plaque, known as calculus, at or slightly below the gumline. This causes a low-grade, but constant source of inflammation. This inflammation is your body's response to something foreign. The damage is usually painless at first, which is why so many people ignore the reversible stage of gingivitis until it advances to the irreversible stage of periodontitis.

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Proper routine home care of your teeth and gums, supplemented with professional cleaning and examination will help guard against future health problems.

Find more health and dental info at the American Dental Association, www.ada.org.

Chrys is a dentist at Westlake Dental Associates.

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Volume 2, Issue 18, Posted 10:41 AM, 09.02.2010