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Health

Understanding How Tooth Decay Impacts Overall Health

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While most people probably don't associate tooth decay with overall health, it's important to understand the relationship between the two. Tooth decay is caused by the buildup of sticky bacterial plaque on the teeth; if left untreated, it can lead to toothaches, gum disease, and eventually tooth loss.

Progressive tooth decay can cause teeth to become infected, creating flu-like symptoms. The infection can then spread throughout the body, even to the brain. Research continues to find links between bacteria and inflammation in the mouth with other medical issues including heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and dementia. Expectant mothers with excessive tooth decay may give birth prematurely. While the exact causal relationship isn't completely understood, it's thought that the oral bacteria finds a way into the bloodstream and injures major organs.

One common factor is inflammation; periodontal disease, which is the advanced stage of gum disease (gingivitis), is characterized by inflammation that can spread throughout the body. Inflammation is an underlying problem in various diseases; the relationship between periodontitis and diabetes may be the strongest of the connections between the mouth and the body. The inflammation that begins in the mouth may weaken the body's ability to control blood sugar.

One great way to improve and maintain overall health is to make a determined effort to prevent and treat tooth decay. To control plaque buildup, brush teeth twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste, and floss once a day. Use an antimicrobial mouthwash to reduce the bacteria in your mouth.

Regular checkups and professional cleanings with your dentist will also go a long way in preventing and treating tooth decay. Ask your dentist if sealants are right for you; the protective coating applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth (where decay often begins) may also be a good option for improving your overall health. For more information, please contact:

Webster Cosmetic Dentistry, Ltd.

1121 Warren Ave., Downers Grove, IL 60515

630-663-0554

www.websterdds.com