Oral Health

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The Importance of Oral Health

You will know about conditions that may affect your wellbeing on your very first visit, as it will be explained to you by your dentists.

According to recent research your teeth and gums may also indicate your general health and help to flag potential problems. You can see here how regular dental checks and oral hygiene is important.

More than 40% of Australian households earning less than $30,000 a year avoid or delay a visit to the dentist because of cost, as evidenced by the 2015 Oral health and dental care in Australia report. In the report issued by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare it was also stated that about 44% of adults have an annual dental check.

The range of people with untreated tooth decay is from 23.5%in major cities to 37.6% in remote Australia. More than a third of people living in distant regional parts of the country is affected by gum disease which is a bacterial infection that causes the inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth.

Dr. Peter Alldritt, the Chairman of the Oral Health Committee at the Australian Dental Association once said that, “If somebody visits their dentist regularly but they have a high level of gum disease, you have to wonder if something is contributing to their poor oral health.”

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Links to Heart Disease

Poor dental health was linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke and dementia in a 2011 report by Dental Health Services Victoria. In a 2004 Belgian study a strong correlation between heart and gum disease was shown, with 91% of patients diagnosed with cardiovascular problems also suffering from gum disease.

Dr. Alldritt explained that, “One theory is that bacteria from the mouth can travel through the bloodstream and set up inflammation elsewhere in the blood vessels in the cardiovascular system,” he further explained that  “The other theory is that heart disease and gum disease have common risk factors – like stress, smoking and poor diet – so we see a link.”

Diabetes, kidney health and dementia

A report by Baker IDI showed that currently there are about a million Australians with diabetes, and if it continues, up to 3 million Australians over 25 will have diabetes by the year 2025. Plaque build-up on the teeth is much more among diabetics because they have more glucose in their saliva and a dry mouth contributing to gum disease. Gum disease can make it harder to control blood sugar levels too.

“If I had a patient who had gum disease that wasn’t improving it could suggest diabetes, so I’d recommend they see their doctor, ” ~ Dr Alldritt

People with chronic kidney disease is common among people with poor oral health, a weakened immune system reduces the ability to fight inflammations that can be part of gum disease. In Case Western Reserve University’s study people in the United States found that those who lost all their teeth were more likely to have chronic kidney disease than people who maintained their teeth.

A possible association between dementia and gum disease was also shown in a new research published in the North American Journal of Medical Sciences, with a bacterium found in chronic gum diseases also appearing in the brains of people with dementia. Eating, brushing teeth and invasive dental treatments may give the bacteria an opportunity to enter the bloodstream and towards the brain, triggering the release of chemicals that kill brain cells.

Other health alerts

Dental checks can also detect possible signs of cancer. Around 3,000 or more Australians are being diagnosed with head and neck cancers every year, and it includes cancers of the tongue, gums, mouth, salivary glands and tonsils.

“Dentists look beyond the teeth and gums at the roof of the mouth, the cheeks, the tongue and the back of the throat,” Dr Alldritt says. “We look for lumps, bumps, red or white patches, ulcers – anything that doesn’t belong that could be a sign of oral cancer. It’s often picked up quite late because people don’t notice it. That’s another reason why you need a regular dental check.”

5 steps for good oral health

  1. Brushing your teeth with fluoridated toothpaste twice a day and cleaning in between your teeth with floss or small brushes daily.
  2. A 2014 National Health and Medical Research Council report showed that drinking fluoridated tap water decreases tooth decay in 26 to 44% people.
  3. When playing sports, wear a mouthguard as dental injuries can cause pain and loss of teeth.
  4. Smoking contributes to gum disease and oral cancer, so don’t smoke.
  5. Sugars help bacteria turn into acids that cause decay, so minimise sugar in your diet. Rinse your mouth immediately after eating or drinking something sugary or acidic.

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