Your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body

 Your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body

 

Once upon a time, it was thought that the mouth was “separate” from the rest of your body, and that problems in the mouth had nothing to do with your general overall health. So if a tooth was infected or it was “rotten”, you’d simply extract the tooth and voila, problem solved! It was believed that the removal of said rotten tooth was a cure for gum disease and the patient was at no further risk. 

We know now that this is definitely not the case. 

Periodontal disease is a complex, chronic inflammatory disease that affects the tissues and bone supporting the teeth.  Scaling with instruments and the use of mouthwashes are typically successful in eliminating the cause of periodontal diseases by disrupting and removing the bacterial colonies.  However, recent studies have shown that these methods are insufficient in halting periodontal disease progression because they don’t take into account the biology of the periodontal tissues and the inflammatory process. 

Research is starting to show that the inflammatory process in one organ can lead to disease in another organ or tissue. There can be communication between distant parts of the body.  Bleeding is a common sign of periodontal inflammation, and every time a periodontal pocket bleeds, bacteria can enter into the blood circulation.  How much bacteria can enter the blood is unknown, but regardless of the number, a healthy immune system can eliminate the bacteria efficiently.  An immune response that is defective can result in the progression of inflammatory diseases as a result of these migrating bacteria. 

There is strong evidence that there is an association between chronic periodontal inflammation and other inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes and rheumatoid arthritis.

One would assume that periodontal disease and Type 2 Diabetes are completely different since they affect different organs, however they share a common element: unresolved inflammation. Recent evidence shows high levels of inflammation in the body resulting from the entry of periodontal bacteria into the blood circulation, which can further connect the impact of periodontal disease on diabetes.

The association between oral infections (mostly periodontitis) and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease has now been supported with significant evidence. There is a significant increased risk for cardiovascular disease in people with periodontitis and the link between both is through inflammation.  A localized area of inflammation (such as in the periodontium) can increase vascular inflammation in the body.  

But they are just BABY teeth!

 

One question we get asked frequently is “when should I bring my baby in to have their teeth checked by the dentist?”  Although it may seem early, bringing in your child at the age of one is ideal because it promotes preventive care of their teeth.  The goal is to have your child visit the dentist before there is a problem with his or her teeth. 

The next question we hear is “but my baby only has 4 teeth, what is the dentist even looking at?” Here are three reasons to take your child for dental exams every 6 months:

  • You can find out how well your home routine is working

  • Problems can be detected early on by the dentist

  • You will learn the importance of preventive dental care

As your child gets older, we might take dental radiographs to check for decay between the teeth and to assess how their teeth are coming in. Should there be decay on a baby molar, it definitely needs to be addressed.  The third remark we hear often is “but it’s just a baby tooth, it’s going to fall out anyway!”   Primary (or “baby”) molars will be in your child’s mouth until the age of 12, and if left untreated, the decay can spread, resulting in possibly needing to pull the tooth out. 

Once your child is six years old, they will most likely have their first permanent molars by this point and the dentist may recommend the placement of a preventive sealant.  A sealant is a type of plastic that is put on the chewing surface of molars to make it less likely to trap food and bacteria.

As your child starts losing primary teeth and the new adult teeth start coming in, the last thing the dentist looks at is the alignment of the adult teeth.  Misaligned teeth can cause bite problems, but can also affect eating, speaking and keeping the teeth clean. The dentist may suggest a referral to an orthodontist to address any potential bite problems.

So although children have their baby teeth for around 12 years of their lives, they are the foundation for their adult teeth, and we hope that promoting good oral hygiene at a young age will translate to lifetime a healthy teeth and gums.