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Oral Health 2020

The whole dental team is vital for good oral health

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The role of the dental team in holistic healthcare has expanded and evolved to serve the ever-changing needs of our population.

Advances in medicine and healthcare mean our population is living longer. Our diet and social habits have changed, as have the common health problems and illnesses we develop throughout our lives.

We now know that poor oral health significantly impacts our general health, well-being and quality of life. There is considerable research linking oral diseases and systemic diseases.

Oral health affects general health

Association between oral health and general health have been shown to include type 2 diabetes, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic kidney disease, obesity and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Gum (periodontal) disease causes tooth loss and can affect the rest of the body: bacteria passes into the bloodstream, causing systemic inflammation.

Chronic inflammation is the common denominator between oral health and other diseases.  Successful treatment of periodontal disease reduces markers of overall systemic inflammation, improves blood sugar control in diabetes and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Gum disease and diabetes

The European Federation of Periodontology and the World Heart Federation issued a joint statement explaining the latest evidence on the relations between heart disease and gum disease.1

This follows further confirmation that a bi-directional link exists between diabetes and gum disease. Individuals with gum disease have a higher risk of diabetes, and patients with diabetes are three times more likely to develop gum disease.

Periodontal experts now believe that gum care can aid in diagnosing and controlling a great number of major health problems.

Mouth cancer kills more people per year than testicular and cervical cancer combined, the earlier it is caught, the more likely it can be treated.

Preventing gum disease

Gum disease affects 45% of the adult population in the UK, with only 17% of UK adults having healthy gums. Yet it is largely preventable.

Regular oral health assessments and examinations will allow you to access a team of highly skilled professionals working together to help maintain oral health and provide essential strategies in disease prevention.

It’s not only dentists that provide this service; dental therapists, dental hygienists and clinical dental technicians provide a wide range of screening services.

These risk assessments can detect oral diseases and abnormalities and investigate possible links to systemic disease.

They provide essential health education, advice and dental treatment, and have access via referral systems to other dental professionals, specialist care providers, and allied professionals and services should they be required.

They are also trained to help you make positive lifestyle changes such as stopping smoking.

The link between mouth cancer and HPV

Dental clinicians play a key role in the detection of changes in the soft tissues in the mouth. Examination for mouth cancer is a routine part of a dental appointment.

Mouth cancer (MC) is on the increase due to late detection and the spread of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), which is overtaking smoking and drinking as a risk factor.

HPV causes 5% of cancers worldwide but it can be prevented with a simple vaccine.  This virus is passed on by sexual contact. 80% of adults carry the virus, which can lay dormant for many years.

Carrying the virus does not mean that you will develop MC but we do know that men are more at risk from MC than women. 

Protection against HPV (Human Papillomavirus)

In the UK, girls have been offered vaccination against HPV because of its links with cervical cancer, meanwhile boys were left unprotected.

An estimated four million boys have since passed through the school system and will be at risk of HPV cancers and diseases as they enter adulthood. The NHS vaccination was finally offered to boys in September 2019.

The vaccine will help wipe out the virus however, for the many who have missed out, regular dental check-ups are essential for the early detection of this disease.

Mouth cancer kills more people per year than testicular and cervical cancer combined, the earlier it is caught, the more likely it can be treated.

Direct self-referral to this wider range of dental professionals in recent years has allowed greater choice and lifted some of the barriers faced by people trying to access the specific care they would like by the person best suited.

[1] Sanz, M, Marco del Castillo, A, Jepsen, S, et al. Periodontitis and cardiovascular diseases: Consensus report. J Clin Periodontol. 2019; 00: 1– 21

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