The state of your oral health is often a reflection of what’s going on with the rest of your body. For example, a healthy diet and good habits promote healthy teeth and gums. Health problems associated with the mouth, teeth, and gums can be indicative of a condition that affects other systems, or the entire body. Similarly, conditions traditionally affecting other areas and organs may complicate some types of dental care.
Those in the know seek out regular teeth cleanings and exams by their dentist. Dentists are the first line of defense against oral cancer and other health problems whose symptoms may be first detected in the course of your regular exam and cleaning. Be sure to communicate to your dental office any medical conditions or symptoms that may seem unrelated to your teeth. Here are some health conditions that have an unexpected relationship with your oral health.
Diabetes – a disease characterized by high blood sugar levels due to the inability of the pancreas to generate sufficient insulin, diabetes can be further impacted by gum disease. Chronic gum disease can increase blood sugar that a person with diabetes simply cannot compensate for. Uncontrolled diabetes is also associated with tooth decay, because of high glucose levels in saliva that are in constant contact with tooth enamel. Bacteria feeding on the glucose can cause tooth decay.
Cardiovascular disease – there is a relationship between heart disease and gum (periodontal) disease. There is some evidence pointing to the systemic inflammation caused by gum disease that may cause heart disease or make it worse, but some researchers believe that cardiovascular disease may predispose a patient to gum disease. Patients who are at risk for a serious bacterial infection of the heart called endocarditis require antibiotics before some dental treatments to minimize the possibility of infection.
HIV/AIDS – Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) can contribute to certain dental and oral health conditions. Viral infections of the mouth are present in up to 80% of patients infected with HIV, and further complications may arise form some forms of treatment. Dry mouth is one side effect of medication that can contribute to tooth decay. A thorough medical history and review of medications is necessary before providing dental care.
Thyroid problems – hyperthyroidism creates extreme sensitivity to drugs like epinephrine, which may be used with Novocain to deaden pain in common dental procedures. This sensitivity can affect the patient’s heart. Patients with an under-active thyroid (hypothyroidism) should not be given certain pain medications like narcotics and benzodiazepines, both of which can be used in dentistry for pain or anxiety.
Anemia – low levels of iron and red blood cell counts affect the gums along with all other vascular tissue in the body. Reduced capacity for blood clotting may influence your dentist’s decision whether to provide a treatment or how it should be carried out.
Eating disorders – any eating disorder involving insufficient intake of calories and nutrients will affect the teeth. Lack of important minerals, including calcium, can weaken the teeth. In addition, patients with bulimia expose their teeth to high levels of stomach bile by repeated vomiting. The acid from the stomach wears away teeth enamel. Dentists sometimes are the first to spot the signs of bulimia in a patient, because they get an up-close look at the damage done.
A good dentist is a comprehensive caretaker for your oral health. The state of your body is interrelated with that of your teeth and gums, so it’s always important to tell your dentist what’s going on with your body. Dr. Steven Hagerman and his staff provide friendly and caring dentistry in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. For cleanings, general dentistry, and cosmetic procedures, call (651) 646-2392 for an appointment today.