Never have time for that dental check-up? Does the thought of a visit to the dentist fill you with panic?
Your mouth is the window of your general state of health. Certain medical conditions can be detected by a Complete Check-up of your Oral Health, even before symptoms appear in other parts of your body. Furthermore, mouth ulcers and sores can also be warning signs of lack of certain vitamins, minerals or other nutritional deficiencies.
The association between oral microbial infections such periodontal disease and other systemic disorders is far from a new concept: it was first referred to in 7th century BC by the Syrians. Through the years since then, we have accumulated a great deal of evidence which indeed strongly confirms the association between oral health and a wide range of illnesses:
1. Gum disease
Your gums should not bleed when you brush your teeth or use dental floss. Bleeding suggests that you could be suffering from gum disease.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease and is caused by films of bacteria called plaque that accumulate between the teeth and along the gum line. If the plaque is allowed to build up, it can eventually destroy the tissue and bones in your mouth, causing spaces between your teeth which can lead to infection. By this time, the gum disease will have developed into Periodontitis which often becomes chronic.
2. Tooth loss
Both tooth decay and gum disease can cause tooth loss.
3. Bad breath (halitosis)
It is estimated that bad breath affects up to 65% of the population. Halitosis can be a symptom of a wide range of illnesses but the main cause is poor oral hygiene.
4. Complications during pregnancy
Gingivitis affects between 60–70% of pregnant women. When pregnant women experience serious dental problems, their offspring are more likely to suffer from tooth decay. Furthermore, poor maternal oral health is associated with premature babies and low birth weight.
Dentists have long known that diabetes is a risk factor for periodontitis, however, several studies are now suggesting that the risk could be bidirectional, stating that severe oral health problems can cause insulin resistance and diabetes. Some studies also indicate that patients who suffer from these conditions could gain better control over their diabetes by getting their periodontitis correctly treated.
6. Stomach ulcers
In people who suffer from periodontitis, the plaque that forms in the spaces under the gums can become home to Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria that is responsible for stomach ulcers. This bacteria can be transmitted orally and major epidemiological studies have found a positive association between periodontitis and a positive test for the bacterium which is also a risk factor for stomach cancer.
Gum disease and dental problems are also associated with human papillomavirus (HPV) which causes nearly 80% of oral cancer cases. Some studies have suggested that periodontitis can promote the growth of cancer cells in the mouth.