During the holiday season, many people set goals for themselves and use the New Year as an opportunity to start fresh with resolutions. More often than not, we include health resolutions as part of our, new beginnings intentions. If you are one these people, examining your oral health might be a key to formulating comprehensive health goals. 

During the past 15 years, the American Academy of Periodontology has launched an effort to educate the public about new findings, which support what dental professionals had long suspected: infections in the mouth can play havoc elsewhere in the body. 

Since then, evidence has continued to mount to support these links. While more research needs to be done to say for sure that people with gum disease are at a higher risk for developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, preterm birth and respiratory disease, dentists do know that gum disease is a bacterial infection and any and all infections are cause for concern.

Periodontal bacteria can enter the blood stream and travel to major organs and begin new infections. Research is suggesting that this may: 

• Contribute to the development of heart disease.

• Increase the risk of stroke.

• Increase a woman’s risk of having a preterm or low birth weight baby.

• Pose a threat to those whose health is already compromised by diabetes, respiratory diseases, HIV or osteoporosis.

Don’t Ignore Your Oral Health

To be sure that your oral health is not affecting your overall health, schedule a periodontal evaluation with your dentist. Sometimes the only way to detect gum disease is through this evaluation. Contact your dentist if you: 

• Have heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease or osteoporosis. 

• Are thinking of becoming pregnant. 

• Have a family member with periodontal disease. 

Research suggests that the bacteria that cause periodontal disease can pass through saliva. This means the common contact of saliva in families puts children and couples at risk for contracting the periodontal disease of another family member. 

• Have a sore or irritation in your mouth that does not get better within two weeks.

• Have gums that bleed during brushing and flossing.

• Have persistent bad breath.

• Notice pus between your teeth and gums.

• Have loose or separating teeth

What can you do?

Good oral hygiene and regular dental visits are the best way to keep your gums healthy. Brush your teeth thoroughly twice a day. Clean between your teeth with floss or another type of interdental cleaner once a day. Your dentist may recommend using an antimicrobial mouth rinse as part of your daily oral hygiene routine.

Schedule regular dental checkups and if you have dental insurance, make sure you use your benefits before they reset at the end of the year (the majority of plans reset Dec. 31, but not all, check with your provider for more information). Professional cleanings are the only way to remove calculus (tartar), which traps plaque bacteria along the gum line.

Most importantly, have a healthy and happy holiday season with your family and friends.

(Editor’s Note: Athena Storey is the owner/dentist at Studio Dental, PLLC. You can reach her at 575-5576.)

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