What you don’t know could have big consequences on your health
The source of many diseases is right under your nose. But if you’re like most people, you don’t realize the connection between your mouth and your overall health. That’s because most doctors don’t ask about your mouth or teeth during routine checkups.
“Your mouth is the front door to the body,” says Dr. Chuck Reinertsen of Lifetime Dental in Tavares, Florida. He’s on a mission to make sure everyone makes their teeth a priority.
The oral–health connection
Research shows a connection between gum disease and heart disease. According to researchers, 50% of heart attacks are triggered by dental infections. This comes from Drs. Bale and Doneen, who have spent their lives treating cardiovascular patients. They are the researchers who proved that the bacteria in periodontal (gum) disease actually cause cardiovascular disease and published that peer-reviewed study in 2016 in the British Medical Journal.
Here are some of the serious diseases known to cause or be affected by dental infections:
- Cardiovascular disease
- Heart attacks
- Alzeimer’s disease
- Pregnancy complications
- Rheumatoid arthritis
Why your doctor isn’t asking about your mouth
Dr. Reinertsen believes that most doctors never learned the oral–medical connection in medical school.
If you think of your mouth as a factory, you realize that it’s producing pollution from cavities and/or gum disease, which it dumps right into your bloodstream. This happens even if you don’t feel any pain or have any symptoms.
An infection in your mouth creates pus. Pus is made of harmful bacteria, dead tissue debris, dead white blood cells, inflammatory proteins, and other toxins. The pus either drains into your body or out of it. If it drains into your body, it goes directly into your bloodstream through the veins, then on to your heart and lungs. This is how these bacteria pollute your body without you ever even knowing it. How can you when it bypasses your pain receptors? Doctors can be quick to check your back door, but it’s important never to overlook your front door, as well: your mouth.
How to advocate for yourself
Dr. Reinertsen says that just because your mouth doesn’t hurt, it doesn’t mean it’s healthy. It’s best to have a dentist examine your mouth on a regular basis to check for infections, cancer, tooth decay, and other problems. Another precaution you can take is to spend eight to 10 minutes thoroughly cleaning your teeth once a day. Sounds counterintuitive, right? But being very thorough once a day is actually much better than doing a mediocre job two or more times a day.
So remember: Just because your doctor doesn’t ask about your tongue, teeth, or mouth doesn’t mean you’re okay. The executive summary of “Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General” says,“The terms ‘oral health’ and ‘general health’ should not be interpreted as separate entities. Oral health is integral to general health.” So go ahead and brush up on your oral health — doctor’s orders.