Many of us go for our yearly checkups to our physicians. The physician will prod and poke around. Listen to your heart and lungs, check your blood pressure and do an electrocardiogram. They will look in your ears and then tell you to open wide as they shine a light into your mouth. The physician is looking way back into your throat and at your tonsils but they fail to look down at your dental checkup.
Do they ever ask you who your dentist is or when was your last dental examination? Dentistry is the only field that is completely separate from medicine. There are optometrists whose medical counterpart is the ophthalmologist. Similarly there are psychologists or psychiatrists, podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons. The dentist has been entrusted with handling anything related to the mouth.
Unfortunately, the mouth contains significant numbers of bacteria, which can be introduced into blood stream with just normal eating and brushing. The same bacteria that can cause gum disease have been isolated from “clogged arteries” in patients with cardiovascular disease.
A number of studies have shown that people with periodontitis are more likely to develop cardiovascular disease than individuals without periodontal infection. Another study suggests that the risk of fatal heart disease doubles for persons with severe periodontal disease. There is also a higher incidence of having a stroke if there is untreated gum disease.
Patients with diabetes are also prone to more advanced bone loss around their teeth. Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods of time when the body functions with a high blood sugar. This puts diabetics at increased risk for diabetic complications. Thus, the gum treatments will also have an improvement on their diabetic condition.
More recently, there has been a focus on pre-term low birth weight babies. Mothers of pre-term low-weight newborns were found to have significantly more severe periodontal disease than did mothers of full-term, normal weight babies. Women who are considering have children should consult a dentist for a periodontal evaluation. A common dental complication of pregnancy is bleeding and sore gums. Consider having your teeth cleaned and reviewing brushing and flossing with the dentist or their staff.
Other systemic diseases such as respiratory disease and osteoporosis may be related to periodontal disease. An untreated root canal infection can be the source of a brain abscess.
A periodontal checkup is an important part of keeping you healthy. A periodontist is a dentist who has advanced training in the treatment of gum disease. Early warning signs of gum disease include swollen, inflamed gums, receding gum, loose teeth, change in your bite and shifting teeth. Periodontal disease is the main reason for tooth loss in adults, no cavities. The periodontist can help you keep your teeth for a lifetime.
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