Keeping our regularly scheduled dental appointments should no longer be an issue of convenience. If maintaining optimal oral health isn’t a primary concern, when words like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke get thrown around; taking care of our teeth might just ratchet up a few notches on our personal priority list.
But what if taking proper care of our teeth and gums, and keeping our regularly scheduled dental appointments can also help prevent other health problems now, and later on in life?
Then we’d have no problem keeping those dental appointments and taking that extra 2 minutes to run some floss through the chompers.
New research from the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2011 held this past weekend in Orlando, Florida, suggests people who visit the dentist regularly to have their teeth cleaned may lower their risk for heart attack or stroke.(1)
This isn’t just Tuesday morning fluff news to give us something to read while we waste time puttering through Facebook or teetering through Twitter.
This research suggests that getting our teeth professionally cleaned and scraped or “scaled,” just once a year, may help reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke.
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We should actually make a habit of going to see our favorite dentists once every six months; more often for smokers, diabetics, people with gum disease already (2)…and rabid coffee hounds.
Now this doesn’t mean we all get our teeth cleaned at least once per year, and ipso facto…no heart disease or stroke.
Dentists would be even more popular if that were true!
In this ABCNews article, Dr. Daniel Meyer, the American Dental Association’s (ADA) senior vice president of science and professional affairs, agreed that it is too early to make that assumption, but stressed,
“Regular dental visits are important to diagnose and treat dental disease. Some conditions in the mouth may indicate disease elsewhere in the body, so by maintaining a schedule of regular dental visits, the dentist can certainly refer patients to physicians or other health care providers for evaluation for a potential systemic disease.”(3)
How gum disease may be linked to heart disease is still unclear, but continuing research can only help us learn more.
Oral Systemic Dentistry
Although some holes can be poked in the findings of the Taiwan-based research, particularly the type of patients examined and other supporting risk factors such as smoking, exercise habits, and genetics; holes can be poked in any research – and that’s what science is all about.
The indisputable facts remain, going to the dentist is good for us…beyond our teeth and gums!
Our oral health has a direct impact on our overall health.
It has been reported that 3 out of every 4 Americans have signs of mild periodontal disease or gingivitis, and almost 30% show signs of the more severe disease, chronic periodontitis.(4)
We now have a building knowledgebase of research that shows us, the health of our teeth and gums may have a significant effect on the overall health of our body.
This recent scientific literature (and more) suggests a strong relationship between oral disease and other systemic diseases and medical conditions.
Oral systemic dentistry is a growing area of study that is only gaining more popularity with dental health professionals.
The ability to share patient health information between primary care physicians and dentists, is allowing that beneficial communication to make a difference in diagnosis, patient care, and treatments available.
According to http://www.oralsystemicconnection.com/, the most significant areas identified to-date to have a suspected oral systemic connection are:
Orthopedic Implant Failure
In all of the above mentioned medical conditions, oral bacteria and periodontal disease are suspected contributing factors.
How significant remains to be seen as we continue to learn more.
We need to educate ourselves, ask questions at the doctor or dentist office, and SHARE THE INFO!
If we can share a stupid (albeit hysterical) FWD email, political rant, or video link of this week’s cute puppy, we should certainly be willing to share cutting-edge beneficial health care information.