Telltale Teeth - Many Health Problems Are Rooted In Your Mouth

If you are one of the many people determined to take better care of your health in the new year, the first step should be a trip to the dentist. Surprisingly, what your dentist sees in your mouth can provide telltale signs of what might ail you. February is American Heart Month, National Children’s Dental Health Month and Eating Disorder Awareness Month. For the dentists at Elmwood Dental Group in West Hartford, these health awareness campaigns have one very important thing in common: the connection between dental health and many medical conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and eating disorders.
 
“Research indicates that the overall health of your teeth and gums directly correlates and can help predict how long you will live,” notes Dr. Ana Paula Gomes, Owner of Elmwood Dental Group LLC, in practice with Dr. Rupal Patel and Dr. Carissa Tanaka. “Studies show that individuals who don’t brush their teeth before bed increase their mortality risks by 20-35%. Failing to floss increases your risk by 30%.”
 
What’s happening in your mouth, for example, can affect your heart. About 47% of the population suffers from periodontal disease, a condition that affects the gums and potentially your heart and lungs. When you have periodontal disease, bacteria build up under the gums and can get into the bloodstream, increasing the possibility of an infection in the heart, that can damage heart valves and lead to a life-threatening condition. The bacteria under the gums can also invade the upper respiratory tract and cause complications, like pneumonia. With regular oral exams and treatment, your dentist can help keep your heart healthy.
 
Dr. Gomes shares signs that can be early warning signs of gum disease:
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Bleeding of the gums during brushing and after brushing of teeth
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Redness and swelling (inflammation) of gums.
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Constant bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
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Loose teeth
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Receding gum line and formation of pockets between the gums and the teeth
 
A dentist can also tell if you suffer from gastrointestinal disorders such as acid reflux or eating disorders like bulimia or anorexia. All of these conditions cause acid erosion of teeth enamel. “For our patients new and established, we use intraoral photographs,” said Dr. Gomes. “We show patients the changes in their teeth, and ask about changes in their diet, if they are suffering from acid reflux or an eating disorder. People should seek help for these serious conditions, not only for their oral health but for overall health as well.”
 
Once teeth are damaged by acid erosion there is nothing that can reverse it. Some prescription toothpastes help rebuild enamel and mineralize teeth, but more invasive treatments may be necessary and will vary depending on the severity of the condition.
 
Dr. Gomes notes that people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease than people without diabetes. In fact, periodontal disease is often considered a complication of diabetes. Those people who don't have their diabetes under control are especially at risk.
 
“Periodontal Disease is a chronic infection,” explained Dr. Gomes. “When diabetes is poorly controlled, healing is compromised especially with infections. Uncontrolled diabetes can increase the chances for advanced gum disease.”
 
Research has suggested that the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease goes both ways - periodontal disease may make it more difficult for people who have diabetes to control their blood sugar.
 
Some final words of wisdom from Dr. Gomes and the team for National Children’s Dental Health Month: “A balanced diet is essential for healthy gums and to reduce the risk of tooth decay. Brush, reduce sugar intake, and stay away from acidic drinks like soda. Make sure children see the dentist regularly to keep their teeth healthy and make dental hygiene a priority for their entire lives.”
 
Elmwood Dental Group LLC is a full-service dental, cosmetic and restorative practice dedicated to providing comprehensive, quality care with compassion. Since 1982, the friendly, family-oriented practice has proudly served the West Hartford, Newington, and Hartford, CT communities with patient education and oral care services for patients of all ages. The office is located at 1132 New Britain Ave. in West Hartford. Convenient appointments are available Monday- Friday.  For more information, visit www.elmwooddentalllc.com or call (860) 331-8748.