You have made the decision to seek dental treatment. Upon arriving at the dental office, you are surprised that the dentist or dental hygienist starts to ask a myriad of medical questions in reference to your overall health! Yes, it is dental treatment that you are seeking but your dental health is very much a part of your overall health and this article will give you insight in that regard! Also, the next time you are at your medical doctor being evaluated for heart disease, don’t be surprised if the doctor asks you to stick out your tongue and “Say ‘ah’”!! Dental health and overall health are linked together.

Evidence shows a link between chronic (long standing) gum disease and a lot of serious medical problems. Dental problems can affect medical problems. Some of these diseases include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and respiratory disease.

Some medical conditions can have an affect on one’s dental health. Many systemic conditions make a person at risk to periodontal disease. Some of these include diabetes, human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV), osteoporosis, menopause, smoking, stress and side effects of medications.

As mentioned, more and more evidence shows a link between long standing infection of the gums and a lot of other diseases. One way to assess a person’s overall health is to check their dental health. It is usually a good indicator of overall health!

Researchers believe that the bacteria shed by long standing oral infections can spread through the blood stream and contribute to disease in the heart and other parts of the body. Other research shows that chronic gum infections may trigger a chain of chemical events that causes inflammation and swelling throughout the body. When plaque lining the arteries becomes inflamed blood clots can form, leading to heart attack or stroke.

People who have periodontal disease (advanced gum disease) are 2 times more likely to suffer from coronary artery disease when compared to those who don’t have it. Chronic gum disease can also worsen existing heart conditions.

This is not the only medical condition that can be affected by periodontal disease. Researchers have also found that periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people with diabetes to control their blood sugar. The reverse is also true. Uncontrolled diabetes also affects the body’s ability to resist periodontal disease! Gingival (gum) tissue tends to over react to plaque germs when diabetes is uncontrolled.

Patients who smoke are at a much greater risk for the development of periodontal disease than non smokers. Other dental health risks associated with smoking will be discussed in a future article.

Hormonal imbalances in females also play a significant role in the body’s response to plaque germs. There, if a woman is pregnant, breast-feeing, taking oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, in menopause or on her monthly cycle, the gum tissue may once again over-react to the plaque and the body’s ability to resist infection may be compromised.

Certain medications may alter the gum tissue and increase a person’s risk for periodontitis. Some of these medications include anti-depressants, sedatives, tranquilizers, narcotics, antihistamines, bronchodilators and some analgesics. Some of these medications affect the saliva flow putting the patient at risk for cavities as well as increasing plaque accumulations.

Patients with HIV infection are considered to be at risk for periodontal disease. There is also growing evidence that shows a relationship between osteoporosis and periodontal disease. High levels of stress have been known to have a negative effect on overall health.

This is just a quick overview of how other parts of the body can affect one’s dental health. Your dental healthy can affect your overall health.

Periodontal disease is a risk factor for certain internal conditions such as cardiovascular disease and preterm low-birth-weight babies. Periodontitis has also been linked to respiratory infections.

So the next time your dental team reviews your medical history you will know why! Same goes for the medical team asking about your dental health. It is all part of one big package and total health from head to toes is our goal.

See you at your next wellness dental appointment. Our goal is not only to help you to become healthy but to help you stay healthy.