Another Reason for Good Oral Hygiene

By Cheryl Thomas, RDH

Oral Hygiene Diabetes

You’ve probably heard how brushing and flossing your teeth daily can help prevent cavities and gum disease, but there might be a new reason to find the energy to clean your teeth. It has to do with the relationship of your teeth and gums to the rest of your body.

For quite a while now, dental professionals have known that gum disease (a chronic bacterial infection of the gums) adversely affects blood sugar levels in patients living with diabetes. But recent research has raised an intriguing question: Can gum disease be related to other diseases and conditions as well? Researchers suspect there is a relationship between gum disease and diabetes, pneumonia, heart disease, low birth weight in pre-term babies, and even kidney disease!

Although the jury is not yet in, there is already compelling evidence of a relationship between gum disease and diabetes, as well as with pneumonia. Think about it… Because your mouth is directly connected to your windpipe (trachea), which is directly connected to your lungs, it makes sense that an overabundance of bacteria in your mouth could travel to your lungs and cause more frequent respiratory infections and possibly pneumonia.

To prevent gum disease, the American Dental Association recommends a yearly dental exam by a dentist, and a professional dental cleaning at least twice a year. People with gum disease or special health conditions, such as chronic kidney disease (CKD), often require more frequent cleanings in order to maintain healthy gums.

Those with CKD (pre-dialysis, on dialysis, or with a transplant) should tell their nephrologist about upcoming dental procedures. To combat possible infection, your nephrologist may prescribe an antibiotic to be taken prior to the procedure. Likewise, your dentist needs to know if you have kidney disease or are on dialysis, as this might influence the type of medications prescribed or procedures performed. For instance, because most hemodialysis patients receive heparin during dialysis, some dental procedures (such as tooth extractions) should be done on a non-dialysis day in order to prevent excessive bleeding.

The prevention of cavities and gum disease may have been the motivating factor in how often you cleaned your teeth in the past, but good oral hygiene will likely prove important in reducing your risk for a number of diseases.

Keep smiling!

gum disease and kidney disease - Oral Hygiene Diabetes - cher thomasAbout the Author
Cheryl Thomas , RDH is a registered dental hygienist and founder of dentalInspirations, Inc., Galveston, TX, specializing in dental management of the kidney transplant patient. She received a kidney transplant in 1999, and was the 2005 recipient of the RDH-Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction.

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