Too many Americans wait to feel pain before they seek dental help. When it becomes too uncomfortable to chew their food or the pulsing in their mouth keeps them up at night, it signals that an urgent visit to the dentist is in order. Unfortunately, some of the most severe dental complications don’t present with any pain at all — periodontal disease especially is almost always pain-free. There are usually very few symptoms of this condition; however, it can have severe effects on the body.

Periodontal disease and your body
When we get an abscess, an infected wound, or a pimple, the body’s natural response is to send out white blood cells to fight off the infection. These cells get to work attacking the offending fungi or bacteria. Pus is the yellow or white residue left over afterward and consists of dead skin cells, white blood cells, and invading organisms. This pus drains outside of the body with a visible wound, but with a dental infection, it remains inside us.

A dental abscess is an infection that occurs underneath the gums. These can be caused by trauma to the gums, excessive oral bacteria, too much sugar in the diet, or poor oral hygiene. In many cases, dental abscesses don’t cause any pain, and can therefore linger in your mouth for long periods of time undetected. This unresolved infection causes a constant stream of pus to infiltrate your system. Your body has no method of getting rid of this waste. Therefore, it can travel through your bloodstream and build up in your arteries or travel to other organs, causing a wide variety of different diseases. Diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, and complications during pregnancy are just a few of the illnesses linked to untreated periodontal disease.

If you thought all bacteria were the same, think again.
Patients often visit their physicians seeking treatment for wounds or skin abscesses that won’t heal. It’s not uncommon for these abscesses to prove extremely difficult to treat, and many can recur over and over again. Unfortunately, most doctors are trained to only treat the condition instead of getting to the root of it, so they continue to prescribe antibiotics hoping the wound will eventually heal.

When doctors take the time to perform tests to determine the specific type of bacteria found in these wounds, they often find that the cause of specific oral bacteria stems from an infection in the mouth. This bacteria infiltrates the patient’s entire system, causing issues in other parts of the body. As soon as the condition in the mouth resolves, the other infections begin to heal as well.

Studies have shown that oral bacteria often lurk in the heart tissues of heart attack patients and the brain matter of those who have Alzheimer’s. There is a direct correlation between patients with diabetes and their oral health; as their oral health improves, their blood sugar levels drop as well. Your oral health also affects your blood pressure. Chronic oral infections cause inflammation in the body, raising your blood pressure. When you get rid of the infection, your blood pressure will naturally lower.

How confident are you in your oral hygiene proficiency?

Do you think you’re doing a good job keeping your teeth and gums clean and healthy? You may want to have a professional double-check that assessment. Most Americans only spend one to two minutes brushing their teeth, which isn’t enough time to properly remove all traces of harmful plaque and bacteria. We assume that a quick brush will do the job, but there’s much more we need to be doing. Here are three simple steps you need to follow to have the best possible oral health:

Step 1: Start at home
Did you know that it takes between five and 10 minutes each day to properly clean your teeth and remove all traces of plaque? Plaque and harmful bacteria can hide on the surfaces and between teeth, making it very difficult to clean off. Because of this, how successful you are at removing the plaque determines your oral health.

Thoroughly brush your teeth using whatever toothbrush you prefer, and floss your teeth using dental floss or a water pick. Take a look at the types of dental tools available to you and select the ones that work best for you. It’s better to perform one good cleaning session each day than multiple mediocre sessions.

Step 2: Grade yourself
When it comes to testing your knowledge, one of the best things you can do is take a test. The same is true for checking how well you’re caring for your teeth. Pick up a disclosing solution, available in liquid or tablet form from online and brick-and-mortar retailers alike. This useful tool will stain any debris, bacteria, and plaque residue in your mouth. Try using this solution after a really good tooth cleaning session to see how well you’re cleaning your teeth. This will give you a good indication of the areas you need to work on where you may be missing plaque regularly.

Step 3: Visit your dentist
You need to think of your oral care as an investment, because it is. Dental checkups aren’t free, but making sure you see your dentist on a regular basis will ensure that your oral health is the best it can possibly be. Not only will this keep your teeth and gums healthy, but it will keep your whole body better protected from a wide variety of diseases.

When it comes to oral health, it’s time we all took a minute to think again. There’s more to a healthy mouth than just a nice smile. Bacteria and infections on your teeth and gums can have repercussions that reach far past the confines of your mouth and wreak havoc on the well-being of your entire body. It’s time to educate ourselves and everyone around us on the importance of good oral care and what that can mean for overall health. Teach your family and friends about how they can reduce their risk for periodontal disease and share your oral health issues and concerns with your family physician.

At the Dental Medical Convergence, we aspire to educate the public about how critical oral health is to overall health and bring dentists and doctors together in partnership to better care for both. When these two health care professions begin sharing information about patients’ health, we’ll be able to work proactively to prevent diseases and treat conditions much more effectively. This will improve the entire nation’s health and reduce the incidence of oral health-related diseases worldwide.

Do you think that sounds far-fetched? Think again! With your help, it’s well within the realm of possibility.

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