Maintaining your dental health is important. It is not only important for the health of your mouth, teeth and gums, but also for your overall wellness.  The status of your oral health gives dentists clues about your overall health.

In this column, we will discuss the importance of understanding the connection between oral health and overall health.

As a practicing dental specialist for over 30 years I am most satisfied when our patients are empowered to take responsibility for their total health and wellness. Good dental care is an essential element that predicts and protects your overall health.

Oral health refers to the health of the teeth, gums, supporting bone and soft tissues of the mouth, tongue and lips. Good oral health is the ability to eat, speak and socialize without active disease, discomfort or embarrassment. Poor oral health can be an indicator of neglect, ignorance or un-diagnosis.

Why is your oral health so important?

  1. You cannot be healthy without your mouth first becoming healthy.
  2. There are millions of bacteria in your mouth- on your tongue, under your gums, in your cavities and on the surfaces of your tissues.
  3. Some of these bacteria are dangerous especially when they relocate. For example, if the bacteria move from under your gums get into your lungs the infection can result in pneumonia. Also, the bad bacteria from the mouth can get into your blood stream and become associated with low birthweight babies, dementia, cancer, diabetes, heart disease and others.
  4. Some of these germs cause great strain on your immune system thereby exposing you to colds, flus, Covid-19 and other ailments.

Protect your dental health and promote wellness. Think prevention and take responsibility for own health. Preventative care refers to caring for your teeth and gums, with the main goal of preventing cancers, cavities, and gum disease. Dental hygiene practices should begin with children as soon as the very first tooth becomes visible.

A full and thorough examination from a dental professional is the first step to achieving a healthy mouth. Also, brushing your teeth and flossing regularly, at least twice daily, using a fluoride toothpaste are very important steps in your dental health and wellness journey. Avoid tobacco usage and eat a well-balanced and healthy diet.

Smoking cigarettes, cigars and pipes, as well as the smokeless devices interfere with the normal function of your healing cells. This interference makes smokers more susceptible to infections, such as periodontal disease and also impair blood flow to the gums – which adversely affect wound healing.

Smoking can also lead to discoloration of teeth, irritated gum tissue, salivary gland inflammation on the roof of your mouth, heavy tartar and plaque, periodontal bone loss, increased risk of tooth decay, sensitivity to hot and cold and much more. People who smoke have a lower success rate if they need dental implants. Tobacco products (including smokeless ones) contain at least 28 chemicals that increase risks of cancer, including oral cancer and throat cancer.

The Covid-19 Lockdown of 2020 created a worse-case scenario for oral health and overall health prevention. Many persons became more sedentary and consumed more “comfort foods”. These foods are usually high is starch, sugar and are generally un-healthy. Some persons went to bed at night without brushing or flossing. Many who wear removable partial dentures did not remove them prior to going to bed or brushing. These poor choices created the perfect storm for rampant cavities and gum infections. Since many persons were unable to see their dentist they suffered and their diseases got worse. This speaks to the importance of dental visits being considered an essential service.

Regular checkups can help to prevent dental issues from arising and allow your dentist to spot problems early on. Regular checkups are also important because several medical conditions exhibit symptoms in the mouth.

So, when should you see your dentist?

  • To discover or confirm the need for gum treatment, fillings, crowns, dental implants, dentures, braces, etc.
  • Sensitive teeth to hot or cold.
  • Puffy or bleeding gums when you brush or floss.
  • You don’t like the way your smile or teeth look.
  • You have persistent bad breath or bad taste in your mouth.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You have pain or swelling in your mouth, face or neck.
  • You have difficulty chewing or swallowing.
  • You have a family history of gum disease or tooth decay
  • You have a medical condition such as diabetes, heart disease or osteoporosis.
  • Your mouth is often dry.

Your oral health is the gateway to your overall health.

Good oral health improves your overall quality of life, self-esteem, social confidence and is an important component of general health and well-being.

 

Dr. Kendal V. O. Major is Founder and CEO of Center for Specialized Dentistry which is a comprehensive family dental practice operating in Nassau and Freeport. He is the first Bahamian Specialist in gum diseases and dental implants since 1989. He also is a certified Fast braces provider. His practice is located at 89 Collins Avenue, Nassau at (242)325-5165 or [email protected].

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