Have you taken a close look at your teeth lately? Can they tell you more about your overall health than you might realize? While regular flossing and brushing are great practices to employ, if you take a closer look at your teeth, they may have a hidden message for you.
Studies have shown that periodontal disease affects nearly 80 percent of both men and women in the United States. This is a chronic infection that targets the gums and the bones supporting the teeth. Bacteria, coupled with the body’s own immune system, can begin to break down the bone and connective tissue that hold the teeth in place. As such, the teeth will soon become loose, fall out, or have to be removed.
Some studies have shown a relationship between bone loss, periodontitis, and tooth loss, noting that it is quite possible that the loss of alveolar bone mineral density makes the bones more susceptible to the bacteria of periodontitis, which increases the risk of tooth loss.
Research has shown a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. The jaw plays an important role in supporting the teeth and anchoring them into position. When the jaw bone becomes brittle and less dense due to the effects of osteoporosis, this can affect the strength of the teeth.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) has indicated through its research that dental X-rays may be used as a way to screen for osteoporosis. It has been shown through research that dental X-rays have been quite effective in showing which patients have osteoporosis versus those with normal bone density.
Since most people are in contact more frequently with their dentist than with their primary care physician, dentists are in a position where they can recognize patients with low bone density and encourage those individuals to seek consultation with their doctors about their bone health. The types of dental concerns that may be indicative of low bone density include loose teeth, receding gums or gums that have already detached from the teeth, and ill-fitting or loose dentures.
It is not known yet whether or not the treatments for osteoporosis have the same benefits on oral health concerns as they do on other bones in the body, but scientists are hopeful that efforts to treat overall skeletal bone density will have a direct and promising impact on dental health.
Of course, taking steps to prevent osteoporosis include eating a well-balanced diet that is full of calcium and vitamin D. Be sure to get plenty of exercise or engage in regular physical activity. Walking, jogging, dancing, and weight training are ideal weight-bearing exercises that serve to keep bones strong and healthy. Avoid smoking and limit how much alcohol you consume. If you do notice any problems in your dental health, most notably loose teeth, receding gum lines, or dentures that do not seem to fit properly, contact not only your dentist, but your doctor as well. Both professionals can help you get back on track to a healthier you, and that is something you into which you will definitely want to sink your teeth!
(Information for this article was found through www.niams.nih.gov)