Oral diseases are usually considered separate from other chronic conditions. However, studies show that they are actually more related to chronic diseases than previously thought. According to the CDC, poor oral health can lead to other chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. Oral diseases are also is associated with risk behaviors, such as using tobacco products and consuming sugary foods and beverages.
Cavities or Tooth Decay
Cavities are caused by a breakdown of the tooth enamel by bacteria located in plaque that collects on teeth, especially along the gumline and in between each tooth. High carbohydrate foods and drinks can cause this bacteria to produce the acids that can cause the outer coating of the tooth or root surface to break down.
Although cavities are preventable, they are one of the most common oral diseases. Untreated tooth decay can lead to abscess (a severe infection) under the gums, which can spread to other parts of the body and have serious, and in rare cases fatal, results. Regular flossing, brushing, and staying up on your twice yearly cleanings are some of the most impactful tools to prevent the long-term complications associated with tooth decay.
Gum Disease (Gingivitis)
Gum disease is the result of infections and inflammation of the gums and bone that surround and support your teeth. Chronic conditions increase your risk for periodontal disease including diabetes, a weakened immune system, poor oral hygiene, and genetics. Tobacco users are also at a higher risk for developing gum disease and complications. If early forms of gingivitis are not treated, the bone that supports your teeth can be lost, and the gums can become severly infected.
In 2016 alone, there were nearly 45,000 new cases of oral cancer diagnosed in the United States, and more than 10,000 resulting deaths. To defend yourself and your oral health against this disease, avoid high risk behaviors such as smoking cigarettes, cigar or pipe smoking, use of smokeless tobacco, and excessive use of alcohol. Early detection is crucial for increasing the survival rate for these cancers. Other potential links to oral cancer include Oral Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a common STD, that can cause cancer in the back of the throat. Keeping regular dental appointments not only prevents unsightly damage to your smile, but more fatal health issues as well.
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