Dental Problems Only Worsen With Delay In Care

Posted on Jan 03, 2018 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS

“Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” – Thomas Jefferson

The quote by Thomas Jefferson, today, would probably include modern terms such as “be proactive,” or “take charge of your to-do’s.” But any way we say it, the meaning is basically the same: Take care of things while they’re small so they don’t become bigger problems.

As a periodontal specialist, I’ve seen a great many patients who have lost their teeth because they didn’t take a few minutes a day to brush their teeth. They also felt they could avoid their 6-month dental checkups because “nothing hurts.” Yet, while in treatment for gum disease or having dental implants placed, the majority share the same regrets, that they didn’t take the small steps needed for prevention.

When an oil light comes on in our vehicle, we know there are costly consequences to ignoring it. When a ceiling shows signs of a leaky roof, we know that letting it go can lead to serious damage. When an appliance starts making a funny noise, we know to tend to it before it goes on the blink.

Then why don’t adults know to act – and be proactive – when it comes to their dental health?

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention reported that only 64 percent of American adults had a dental visit in 2015. That leaves a third of our nation’s adults with oral wellness that is at risk. It’s no wonder that an estimated 47 percent of adults have some level of periodontal disease.

New Year’s resolutions often include weight loss, getting more exercise, and eating healthier. These are made to achieve a healthy body. Yet, the mouth is not only part of the precious body we are given, it plays a major role in our overall health.

Your mouth is far more than part of your facial appearance. It provides the first stage of the digestive process. As you chew, saliva flow brings in oral acids that help break foods down even before you swallow. The phrase your grandmother said, “Chew your food well,” was wise advice. The chewing process gives food time to be digested more efficiently.

However, research over the past few decades has revealed how our oral health integrates to a much greater extent with our overall health. It has been found that the bacteria of gum disease can travel throughout the body via the bloodstream. This bacteria has been linked to a number of serious health problems.

The bacteria of gum disease can create inflammatory triggers that have been correlated to heart disease, stroke, some cancers, preterm babies, arthritis, diabetes, and erectile dysfunction (ED). Research is underway to study strong indications of its links to Alzheimer’s disease. Obviously, this is potent bacteria that should be acknowledged as serious.

Tooth loss is no picnic. Just ask long-time denture wearers. Losing tooth roots means the bone that once supported them begins to shrink. This bone loss is a slow but continual process, which is why a denture that fit when first made begins to slip and move. As the ‘ridge’ the denture was designed for flattens, adhesives will be of minimal help. Eventually, even relines won’t help much.

As a periodontist, my specialty also includes the diagnosis and placement of dental implants. Dental implants are held by the jaw bone, just as natural teeth, so they restore biting and chewing stability and halt bone loss. However, it is so much easier and far less expensive to care for natural teeth and avoid tooth loss in the first place.

I’ve had many dental implant patients tell me, “If I could turn back time, I’d have taken much better care of my teeth.” When they learn that their implants will need to be cared for even better than natural teeth, they enthusiastically agree to “do what it takes.” Losing teeth the first time was hard enough. Losing their dental implants would be worse.

Your smile is an expression of who you are from the inside out! I hope 2018 brings you many smiles and much laughter. Take good care of your smile and be committed to a thorough oral health routine at home. Have twice-a-year dental checkups and follow the advice of your dentist and hygienist carefully. Drink plenty of water and limit sweets. (Your waistline will thank you, too!)

Happy 2018 to you and yours!

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