They have been referred to as the pearly whites, a grill, chompers, choppers, fangs, and even masticating mandibles. They can indicate emotions, (smiling).  They can indicate a level of acquired knowledge and a person’s age (wisdom teeth). They help shape our face, they help us communicate, chew and digest food.

Our teeth and gums by themselves are tremendously important to us, but they become even more important when you consider they are linked to other parts of our body. They can also affect our overall physical and emotional well-being.

Teeth and general health

Dental professionals have long proposed a synergistic relationship between oral health and overall health. and recent studies have shown that infections in the mouth can be linked to problems in other parts of the body. For example, gum disease has been linked to a number of illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, stroke, and respiratory disease.

Explained in layman’s terms it’s all about inflammation. Gum disease is the most common chronic inflammatory disease in the world and it is believed that the mouth acts as a kind of entry point, or a portal, for an infection. The infection causes inflammation which allows bacteria to enter the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, the infection produces a protein that causes the blood to thicken or put another way, for the platelets to stick together and this increases the chances of a blood clot. Once the blood clot forms it can have many detrimental effects including depriving the heart of essential nutrients and oxygen, which may eventually lead to a heart attack.

Some studies have also identified a reciprocal relationship between gum disease and diabetes. These studies have shown that when diabetes is treated and properly controlled this will improve conditions in the mouth. Being reciprocal, this relationship works both ways, and it has been shown that treating periodontal disease can decrease the need for insulin.

woman eating apple

Gum disease has also been linked to premature birth. In fact, studies have shown that pregnant women who have gum disease are three times more likely to give birth prematurely and it is estimated that pregnant women who have gum disease have a 1 in 4 chance of giving birth before 35 weeks. It is also thought that gum disease may raise the levels of chemicals that induce labor.

Simply put, an individual with gum disease has a greater bacterial load in their mouth which means these people are at a greater risk of developing a chest infection. The process is as follows. Bacterial infections in the lungs are thought to be caused by breathing in infected droplets through the mouth, which then enters the throat and progress into the lungs. Breathing in these infected droplets can cause a condition such as pneumonia or worsen an existing condition.

Pneumonia is particularly dangerous for elderly people and may result in loss of life which means that good oral hygiene is tremendously important for the elderly. Good oral hygiene is the first step in terms of prevention and there are clear links between good oral hygiene and a lessening of infections in other parts of the body.

The dentist

The modern-day dentist performs a range of procedures, all of which are designed to improve or maintain oral health or improve appearance. Here are some of the more common procedures performed by dentists.

Bonding is a process where the dentist mixes a composite resin into a paste. Once in paste form, the mixture is then tinted so as to be white or the color of the patients’ teeth. Several resign layers are applied and each layer is hardened under ultraviolet light or laser. Once hardened the bonded tooth is then polished and shaped so as to look natural and smooth.

Bridges and implants are among the popular opinions to replace missing teeth. Bridges are false teeth anchored in place by existing teeth. Dental implants are artificial roots that are surgically placed into the jawbone and are used to anchor replacement teeth. Dental implants are a common procedure performed by dentists to help patients restore their smiles.

One procedure that has a somewhat dubious reputation because it has traditionally been associated with pain, is that of the root canal. Root canals are used to treat injured cracked or decayed teeth and the process involves cleaning out the center of the infected tooth, filling the space, then sealing it. Other procedures performed by dentists include braces, crowns, caps, extractions, fillings, cleaning, whitening, and dentures.

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