Happy 2017 – let’s make it a healthy year.

By Dr. Stephanie McGann, DMD FAGD, Columnist, The Times

With each passing year one thing is undeniable, we are a year older.  Let’s be a year wiser too. With the advent of great preventive care and good oral hygiene we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of people who get to middle age with little or no need for extensive dentistry.

Let’s not get complacent, teeth are like a classic car, the older they get the more needs they have.   When we are young we have great saliva flow, so all those little insults to our enamel are minimized by the constant washing away of food and debris by copious saliva. As we mature saliva flow diminishes and some individuals may need medications that cause extreme dryness in the mouth.

Regular dental visits are essential as the mouth is sometimes considered the window to the entire body. Changes in the tissues of the mouth and tongue can show signs of nutritional deficits, infections or systemic disease. Diabetes, AIDS, Sjogren’s syndrome and some cancers including leukemia may be first identified because of changes in the oral environment.

Periodontal disease, a chronic infection in the gums, can make other systemic issues more difficult to manage. For example, Diabetics are more prone to periodontal disease and the presence of periodontal disease makes controlling blood sugar much more difficult. Many physicians are now recommending that individuals suffering from diabetes see their dentist more frequently, sometimes at least four times per year. The bacteria from gum disease can cause or be a factor in bacterial pneumonias or other respiratory disease.

Several major studies have linked heart problems with the inflammation that is a result of periodontal disease. The bacteria involved in gum disease may also be responsible for aggravating blockages in the arteries or cause damage to the heart valves.

What you can do now to make the future a healthier place?

  1. Take bleeding gums seriously. Even gingivitis has a negative impact on our entire health. Brush better, floss and see your dentist to get your gingivitis under control. Gums still bleeding? Consider having a thorough physical exam with bloodwork by your physician. Take your health seriously.
  2. Up your oral hygiene regimen. Your teeth have been through years of wear and tear, treat them to a new sonic toothbrush, add fluoride to your regular dental visits, and be sure to brush twice each day for 2 minutes.
  3. Take care of yourself. Each a balanced diet, get regular exercise and see your dentist at least twice a year.
  4. If you smoke, quit.
  5. Had a cold? Be sure to adequately clean or change out your toothbrush or brush head.
  6. If 2017 is the year you plan on starting a family, take special care of your teeth and gums. Pregnancy hormones can make dental problems worse and healthy gums are an indicator of a healthy pregnancy.
  7. Don’t procrastinate. Too often small dental concerns grow to large expensive dental issues when we put it off.

Given the numerous links between general health and dental health, let’s make 2017 a year we focus on prevention as an integral part of maintaining our overall health for years to come.

Have a Happy and Healthy 2017

Dr. Stephanie McGann, who has more than two decades of dental practice experience, is a resident of the Unionville area and along with her partner, Dr. Marie Scott, operates The Brandywine Smile Center, a family-friendly dental practice in Concordville. Dr. McGann has opened a new practice in Valley Township, Rainbow Valley Dental. She is a Fellow of the Academy of General Dentistry.

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