Many people are unaware that oral health is affected by a number of different factors, including various health conditions. In today’s post from Coventry Dental Care, we’re going to discuss a few of the main health conditions that can affect your oral health.
If you need to see a Stratford dentist, then give us a call or get in touch with us through our online contact form.
How Your Overall Health Affects Your Oral Health
As we briefly mentioned above, it’s important to realize that your dentist is aware of much more than just your teeth! Some health-related conditions that show up in the mouth include, but are not limited to:
- Oral cancer
- Temporomandibular disorder (TMD)
- Thyroid problems
- Iron deficiency/anemia
- Eating disorders (bulimia and anorexia)
Communication with your dentist is vital. During your visit, talk to your dentist about your ongoing health concerns so that he or she may help you.
Your dentist may adjust your treatment if you have certain medical conditions, use certain prescription drugs, or are currently undergoing medical treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy.
Research shows that gum disease and diabetes may affect one another. For instance, gum disease can intensify the complications associated with diabetes by increasing blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels over an extended period of time are associated with premature degeneration of eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels.
Studies have also shown that people with diabetes face a greater risk of developing oral infections and gum disease than those who do not have diabetes. The good news is that the treatment of either gum disease or diabetes can lead to improvements in the other.
Our dentists in Stratford have the training and experience necessary to assess your oral health, and to determine a course of treatment that is best for you. Some of the most common oral health problems associated with diabetes are:
- Tooth decay
- Gum disease
- Dry mouth
- Fungal infections
- Lesions in the mouth
- Taste impairment
- Infection and delayed healing
If you are a diabetic, speak to your dentist about the best course of treatment for you. Make sure to let him or her know:
- If the diabetes is under control
- If you take insulin and when your last dose of insulin was administered
- If there has been any other change in your medical history
- The names of all the herbal medicines, prescription, and over-the-counter drugs you are taking
Your dentist can play an important role in the early detection of oral cancer. Dentistry is about prevention and the dental exam is the foundation of good oral health. A dentist may notice subtle changes in the mouth that a patient won’t.
The oral cancer examination performed by your dentist during a routine dental exam is fast, easy, and painless. More importantly, it could save your life.
If you’re concerned about the possibility of oral cancer, then speak with a dentist in Stratford when you visit Coventry Dental Care.
TMD (Temporomandibular Disorder)
The jaw joints and groups of muscles that allow us to chew, swallow, speak and yawn are known as the temporomandibular. If there’s a problem with how the joints and muscles work, you may have a temporomandibular disorder, or TMD for short.
The symptoms of TMDs include, but are not limited to:
- Tender or sore jaw muscles. Your jaw may be even more painful when you wake up, clench your teeth, chew your food, or yawn.
- Problems opening or closing your mouth. It may be hard to open or close your jaw all the way, or your jaw may lock open or closed.
- Headaches that you cannot explain. You may also feel pain in your neck. These may be caused by TMD, or by other problems. Tell your dentist AND your doctor.
- A clicking or grinding noise when you chew or yawn. You may hear strange noises in your jaw joints, such as clicking or popping when you open your mouth, or crunching and grinding sounds when you chew.
The cause of TMD is not always clear, but in most cases, stress is a major factor. Here are some of the other factors that can cause it:
- Clenching and grinding your teeth. Clenching your jaw muscles can cause them to ache. Some people grind their teeth or clench their jaw muscles when they are under stress.
- Injury to your face or jaws. Broken (or fractured) jaws, a jaw joint that has been knocked out of place (or dislocated) and “whiplash” may cause TMD.
- Some diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may affect the jaw joints and muscles.
- If your jaw does not grow the right way, your teeth may not line up the way they should. This can make it hard to bite and chew, and may lead to TMD.
Other things that can lead to TMD include, but are not limited to:
- Worn, loose, or missing teeth
- Gum problems
- Partial or full dentures that are not the right fit
- Habits such as biting pens and pencils
What you can do:
- Relax. Be aware of when you are clenching your teeth. Try to relax your jaw muscles and keep them relaxed. If you need help learning to relax, there are courses that can teach you. Ask your dentist or doctor for recommendations.
- Watch what you eat. Stay away from hard or sticky foods. Do not chew gum. Eat a soft diet and cut your food into small pieces. Try not to open your mouth too wide, even when you yawn.
