Have you ever heard the expression, “Your mouth is a mirror of your insides”?
For some people there is strong evidence to suggest that the above statement may be true and that visible problems in the oral cavity could possibly indicate a more general medical concern.
I truly believe this and preach daily to my patients whilst emphasising the importance of a regular dental check up, good oral hygiene and education.
You can tell a lot by looking inside someone’s mouth; whether they smoke or not, have a high sugar diet, are stressed and nervous, or on certain types of medication, dehydrated and even their age! Everyone’s mouth and history is different.
I believe it is important for a DCP to look for more than the obvious. I feel a bit like a secondary filter. After all, it is our duty of care. The most obvious being, double-checking soft tissues for any abnormalities that may need to be recorded, taking photographs or having things reviewed again by the dentist. It’s better to be safe than sorry, right?
As some of you may already know, on-going research shows that there are strong links between periodontal (gum) disease with systemic disorders such as diabetes. Other research suggests a link between the health of one’s mouth to other conditions including cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease and even dementia.
Diabetes is more common these days
The probable factors, which may link periodontal disease to diabetes, are that diabetics are known to have a compromised immune system, which could increase the risk due to vulnerability. This also affects the healing process of the gums. Chemicals may also be produced by over-weight diabetics due to excess lipids that are known to be linked to inflammation of the gums. New research has also shown that one is more likely to develop diabetes if you already have gum disease.
Cardiovascular Disease. “Love your heart. Love your teeth”!
The bacteria in the mouth aiding gum disease are known to produce protein which may cause platelets in the blood to clot together in blood vessels of the heart reducing normal blood flow restricting necessary amounts of oxygen. This could result in a heart attack. It is believed that a patient with gum disease is twice as likely to develop coronary artery disease.
Any patient with gum disease also has a high risk of losing teeth prematurely. This can affect confidence, speaking and eating. One’s smile and mouth is personal, signatory and important for its functional uses as well as your well-being.
As with most diseases, prevention is cheaper than a cure. Maintaining good oral hygiene can generally prevent periodontal disease and reduce tooth decay.
In the chair
From my own experience, I have noticed when someone feels under the weather that it is common for him or her to have poor oral hygiene, have ulcers, cold sores and feel sick. The last thing you want to do is clean your teeth. This is where I encourage my patients to change their way of thinking.
Another example is when patients’ gums bleed, naturally they say they want to stop brushing but in fact I tell them of the need to increase their oral hygiene regime in order to make things better. This in itself is a challenge, but working over 4 years at one practice means I’ve learned to know the patients well and gained their trust and support. After following the “backward” advice, the patients found me to be correct; things did get better for them. They stated their teeth felt cleaner, gums healthy, fresh breath and overall happier in their appearance, feeling good!
Another example from my own experience to date is that I’ve referred a number of medically fit and well patients complaining of regular mouth ulcers back to dentists who subsequently refer the patient, where necessary, on to their doctor for blood tests that could diagnose any diet deficiencies and gastric problems. Even advanced erosion in ones mouth could be a sign of gastric problems. This is common and can be rectified by correct oral diagnosis and simply referring the patient back to their doctor for medication.