| Thu, Aug 28, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Does A Healthy Mouth Equal A Healthy Body?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

oral healthA healthy mouth is more than just having a pretty smile. It’s also about having overall physical health.

The Oral Health–General Health Connection

The mouth is a port of entry for bacteria and other toxins. Normally, the body’s natural defenses and daily brushing and flossing can keep these bacteria under control. However, without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that might lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease and create additional problems that can spread to the rest of the body. Oral bacteria and the inflammation associated with periodontitis — a severe form of gum disease — might play a role in some diseases.

According to the Mayo Clinic, your oral health might affect, be affected by, or contribute to various diseases and conditions, including1:

  • Endocarditis. Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of your heart (endocardium). Endocarditis typically occurs 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.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Heart disease, clogged arteries and stroke might be linked to the inflammation and infections that oral bacteria can cause.
  • Diabetes. Diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection — putting the gums at risk. Gum disease appears to be more frequent and severe among people who have diabetes. People who have gum disease may have a harder time controlling their blood sugar levels.
  • Osteoporosis. Osteoporosis — which causes bones to become weak and brittle — might be linked with periodontal bone loss and tooth loss.
  • Alzheimer’s disease. Tooth loss before age 35 might be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.

Oral Health Affects Quality Of Life

Good oral health goes a long way toward a pain-free life and the ability to consume nutritious food. People with dental problems, like missing or loose teeth, usually prefer soft, easily chewed foods that tend to be lower in fiber and nutritional value than foods eaten by people with better oral health. Oral health problems can also cause chronic pain, which may lead to sleep disturbances and depression.

Prevention

Taking care of your oral health is an investment in your overall health. Below are a few tips to help achieve good oral hygiene.

  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss your teeth once a day.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking increases your risk for gum disease.
  • Replace your toothbrush every three to four months or sooner if bristles are frayed.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups.

Contact your dentist if you notice any of these problems:

  • Gums that bleed during brushing and flossing
  • Red, swollen or tender gums
  • Gums that have pulled away from your teeth
  • Persistent bad breath
  • Pus between your teeth and gums
  • Loose or separating teeth
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite

Medicare Does Not Cover Routine Dental Care

Unfortunately, Medicare does not cover routine dental care. Under certain circumstances, it covers dental services needed by hospitalized patients with specific conditions, such as jaw fractures or to prepare a patient for radiation in cases of oral and pharyngeal cancers.

Some Medicare Advantage plans include dental coverage. However, many older people living on a fixed income may forego dental care because they don’t have the money. If you haven’t done so already, you may want to look into buying private dental insurance.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.

Resources:

Brushing and Flossing Techniques: Mayo Clinic

The Oral Health of Older Americans: Centers For Disease Control and Prevention—cdc.gov

Medicare Made Clear: Medicare information and resources—MedicareMadeClear.com

1 The Mayo Clinic, by Mayo Clinic Staff; Oral health: A window to your overall health

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