According to the Mayo Clinic, professionals consider oral health "a window to your overall health." Any dental hygiene issues may be indicators of deeper underlying overall health conditions or precursors to further problems down the road. The mouth is the entry point to both the digestive and respiratory tracts.
Severe gum disease (also known as periodontitis), along with the bacteria and inflammation associated with it, may also be correlated to some systemic conditions. Conversely, some diseases (like diabetes and HIV/AIDS) may lower the body’s overall resistance to infection. In turn, dental health problems may be more severe and easier to contract.
Multiple studies have shown an especially strong correlation between periodontal disease and heart conditions, such as coronary heart disease and myocardial infarction. Periodontal microorganisms are also associated with other heart conditions, like dyslipidemia, atherosclerosis, and hypertension. Research has also confirmed an association between periodontal disease and ischemic stroke, with regular dental care acting to reduce a patient’s stroke risk.
Additionally, periodontal disease and diabetes exist bidirectionally — meaning that treating one condition can also address the other. This only seems natural when considering that diabetes can harm the eyes, heart, kidneys, nerves, and other systems in the body. Periodontitis can also affect one’s blood sugar levels. Thus, diabetic patients should pay extra attention to their dental health.
Total oral dentistry differs from regular dentistry in that it focuses on the patient as a whole. Whereas a conventional dentist is likely to treat conditions, a total oral dentist will take the time to look for any underlying, hidden signs of larger health conditions. Total oral dentistry centers on patient education and empowerment, allowing patients to become more active participants in their care.
Many patients make the honest mistake of seeking out dental care only when they believe there is something to address. In reality, proper dental care should be a vital part of anybody’s overall preventive health plans. Without regular checkups from a total oral dentist, many oral health conditions can go unnoticed until it is too late. This can lead to further oral health issues and other systemic diseases later on.
Total oral dentists look at the whole patient, not just their isolated conditions. As a result, total oral dentistry tends to give patients a more involved role in their care. For this relationship to be successful, patients should take careful consideration in picking a doctor they feel comfortable maintaining an open and honest line of communication.
Total oral dentistry looks at not just at a patient’s isolated conditions, but also their overall health. Intake forms for total oral dentistry will typically ask patients for more information to allow the team to best understand the patient’s unique and individual needs. As a result, treatment is able to move beyond a one-size-fits-all method and become more tailor-made for an individual’s needs.
Since total oral dentistry is more involved than conventional dentistry, patients should also expect their initial visits to take about two hours. During this time, the patient will become acquainted with each team member, including the patient coordinator, hygienist, and dentist.
Poor dental health may increase bacteria levels so much that the patient experiences oral infections. Additionally, some medications may reduce saliva flow, reducing patients’ ability to wash away food and neutralize acids produced by bacteria in the mouth. Patients become more vulnerable to disease-causing microbes as a result.
There is a strong correlation between periodontal disease and heart disease. However, experts do not yet understand if this relationship is actually causal. Still, the American Academy of Periodontology and the American Heart Association agree that the periodontal disease and heart disease are related regardless of any other common risk factors they may share.
If left untreated, diabetes may cause dry mouth and thrush, a fungal infection that leads to painful white patches in the mouth. Additionally, diabetes can increase the risk of periodontal disease. Altogether, these factors mean that diabetic patients must take extra precautions with their dental health as a reflection of their overall health.
There are many preventive measures you can take to maintain good oral health. The easiest is to brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste. You may also want to drink fluoridated water as well. Flossing daily between the teeth helps remove dental plaque, and quitting tobacco products can improve oral health dramatically. Remember to see a dentist regularly, and keep track of any concerns you want to address.
There are several different risk factors for periodontitis. Some are associated with lifestyle choices, such as tobacco use, poor nutrition, and excessive alcohol use. Others (such as age, genetics, stress, and other systemic conditions) are more out of your control. We can help determine your unique risk profile and the best method of treatment for you.