To avoid the byproducts of gum disease such as dentures, partial dentures or dental implants, practicing good, consistent oral hygiene, and keeping up with preventive dentistry appointments could help keep you out of the doctor’s office!
Normal gums appear pink and firm. If not, your mouth could be trying to tell you something about your body. And, the converse is true, as issues with your body can adversely affect your oral health, as well! The concept that your tongue manifests signs that an organ is out of balance or struggling, is not new. Ancient writings from the Shang Dynasty dating back to 1600 BC documented the practice of tongue examination to evaluate the health of the body. While this traditional Chinese Medicine practice doesn’t necessarily align with today’s scientific studies, they definitely have the right idea!
By now most people know that gum disease is linked with heart disease, but there are several other surprising conditions that can impact the health of your whole mouth, and vice versa.
There is a strong correlation between diabetes and gum disease. Patients with diabetes are vulnerable to infection, as well as gum disease. Conversely, having gum disease makes it more difficult to stabilize blood sugar levels. It is critical to ensure that blood sugar levels stay within a normal range, to practice consistent at-home dental care with an antiseptic mouthwash and keep a twice a year dental appointment schedule for optimal oral health. We may recommend more frequent visits depending on your unique dental needs.
There are several medical conditions that can contribute to dry mouth. Sjögren’s Syndrome, an autoimmune disorder where the body attacks the salivary glands, causes xerostomia, the official name for chronic dry mouth. Without adequate saliva to keep bacteria at bay, the teeth and gums are vulnerable to gingivitis and tooth decay.
That pill you take to treat your allergies or stuffy nose, and keep your pain or mood in check could be contributing to dry mouth. To prevent oral health issues such as gum disease or cavities, be sure to ask your pharmacist, family dentist or doctor if any of the medications you take could be to blame. There may be alternative medications, or you could try these recommended remedies:
- Increase water intake and reduce dehydrating caffeinated beverages
- Skip acidic and sugary foods and drinks
- Try sugar-free hard candies or gum to increase saliva production
- Check out saliva substitutes found at the drug store
- Choose an alcohol-free based mouthwash, a fluoride toothpaste & rinse
- Discontinue tobacco use
- When possible, skip decongestants and antihistamines
- Breathe through your nose, not your mouth
- Try nose cones or nasal strips designed to open air passageways and make nose breathing easier
- Get a humidifier and use it to add moisture to the air you breathe
If you develop dry mouth suddenly, or are having issues chewing, swallowing or speaking, or problems wearing your dentures, see a doctor immediately.
If you have been feeling more anxious, depressed or stressed, it can adversely affect the health of your body and your mouth! The fight or flight response triggers cortisol which takes a toll on everything!
Sometimes, being overwhelmed with life can cause people to slack on their personal care, with oral hygiene taking the brunt of it. Destructive behaviors like smoking and excess alcohol intake worsen oral health.
Subconsciously, people under stress tend to grind and clench their teeth, which can cause chipped teeth, facial pain and headaches. As your dentist, we can help prevent these symptoms caused by bruxism with a mouth guard or night guard. If you have a few chips, we can correct them too with comfortable dental restorations like tooth bonding or composite bonding.
To help de-stress try relaxation techniques, or consult a mental health professional to help cope.
Osteoporosis, which weakens bones and causes them to become brittle, can affect the jaw. As the body fails to create new bone, this can contribute to tooth loss. The bacteria from advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, can worsen this condition. Ironically, bisphosphonates used to treat osteoporosis can cause bone death of the jaw (osteonecrosis). It is important to inform your dentist if you have been prescribed this medication, particularly if you are planning dental surgery.
Anemia occurs when someone lacks adequate red blood cells or hemoglobin, which hinders your body’s oxygen supply. Check out your gums, mouth and tongue. If they are not a nice pink hue, and there is soreness, mouth or tongue swelling, and a smooth texture (glossitis), you could be anemic. Speak to your physician to determine if you have anemia and the proper treatment.
Eating disorders can take a huge toll on your oral health. In addition to extreme nutritional deficiencies, bulimia wreaks even more havoc. Aside from bad breath, tooth enamel is eroded when subjected to stomach acid from frequent vomiting, and the act of purging causes mouth, salivary gland and throat swelling. There are inpatient and twelve step programs to help overcome this disorder.
HIV or Aids
Canker sores, dry mouth, fever blisters, hairy leukoplakia, oral thrush and oral warts are all possible factors affecting those with HIV or AIDS. This is due to weakened immunity and susceptibility to infections. Discuss your condition with your physician and dentist so that they can help address your symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA, is an autoimmune disease that affects sufferers eight times more than non-sufferers. Chronic inflammation is believed to be the likely culprit. Mobility and pain in finger joints additionally makes it hard for people who have RA to perform regular oral hygiene, compounding susceptibility to oral health issues.
Despite lack of an exact causality between tooth loss and chronic kidney disease, there is a strong correlation between the two. Here again, inflammation appears to be the shared offender.
Did your bundle of joy come a bit earlier than expected? If there were no other extenuating circumstances, an early arrival and a lower than average birth weight could be due to gum disease. It is thought that undetected infections or inflammation play a role. Conversely, the hormonal fluctuations due to pregnancy can exacerbate gum disease. If you are concerned, discuss with us or your obstetrician for how to keep you and your baby safe.
While the evidence that daily oral care is good for your teeth, it is undeniable that taking care of your teeth and gums may help reduce your risk of developing health problems, as well. Take care of your body and you will be taking care of your teeth and gums, too! Pay attention and take action now to help improve your longevity!