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Kara Vavrosky, RDH is an Editorial Director at Modern Hygienist, a part of the Modern Dental Network. She is best known for running the popular Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH, and is the founder of DentalHygieneAnswers.com, a Q&A site for dental hygienists. Kara also serves on multiple advisory boards for dental-related companies and is a 2015-2016 ADHA Governance of Tomorrow Steering Committee member. You can learn more about Kara at KaraRDH.com.
A good oral hygiene routine can prevent gum disease and contribute to overall well-being.
Speak to anyone regarding the importance of a healthy body, and practically everyone will tell you that it is beyond important. However, many individuals still either refuse to heed the medical advice of trained professionals or simply do not take their advice as seriously as it should be.
We’ve all heard of times when an experienced physician told a patient to eat healthier or maintain a more active lifestyle to lower the chances of diabetes or cardiovascular diseases, often suggesting to implement lifestyle choices that can normalize blood sugar levels or cholesterol, and ultimately reduce the risk of a heart attack in the future.
But many of these individuals choose to ignore this precious advice until their first heart attack has struck. Of course, as a result, there is not only permanent tissue damage, but also hefty medical bills to pay for along with quite a bit of emotional distress. Therefore, it seems as though listening to that physician’s advice would not only have been a healthier alternative, but also a cheaper one.
This idea that prevention is better than treatment not only applies to the heart, but also applies quite heavily to our mouths. And the fact that a well-cared-for mouth can not only prevent gum disease, but also contribute to a healthier body overall, is something to definitely take note of.
When we think about the onset of disease, we naturally consider treatment options or lifestyle choices that can help reverse the negative ailment. For example, an individual who has hypertension can opt to maintain a more active and healthier lifestyle, or use medication in hopes of bringing his or her blood pressure back to normal. And though this option may work for such ailments, treatment may not work for every part of your body. While lifestyle changes and medication can help reverse the effects of heart disease, the damage to bone and tissues in your mouth from periodontitis (a severe form of gum disease) cannot be undone-only maintained. This is due to the widespread and rather destructive impact that the disease has on the bones and tissues holding in one’s teeth; the bone and the gums that hold your teeth in place simply cannot grow back. And once the damage is done, it is there to stay. Therefore, preventing oral disease is crucial.
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But the damage associated with oral disease isn’t simply secluded to the mouth; rather, the adverse effects of having oral inflammation can very well negatively affect the rest of your body, particularly increasing the risk of heart diseases and various cancers of the lung, pancreas, and mouth and throat. In addition, it has been found that individuals suffering from severe oral diseases also display a lower than normal testosterone level, have trouble maintaining blood sugar levels in diabetes, and can increase the risk of having a preterm or low birth weight baby. And needless to say, as further research is being conducted, more and more linked diseases are being discovered, showing just how crucial oral health is in maintaining a healthy body. In short, taking care of your oral hygiene doesn’t just mean that you’re protecting the longevity of your teeth, but also actively taking care of practically all of your other vital bodily functions.
So the question is: When should you begin taking care of your mouth? Though the answer is quite obvious, people still choose to only focus on their oral hygiene once they experience pain. But at this point treatment options can be expensive and take an unseemly amount of time. Gum disease is also a huge problem when it comes to oral health, and the pain that is associated with it only occurs when the condition is more than severe, if pain occurs at all. In these cases, you will most likely be required to visit your dental hygienist every three to four months after initial nonsurgical periodontal therapy to kill bacteria and prevent new bacterial growths that could otherwise continue to damage your gums, teeth and bones. Also, if the condition is left untreated for an extended period of time, then you are allowing your body to be at a greater risk for stroke, heart attack, diabetes and much more. Needless to say, this situation could have been avoided.
Preventative measures such as visiting your dentist and dental hygienist for preventive treatment, exams and X-rays to find potential risks before they escalate to a full-fledged problems is therefore crucial. Proper maintenance of your oral health, including brushing your teeth twice per day for two minutes and cleaning in between your teeth once per day, is also quintessential in protecting and maintaining your teeth and gums. And whether you feel it or not, by taking care of your teeth you’re helping your body be protected from other menacing diseases.
In short, your entire body is affected by how well (or poorly) you treat parts of your body, and research has shown that the condition of your mouth has a widespread effect on the rest of your body’s functions. Focusing on prevention rather than restoration or treatment is great in terms of saving you money and time, but also ensuring overall well-being and longevity. And at the end of the day, remember one thing: Your oral health is important, so treat it as such.