Rethinking “Just a Trip to the Dentist”

Good oral health keeps your body healthy.

So, why should you even worry about going to the dentist? Well, the obvious answer is to take care of your teeth. But what you may not realize is just how much a trip to the dentist can also benefit the health and wellness of your entire body.

32 Reasons Why

Not surprisingly, fear and anxiety are what keep many patients from visiting the dentist on a regular basis. They end up waiting too long, with pain and discomfort from their neglected teeth being the things that eventually “push” them into the dental chair. It’s then that many patients discover they have a bad tooth that would require extensive work to keep. Unfortunately, many times patients will forgo trying to save the tooth because of the expense involved and the idea that, “Hey, it’s only one tooth anyway, right? I mean, I have more of them.”

Well, the truth is, all of your teeth are there for a reason. Which is why it’s important to value them as much as the rest of your health. New research shows that the state of your oral health is also a reflection of your overall health. It’s important to realize just how much these different areas and functions are tied together – because they are, in fact, not separate systems.

Something to Chew On

Take for example the link between your oral health and your digestive system. First and foremost, the oral cavity (or basically, your mouth) is the beginning of the digestive tract. If it’s not working properly, then the rest of your digestive tract is negatively affected as well.  If you have missing teeth, your ability to eat a variety of foods – or more specifically, effectively chew them – is impacted. And when you don’t properly chew your food, you’re not only failing to break it down enough, but also not spending sufficient time trying to break it down. This fast, inadequate chewing means there isn’t time to produce enough saliva. Which is key, because saliva contains important enzymes and proteins needed to help begin the digestion process and the absorption of nutrients. Missing teeth can also lead many patients to avoid certain healthy foods that are difficult to chew. Those patients might end up favoring more processed foods that typically have more sugars and simple carbohydrates – which can increase insulin levels and/or future insulin resistance, along with the risk of diabetes.

Taking Oral Health to Heart

In addition to your teeth and their ability to chew food, oral health also involves everything that works with your teeth, such as your gums and all the surrounding tissues that help support your teeth and jaws. Gum health has been shown to play an important part in your heart health. Typically, when you have poor gum health it is the result of an accumulation of plaque and tartar. These both harbor a huge number of bacteria that can very often cause gum disease. Some of these same bacteria have also been found in arterial plaque, which when accumulated can lead to coronary artery disease, or more plainly stated, blocked arteries that impair your heart.

The point is, poor oral health is about more than just your teeth, your gums, or even detrimental bacteria doing damage in your mouth. Compromised oral health affects your digestion, your nutrition, and even more vital areas of your body such as your immune system and your heart.
With that in mind, maybe it’s time we stopped thinking of oral care as “just going to the dentist,” and instead start to consider your next dental check-up as more of an overall health check-up.

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