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A Healthy Mouth: More Than Just a Nice Smile
June 28, 2009
Taking good care of your teeth is much more than making sure you have a bright smile. It's key to your overall health and well-being.
Why you need to take care of your mouth
Because the health of your mouth can predict the health of your body, you need to take good care of your teeth. You also need to visit your dentist on a regular basis. More than 90% of diseases can show up in your mouth first. Your dentist is often the first medical person to find health problems or disease.
What the dentist can find
Here are some examples of how oral (mouth) health and overall health go together:
- Heart disease risk - Bacteria from your mouth may contribute to the blockage of arteries. Research has found a link between gum disease and heart disease, stroke, and other illnesses.
- Diabetes risk - Diabetics are more likely to get mouth infections and gum disease. Oral infections can make it harder to control diabetes. People without diabetes are less likely to have these problems.
- Bone health - Regular dental exams and X-rays, which show bone loss, can find osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that ruins your bones.
- Lung problems - The lower respiratory tract (your bronchi and lungs) can draw in bacteria from the mouth and throat. This bacteria can cause infections and make lung problems worse.
- Cancer risk - Mouth cancer, if caught early, can be treated. If it isn't, cancer may spread to the rest of the body.
By checking your mouth, your dentist also may see if other diseases are present. This can include diseases like leukemia (a blood disease), eating disorders, kidney problems, acid reflux disease, and lack of vitamins.
Good dental care - and keeping your gums free of disease - can lead to savings on dental costs and medical care. One study in the Journal of Periodontology showed healthcare costs over time were 21% higher for patients with severe gum disease than for those without gum problems.
Five tips to keep you smiling
To keep a healthy mouth:
- Brush your teeth twice a day and floss daily to remove plaque (sticky build-up on your teeth).
- See your dentist on a regular basis for a good cleaning and exam. Your dentist can tell you how often you should have a check up.
- Get early treatment to stop or control gum disease and follow up as needed.
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol to reduce wear and tear on your teeth.
- Eat a well-balanced diet to build a strong connection between oral health and overall health.
Do you know your dental IQ?
You brush your teeth and floss daily and have regular dental checkups. What more can you do to improve your oral health? To find out, take the My Dental IQSM quiz. The dental health risk assessment at MyDentalIQ.com gathers information about your family history, eating habits, etc., and tells you right away how much you know about dental health. It gives you a specific action plan with tips to make your oral and overall health better.
Is your smile covered?
A report from the Surgeon General found that people with dental benefit plans get care from their dentists far more often than those who don't have coverage. If your employer's benefits don't include dental coverage, you may want to check out dental insurance for yourself through HumanaOne Dental. On this site, you can find out more about the different plans or find a local agent.
Make brushing, flossing, and dental checkups part of your efforts to keep a healthy lifestyle and a nice smile, too.Your thoughts
How much do you know about your mouth?
About the Author:
Dr. Geoff Morris
Dr. Geoff Morris is National Dental Director for Humana Specialty Benefits. He's involved in dental product development, clinical policies for dental and medical plans, and many other initiatives. He also offers guidance to agents and employers to help employees understand the link between oral health and systemic health, and the need for appropriate dental care and dental benefits. Away from work, Dr. Morris enjoys time with his family, including two grandchildren, trying to improve his golf game, and spending time in Door County, Wisconsin.