First and foremost is to make sure you mouth is heathy so that you can avoid toothaches and infections as well as tooth loss. But in addition, a heathy mouth is connected to your overall health.
Why Oral Health Matters
Numerous recent scientific studies indicate associations between oral health and a variety of general health conditions — including diabetes and heart disease. In response, the World Health Organization has integrated oral health into its chronic disease prevention efforts "as the risks to health are linked."
The American Dental Association recommends that dental visits begin no later than a child's first birthday to establish a "dental home." Dentists can provide guidance to children and parents, deliver preventive oral health services, and diagnose and treat dental disease in its earliest stages. This ongoing dental care will help both children and adults maintain optimal oral health throughout their lifetimes.
Oral Health and Systemic Health
Oral health touches every aspect of our lives but is often taken for granted. Your mouth is a window into the health of your body. It can show signs of nutritional deficiencies or general infection. Systemic diseases, those that affect the entire body, may first become apparent because of mouth lesions or other oral problems.
Whether you are 80 or 8, your oral health is important. Most Americans today enjoy excellent oral health and are keeping their natural teeth throughout their lives; however, cavities remain the most prevalent chronic disease of childhood. Some 100 million Americans fail to see a dentist each year, even though regular dental examinations and good oral hygiene can prevent most dental disease. Many people believe that they need to see a dentist only if they are in pain or think something is wrong, but regular dental visits can contribute to a lifetime of good oral health. If you are experiencing dental pain, don't put off seeing a dentist. With dentistry's many advances, diagnosis and treatment are more sophisticated and comfortable than ever.
You can practice good oral hygiene by always brushing your teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, cleaning between your teeth once a day with floss or another interdental cleaner, replacing your toothbrush every three or four months and by eating a balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks. Don't forget to schedule regular dental check-ups to keep your smile, and yourself, healthy.
Heart Disease and Oral Health
Take care of your gums...help your heart?
The American Heart Association published a Statement in April 2012 supporting an association between gum disease and heart disease. The article noted that current scientific data do not indicate if regular brushing and flossing or treatment of gum disease will decrease the incidence, rate or severity of the narrowing of the arteries (called atherosclerosis) that can lead to heart attacks and strokes. However, many studies show an as-yet-unexplained association between gum disease and several serious health conditions, including heart disease, even after adjusting for common risk factors.
Gum disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth and is a major cause of tooth loss in adults. The ADA and MouthHealthy believe that the most important thing you can do to avoid gum disease and maintain good oral health (including prevention of tooth decay or cavities) is:
- Brush teeth twice a day with an ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste.
- Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner.
- Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.
- Visit your dentist regularly for oral examinations and professional cleanings.
If you have diabetes, you are at greater risk of developing some oral health problems. The most common oral health problems associated with diabetes are:Diabetes is a chronic disease which affects your body’s ability to process sugar. The resulting high blood sugar can cause problems with your eyes, nerves, kidneys, heart and other parts of your body. Diabetes can lower your resistance to infection and can slow the healing process.
- Gum disease. Recent research suggests that the connection between gum disease and diabetes goes both ways. On the one hand, because of lowered resistance and a longer healing process, gum disease appears to be more frequent and more severe among those with diabetes. Conversely, it appears that treating gum disease in people with diabetes can help improve blood sugar control.
- Fungal infections. Since diabetes compromises your immune system, you may be prone to developing fungal infections. Symptoms include painful sores and difficulty swallowing. If you develop a fungal infection, see your dentist.
- Infection and delayed healing. If you are having extensive oral surgery, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics to minimize the risk of infection. To help the healing process, keep your blood glucose levels under control before, during and after surgery.
Control your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol—also known as the ABCs of diabetes—to take care of your teeth and your overall health. Teach your family about your diabetes and the ABCs so they can help you, too.
- A is for A1C: The goal set for many people is less than 7 percent for this blood test, but your doctor might set different goals for you.
- B is for Blood pressure: High blood pressure causes heart disease. The goal is less than 140/80 mmHg for most people, but your doctor might set different goals for you.
- C is for Cholesterol: LDL or “bad” cholesterol builds up and clogs your blood vessels. HDL or “good” cholesterol helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from your blood vessels. Ask what your cholesterol numbers should be.
- Don’t smoke: Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669) for support.
