The Oral Systempic Connection: A Healthy Smile, A Healthy Body

Susan's Story

Referred by her general practitioner, Susan came to Goldstein Garber and Salama with various unidentified health ailments. She needed a complete oral exam to see if there were any possible dental problems contributing to her medical issues.

Her exam revealed red and swollen gums. In addition, her X-rays indicated severe decay occurring underneath several of her old porcelain crowns. Because her gums were irritated, Susan's hygienist did a test to see if she if she was at risk for gum disease.  The test results showed that she was genetically susceptible to gum disease.

More Than Meets the Eye

Susan was an incredibly meticulous woman who kept up with her oral health. Because of her genetics, brushing and flossing regularly was not enough to protect her from gum disease. She was also unaware of the decay that was occurring since it was completely hidden by her crowns.

Susan made the right decision to have them replaced. Once Dr. Goldstein started, he found that the cement had begun to wash out and decay was under almost all of the crowns. After her deep cleaning was completed and her temporary crowns were placed, Susan reported feeling better and healthier.

Making the Connection

Often times you may have heard people joke that dentists aren't real doctors. Up until now there has been a disconnection in the general public's eyes between the health of your mouth and the overall health of your body. Many patients don't think of visiting the dentist the same way they think of going to a physician for a checkup.

It should be obvious that our mouth is the first point of entry for our entire body: the primary form of the nourishment our bodies require comes through our mouths in the form of food. This food travels through our bodies and is absorbed and put to use. The good food restores our bodies and the bad food can damage us.

Oral Health's Link to Chronic Diseases

While the eyes are the window to your soul, it turns out that your mouth can say a lot more about your body than researchers have ever known before.  Direct links between your oral health and your overall wellness have been made; In fact, many early signs of cancer, diabetes, and hormonal imbalances are revealed in the mouth before many patients are aware that anything is wrong.

Scientists believe that the same bacteria in your mouth that causes gums to bleed and become inflamed travels through your bloodstream to your arteries where it can contribute to heart disease through inflammation. Statistics from the American Academy of Periodontology show that people with gum disease are 40 to 72% more likely to suffer from heart disease, and 2.7 times more at risk to suffer a heart attack than those who do not.

And that's not all! The National Institute of Diabetes found that diabetic patients are 2.8 times more likely to have periodontal disease, Boston University found periodontal bacteria in blood clots that have caused strokes, and Harvard School of Public Health found that men with periodontal disease had a 63 to 126 %  higher chance of pancreatic cancer.

The movement of the future is to have general practitioners work together with dentists, like in the case of Susan's physician and Dr. Goldstein, to get the full picture of a person's overall health. Susan's case also illustrates the fact that virtually none of the restorations that dentists place last forever.

According to Dr. Goldstein's book Change Your Smile, the average life of a crown can be affected by factors such as fracture, problems with gum tissue, and decay, but generally ranges from 5 to 15 years. Technology has advanced since the time in which you may have had your crowns placed. The types of cement that have been used throughout the years have changed significantly for the better. In fact, the cement used now bonds to the underlying tooth structure with excellent results.

Susans's story has a great moral- the health of your mouth can affect the overall health of your body. While you may associate leaving the dentist's office with a whiter, brighter smile, you shouldn't forget that dentists look out for your body's health as well.