The aging process never seems to get any easier. Quite to the contrary, as we age we need more care and maintenance. It’s just part of nature that everything slowly deteriorates. It’s natural to become aware of our body and its function more as we age than when we were young and took everything for granted.
Health screenings and checkups become more important. Skin checks, vision checks, colon screening, cardiac and vascular testing, mammograms, prostate checks seem overwhelming. To many of us it seems like a full-time job to keep our “machinery” running smoothly.
One area of immense importance is dental health. Many of us don’t realize the importance of oral health. But gum disease is the most common chronic inflammatory condition in the world and it’s often silent with no symptoms.
Gum disease has been linked to heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, hypertension, numerous cancers, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis as well as many other autoimmune diseases.
A study at the North Carolina School of Dentistry found that people with gum disease were twice as likely to die of a heart attack and three times as likely to have a stroke than people without gum disease.
Another study showed that when diabetics with periodontal disease are treated their need for insulin goes down.
Why is this association so strong, you might ask?
Most illnesses are based on inflammation. Periodontal disease is very inflammatory and is a source for oral pathogens to enter the bloodstream and interact with distant organs. If not corrected, this chronic inflammation can cause what is known as “end organ damage” resulting in these commonly seen illnesses.
Dentists sometimes can even be the cause of the problem. I remember one patient who had chronic inflammation. I insisted she have a full dental CT scan. We found that during a previous root canal procedure, the drill bit broke off in the canal, and the dentist just left it there. After we had it removed by an oral surgeon she improved dramatically.
Another common problem is a result of wisdom tooth extraction. If the dental ligament at the base of the socket is not removed with the tooth, it can become a nidus for bacteria to flourish which can lead to chronic infection and inflammation, with resultant systemic effects if not discovered and corrected.
So, if it’s been a while since your last dental checkup or teeth cleaning, make some time to get in there. Be sure to get on a regular schedule with your dental hygienist.
And, if you’re dealing with a chronic inflammatory condition, it would be worth your while to get a more detailed and complete dental evaluation, especially if you have had dental procedures such as root canals, extractions, or implants.
There are also “holistic” dentists who focus on your dental/systemic health connections. Some of them even use ozone to sterilize and clean out root pockets.
I know this is another area that requires ongoing care and maintenance, but it’s important.
You know the old saying, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”.
All the best, in Radiant health,
Dr. Howard Liebowitz, M.D.