Good oral hygiene habits, including professional cleanings at the dental office, are important if you are to control the progression of gum disease and other oral health problems. Regular dental checkups and periodontal screenings are important for evaluating overall dental health and for treating dental problems in their initial stages. Your dentist may recommend more frequent evaluations and preventive procedures, such as teeth cleaning, to maintain good oral health.
Why Public Water Fluoridation is Needed on Long Island
Fluoride is a mineral that occurs naturally in all water sources, including oceans, lakes and rivers. Research shows that fluoride helps prevent cavities in children and adults by making teeth more resistant to the acid attacks that cause cavities. Fluoride is nature’s cavity fighter, helping repair the early stages of tooth decay even before the decay can be seen.
There are two ways that you can benefit from fluoride: topically and systemically.
Topical fluoride is the type of fluoride you receive at the dental office or when you use dental products—such as toothpastes or mouth rinses. Systemic fluoride is ingested, usually through a public water supply, which in the United States applies to nearly 74 percent of the population. While teeth are forming under the gums, the fluoride taken in largely from drinking water and other beverages strengthens tooth enamel making it stronger and more resistant to cavities. This provides what is called a “systemic” benefit. After teeth erupt, fluoride helps rebuild (remineralize) weakened tooth enamel and reverse early signs of tooth decay. When you brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste, or use other fluoride dental products, you are providing a “topical” benefit because the fluoride is applied to the surface of your teeth.
In addition, drinking fluoridated water and other fluoridated beverages continues to provide a topical benefit because it becomes part of your saliva, constantly bathing the teeth and helping to rebuild weakened tooth enamel. The maximum reduction in tooth decay occurs when fluoride is available systemically and topically. Studies show that community water fluoridation, the addition of fluoride to water to a recommended level for preventing tooth decay, prevents at least 25 percent of tooth decay in children and adults. In fact, community water fluoridation is noted as the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has proclaimed community water fluoridation as “one of 10 great public health achievements.”
The American Dental Association and more than 100 other national and international organizations recognize the public health benefits of fluoridated water in preventing tooth decay.
Are Amalgam Fillings Safe?
Amalgam - Silver-Colored Dental Fillings
Dental amalgam is made from a combination of metals that include mercury, silver, tin, and copper. Sometimes described as “silver-colored” fillings, dental amalgam has been used by dentists for more than 100 years because it lasts a long time and is less expensive than other cavity-filling materials such as tooth-colored composites
or gold fillings.
Because of their durability, these silver-colored fillings are often the best choice for large cavities or those that occur in the back teeth where a lot of force is needed to chew. Amalgam hardens quickly so it is useful in areas that are difficult to keep dry during placement, such as below the gum line. Because it takes less time to place than tooth-colored fillings, amalgam is also an effective material for children and special needs people who may have a difficult time staying still during treatment.
One disadvantage of amalgam is that these types of fillings are not natural looking, especially when the filling is near the front of the mouth, where it may show when you laugh or speak. Also, to prepare the tooth, the dentist may need to remove more tooth structure to place an amalgam filling than for other types of fillings.
Although dental amalgam is a safe, commonly used dental material, you may wonder about its mercury content. It’s important to know that when combined with the other metals, it forms a safe, stable material. Be assured that credible scientific studies affirm the safety of dental amalgam. Study after study shows amalgam is safe and effective for filling cavities. The American Dental Association, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U. S. Food and Drug Administration and World Health Organization all agree that based on extensive scientific evidence, dental amalgam is a safe and effective cavity-filling material. The Alzheimer’s Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, Autism Society of America and National Multiple Sclerosis Society and science-based organizations like the ADA—also say that amalgam poses no health risk.
The Mayo Clinic stated that dental amalgam is a safe and durable choice for dental fillings. They also note that "there are several kinds of mercury. The mercury [methylmercury] found in water that can build up in fish and lead to health problems if you ingest too much is not the same type of mercury used in amalgam."
The ADA supports continued research on all dental filling materials and would promptly inform the public if the scientific community and government regulatory bodies determined that any cavity filling material was unsafe for patients. Your dentist’s foremost priority is your health and safety. That’s why the ADA encourages you to talk with your dentist about your cavity treatment options and what’s right for you.
Ultimately, the best dental filling is no dental filling. Prevention is the best medicine. You can dramatically decrease your risk of cavities and other dental diseases simply by:
- brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
- flossing daily
- eating a balanced diet
- visiting the dentist regularly