Your trusted Redlands Dentist Explains the importance of oral health
By Terry L. Vines, Jr., D.D.S.
Understanding whole health
It we were robots, our mouths might be removable parts, functioning independently from the rest of the system. However, the human body simply does not work that way. Nerves, muscles, bones, and other tissues are connected in a single, infinitely complex system, and they all share the same blood supply. Simply stated, an unhealthy mouth can’t exist in a truly healthy body, because serious medical problems are almost never isolated.
Research has shown that chronic infections or inflammation can have systemic effects. That means, no matter where the disease is located, it has potential to cause or aggravate problems throughout the body. Additionally, hard tissue damage and functional problems can also have a far-reaching impact. For example, tooth damage can alter your bite, which affects jaw functioning. In turn, dysfunction of the jaw (TMJD) impacts nerves that can cause problems ranging from migraine headaches to shoulder pain, or even tinnitus.
The importance of gum health
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), about half of American adults are affected by gum disease. It is one of the most common preventable diseases, as well as one of the most insidious. In most cases, it is not painful. People often overlook seemingly mild symptoms such as bleeding gums or slight discoloration. Meanwhile, infection is slowly destroying gum and eventually bone tissue. Even more concerning, research has linked periodontal disease with:
- Heart disease
- Respiratory disease
- Much more
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The importance of healthy teeth
All too often, people view tooth damage as a purely cosmetic issue, and therefore, of low importance. There are two problems with this view. First of all, studies have shown that the appearance of a person’s smile can affect his or her self-image, confidence, social interactions, ability to make a good impression, and even career success. This demonstrates that cosmetic problems do matter. Furthermore, restoring damage or replacing missing teeth is essential to overall oral health, and therefore whole health.
You probably know that plaque and high sugar consumption lead to decay. However, you might not know exactly how it happens. The true culprit is bacteria, which feed off sugars and carbohydrates from your food. They live in plaque, meaning that they are stuck to your teeth until you brush and floss. It is acid created by these bacteria that erode tooth enamel, causing cavities. In summary, dental caries (decay) is a type of infection. If you ignore a small spot, it won’t just go away – it will spread and get worse.
Broken, chipped, or fractured teeth
Pain is the most obvious concern, and most people see a dentist quickly if it hurts. However, if the damage is not deep enough to expose the neve, it might not hurt at first. In this case, you should still see a dentist right away. Why? Damaged enamel will give harmful bacteria access to dentin, a somewhat softer layer below. Decay spreads quickly in dentin, and before long it exposes the nerve, and toothaches start. Sadly, by that time, soft tissue (dental pulp) in the center of the tooth is infected. Early treatment might be a simple filling, while an infected tooth will need root canal therapy and a dental crown.
Aside from leaving a gaping hole in your smile, what happens when you lose a tooth and don’t replace it? There are actually several answers to that, and none of them are good. First, you are likely to alter chewing patterns, which can cause jaw strain or excess wear on certain teeth. Over time, the bone in that area will resorb (shrink), making it more vulnerable to fractures. These and other factors cause nearby teeth to shift, leaving you with crooked, widely gapped teeth. How healthy is your smile? Call us at (909) 435-4558 and schedule an exam to find out.
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