How your oral health links with your general health
Research has shown strong links between periodontitis (advanced form of gum disease) and other health problems such as cardiovascular disease, stroke and bacterial pneumonia.
And pregnant women with periodontitis may be at increased risk of delivering pre-term and/or having babies with low birth weight.
However, just because two conditions occur at the same time, doesn’t necessarily mean that one condition causes the other. The relationship could work the other way.
For example, there is evidence that diabetics are more likely to develop periodontitis and have more severe periodontitis than non-diabetics.
Alternatively, two conditions that occur together may be caused by something else.
In addition, people who smoke or use alcohol have a higher than average risk of developing periodontitis and other conditions, including oral cancer.
Research is looking at what happens when periodontitis is treated in individuals with these problems.
The aim is to find out whether periodontitis does have an effect on other health problems.
If one caused the other, improvement in periodontal health would also improve other health problems.
While the research is not yet conclusive, the potential link between periodontitis and systemic health problems, means that preventing periodontitis may be an important step in maintaining overall health.
In most cases, good oral health can be maintained by brushing and flossing every day and receiving regular professional dental care.
Different types of dentist and how they help your oral care
While many people see dentists as the single group of people who look after the health of your teeth and mouth, there are various specialist categories that help you in different ways.
The categorization of a dentist will depend on their education, training and experience.
Here are some of the main specialist areas of dentistry:
- Endodontics: Concerned with the dental pulp – the part in the center of a tooth made up of living soft tissue and cells and root canal therapy
- Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: This deals with the identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions
- Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: Deals with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region
- Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries and defects of the tissues including extractions, facial surgery and implants
- Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics: Mainly deals with diagnosis, prevention and treatment of misaligned teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth
- Pediatric Dentistry: Provides preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence.
- Periodontics: Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues. Most periodonitist place implants
- Prosthodontics: Diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues. Includes dentures, bridges and the restoration of implants.
Plus, of course, general dentists provide everyday care and many specialist services to maintain your oral health.
How cancer treatment affects oral health
When someone is undergoing cancer treatment, its important that they involve their dentist in their program of care.
They should schedule a dental exam and cleaning before the treatment actually begins and then repeat it periodically during the course of treatment.
Its important that they tell the dentist that they are being treated for cancer and that they also discuss any dental procedures, such as extractions or insertion of dental implants, with the oncologist before starting the cancer treatment.
Its therefore a good idea to ensure that the dentist and oncologist have each others details to enable them to discuss any issues to help the patient.
And the dentist and physician should be informed about any issues such as bleeding of the gums, pain, or unusual feeling in the teeth or gums, or any dental infections.
Maintaining excellent oral hygiene during cancer treatment is vital to reduce the risk of infection and to help aid the treatment process.