Current dental health services primarily focus on acute treatment and repairs of diseases of the teeth and gums, generally fillings and crowns. The repairs often have little to do with arresting or treating the underlying dental disease. But they do, of course, alleviate the pain that we’ve all had from a cavity or gum disease. However, dental health services are much more than that. In fact, good dental health is related to good overall health.
There is mounting evidence from both dental and medical studies demonstrating that oral microbial pathogens, such as bacteria, have been found in defective cardiac lesions, aortic aneurysms, carotid artery plaques and in the brain tissue of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, for example. The theory is that these microscopic pathogens raise the level of inflammation in the body as measured by C-reactive protein (CRP) and also that these pathogens stick to the endothelium (or the lining of the small blood vessels).
Dentists traditionally have not been involved in the management of chronic diseases of their patients, such as diabetes, coronary artery disease and asthma, generally leaving their management to the patient’s primary care providers. The focus has also been on treatment of dental disease rather than prevention, though that is rapidly changing within the dental community. It’s important for dental and medical healthcare providers to instill the importance of the patient’s role in managing their chronic illnesses as well as their health and how they can reduce risk factors so that they can remain as healthy as possible.
There are obstacles, of course. Dental services can be very expensive and many patients don’t have dental insurance. Those that do may not have plans that cover regular dental hygiene in chronic disease management. Many patients dislike going to the dentist because they fear the pain if they need repairs. They also may not go because if their teeth and gums aren’t hurting them, they might think that they have no need for preventive services. Finally, patients may not be engaged in the importance of dental health and how it relates to their overall health and thus do not regularly brush or floss their teeth.
Dental health may not be a priority for many patients, but it should. Most patients are not aware that it is the bacteria, and not soft teeth, that cause oral disease. These bacteria are passed from parents and from kissing those with oral pathogens. A sugary diet feeds the pathogens, letting them dominate your mouth. Brushing and flossing certainly lowers their presence, as does limiting your intake of sugar. So take care of yourselves and get preventive help from your primary health provider and/or your dentist.
Source: Idaho Press