Ignoring oral health can have serious impacts on the rest of the body according to the Australian Dental Association (ADA).
Extensive research over decades has found that the main conditions that link the mouth with the rest of the body are cardiovascular, Type 2 diabetes and adverse pregnancy outcomes.
Studies are also being conducted into the effects of periodontitis (advanced gum disease) on pregnant women. Some early data suggests that if the gum disease is treated, the risk of having a premature baby declines.
The ADA’s Oral Health Promoter and dentist Dr Mikaela Chinotti said: “These serious health conditions and events can be significantly reduced if people regularly look after their mouths.”
“That means brushing twice a day with a small amount of fluoridated toothpaste, flossing daily, eating a diet low in sugar and seeing your dentist regularly for check-ups. These typically include a scale and clean which is vital for removing the bacteria that build up and start the process of periodontitis and inflammation.”
Dr Chinotti said periodontitis signs can be difficult to spot and may include bleeding from the gums and very little or no pain, and without treatment, the condition can worsen over time until affected teeth may finally become loose.
Risk factors include older age, smoking, drinking alcohol above recommended levels, the presence of diabetes and poor oral health practices.
“For too long mouth health has been separated from body health. It’s time to put the mouth back in the body.
“The ADA hopes that by making this mouth and whole-of-body relationship more widely known to Australians, they’ll understand oral health is an integral part of general health.”
A snapshot of Aussie mouths
The Australian Dental Association’s 2020 National Consumer Survey of around 25,000 people released for Dental Health Week (2-8 August) has found three quarters of us rarely or never floss or clean between our teeth.
Additional findings include:
- 1 in 5 adults brushes their teeth only once a day and over 60% of adults haven’t seen a dentist for at least two years.
- 4 in 10 parents report their children under 17 years drink 2-5 soft drinks a week, despite 83% knowing such drinks can lead to tooth decay. A sizeable number of parents appear to be unaware that fruit juice can lead to tooth decay.
- 2 in 3 adults usually visit the dentist for a specific problem rather than for a check-up, a figure that has not improved since first being recorded in 2014.
- 1 in 3 adults rate their oral health as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’. This increased with age to 1 in 2 adults for those over 56. The most common reason was ‘don’t visit the dentist enough’.