Dentists Warn Sick Teeth Can Provoke Medical Problems

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Andy Towle/Roundup - atowle@payson.com

Dr. Eric Anderson and Lead Dental Assistant Christine Chapman, of Anderson Dental Group, recommend you schedule teeth cleanings every six months to prevent expensive repair work as a result of neglected oral hygiene.

A healthy mouth is a healthy body. Researchers and dentists agree that good dental health is more than just cosmetic, it is overall maintenance of the body.

Studies show gum disease is linked with other health problems and, according to the Surgeon General’s Report on Oral Health, there are clear associations between chronic oral infections and heart and lung diseases, stroke, low-birth-weight and premature births.

“Oral health and general health are inseparable. We ignore signs and symptoms of oral disease and dysfunction to our detriment,” the report states. “You cannot be healthy without oral health.”

So, if the mouth is a window into the health of the body, then some windows are in need of a good scrubbing.

Lead Dental Assistant Christine Chapman with Anderson Dental Group agrees.

“The smile is the first presentation you make to others,” she said.

But, with many people facing job layoffs, a credit crunch or foreclosure, cutting dental care to save a few dollars may seem like a good idea.

“Oral prevention is like changing the oil in a car, instead of waiting and having to change the transmission, you get regular oil changes to keep the car running,” Chapman said. “If you don’t get cleanings, you may end up paying more for services, like a root canal.”

The American Dental Association recommends brushing your teeth twice a day and scheduling regular dental checkups.

Dentist Eric Anderson recommends scheduling cleanings every six months.

“The reason we say every six months is that is when cavities start to grow,” he said, “if we check every six months we can catch it before it gets infected or worse.”

For children, it is important to start a regular dental routine early.

Chapman says it is a good idea to brush a child’s mouth before teeth come, so they get used to the idea. As early as two years old, a child can be brought to the dentist with a parent to watch.

“This helps them get used to the area and lights,” Chapman said.

Children who also visit a dentist at an early age will become familiar with teeth cleaning, fluoride and preventative procedures like flossing and sealants.

A dental sealant is a clear coating that is painted onto the back teeth, which do the most chewing, and block bacteria and food from becoming trapped in the grooves. Trapped food causes decay and is especially hard to get out in children’s smaller mouths.

Anderson says one of the biggest epidemics in oral health is in children. During free checkups at local schools, Anderson said he noticed several children already had oral problems because of a lack of early education and prevention.

“It is important to start oral hygiene and education early,” he said.

So, what happens if you take every precautionary step, but you think you have a cavity?

The first step most dentists will take is x-rays. At Anderson Dental, they use a panoramic x-ray machine “Dentistry has come along way in 50 years, it is virtually pain-free,” Anderson said.

Even with the advances in dental procedures, 12 percent of adults have not been to the dentist within the past 5 years, and tooth decay remains the most prevalent chronic disease in adults, even though it is largely preventable, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.

The ADA recommends the following for good oral hygiene:

• Brush your teeth twice a day with ADA-accepted fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every three or four months or if the bristles are frayed.

• Clean between teeth daily with floss. This helps remove plaque and food particles between the teeth and under the gum line.

• Eat a balanced diet and limit between-meal snacks.

About Anderson Dental Group

Anderson Dental has been in Payson for more than 38 years. Scott Anderson opened the first full-time dentistry practice in Payson back in 1971. Today, Scott works with two other dentists — Joseph Spear and his son Eric — periodontist Hudson Johnston and 10 full-time staff members.

Eric, a Payson High School graduate, earned a B.S. degree from Arizona State University and graduated from the University of Pacific Dental School. Spear earned his doctorate in dentistry from the University of Colorado. Eric joined his father on staff in 2000 and Spear in 2007.

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