Health Benefits of Going to the Dentist
The health benefits of going to the dentist regularly run far deeper than just keeping your teeth in good condition. Regular dental visits, backed up by a good routine of oral healthcare at home, can boost your overall wellbeing and reduce the dangers of serious disease developing.
Dental professionals are focused on wider-ranging issues than just fixing teeth. They carry out professional cleanings, ensure your teeth and gums are healthy and check for irregularities that may otherwise go unnoticed and could be a sign of more serious health problems.
Skipping dental appointments may not seem a big deal, but oral and general health issues can develop and progress quickly. By keeping on top of your dental cleanings and check-ups, you’re doing yourself a big favor in the long run.
Apart from tooth decay, a dental check-up can reveal numerous potential problems including gum disease, cancer, diabetes, AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), sinus issues and jaw disorders.
Gum Disease Can Spread
Gum disease (periodontitis) is caused by a build-up of bacteria-laden plaque and tartar between teeth, near the gum line. It can result in loss of teeth, and the infection can spread to other areas of the body, attacking the immune system.
The initial stages of gum inflammation (gingivitis) are often painless and not immediately apparent to the individual. Your dentist will examine your mouth for any deep spaces between the gums and teeth (periodontal pockets), which frequently indicate gum disease.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention1 (CDC) says half of the U.S. population aged 30 or over suffers from gum disease, and the American Academy of Periodontology2 (AAP) advocates an annual comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE) for all adults.
Routine dental visits include a professional cleaning of the teeth to remove plaque and tartar. Regular cleaning and scaling have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke by combatting bacteria in the mouth that can infect blood vessels throughout the body.
Tartar cannot be removed by normal brushing and flossing. Your dentist or dental hygienist has special tools to do the job and help to prevent cavities and gum disease.
Gum infection has also been linked with a reduction of cognitive skills. According to a report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry3, older people with periodontitis performed worse in memory tests than people with healthy gums.
There may also be a connection between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA –inflammation of the joints). Experts say the destruction of connective tissues in RA and gum disease is similar.
Besides gum problems, cavities can also cause infections that impact other parts of the body. For instance, if a cavity leads to septicemia, this can rapidly become a life-threatening condition. Septicemia, also known as sepsis or blood poisoning, occurs when the bloodstream becomes infected, and it can spread throughout the body.
Checking for Signs of Cancer
Survival rates for cancer are good if the disease is diagnosed early. Your dentist will look for signs of mouth or throat cancer, including problems with the salivary glands, lesions, and sores that won’t heal. A mouth ulcer that fails to heal within a couple of weeks can be a sign of head or neck cancer.
Other signs of cancer your dentist will be checking for include bleeding, discolored patches on the gums and tongue, abnormal bite function, and cysts. Infection of glands in the neck or lymph nodes can also point to general health issues.
If you smoke or drink, your dentist will be able to explain the link between oral cancer and tobacco and alcohol use.
Regular visits to the dentist entail examinations to make sure your oral tissues are healthy, and any signs of malignancy may require a biopsy.
Detection of Diabetes
Gum disease can be an indication of diabetes, which weakens the body’s ability to fight off infection. If you have diabetes, preventive dental care to ward off gum infections may help to control your blood sugar levels.
Other signs of diabetes include gum abscesses, bone loss, and gum disorders that don’t respond to normal treatment. If your dentist suspects you have diabetes, they will refer you for further tests. If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, your dentist will recommend you have more frequent dental check-ups.
If you have persistent bad breath (halitosis), your dentist will know that this can also be a symptom of diabetes, as well as other health issues including an oral yeast infection, acid reflux, liver or kidney problems, pneumonia or bronchitis, and sinusitis.
Sinusitis occurs when the nasal cavities become infected but you may mistake it for a dental problem because upper teeth roots are in the same area.
Other Benefits of Regular Dental Visits
Your dentist will also be on the alert for any problems with the way your jaws work. A poor bite function resulting from misalignment of the jaws can lead to TMJ (temporomandibular joints) disorders requiring orthodontic treatment.
A further health benefit of going to the dentist is checking the condition of your tongue. In certain cases, a painful tongue may be a sign of vitamin deficiency, oral cancer or AIDS.
Another advantage of regular dental visits is that keeping your teeth and gums healthy allows you to show off your smile, which boosts your self-confidence and makes you feel good about yourself.
Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
Keeping regular dental appointments is essential to maintain oral health while providing the opportunity for your dentist to check for signs of general health issues you may be unaware of. If any issues are identified – oral or otherwise – they can be addressed quickly before progressing to more serious problems.
If you’re tempted to put off routine dental visits4, the overall health benefits of going to the dentist should provide you with the necessary motivation, and encourage you to be more pro-active about your general wellbeing. If you have children that need dental care also visit Dr. Beanca Chu.
Visiting your dentist every six months may not be the occasion you look forward to most, but it’s definitely one of the most important you should keep. Regular dental visits do much more than ensuring you have a bright smile – a healthy mouth equals a healthy body.