Do you dislike going to the Dentist? With modern Dentistry, going to the Dentist really is not the drag and painful experience that it used to be. Plus, the consequences of having bad teeth include gingivitis, gum disease, and tooth abscesses. It also often means lots of toothaches, missing school for many children and adolescents. Bad teeth are a setup for bacterial growth that can go to one’s blood stream and cause major blood infections that can seed the lining of the heart.
Children and even adults with heart disease are more of a setup for these kinds of heart infections that we call endocarditis. Infection from a tooth abscess can also spread to the blood stream through blood vessels and lead to an infection of the brain or a brain abscess. So, I always remind my patients that healthy teeth help keep a healthy heart. In fact, healthy teeth are good for one’s overall health.
Unhealthy oral health contributes and complicates many chronic illnesses, making regular dental visits to the dentist also good for grownups. Consequently, for children the goal is early prevention to avert numerous lifelong troubles. Gum disease is reported to be associated with increased cardiovascular risks. Having bad teeth may be as bad as having cholesterol problems in terms of increasing one’s risk for cardiovascular diseases and stroke. So, needless to say, having both gum disease and bad cholesterol is a double whammy and places a person at a much higher risk for cardiovascular disease, as compared with someone with healthy teeth and low healthy cholesterol levels.
Oral health is often an unmet need in many children and adolescents, because of several reasons, including increased sugar intake, nicotine initiation in adolescents, bad dental health habits (not brushing or flossing), and not having the opportunity to visit with a dentist. Access to a dentist is often difficult particularly for children in poor communities. Kids can take advantage of dental clinics through the school clinics or community dental clinics.
As February is heart health month and gum disease awareness month, it is good to remind all of us of the benefits of good dental health Always remember to keep up with your good home care by brushing 2x per day, flossing before bedtime, and try to use fluoride toothpaste, drink fluoridated community water (as bottled water only contains no or just traces of fluoride), and try to visit your Dentist 2x per year, or more if needed. Since this article was written by a Pediatric Cardiologist, good dental health habits can start early in life. Parents are encouraged to clean a baby’s teeth with a washcloth. The use of a toothbrush can start early, as children will imitate other siblings and their parents brushing daily, creating a lifelong health habit. As a General Dentist, I agree with everything in this article and cannot tell you how many times, a day in fact, I have heard adults mention that they “wish they had taken better care of their teeth as a child and teen”. I remind them, that they are here now and fortunately with modern Dentistry, and patient involvement with their home care, we can enjoy good dental health for a lifetime.