Oral health plays an integral role in the overall health of everyone, but especially in older adults. Older adults are more at risk for developing health problems or complicating existing health problems due to poor oral care or the lack of getting the dental care they need. Early warning signs of health issues can be detected and screened during a routine dental exam.
Older adults are more likely to suffer from dry mouth as a side effect from a variety of medications, including those used to treat high blood pressure. With dry mouth there is a decrease in saliva. Why is that a problem? It is because saliva’s function is to help chew, swallow and digest food; protect teeth from decay; and prevent infection by controlling bacteria, viruses, and fungi in the mouth. Dry mouth can lead to cavities and increased plaque, which is a film of bacteria that is the main cause of gum disease (periodontal disease).
Periodontal disease is a disease of the gums that causes an excessive build up of bacterial plaque on the teeth, along with inflamed and bleeding gums. Complications of periodontal disease extend far beyond the mouth. Periodontal disease serves as a precursor to heart disease, stroke, and has even been linked by scientists to diabetes, dementia and rheumatoid arthritis. Inflammation associated with periodontal disease can also cause inflammation in the body, which is an underlying problem in many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Experts believe the bacteria from the plaque escapes into the bloodstream which ultimately causes damage to major organs of the body. Plaque can build up in arteries and cause them to harden, resulting in a blockage of blood flow. The blockage of blood flow can cause a stroke or heart attack.
By visiting your dentist twice a year, and properly brushing and flossing, you can significantly decrease your chances of developing preventable, life threatening illnesses. Take control of your oral health and your overall health by scheduling an appointment with Enlighten Dental Care today.