Are You at Risk?

 In dentistry, periodontal disease

We’re all committed to excellent preventative oral care, and usually, that’s all it takes to keep patients smiling and healthy. But despite daily hygiene at home and regular visits to your Palo Alto dentist, outside factors in our lives can places us at special risk.

Because dental health has impacts on other aspects of our health, knowing if you’re at risk for dental disease is critical. Do any of the following risk factors apply to you?

Medications

It is extremely common for people to take medications, and many of them are completely safe in terms of dental side effects, but other side effects pose a real problem: dry mouth.

Dry mouth hurts oral health because saliva plays many important roles: it has antimicrobial effects, washes the mouth free of food debris and bacteria, and carries ions for remineralizing damaged enamel. When medications limit saliva, your mouth is very vulnerable to cavities and gum disease.

Dry mouth is often a side effect of medications used to treat:

  • depression and anxiety
  • cold medications like decongestants
  • allergy medications (antihistamines)
  • acne
  • high blood pressure
  • asthma
  • muscle relaxants
  • sedatives

This is by no means a complete list! If you take a medication, it is critical to know its side effects. If dry mouth is one of them, be sure to tell your Palo Alto dental clinic at your next visit.

Medical conditions

As if it isn’t bad enough that your medications that help medical conditions can cause dry mouth, sometimes those medical conditions themselves can create dry mouth conditions, thereby placing you at higher risk for dental disease.

Medical conditions with links to oral health problems include:

  • Diabetes
  • Anemia
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Sjogren’s syndrome
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Alzheimer’s disease

Furthermore, new studies are finding that the incidence of periodontitis, or gum disease, may lead to a higher likelihood of developing diseases like Alzheimer’s, kidney diseases, and cardiovascular diseases.

Medical treatments like chemotherapy or radiation can also cause dry mouth. Ask your doctor about side effects if you are undergoing these treatments.

Are you a man? That places you at higher risk, too!

Experts on oral health report that simply being a man is actually a risk factor for dental health problems. The good news is– it’s completely avoidable.

Health experts are saying that men as a whole are less involved with their own health and– as a group– are less likely to make time for health care. This includes all aspects of preventative health care, from diet to flossing, and the reasons for it are the subject of multiple theses spanning hundreds of pages in length– it’s a huge topic!

Whether it is because our society places less emphasis on men’s health in general, doesn’t teach little boys that health is important, or whether there’s just something about the y chromosome that dislikes flossing– we believe this strange phenomenon is one that can easily be overcome.

Take stock of your daily activities in caring for your teeth. Do you brush twice? Floss at least once? Have you visited your Palo Alto dental clinic for preventative oral care every 6 months? Use a timer to make sure you’re brushing for at least 2 minutes, and set reminders to make that regular dental appointment.

Knowing the risks

Being aware of any risks you have to your dental health is empowering. It allows you to take your health care into your own hands by using special precautions, and it also allows us to help you make sure your dental health is in great shape.

Let us know about any dental health risks you may have at your next appointment!

Photo Credit: torbakhopper via Compfight cc

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