The Importance of Good Oral Health
Why poor oral health can negatively affect your overall health? How to reduce chances of stroke, heart disease and dementia? Why are so many afraid of dentists?
Many people are afraid to go to the dentist. Just as there are as many whom are not aware of the importance of having good oral health. This is a story from someone who was also afraid of her dentist.
A Dentist's Wife's Journey
Dentists were once my least favourite people to see. Oral hygiene in my family were never a top priority, and regular check-ups and hygiene cleanings were a “once in a blue moon” type of outing. 95% of my visits to the dentist were because I needed a cavity filled or a root canal. Needless to say, my parents never instilled good oral hygiene habits in me, because they never saw the importance of having a healthy mouth. The way they saw it was, we can use that money elsewhere with more pressing needs; like our credit card bill, mortgage payments, entertainment, etc. Sound familiar?
I never imagined I would ever marry a dentist. We met in high school, and started dating first year of University. He was blessed in the sense that he never once had a cavity. Lucky him! But even though he never had that traumatizing visit to the dentist as a lot of us have; he understood the phobia people had with dentists. He is naturally a very sensitive person, with an acute sense of responsibility that you don’t see in a lot of people. He is the reason why I am cavity free today, and have been for many years now. I understand the reason behind the nag we get from our dentists about the importance of flossing and regular cleanings. I now floss, use mouth rinse, brush twice a day, and get a cleaning every 6 months. Cleanings for me now are painless because I have healthy gums as a result of my oral hygiene repertoire. This was something that I didn’t understand before my husband (then boyfriend) became a dentist. And I am sure most others with dental phobia do not make that connection or see the importance of good oral health. They do not understand that the reason cleanings hurt is because they have inflamed and swollen gums from the tartar buildup that is not being regularly removed.
Why oral health directly affects overall health?
There are two reasons why teeth cleanings are necessary. First and foremost, to prevent tooth loss. And secondly to prevent diseases in the rest of the body; such as heart disease, dementia, and complications of diabetes.
Teeth cleanings remove tartar buildup and/or plaque. The buildup is mostly natural – similar to how a boat picks up barnacles just by being in the ocean water. However, too much buildup leads to gum disease. Now let’s back up a bit and explain why gum disease can affect the rest of your body.
Your body sees tartar as a foreign invader. Much like how it sees a flu bug or an infection as something it needs to fight off. This tartar causes your body to “send in troops” using your immune system to fight off the “infection”. Your mouth is a battlefield where a constant war is being waged. Having your teeth cleaned regularly, levels the playing field by keeping things in check.
Your immune system’s fight with the tartar leads to inflamed and bleeding gums (gum disease or gingivitis, and if left untreated, periodontal disease). Its response is successful at killing off invaders like infection and flu bugs, but at a cost. Like a war, there are innocent bystanders that get slaughtered. As gum disease progresses, so does the destruction of your bone and tissues in your mouth. Once destruction of your bone and tissues commence, that's when you know this is irreversible periodontal disease.
The immune system is designed to fight off an infection for a short period of time. Chronic activation of the immune system can wear it down and weakens it; making it less effective at fighting off other illnesses.
That is why preventing gum disease reduces the risk of stroke, heart disease, dementia, etc.
Below is an image that illustrates and explains some of the facts that are known to us.
If gum disease is left unchecked and untreated, the damage it causes is irreversible. Not only is the damage in your mouth irreversible, but if left untreated, it can affect other parts of your body and affect your overall health. That’s why Dr. Holman Yu, and everyone at Dentistry in Waterloo focus so much on preventative care. Good oral hygiene is the best way to maintain overall health and strong beautiful teeth for a lifetime – and teeth cleanings are a critical piece to this prevention.