(StatePoint) If maintaining good health is top of mind these days, as it is for many, be sure to factor dental hygiene into the equation. Medical experts say that a healthy mouth is critical to whole-body health, and warn that during the COVID-19 pandemic, certain stress-related oral health concerns are on the rise.
“Dental health and overall health are intrinsically linked. Beyond teeth and gums, the mouth serves as a window to the rest of the body, providing clues about health related issues that may be brewing,” says Dr. Alice Boghosian, American Dental Association (ADA) spokesperson.
Dr. Boghosian reminds the public that dental visits have always been an essential part of health care and are safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to ADA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, dentists have increased their already strong infection control and office sterilization protocols when treating patients.
“Routine dental exams during the pandemic can help keep your mouth and body healthy. In addition, dentists can sometimes spot signs suggestive of medical issues, alerting you to the need for medical follow-up,” says Dr. Boghosian.
According to the ADA, here’s why you should be seeing your dentist regularly, and insights into how oral and overall health are connected:
• The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tremendous source of anxiety and stress, which makes it no surprise that since its onset, a majority of dentists in an ADA Health Policy Institute survey report a rise in stress-related oral health conditions in their patients. If you are waking with a tired or sore jaw, find you’re grinding your teeth or have a chipped or cracked tooth, a dentist can help.
• Dentists’ areas of care extend beyond teeth, gums and supporting bone to include the muscles of the head, neck and jaw, the tongue, salivary glands and the nervous system of the head, neck and other areas. When appropriate, dentists can take samples of tissue to screen for chronic or infectious diseases, and even oral cancer. Catching oral cancer early reduces the risk of your being among the 10,030 people nationwide whose lives are claimed annually by the disease.
• For the 29.1 million people in the U.S. living with diabetes, and those at high risk of developing the disease, dental visits are especially important. Untreated diabetes can take a toll on your mouth in numerous ways your dentist can detect. What’s more, people with diabetes are more prone to periodontal disease, a chronic, inflammatory disease that can destroy gums, all the tissues holding your teeth and even bones. Research suggests that treating gum disease and then practicing good oral hygiene can help improve blood sugar control in people living with diabetes.
• With pregnancy come changes in your body, including an increased risk of the gum disease called gingivitis. Keeping up with regular dental cleanings during your pregnancy can help keep this issue at bay.
For more dental health tips and resources, visit MouthHealthy.org. To find a dentist near you, visit FindaDentist.ada.org.
“Dentists, along with your physician and other healthcare professionals, are part of your health care team,” says Dr. Boghosian. “Your oral and overall health are our top priority.”