Your mouth is an early warning system

1st October 2013

It’s not just your teeth we are looking at. A visit to your Dentist could save your life!

Your mouth health is essential to your overall health and wellbeing. The early identification of oral disease may contribute to the early diagnosis and treatment for a number of more serious diseases.

A healthy mouth means more than healthy teeth and gums but your throat, the tongue, the lips, the salivary glands, the chewing muscles and the jaw. A thorough oral examination can detect signs of nutritional deficiencies as well as a number of systemic diseases, including infections, immune disorders, injuries and some cancers.

More and more studies indicate that the health of the teeth and gums can affect the health of the whole body, and inflamed gums (periodontitis) can especially negatively affect the health of the whole body. The chronic inflammation weakens the immune system, and is an increased risk of diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, lung diseases, Alzheimer’s disease HIV, and complications during pregnancy. Therefore, treating inflammation may not only help manage gum diseases but may also help your return to health quicker.

Gum disease is caused by poor oral hygiene or improper brushing technique itself is a bacterial plaque that eventually attacks the gums. The onset of infection often remains undetected because it causes no pain. The trouble usually begins with bleeding gums, swelling of the gums and bad breath. In extreme cases, it will form gum pockets, bone shrinkage and loss of the tooth.

Gum disease is linked to:
  • Heart Disease: Recent studies point to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke in people with gum infections; the risk increases with the severity of the oral infection.
  • Diabetes: Diabetes is the fifth leading cause of death in the UK. The association between diabetes and gum disease is well documented. As diabetic patients have a compromised ability to respond to infections, they are at greater risk for gum disease. Gum disease also makes it more difficult for diabetics to stabilize their blood glucose levels. For these reasons, good daily oral hygiene and early detection of gum disease are essential for the diabetic patient.
  • HIV/AIDS: Mouth lesions and other oral conditions may be the first sign of HIV infection.
  • Pregnancy: Gum disease has been linked to premature births and under-weight babies. Researchers estimate that as many as 18 percent of the premature low-weight infants born in the United States each year may be attributed to oral disease. Also, due to hormonal changes during pregnancy the gums react differently to the bacteria found in plaque, increasing susceptibility to gum inflammation and disease during pregnancy.
  • Osteoporosis: Signs of osteoporosis, can also be detected through oral examinations and dental x-rays.
Saliva as a diagnostic tool

New diagnostic tests using saliva—are available to detect drug abuse, hormonal changes, and specific diseases; and more are being developed.

Saliva, like blood, can be used to detect and measure many compounds in the body. Saliva collection has the advantage of being non-invasive. Saliva can be used to detect antibodies against viruses such as HIV and hepatitis, as well as antibodies against bacteria like Helicobacter pylori, which causes stomach ulcers. It could potentially replace blood testing for diagnosis and monitoring of diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and many infectious diseases.

A Dental check-up may be especially important if:
  • Your gums bleed when you brush or floss.
  • Have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or osteoporosis.
  • Are thinking of becoming pregnant.
  • You have a family member with gum disease. Research suggests that the bacteria that cause gum disease can pass through saliva. This means the common contact of saliva in families puts children and couples at risk for contracting the gum disease of another family member.
  • You have an ulcer or irritation in your mouth that does not get better within two weeks.

A healthy mouth allow us to speak and smile; sigh and kiss; smell, taste, touch, chew and swallow; and convey our feelings and emotions through facial expressions. Protect it and visit your dentist regularly.

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