That Fear of Dentists May Be Costing You More Than Your Smile

If you don’t make teeth a top priority, you are not alone. Nearly half of American adults aged 30 or older have some form of gum disease. The average 21-year-old American starts their adult life with 28 teeth but by the time they reach 44 years old, 69% have lost at least one tooth, by the age of 50 they have lost 12 teeth (including wisdom teeth) and by age 74, 26% have lost all of their teeth. Americans, in general, are just not that good at caring for their teeth.

It turns out that by neglecting your teeth, you are not only gambling with your terrific smile. Gum disease can make you very sick and can even shorten your life. Those “Perils of Periodontitis” signs in your dentist office are truer than you might imagine.


What is Periodontitis?

Periodontitis is a serious and chronic infection of the gums that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. But you don’t just wake up one day with periodontitis. It starts with gingivitis, which is nothing more than a build-up of plaque on your teeth. If you combine not brushing twice a day, with never flossing, with avoiding the dentist, you have the perfect recipe for gingivitis. If your gums feel a little swollen or you regularly see blood when you brush your teeth, you are well on your way. It only takes a little more neglect for gingivitis to become full-blown periodontitis, and that’s where the real problems begin.

Periodontitis is basically a chronic bacterial infection in your mouth. As we well know, bacterial infections cause inflammation throughout the body. This can lead to a host of other problems:

Heart Disease: Regarding heart health, inflammation can promote the growth of plaques, which can loosen and become free in the arteries and trigger blood clots, a primary cause of heart attacks and strokes. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers or valves, and it can occur when bacteria or other germs from another part of your body, such as your mouth, spread through your bloodstream and attach to damaged areas in your heart.

Diabetes: Diabetics are more likely to develop periodontal disease, and there is evidence to suggest that the relationship is bidirectional. Severe periodontal disease can increase blood sugar, contributing to increased periods when the body functions with high blood sugar. This, in turn, increases the risk of diabetic complications.

Respiratory Infections: Bacteria in the mouth from infected teeth and swollen gums can be breathed into the lungs or travel there through the bloodstream, leading to respiratory infections like pneumonia.

Pregnancy Complications: Gum disease in pregnant women has been linked to premature births and low birth weight in babies. It is believed that the infection and inflammation in the gums can produce chemicals that are linked to preterm birth.

Kidney Disease: Chronic kidney disease has been found to be linked to periodontal disease. Infection and inflammation in the mouth can lead to inflammation throughout the body, impacting kidney function.

Now that we have properly scared you and confirmed all the anxiety those dentist office signs stir up, what should you do to avoid the “Perils of Periodontitis?”  Obviously, it is a good idea to develop the habit of brushing twice a day and flossing daily. But a single visit to the dentist can give you a terrific jump start.


Fear Gum Disease More Than the Dentist

It is very common to fear the dentist and there are many other barriers that can prevent you from prioritizing your dental health. Additionally, if dental health wasn’t a part of your childhood, it likely wouldn’t be a part of your adult life, either. Some barriers include a lack of dental insurance causing concern over the cost of dental procedures, limited access to dental providers, busy schedules that make it challenging to allocate time to visit the dentist, anticipation of discomfort or pain during dental procedures and fear of being judged by dental professionals for neglecting oral health.

There are a bunch of reasons not to go, but staving off disease is the best reason to overcome whatever is keeping you away. There are lists of low-cost dentists in your area. Some insurance pays for regular cleaning. Teeth cleaning is not as painful as the alternative. And a professional cleaning is actually a reset for you and your teeth. The hygienist will remove the dangerous plaque build-up and get you started with clean teeth.

Between cleanings, in addition to brushing, flossing and mouthwash, there are a couple of other less obvious habits to consider.

Stay Hydrated

Drink water throughout the day to help rinse away food particles and maintain saliva production, which is important for oral health.

Limit Acidic Foods, Tobacco, and Alcohol

Acidic foods and beverages can weaken tooth enamel, so be sure to consume them in moderation and rinse your mouth with water afterward. Smoking and alcohol consumption can significantly impact oral health, increasing the risk of gum disease, oral cancer, and other dental issues.


The Bottom Line

If you haven’t been to the dentist for a long time, don’t worry – it’s better to go and get established than put it off. Try to get in the brushing and flossing habit. Remember, occasional flossing is better than none at all. And make your job easier by staying hydrated and limiting your intake of acidic food and drink. Your heart, and the rest of your body, will thank you.

At Amaze we want to help you get healthy and stay healthy. And of course, we’re always here to help.

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