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Straight Teeth Talk: Medical, dental community needs to work together

June 1, 2010 at 1:01 a.m.


By Mac Lee, DDS

I had the privilege of speaking at the Healthy Aging Conference 2010 a couple of weeks ago in Victoria. What a wonderful and important event. A big thank you to all who made it possible.

Oral health was an essential topic at Health Aging 2010, which may have been a surprise for some. Did you know that dental disease is directly related to many common medical issues?

It is time for the medical and dental community to unite and work together for the benefit of the public. Prevention is the key to health, and all prevention starts with education.

Chew on this: Gum and bone disease are caused by bacteria that left untreated can go directly into the bloodstream and into every organ of the body. This condition is called "bacteremia" and can be very dangerous.

Outlined below are some common medial issues directly related to bactermia. If you have one of these diseases or conditions, it is vitally important that your medical doctor and dentist work together to ensure your best treatment and health.

Heart Concerns - Bacteria that is circulated in the blood gets into the walls of the arteries and valves of the heart. The bacteria can attach to nooks and crannies in the vessels and valves. Over time this can contribute to artery blockage and even infection of the heart. Artery blockage causes stroke and heart attack.

Pregnancies - Bacteria in the blood can penetrate the placenta and cause premature birth.

Diabetes - Diabetics are prone to having gum and bone disease because the sugar in the blood feeds the bacteria. In turn, gum and bone disease cause the diabetes to be more difficult to control. This is a vicious cycle that must to be stopped.

Knee and other implants - Bacteria in the blood will collect on the artificial joints, which can cause the immune system to reject them. It is vitally important that the mouth be totally healthy before and during the lifetime of the implant.

Transplants - It is extremely obvious that the mouth should be perfectly healthy prior to a transplant of any kind.

Osteoporosis - The new osteoporosis drugs have a side effect called osteonecrosis, which can occur after tooth extraction. This condition occurs when the bone does not heal after extraction, leaving a painful, necrotic hole where the tooth used to be. This condition is rare but for the person who has it, it is very real and very serious.

What to do?

Demand that your medical doctor and dentist work together. Unfortunately, it is my experience that this does not happen unless you, the patient, insists on it. If you have any of the conditions or diseases listed above, ask your physician about your oral health and how it may relate to your medical treatment.

It only makes sense to get a report from your dentist that your mouth is infection free. Do not forget about this important part of your body when it comes to your overall health; after all, your mouth is the gateway to the rest of your body.

Mac Lee is a dentist in practice in Edna. He is the co-founder of Dentists Who Care, a national movement to educate the public on modern dentistry. If you have dental questions you can call him at 361-782-7191or visit him at www.drmaclee.com.

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