Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body

(thanks to the websites of The Center for Disease Control and hiDent.)

“Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General” confirms that the signs and symptoms of life-threatening diseases appear in the mouth long before they show up in other parts of the body.

Dental hygienists and other oral health professionals routinely look for signs and symptoms of these diseases, which can be detected during regular oral health examinations.In addition, the presence of periodontal disease (gum disease), has been linked to the development of serious illnesses and conditions such as heart disease, strokes and diabetes.

Health professionals have long suspected that infections in the mouth can play havoc with the entire body. However, according to the report, recent studies investigating the relationship between periodontal disease and health problems, suggest that a primary bacteria found in the mouth when periodontal disease is present can enter the blood stream and spread throughout the body. This bacteria can infect the heart, as well as other body organs, and cause inflamed coronary arteries and blood clots, as well as changes in blood pressure and heart rate.

• Approximately 75 percent of American adults have some form of periodontal disease and the majority of them do not know they have it, because it usually is painless and silent in its early stages.

• Brushing with an ordinary toothbrush and flossing is not enough.

• About 30 percent of adults 65 years old and older no longer have any natural teeth. Having missing teeth can affect nutrition, since people without teeth often prefer soft, easily chewed foods. Denture wearers also may choose soft diets and avoid fresh fruits and vegetables.

• Periodontal (gum) disease or dental decay (cavities) most often cause tooth loss. Older Americans continue to experience dental decay on the crowns of teeth (coronal caries) and on tooth roots (because of gum recession).

• Oral and pharyngeal cancers, which are diagnosed in some 30,000 Americans each year, result in 8,000 deaths each year.

• Most older Americans take both prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Over 400 commonly used medications can be the cause of a dry mouth. Reduction of salivary flow increases the risk for oral disease since saliva contains antimicrobial components as well as minerals that help rebuild tooth enamel attacked by decay-causing bacteria. Individuals in long-term care facilities – about 5 percent of the elderly – take an average of eight drugs each day.