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How Dental Care Affects Your Overall Health

Regular preventative oral care can help reduce your risk of gum disease and more serious medical conditions. Many diseases that affect the entire body often first become apparent as mouth lesions or other oral problems.


The majority of adults feel their dental health is good or very good, and nearly half reported never having lost a tooth to decay or gum disease, according to results of a new survey commissioned by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

This is great news, but did you know that good dental care isn’t just about checking for cavities and gum disease? Many diseases that affect the entire body often first become apparent as mouth lesions or other oral problems. More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms, reports the Academy of General Dentistry.

Yet, 38% of Southern Tier, 29% Central New York, and 34% of Utica/Rome/North Country adults did not visit a dentist within the past year, according to the survey. Additionally, only half of all respondents reported getting dental cleanings every six months, as recommended by the American Dental Association. Regular preventative oral care can help reduce your risk of gum disease and more serious medical conditions. It also can help you maintain your natural teeth and avoid the need for dentures later.

So, while most people think that dentists only look at an individual’s dental health in terms of tooth, gum and general oral health, the fact is that many other conditions may be identified by a dentist during a routine oral exam, including:

  • Diabetes
  • GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  • Cancers of the head, neck, mouth and throat
  • Osteoporosis
  • Autoimmune diseases, including AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), Sjogren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus
  • Celiac disease
  • Anemia

Some people report avoiding the dentist out of concerns regarding the cost. Did you know that you can use your health savings account or flexible spending account to help cover dental expenses? People are also reluctant to go to the dentist because they believe there is no need if they font have signs of a tooth problem.

Others report feelings of fear and are reluctant to seek dental care because of it. If this sounds like you, please remember, you are not alone. Communicate any feelings of fear you may have to your dentist, and they will work with you to make any visit as comfortable as possible.

If you don’t have a dentist, check with your health insurer to find an in-network dentist near you.

To ensure good dental health for you and your children, here are some recommendations:

  • Brush your teeth twice daily and floss regularly
  • Use fluoride toothpaste and drink fluoridated water
  • Visit your dentist regularly, even if you haven’t had a dental problem
  • If you don’t have a dentist, check with your health insurer to find an in-network dentist near you
  • Communicate any feelings of fear to your dentist
  • Use your health savings account or flexible spending account to help cover dental expenses
  • Bring your children to their first dental checkups by age 1 and to yearly checkups thereafter
  • Talk with your child’s dentist about dental sealants

Don’t let fear or anything else keep you from visiting the dentist regularly and ensuring your family’s good health.