It may come as a surprise to many that, according to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), fewer than 50% of Americans see a dentist each year. In addition to this, 33 million Americans live in areas that are underserved by dental health professionals, and 5 years ago, almost two-thirds of retirees did not have adequate dental coverage. According to the IOM report, close to 10,000 additional dentists will be needed to meet the needs of underserved populations in the United States. The challenges these issues pose go beyond one’s teeth. Today, scientists are studying the association between oral health and disease, as it has only been in the recent past that a link has been found between inflammation, heart disease, and oral health.
People with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease, and other studies have shown that having gum disease increases the risk for a stroke. Additionally, there may be a larger connection between diabetes and gum disease than most believe. Having diabetes increases the risk for infection in the body, which can lead to gum disease, and likewise, having periodontal disease increases the amount of inflammation your body is coping with. A 2010 review in Evidence Based Dentistry found that people with diabetes who were treated for gum disease could more easily control their diabetes. Researchers believe that the link between one’s teeth and health exists because every time you brush or floss bacteria gets released into the blood stream.
The studies above are meaningful for a number of reasons. First, most individuals do not know about the link that exists between their oral health and risk for disease. Second, this research impacts a large percentage of our population. About 30% to 50% of American adults have mild to moderate gum disease, and another 5% to 15% have more severe gum disease.
We hope that in the future, more awareness is brought to individuals about the link between their teeth and general well-being. Additionally, we would like to see steps taken to improve dental coverage in underserved areas. In the IOM report, the Health Resources and Services Administration was called upon to increase opportunities for dental residencies. Hopefully, policy makers will understand the seriousness of the issue, and will take the correct steps to address this challenge.
Jamie Elizabeth Sands, DDS.
As seen on Fox News and TLC’s 10 Years Younger, Dr. Jamie Elizabeth Sands is a renowned Los Angeles cosmetic dentist. She has built her practice over the past ten years on her dedicated commitment to personal attention and the most advanced dental care. In addition to teaching at the University of Southern California’s School of Dentistry, she also volunteers with the Children’s Dental Center in Inglewood, CA, and leads her community as a guest speaker at educational and professional institutions. You can find more information at her website, Studio City Cosmetic Dentist