October is an important month
It is Breast Cancer Awareness month and National Dental Hygiene month.
Both are very important to me as I am a survivor of breast cancer and I have been a practicing registered dental hygienist for over 37 years. While there is always much going on for breast cancer awareness there is a need for more dental health awareness because of the links to many health issues and gum disease.
The medical and dental fields have in the past, always separated the mouth from the rest of the body. We can no longer do that. They are and always have been entirely connected.
Here we are in the 21st Century with the Internet and technology that blows us away and we are just now communicating the systemic connections to many common and dangerous diseases and oral bacteria.
Managing oral bacteria, the good, the bad, and the ugly, has always been a challenge. Tooth decay and gum disease have always been around and few really know much about either one other than brush and floss, brush and floss, brush and floss. And then there are the multitudes of products to choose from that lead you to believe they really help, when in fact if just one did what consumers were hoping for, dental hygienists wouldn’t be needed much anymore.
What happens with all of the oral bacteria is not that simple to explain. There are two battles going on in the mouth 24\7. One bad group eats away at the teeth decaying them, and the other bad group eats away at what holds the teeth in, the tissue and bone.
While no one wants the bacteria that decay the teeth, it’s the latter that is the most dangerous. Research has and is still coming forward linking some of the most dangerous diseases to the bad bacteria that are nestled below the gum line where brushing and flossing and all those products cannot reach.
The statistics show that 85 percent of adults have some form of gum disease and yet most think it is not happening to them. Studies are coming out rapidly now and should be setting off alarms for everyone. These bacteria get breathed into the lungs linking them to respiratory disease.
They enter the bloodstream flowing head to toe every time you see bleeding, linking them to heart disease, stroke, pancreatic cancer, diabetes, low birth weight and pre-mature birth. They enter our nervous systems traveling to our brains showing a link to Alzheimer’s disease.
They are also swallowed regularly linking them to colorectal cancer. Bleeding gums at any time is a sign of a gum problem. It is an early warning sign, but can occur at any stage of gum disease. The gums can also be more red in color and swollen.
Other warning signs that occur and are often unnoticed, are loose teeth or teeth that seem to be moving around showing mobility and receding gums. When the disease is at the later stages teeth begin to fall out or need to be extracted.
Everyday an almost invisible film forms on the teeth at the gum line called plaque and multiplies rapidly. Plaque that is not removed with regular brushing and flossing can be irritating and toxic to the gums. This is when bleeding can begin to occur.
How serious the effects of the bacteria toxins can be, differs in each individual. Over time as the bacteria multiply it can harden into calculus or tartar. The toxins in the tartar destroy the tissue, fibers and bone that hold the teeth in place causing infection you cannot see or feel because it is painless along with tooth loss.
Straight or crowded teeth, income, location, or race does not determine who is most affected. Since the toxins and tartar are below the gum line around every tooth, cleaning there is difficult and must be done professionally usually at six-month intervals.
Home care and brushing should always include the gum line. Healthy gums are light pink, they hug your teeth tight, and they never bleed. If you would like to know if you have healthy gums you cannot tell by just looking at them. Gum health is determined by measuring or probing the spaces between your gums and teeth to see how deep they are.
This procedure can only be done by a dentist or registered dental hygienist. The links to many common, dangerous, life threatening diseases make this a very important exam to have done. It is not just about oral health, it is about your overall health.
Celebrate National Dental Hygiene Month and make an appointment today with a dentist and dental hygienist to determine if you are at risk or have any form of gum disease.
Kim Stevens RDH, BS, MBA, OM is an Orofacial Myologist and a registered dental hygienist. She is a national speaker and a published author. She is a member of the Academy for Laser Dentistry and the International Association of Orofacial Myologists.
Her lifelong passion and commitment to better health and well being for her patients is evident in her dedication of lifelong learning, effective therapies, and encouragement to clinicians and patients alike. She is also a member of Rotary International and is currently serving as assistant governor for district 6060 and serves on the district council.
You can find her contact information at mybestfacenow.com. She currently practices dental hygiene with Dr Howard Schwadron in Louisiana and Dr William Blackmore in Hannibal.