Why Regular Dentist Visits May Keep You Out of the Hospital
Most people don’t look forward to going to the dentist. We know that we should, but many people wait until they feel a problem, like tooth pain, before they schedule a visit. Unfortunately, they might be gambling with more than just the possibility of losing a few teeth.
A lot of what your dentist does during your (hopefully) biannual visits falls under preventative care. Emerging evidence suggests that the benefits of this type of care may extend beyond a healthy mouth.
Plaque, Tartar, Gingivitis, and Periodontitis
Plaque, composed mostly of mucus and bacteria, naturally builds up on your teeth. Good brushing and flossing habits are the first line of defense against plaque. In the real world, though, they are often not enough.
When you allow plaque to remain on your teeth, it hardens and becomes tartar. Only a cleaning at your dentist’s office can remove tartar. If you don’t have it cleaned off, then the bacteria will begin to cause inflammation around the tooth. At its early stage, this is called gingivitis, and although it sounds bad, the process is still reversible at this point.
However, if you continue to allow the problem to go untreated, it will escalate to periodontitis. In periodontitis, the gums pull away from the teeth, and the spaces they leave become infected by bacteria from the tartar. While fighting this bacteria, your body eats away the bone and tissue that holds your teeth in your mouth. Unfortunately, tooth loss is only the first impact of periodontitis.
Other Impacts of Periodontitis
In recent years, scientists have begun to observe a correlation between periodontitis and serious medical issues elsewhere in the body. There is even evidence to suggest that the inflammation-causing bacteria in periodontitis may infiltrate the bloodstream, travel to the heart, and contribute to coronary artery disease, choking off the arteries that allow the heart to move blood throughout the body.
A 2014 study published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine looked at the relationship between periodontitis and health care costs related to coronary artery disease, cerebral vascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and pregnancy. This study found when periodontitis was treated, healthcare costs related to these four were reduced by an average of 41.4%. Amazingly, healthcare costs related to pregnancy were reduced by 73.7% when periodontitis was treated. (1)
In the end, the time and expense involved in regular check-ups and cleanings at a good general dentist are much more bearable than the consequences of skipping them.
1 – http://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(14)00153-6/pdf