People learn early on that brushing and flossing can prevent cavities.
Nevertheless, many people don’t realize that dental health is critical to maintaining overall health, especially for those with certain medical conditions. Together, dentists and periodontists can help you keep your oral health in good condition to prevent future problems. If you have any questions, you can contact our periodontist office.
In recent years, health care has become increasingly focused on improving whole-person health. Poor oral health can exacerbate other conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, just as mental illness has been shown to increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease. In addition to improving overall health, routine preventive dental care can also reduce health care costs. According to a recent study by Cigna, those who receive consistent preventive dental care can reduce their total medical costs by 4.4% a year. Diabetes patients experienced even greater savings-an average of 12.25% per year.
These conditions have been linked to oral health, so patients with these conditions should visit their dentist regularly to receive the dental treatment they need.
A patient with kidney disease may be more susceptible to infections caused by severe gum disease because their immune system is weakened. Cavities and gum disease result in pain, difficulty eating, bad breath, and chronic inflammation, which can contribute to other medical conditions, such as heart disease. Furthermore, dental infections can delay a kidney transplant, making good oral hygiene essential.
Any organ transplant requires dental management. Doctors will ensure that patients do not have untreated infections or dental issues that could further complicate the procedure. After receiving anti-rejection medications, patients may have difficulty fighting bacteria and preventing infection.
Historically, oral health and rheumatoid arthritis have been connected; Hippocrates recommended pulling teeth to treat arthritis. Researchers believe rheumatoid arthritis may be triggered by an infection that causes inflammation in dental disease. Pain and stiffness can also cause jaw pain and make it difficult for people with arthritis to brush and floss.
Huntington’s disease is characterized by the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain, which affects the function of the hands and arms. Patients with the disease have significantly more decayed teeth than those without. Additionally, grinding and clenching their teeth can lead to headaches, tooth fractures, and TMJ disorders.
Heart Disease and Stroke
Studies show that people with poor oral health are more likely to suffer from heart disease and stroke. Researchers believe that periodontitis and gingivitis bacteria can travel through the bloodstream and cause inflammation and damage to blood vessels in the heart and brain. Fatty plaques can block a blood vessel that leads to the heart, resulting in a heart attack. Strokes are caused when they cut off blood flow to the brain.
Sjogren’s syndrome is an autoimmune disorder that causes dry eyes and mouth. A number of patients develop the condition as a complication of another autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus. People with Sjogren’s syndrome may find it difficult to chew certain foods, and brushing may be painful. Thrush can also develop as a result of the condition.
When diabetes is not well controlled, it may result in periodontal disease, an infection of the gums and bone supporting the teeth, which can result in tooth pain, bad breath, and tooth loss. Additionally, diabetes increases the level of sugar in saliva, which leads to thrush, a fungal infection that causes painful white patches in the mouth.
Head and Neck Cancer Radiation
For patients undergoing radiation treatment for head and neck cancer, dental treatment is also important. Radiation can cause mouth ulcers, damaged salivary glands, and dry mouth. Many patients suffer from loss of taste, while others experience jaw stiffness and loss of tissue and bone.
Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, weakens muscles and affects physical function, making brushing and flossing difficult. Additionally, saliva can cause plaque and bacteria to build up in the mouth, causing cavities, gum disease, and pneumonia.
Opioid Misuse and Addiction
Addiction to opioids has been shown to be more prevalent in adolescents and young adults. In particular, wisdom tooth extractions can lead to first-time exposure.
Hormonal changes during pregnancy can cause gum inflammation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that one in four women of childbearing age also has untreated cavities, and children whose mothers have high levels of untreated cavities are more than three times more likely to have cavities as well.
Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system, can cause stiffness in the jaw muscles, making it difficult to chew and swallow. Parkinson’s patients are also more likely to have bacteria associated with severe gum disease, which can enter the bloodstream.
Lupus patients are more likely to suffer from severe gum disease, as well as chronic ulcers and lesions on the lips, tongue, and mouth. The disease also attacks the salivary glands, so some of the medications used to treat it may cause dry mouth.
Regular dental care can often mitigate many of the oral side effects of these medical conditions, so patients should brush and floss daily, keep their dentist or periodontist informed of their health status, and schedule regular checkups.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact our periodontist office.