Your dentist and doctor will approve of this simple plan to start 2022 off right

Starting a New Year’s resolution can be as simple as putting your own health first — by scheduling your annual physical and a dental exam. Making these appointments every January is a good habit to start now.

While you’re there, ask your doctor a question he/she probably doesn’t get often:

Does the health of my mouth affect the health of my body?

Think about it. When you’re at the doctor, they usually check your vitals. They probably look inside your mouth, too. But they’re not trained to know everything a dentist knows: that what’s going on inside your mouth could have a big impact on the rest of your body. Even if they see something suspicious in your mouth, doctors don’t usually communicate that information to your dentist.

Dr. Chuck Reinertsen is on a mission to change that disconnect. That’s why he started The Dental Medical Convergence charity, which raises awareness about the importance of dental health and its connection to the rest of the body.

Your mouth is a critical part of your body. You use it to drink, eat, talk, breathe, kiss, and more. That’s a lot of stuff! It has muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and bones. It also has a blood supply running through it that’s connected to the rest of your body.

Can bacteria from the mouth get in the bloodstream and affect other parts of the body?  YES. According to extensive research over decades, there is a solid connection between the systems that regulate your mouth and those that manage the rest of your body. Gum disease — and any other oral infection in your mouth — can spread through your body via the bloodstream. Research shows a correlation between dental disease and cardiovascular disease, heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, pre-term births, pregnancy complications, and much more.

Why doesn’t your doctor check for dental disease?  

Doctors aren’t trained to identify dental issues; their purview is the body at large. Traditionally, dentists specialize in taking care of the mouth and doctors take care of the rest of the body.

A comprehensive dental examination requires equipment and training that doctors don’t have because they don’t need to have it. That’s why medical doctors and dentists should have close interactive relationships when it comes to information about their mutual patients’ health. It would be useful information for the doctor to know if there were dental infections entering the bloodstream, bite issues that may affect headaches, oral airway restrictions that may affect sleep, any indications of oral cancer, or any other dental diseases that affect your overall health.

Did you know that your dentist checks you for those things? Most doctors don’t realize the extent of dental examinations. What about that mysterious recurring infection? It responds to antibiotics but recurs several weeks after the antibiotic therapy ends. Dental or oral disease could be the source of the bacteria causing the infection. More than 90% of dental infections don’t present with any pain, so there’s rarely any complaint to the physician about a toothache. Until the source is removed, the infection remains.

To eliminate infection in the mouth is to eliminate the biggest single polluter of the bloodstream.

An infection-free mouth contributes to good health and longevity. To properly treat patients, doctors also need to know about their oral health; they can do that by requesting a report from the patient’s dentist. In general, doctors don’t ask and dentists don’t tell. It’s time for that to change.

By working together, doctors, dentists and hospitals can identify many diseases at the source. We can keep health care costs down through prevention, and that means educating patients. Using the proper tools and routines to care for your oral health at home is so much more affordable than any hospitalization or catastrophic event such as a heart attack or stroke that subpar oral hygiene could contribute to. So make your health your top New Year’s resolution for 2022.

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