- Massage and exercise. Rub (or massage) and stretch (or exercise) your jaw muscles. This may help ease stress, just like it does with other muscles in your body. However, be gentle and do not put extra stress on your jaw or the surrounding muscles. Too much stretching or exercising could make the problem worse.
- Use a compress. Your dentist may suggest putting a cold or warm compress on your sore jaw muscles, then rubbing (or massaging) them gently to help ease tense muscles. For a cold compress, use ice cubes wrapped in a towel, or a bag of frozen vegetables such as peas. For a warm compress, use a hot water bottle or heating pad wrapped in a towel. You can also apply a hot, damp cloth to the area.
- Remember the saying, “Lips together … teeth apart.” When you are relaxed, your teeth should be slightly apart, your tongue should be resting gently against the roof of your mouth, and your lips should be relaxed and barely touching or slightly apart. Try to keep your upper and lower teeth apart, except when you are eating or swallowing.
- Think positively. Almost all TMD patients get better, but there is rarely an easy cure. Some patients are able to make an effort to relax once the clenching has been brought to their attention. For others, it may take several weeks or several months before they feel better.
How Your Stratford Dentist Can Help
Your dentist will perform a detailed exam and may take x-rays to evaluate the seriousness of your condition.
Depending on what your dentist finds, he or she may suggest a plan to treat your TMD. Your dentist may also refer you to a dental specialist with specialized training in TMDs. This could be an oral surgeon (also called an oral and maxillofacial surgeon), an oral pathologist, an orthodontist, a periodontist, or a prosthodontist. If your dentist refers you to a dental specialist, he or she will explain what that specialist does.
Your Dental Treatment Plan May Include:
- Referring you to another health care worker to help you ease muscle pain or open your jaw. This could be a physiotherapist, a chiropractor, and/or a behavioral therapist.
- Correcting problems with your teeth. If you have a bad bite, braces or other dental work may be used to correct the problem. Teeth that are causing the problem can sometimes be reshaped to better fit together.
- Taking medicine. Depending on the cause of your TMD, medicine for pain, inflammation, tense muscles, or depression may help.
- Wearing a nightguard or bite plate (also called an occlusal splint). An occlusal splint is made of clear plastic. It fits over the biting surface of the teeth of one jaw so that you bite against the splint rather than your teeth. This helps your jaw joints and muscles to relax. Depending on your TMD, your dentist may tell you to wear a splint 24 hours a day, only at night, or for some length of time in between.
- Having surgery. If none of the other treatments have worked, or if it is VERY hard to open your jaw, then you MAY need surgery.
Source: Canadian Dental Association
Bulimia & Anorexia Nervosa
Anorexia and bulimia are both serious eating disorders. They occur when men or women have an extreme fear of becoming overweight. This can lead not only to excessive dieting, severe health problems, and even death.
Both conditions have implications for your teeth because your body is not getting the minerals, vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients that are needed to maintain good oral health and good overall health.
In addition, a person who is bulimic may binge eat and then vomit. When this occurs, the acids that break down your food eat away at tooth enamel and may wreak havoc on your mouth. Translucent and worn teeth, bad breath, or swollen mouth, throat, and glands may result.
Your Stratford Dentist Sees More Than Just Your Teeth
Your dentist plays a very important role in your health care team. Dentists have the skills and expertise — not only to treat oral health disease — but to help you with all of your oral health needs as well.
It’s important to keep your dentist updated on your health and medications. Let’s say you have a heart murmur or have just had a hip or knee replaced. You may need antibiotics before dental work to reduce the risk of infection.
Many dental procedures involve some bleeding of the gums and healthy blood clotting is important to recovery. Conditions such as liver disease and medications such as aspirin, blood thinners, and some herbal remedies may affect the ability of the blood to clot normally.
Your dentist can also spot emerging medical problems. For example, the onset of bleeding from your gums may suggest the beginning of gum disease that could also be related to adult-onset diabetes if your gums have otherwise been healthy.
Contact a Dentist in Stratford
We hope that today’s entry has helped you to better understand the relationship between your oral health and various medical conditions. Our blog is filled with other helpful resources, so be sure to bookmark this page and look through the rest of our entries.
If you would like to speak to a dentist in Stratford, then please call our office or fill out the form below to book an appointment. Coventry Dental Care offers children’s dentistry, sedation dentistry, cosmetic dentistry, and so much more.
We look forward to speaking with you soon.