According to Oral Health in America: A Report of the Surgeon General, tooth decay is the most common chronic childhood disease. It is five times more common than asthma and seven times more common than hay fever. Poor dental hygiene that leads to gum disease, cavities and other infections can have serious effects on a person’s overall health. This is why it is extremely important to take care of your oral health and to visit a dentist at least twice a year for a cleaning and check-up.
Procedures beyond regular dental visits can be expensive. Fillings are common and can cost several hundred dollars or more. Procedures such as a root canal and extractions can cost several hundred or even thousands of dollars depending on the dentist. Delaying these procedures could be damaging to your teeth and gums. People who do not have dental insurance are less likely to take the necessary steps for oral health because of financial reasons.
It is also possible for diseases such as diabetes, leukemia, brain tumors, hardening of the arteries and halitosis to be detected in a dental exam. Susan Karabin, a periodontist (a dentist specializing in diseases of the gums and other structure surrounding the teeth) and president of the American Academy of Periodontology, have diagnosed several cases of diabetes. “When I see a patient with multiple abscesses in their mouth… I immediately think 'diabetes.' I will send that patient for a glucose tolerance test.” *
According to the Academy of General Dentistry, over 90% of systemic diseases have oral symptoms. Some examples include:
- Diabetes: This disease reduces the body’s resistance to infections, which puts the gums at risk. People with insufficient blood sugar control may develop more infections of the gums and the bone that holds teeth in place and lose more teeth than people who have sufficient blood sugar control.
- HIV/AIDS: Many oral problems such as mucosal lesions are common in people with this disease.
- Osteoporosis: This disease and tooth loss often occur simultaneously because the same loss in mineral density that helps decrease the risk of hip and other fractures also affects the jawbone and teeth.
- Digestion Disorders: Digestion begins with the mouth, and the problems in your mouth can lead to digestive disorders.