Six Myths About Oral Health and Overall Health

You've probably heard the phrase, "at least you have your health." Maybe you've uttered it yourself. It's usually said in an effort to make the best out of a less-desirable situation, though there's some truth behind it. Serious conditions such as heart disease, cancer, ALS, Type II diabetes and mental illness usually grab headlines in the healthcare field. But many people don't realize the connection between oral health and overall health.

The mouth serves as a window into a person's health, but there tends to be a lot of confusion about how mouth care affects our well-being. Let's bust some myths about your oral health:

'Tooth Decay Is Mainly Caused by Sugar.'

Not so, according to Dr. Gerry Curatola of Rejuvenation Dentistry in New York City. Sugar certainly plays a role in tooth decay but it isn't the main perpetrator. Acids from naturally occurring bacteria in the mouth combine with saliva, resulting in plaque buildup on teeth. Often this happens during the consumption of carbohydrates.

'Fillings Made of Silver Aren't a Health Risk.'

Fifty-two percent of silver fillings are made of mercury, according to Curatola, and over time, this mercury can leech out into the mouth. Mercury has been linked to a few autoimmune and chronic diseases, and fillings containing this element should therefore be replaced in a timely manner, if not avoided altogether. People with silver fillings who grind their teeth, drink a lot of hot or carbonated beverages and chew a lot of gum may be particularly prone to this effect.

'Gum Disease Isn't Very Common.'

Gum disease is all too common. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that 47 percent of adults age 30 and older have some form of gum disease. And as we age, we're naturally more susceptible to infections, including those in the gums. Sixty-four percent of adults age 65 and older have either moderate or severe gum disease.

'Bad Breath Is a Sign of Gum Disease.'

Although bad breath indicates you might have gum disease, it's also a sign of other potential health issues. The only sure way to know is by making an appointment with your dentist. If he or she gives your mouth a clean bill of health, consult your primary care physician. Bad breath can also be a symptom of acid reflux, a bowel obstruction or some other digestive issue, often nicknamed "stomach breath," according to Thomas P. Connelly, D.D.S.

'Diabetes Means You'll Get Gum Disease.'

Diabetes, a condition many people deal with on a daily basis, affects the processing of sugar in the human body and can lead to issues with the heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. Poorly regulated blood sugar makes it hard to curb common issues like gum disease, but it doesn't cause an infection of the gums. Those who have diabetes need to be meticulous when taking care of their teeth, so they can remain as healthy as anyone else.

'Women Can Ignore Bloody Gums When They're Pregnant.'

The American Dental Association (ADA) Mouth Healthy site notes that some women experience a condition known as "pregnancy gingivitis." This doesn't occur in all women, though. Thorough toothbrushing and flossing, along with additional dental cleanings, will abate bleeding gums despite the complications that come with pregnancy.

The best way to avoid any oral health issues is to make mouth health a priority. That means regular brushing, flossing and trips to your dentist for check ups and professional cleanings every six months. Using a toothpaste like Colgate Total® Advanced Deep Clean is a good way to prevent cavities, gingivitis and bad breath. Recognizing the importance of oral health and overall health will keep your body working just right.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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Common Conditions During ADULTHOOD

As we get older, dental care for adults is crucial. Here are a few of the conditions to be aware of:

Gum disease – if your home care routine of brushing and flossing has slipped and you have skipped your regular dental cleanings, bacterial plaque and tartar can build up on your teeth. The plaque and tartar, if left untreated, may eventually cause irreparable damage to your jawbone and support structures, and could lead to tooth loss.

Oral cancer – according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, men over the age of 40 have the greatest risk for oral cancer. About approximately 43,000 people will be diagnosed with cancer of the mouth, tongue or throat area, and the ACS estimates that about 7,000 people will die from these cancers. The use of tobacco products and alcohol increases the risk of oral cancer. Most oral cancers are first diagnosed by the dentist during a routine checkup.

Dental fillings break down – fillings have a life expectancy of eight to 10 years. However, they can last 20 years or longer. When the fillings in your mouth start to break down, food and bacteria can get underneath them and can cause decay deep in the tooth.