Poor Dental Care Can Lead to Many Physical Problems
By Jean Donahue
I was in college, there was a very popular preacher we all looked forward
to listening to, even though he seemed extremely old to us. He had a real
ability to connect with college students. One Sunday he was talking about
his health. He had been having heart problems for three years and had
resigned himself to the fact that he would always have to be careful and
not do anything that would cause a heart attack.
when he changed dentists.
new dentist found an infected tooth, which he pulled. Of course, the
preacher had to take antibiotics to get rid of the infection. To the
preacher's surprise, his heart problems vanished. No, it wasn't a
"miracle;" the doctor had asked him about his teeth, but he was
having regular check-ups and thought they were okay. The point he was
making that Sunday morning years ago is as important for all of us today
as it was for him then: your teeth can cause serious health
problems in other parts of your body if they are infected.
March 5, CNN's Gary Nurenberg reported that a
boy in Maryland developed an infected tooth, but had trouble getting care
because his family didnít have insurance. As a result, the tooth
infection spread to his brain and he died.
had an infected tooth recently. I had felt signs that something was wrong,
but I didnít know what was wrong. I went to the doctor for a sinus
infection a couple of times and was put on antibiotics, but the infection
returned. By the time I realized it was a problem with my tooth, I had
another sinus infection.
of us donít think a toothache can turn into something as horrible as it
did for the young boy in Maryland, but it can. Thatís the ugly truth --
infected tooth is the result of a bacterial infection. The infection
enters your blood stream and can cause problems in other areas of your
body. You need an antibiotic to get rid of it. The longer you let it
spread through your body, the greater your chance is of having some other
been searching the Internet, including medical sites, and found that we
are all in danger if we have problems with our gums or our teeth. Iíll
explain a few of the problems that can develop, but first letís look at
some of the problems that develop as a person is older or ill -- or both.
gums and cheeks lose their elasticity and the muscles become weaker as we
age. The amount of saliva produced is reduced. This produces a dry mouth,
which makes it more difficult to chew and digest food. The gums recede,
which is sometimes caused by gum disease. If a person has dentures, they
need to be replaced every 3-5 years because the supporting bone shrinks.
These things make it easier for the elderly or ill to develop an
infection, either in the gum or tooth.
symptoms of a tooth infection are sensitivity to heat or cold, sensitivity
to pressure when biting something, fever, swelling in your face or cheek,
redness or swelling of the gums, tender and/or swollen lymph nodes under
your jaw or in your neck. If the abscess ruptures, you will have a sudden
gush of fluid in your mouth that is foul smelling and foul tasting.
of gum problems include receding gums, food easily caught beneath the gum,
or a small abscess under the gums.
the February 2007 issue of Diabetes Care, doctors reported on
recent studies that indicated an infection in the gums is associated with
the development of kidney disease in patients with type 2 diabetes.
Another study indicated that having periodontal, or gum, disease can boost
the risk of getting pancreatic cancer. However, pancreatic cancer is rare
and gum disease is common, so donít go ballistic over this one.
sounds easy to do what you need to do to take care of your own teeth, but
taking care of the teeth of your loved one becomes much more difficult --
especially when you are the one brushing their teeth. Your loved one may
not be able to tell you they have an infected tooth. They may say they
have an earache, or they canít chew their food, or something else.
sure they have their teeth, gums and mouth cleaned and well taken care of.
If a toothbrush is too short to effectively clean their teeth, tape a
tongue depressor to it to make it longer. Floss their teeth. Rinse their
mouth with a mouthwash that meets their needs. If they eat something
sweet, rinse their mouth afterwards. And, find a way to have their routine
checkup by a dentist (always a scheduling pain, but very important).
hope I havenít alarmed you too much -- but have alarmed you just enough
to care for your loved one and yourself. Most people who get an infected
tooth have it taken care of by a dentist and never experience any of these
problems. The key is to have a problem fixed quickly and take any
antibiotic needed until it is completely gone.