by Dr. Jeffrey Supple, DMD
Americans are investing in their looks more than ever before, and one of the things they are sinking their teeth and money into is cosmetic dentistry. Americans spend at least $2.75 billion annually on cosmetic dentistry and well over one billion just to make their teeth a few shades whiter. And yet, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 40% of adults aged 65 and older didn’t even visit a dentist in the last year.
So, while a huge segment of the population is improving their smiles and investing billions to do it, there are those (especially seniors) who simply struggle to keep their teeth healthy and prevent other health problems that can arise when oral health is neglected. Oral health goes much farther than the mouth, teeth and gums because the mouth is the primary entryway into the body and poor oral health can have negative consequences for the entire body. Some of the more common problems associated with poor oral health include cardiovascular disease, dementia, respiratory infections, diabetes, and kidney disease.
Cardiovascular disease: The same bacteria that causes periodontal disease can get into the bloodstream and cause plaque buildup and hardening of the arteries. Blood flow problems and heart blockages caused by these conditions increase the likelihood of having a heart attack, and the damaging impact on the arteries and blood vessels can lead to hypertension and increase the risk of having a stroke.
Dementia: Substances that are released from gums inflamed by infection can also kill brain cells and lead to memory loss and possibly Alzheimer’s disease.
Respiratory infections: Bacteria in the mouth from infected teeth and swollen gums can also be inhaled into the lungs or travel there in the bloodstream. These bacteria can lead to pneumonia, acute bronchitis and even COPD.
Diabetes: Diabetics are already more susceptible to infection, but periodontal disease can in turn make diabetes more difficult to control. And because gum disease can lead to elevated blood sugar levels, a person with poor oral health is at an increased risk of developing diabetes.
Kidney disease: Chronic kidney disease affects the kidneys, heart, bones and blood pressure. Because people with gum disease generally have weaker immune systems and are more likely to acquire infections, periodontal disease can lead to kidney disease.
Prevention just makes good common sense. So, take a moment and schedule your professional cleaning now. If you didn’t already have enough reasons to take good care of your mouth, teeth and gums, the relationship between your oral health and your overall health provides even more incentive to do so. If you don’t have dental insurance, I will discount your exam, x-rays and cleaning by 20%.
Dr. Jeffrey Supple has practiced dentistry in New Mexico for nearly three decades and has recently taken over the practice of Dr. Bill Wolfe. A native of New Mexico, Dr. Supple was born and raised in Albuquerque. He graduated from Tufts University School of Dental Medicine. Passionate about continuing Dr. Bill Wolfe’s approach of “Biological Dentistry,” Dr. Supple is focusing on all facets of his dental career with an emphasis on mercury-free and mercury-safe protocols. Dr. Supple is member of the International Academy of Oral Medicine and Toxicology (IAOMT) and Dental Amalgam Mercury Solutions (DAMS).