Taking good care of your teeth is not just about having a nice smile and pleasant breath. A healthy mouth may help you ward off medical conditions.
Tooth decay is a significant health problem for American Indians. In 2014, more than 2.4 million American Indians lived in counties with dental care shortage areas, and half of all American Indian children lived in a shortage area. In fact, preschool-aged American Indian children had four times more cases of untreated tooth decay than white children—43 percent compared with 11 percent. Studies show that it appears the prevalence of dental disease among American Indians is increasing. Read on to learn more about how poor dental health can affect your overall health.
Poorly Controlled Diabetes: If you have diabetes, you’re already at increased risk of developing gum disease. But chronic gum disease may, in fact, make diabetes more difficult to control. An infection may cause insulin resistance, which affects blood sugar control.
Cardiovascular Disease: Oral inflammation due to bacteria, also called gingivitis, may also play a role in clogged arteries and blood clots. It appears that bacteria in the mouth may cause inflammation throughout the body, including the arteries. This inflammation may cause buildup of plaques in the arteries, possibly increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke.
Preterm Birth: Severe gum disease may increase the risk of preterm delivery and giving birth to a low birth weight baby. Research estimates that as many as 18 percent of preterm, low birth weight babies born in the U.S. each year may be attributed to oral infections. They suspect oral bacteria release toxins, which reach the placenta through the mother’s bloodstream and interfere with the growth and development of the fetus.
Nutrition: Sensitivity in the mouth or pain while eating caused by dental problems can affect the foods we chose to eat. This can result in elimination of entire food groups which can greatly affect our health. Be sure to talk to your dentist about any pain or sensitivity in your mouth during your routine checkups.
Start taking care of your oral health early on in life because you’re making an investment in your overall health, not just for now, but for the future, too. See the information below to find steps to care for your mouth in all stages of life.