Research increasingly shows connections between good oral health and one’s overall wellbeing.
This information is changing the way dentists and physicians view and treat oral conditions such as gum disease, which can contribute to an array of health problems including diabetes, heart disease, respiratory disease and other chronic conditions.
Learning about the mouth-body connection has motivated people throughout the country to evaluate their own oral care habits and to learn how they impact their physical health.
It’s not just your body at stake. Oral health conditions like chronic mouth pain, for example, can damage self-esteem, interfere with social interactions, and result in lost productivity, stress and depression.
For military members, poor oral health also can impact dental readiness and affect worldwide deployment status.
The most common connection between poor oral health and chronic medical conditions is periodontal (gum) disease. If you have it, you’re not alone. Half of all American adults have some form of gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1
The good news is that the beginning stages of periodontitis (gum disease) can be reversed through optimal oral hygiene at home and periodic professional care at the dentist’s office.
Though common, gum disease is a largely preventable condition where the bacteria in plaque inflames the gums and impacts the supporting areas around the teeth. As it progresses, the inflammation can become painful and lead to very serious problems, including tooth loss.
How does this one dental issue impact overall wellness in so many ways?
Experts believe that bacteria from gum disease can enter into the bloodstream where it can cause inflammation and injure major organs. Inflammation is no one’s friend. It’s an underlying problem in many diseases including heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Over the years, studies have found that people with gum disease are more likely to have poor heart health and an increased risk for heart attacks as well as diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis.
There are two main types of gum disease:
- Gingivitis: A mild form of gum disease, marked by red, swollen and/or bleeding gums.
- Periodontitis: A serious condition causing gums to recede from the teeth, creating pockets that become infected. As it worsens, the body’s immune system may respond by destroying the tissues and bone that hold the teeth in place.
The symptoms of gum disease in the early stages might initially go unnoticed, but your dentist will spot them if you don’t. Symptoms include:
- Persistent bad breath
- Red, swollen or tender gums
- Easily bleeding gums
- Pain or trouble chewing
- Tooth sensitivity
- Receding gums
- Loose teeth
A routine dental cleaning can be effective in reversing the early stages of gum disease. If the disease has progressed, your dentist may recommend a deep cleaning, also known as scaling and root planing. In severe cases of gum disease, surgery might be necessary.
The goal of gum disease treatment is infection control. Your dentist’s treatment plan will be based on the stage of your gum disease and other factors. For all stages, a combination of daily home care and professional dental treatments is essential.
You can avoid gum disease by practicing optimal oral hygiene. Frequent brushing, flossing and rinsing are essential to preventing gum disease. Remember: Brush at least twice a day, floss and visit with your dentist regularly.
United Concordia administers the TRICARE Dental Program (TDP), which provides dental coverage for National Guard and Reserve members and their families, as well as active duty family members. The TDP helps National Guard and Reserve members maintain their dental readiness status for worldwide deployment with diagnostic services that help prevent gum disease and other dental problems.
Be ready; stay healthy. TDP members can get two routine dental examinations by the same provider, two routine cleanings and two fluoride treatments in a consecutive 12-month period at no cost when seeing a network dentist.
TDP also provides enhanced benefits for members with chronic medical conditions to ensure members have access to the dental care they need to maintain a healthy mouth and fight gum disease.