How Dentists Improve Oral and Overall Health

You probably know not to skip the recommended bi-annual visits to your dentist. But did you also know those scheduled appointments benefit your overall health as well as your oral health as they could lead to early detection of oral cancer, build your immune system, or even provide answers to the puzzling cause of your morning headaches?

These are just some of the ways your dentist maintains your overall health. Spend the next few minutes reading this article to find out just how much those visits are saving your life.

1. Cancer Screening

The American Cancer Society estimates that around 1,762,450 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2019, which is a little more than one in every three people, making it the second leading cause of death after high blood pressure.

Because of such astronomical figures, Drs. Barr and Diachenko offer routine cancer screenings and check for the presence of oral cancer using VELscope® technology, a safe blue light that detects tissue abnormalities in their earliest stages.

Dentists also look for bone-specific proteins in your saliva that can be early telltale signs of osteoporosis and examine sputum biomarkers to identify carcinomas in the breasts, lungs, or pancreas.

Knowing about a tumor before symptoms start showing gives you an 80% chance of survival, which improves treatment outcomes and allows the one in every three people with cancer to go back home to their families.

2. Diagnose Unexplained Morning Headaches and Jaw Pain

Do you frequently have morning headaches or wake up with a swollen jaw? Before you head over to WebMD and type in your symptoms, the answer could be right under your nose — literally.

Your morning headaches could be the result of you grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw at night. A simple appliance, such as a night guard, offers a short-term solution and keeps you from seriously damaging your teeth. Your dentist needs to take great care in making sure you have a proper fit or you’ll aggravate your mouth further, causing more pain in your jaw joint.

It’s also important to examine the cause of the clenching and grinding. That way, you won’t just be treating a symptom but also the underlying cause before it becomes an issue for the entire body.

Most people who grind their teeth suffer from high stress levels. But your dentist is in a better position to recommend any further treatments, exercises, or medications you may need.

3. Identify Systemic Diseases Early

The mouth-body connection is a truly surprising phenomenon, one which researchers, scientists, and dentists alike have been trying to pin down for decades.

All we know so far is that the mouth has over 6 million bacteria, many of which are quite harmless. But if you practice bad oral health care, like infrequent brushing and flossing or skipping dental checkups, the good germs in the mouth build up and lead to gum disease and tooth decay, compromising the entry point to your digestive and respiratory tracts.

Think of it as damaging the windshield of your car. Let’s assume the inside of the vehicle is your body and you’re driving through a thunderstorm. Soggy seats, anyone? Now imagine that’s your body.

The bacteria in your mouth will enter the bloodstream and spread to other parts of the body. And if research from the Academy of General Dentistry is to be believed, the oral germs and inflammation that comes with severe periodontitis contribute to systemic diseases, including:

  • Diabetes: Mouth lesions and gum disease are often early warning signs of diabetes. Alternatively, those with diabetes are prone to bad breath and tooth loss, proving the mouth-body connection.
  • Pneumonia: When certain mouth bacteria are pulled from the bloodstream into the lungs, it can cause respiratory diseases like pneumonia.
  • Cardiovascular Diseases: Heart problems, such as endocarditis, occur when harmful bacteria from other parts of the body (say, the mouth) attach to certain areas of the heart.
  • High Blood Sugar Levels: People with gum disease find it harder to control their blood sugar levels. Why? Severe periodontitis causes high blood sugar, and (not) coincidentally, gum disease is a symptom of elevated glucose levels.

4. Build up the Immune System

Now that you know about the link between oral health and systemic disease, this next point should go without saying (but we’ll say it anyway). Taking better care of your mouth will give you a stronger immune system.

For one thing, having good oral hygiene gives your body’s natural defense system a better chance of controlling the bacteria in your mouth. This means the vicious cycle of saliva germs entering your bloodstream and causing or aggravating diseases won’t occur.

5. Reduce Risk of Preterm Labor

Quick: what should you do while pregnant? Don’t drink alcohol, eat shrimp, or get in a hot tub are probably your first few guesses. What few people will mention is observing proper oral hygiene.

Recent research shows that periodontal bacteria can affect the outcome of pregnancy. Research has shown a link between gum diseases and delivering too early or having lower birth weight babies. And given how compromised your immunity already is and the 50% chance of adults over 30 developing periodontal diseases, taking proper care of your teeth and gums should be a top priority.

Seek professional care from Dr. Barr or Dr. Diachenko if you notice any swelling or inflammation of the gums. You’ll receive a complete evaluation, and if you have any symptoms of gum disease, you’ll have access to advanced periodontal therapy to heal and restore your oral health.

To schedule a consultation with the Barr and Diachenko team, call our office or fill out this request form. If you’re a new patient, you can save time at check-in by completing this New Patient form online after you’ve booked your appointment.