A recent report by South Florida’s Local10 News stressed the connection between a healthy smile and a person’s overall wellness.
The report focused on 60-year-old businessman Regis Bontoux who believed he was developing a heart problem. But after getting dental treatment for his decayed teeth and gum disease, Bontoux’s dizziness, breathing problems, and fatigue have disappeared.
He also doesn’t have to worry about smiling anymore, after decades of trying to hide his bad teeth.
Dental Care and Your Health
Periodontal (gum) disease is caused by the bacteria that lives in your mouth working their way under gum tissue. Untreated, the infection will destroy gums and bones. But that’s not all – oral infections have also been linked with diabetes, heart disease, stroke, respiratory, infections, breast cancer and premature births. Studies on the connections between periodontal and other diseases is now underway.
Almost one-quarter of all Americans say that their teeth are in “bad condition” and health professionals strongly suspect that the number of people with significant oral health problems may be much higher.
Many of us assume that good-looking teeth are healthy teeth. The truth is that even attractive smiles can harbor hidden cavities and the early stages of decay which can only be spotted and addressed by regular dental checkups.
So, factor in what is likely to be a significant number of people who aren’t going to the dentist because their teeth – at least the front ones – look OK and you have a nation with big dental – and health – problems.
The Kaiser foundation also points out that there are additional issues connected to untreated oral health problems, which “can affect appetite and the ability to eat, or lead to tooth loss, all of which can lead, in turn, to nutrition problems. Untreated problems can also cause chronic pain that can affect daily activities such as speech or sleep.”
Seeing your dentist on a regular basis helps keep your mouth healthy and also allows your dentist to watch for signs that may point to other health issues.
Bacterial Oral Infections Can Be Fatal
Serious bacterial infections resulting from dental diseases are still responsible for thousands of hospitalizations and dozens of deaths in the U.S. every year. What’s more, some recent studies indicate that these numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. How does a routine dental problem turn into a potentially fatal condition – and what can you do to prevent it from happening?
In many cases, the kind of bacterial infection that may be life-threatening develops from an untreated dental abscess. An abscess occurs when a pocket of bacteria begins to form in the soft tissue of the gums, or at the tip of a tooth’s root. Potentially harmful bacteria exist alongside the thousands of other species commonly found in the mouth, and are normally kept in balance with good oral hygiene. But when provided with a favorable environment for growth (such as a deep cavity or a hidden pocket below the gum line) they may proliferate – causing inflammation, sometimes pain, and a spreading infection.
An abscess can develop when an ordinary cavity goes untreated for so long that the tiny hole in the tooth’s surface reaches into its inner pulp, allowing it to become infected with harmful bacteria. The bacteria may then pass through the tooth’s roots and into the tissues of the jaw. In other cases, an abscess may result from gum disease, poor oral hygiene, or even a piece of food becoming trapped below the gum line. This condition usually doesn’t develop overnight, and the pain it can cause often drives a person to seek immediate treatment.
If you can manage to ignore the pain of infection, it may go away in time… but the infection itself won’t. Eventually, it may force you to seek treatment in an emergency room – which may not be the best option. Most ERs lack a dentist on staff, so treatment may focus on pain relief, along with a prescription for antibiotics. However, there may not be enough follow-up care focused on relieving the source of the infection; or, the infection may already be at a dangerous stage when you come in.
While fatal dental infections are rare, it’s clear that the sooner you get treatment for a routine dental problem, the more effective – and less costly – your treatment will be. That’s why it’s so important to have access to effective dental care when it’s needed… and to make use of it.
Affordable Dental Care
Dental insurance and dental savings plans both help people afford the preventive care that they need to keep their teeth, gums and mouth healthy. With regular checkups and cleanings, and good oral health practices at home, you’re much less likely to need costly treatments intended to salvage or replace decaying, weak teeth.
The typical cost of an individual dental insurance policy is around $350 a year. For a family, the cost of dental insurance is around $550, annually.
Dental savings plans, the affordable alternative to dental insurance, range from $79.95-$199.95 annually. With a dental savings plan, you can reduce the cost of dental care by 10%-60%, depending on the treatments you need. There’s a plan for every budget and dental care need, whether you want to save on braces or root canals, dental implants or dentures, basic care or complex treatments. Plus, virtually all of the plans include additional free bonus benefits too, such as savings on vision and hearing care, prescriptions, and other wellness services.
Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com or by calling 1-800-238-5163.