I recently watched an episode of Katie Couric’s web show “Katie’s Take”. In this particular installment she interviews Dr. Jonathan Levine, an aesthetic dentist from New York City about oral health. He quotes some powerful statistics from the CDC and other studies about the affects of oral health on the rest of the body.
It is good to finally see that what we at Aesthetic Family Dentistry have been preaching and educating our patients about, as well as treating them for, is making it into the mainstream public. We have known and helped patients understand the connection between oral and overall health for well over a decade. In the interview, Dr Levine suggested that fifty percent of Americans have some form of periodontal disease. However, there is research through the American Academy of Periodontology that suggests that the number is actually closer to seventy-five to ninety percent of our population over the age of 30.
I concur with Dr. Levine that, given the choice of only one (brushing or flossing), people would be best served by flossing and yet, most of us do just the opposite by brushing on a regular basis and only flossing only once or twice a month.
The mouth is absolutely the gateway to the body and the bloodstream, and the bloodstream is the path that connects the body together. It only makes sense that infection and inflammation that makes its way into the bloodstream through the mouth is going to make the body as a whole work harder, thus increasing the risks for damage and disease of other body parts. This is the reason why diabetes is so strongly tied to Gum And Bone Disease (periodontal) and why things like heart disease and pancreatic cancers can be tied to it as well.
Links to low birth weight, early pregnancy and hypertension during pregnancy also make complete sense due to fact that the bloodstream (placenta) is working to make an entire human being. Any toxins present in the bloodstream are potentially detrimental to this proccess. Unfortunately, I have heard all too often that pregnant women either think that they should avoid the dentist or have been told by their physician not to see one during their pregnancy.
Katie also addresses stress, anxiety, and depression and it’s effect on the mouth. I completely agree with Dr. Levine’s assessment that there is a correlation between emotional and oral wellbeing. Again, this is something my team and I have discussed with patients for numerous years. Increased emotional stress can induce clenching and grinding on our teeth, especially during sleep. This increases risks of cracked teeth, worn down teeth, the collapsing of the bite, and Temporomandibular Disorders (also known as TMJ or TMD). Added stress decreases our ability to fight against bad bacteria, thus increases our risk of periodontal disease. It can also have an affect on the quality of our home care and our diets, which can obviously directly increase the risk of mouth and body problems.
Katie’s segment brought a long known fact into the public eye: we need to be taking better care of our mouths!