It is often said the mouth is the gateway to the body. No other phrase encapsulates the truth more completely and succinctly. Indeed, the mouth IS an integral and important part of the human body and the relationships between the oral cavity and the rest of the body are many! Unfortunately, due to historical and insurance industry reasons, we don’t think of it being an integral part of us. Alamo Dental Health places a major emphasis on the health relationships. Ultimately, we want our patients to have a beautiful, confident, HEALTHY smile for the rest of their lives.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Besides smiling, speaking, and eating, we use our mouths for other functions including taking in air (breathing). Numerous medical advancements in the last decade have brought to light new information and knowledge in the area of sleep medicine, particularly the never thought of connections between our mouth, breathing, and sleeping. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a conditions describing individuals who have difficulty breathing during sleep due to a collapsing airway, has been fairly well understood for 30+ years and has been routinely treated solely in the realm of medicine by sleep medicine specialists. Some patients undergo surgery to create a larger breathing space though by far the majority of patients receive a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine and experience a larger breathing space during sleep. CPAPs are considered the gold standard treatment of sleep apnea and Alamo Dental Health encourages its patients to use their CPAPs as much as possible. Unfortunately, it is a fact of life some patients simply can’t tolerate the CPAP and are receiving insufficient help or no help from their air machine. These patients are great candidates for alternative treatments such as surgery and Oral Appliance Therapy (OAT) with a Mandibular Advancement Device (MAD). These oral devices are designed to be worn during sleep only to hold the lower jaw in a comfortable position and improve the passing of air. They are durable and are expected to last many years. Ask our office about Medical Insurance reimbursement for this treatment!
While Gum Disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth, diabetes is a disease affecting your body’s ability to process sugar leading to higher than normal blood sugar levels. Untreated diabetes can cause problems with your heart, kidneys, eyes, nerves, feet, and your ability to heal. The gums around your teeth are a silent victim of untreated diabetes because your body can’t respond properly to the oral bacteria invading the space around your teeth, leading to aggressive and destructive forms of gum disease (periodontal disease). Unfortunately, the oral infection setting in the gum tissue is painless and is not pickup up by the patient until advanced signs are present. Such signs include tooth loss, tooth mobility, and tooth migration, bone and gum recession, bad breath, and presence of bleeding and puss. Over the last half century, a lot of medical research has come out describing the impact of diabetes on our body including our gum tissues; no doubt, diabetes is a disease which plays an important role in our oral health. Recent research articles have also documented and uncovered the impact of periodontal disease on our body’s ability to keep diabetes under control. So, it is a two way street: diabetes impacts your gum disease and your gum disease impacts your diabetes. Multiple studies have shown treating periodontal disease has the same effect as taking a second drug! Therefore, it becomes imperative for any diabetes patient to maintain their oral health for total body health.
While Gum Disease is an infection of the tissues that support the teeth, cardiovascular disease is a disease of the heart and the blood circulation system resulting in narrowing of the arteries (called atherosclerosis). Many medical studies show a link between oral infections and cardiovascular disease. The mechanism is best understood in 2 ways: oral bacteria entering the body through the leaking infected gums travelling throughout the body and infecting us on the inside AND oral bacteria infecting the tissues around the teeth inducing in our gums a severe chronic inflammation process which is measured by various chemicals which now travel throughout our body leading to various health issues including cardiovascular disease, increased diabetes resistance, etc. Both mechanisms are important and dangerous to our physical health. Unfortunately, gum disease does not cause pain and patients live unhealthy lives unaware of the dangers caused by their undiagnosed and untreated gum disease.
Malnutrition and Digestion
Ever seen someone have trouble maintaining a healthy diet due to their inability to eat and chew properly? Whether it’s the lack of teeth or painful dentures replacing natural teeth, the result is the same: a negative impact on the ability to have proper nutrition. When your body is poorly fed for extended periods of time, it suffers and leads to various other problems, including death. If you are or know someone who has difficulty eating, there is no better time to contact our office and speak with us about modern solutions!
Dental Clearances for Surgeries
Your body is not healthy until your mouth is healthy. And your doctor knows that very well, which is why prior to many medical surgeries patients are required to present a dental clearance from their dentist attesting their mouth is free from infection. Typical medical procedures requiring dental clearances include kidney and other organ transplants, heart surgeries, and hip replacements. Why? Many of these patients need to be put on medications following the surgeries, medications which affect their immune system, the system which keeps infections under control. Any mouth bacterial infection needs to be treated prior to surgeries to prevent bacteria entering and traveling throughout the body during the low immunity period. Also, any oral infections prior to surgeries are the cause of chronic inflammation which has a negative impact on the body’s ability to heal. So, complete health means total health from head (that includes the mouth) to toe.