The Importance of Oral Health to Overall Health

    Baby Boomers Oral and Overall Health

    Links Between Oral and Overall Health

    Dentists Are key Health Care Partners

Baby Boomers Oral and Overall Health

Baby boomers looking for the warning signs of adult-onset diseases may be overlooking key symptoms in their mouth. According to a survey commissioned by the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), 63 percent of baby boomers (ages 45 to 64) with an oral symptom considered to be a key indicator of a more serious health condition were unaware of the symptom's link to the condition. Boomers' failure to recognize that oral health holds valuable clues could negatively impact their overall health.

About the survey

The AGD commissioned Opinion Research Corporation International (ORCI) to conduct the survey. ORCI surveyed 1000 American adults living in private households. The survey carries a confidence factor of plus or minus 3 percent. Of the 1000 adults surveyed, 296 were adults between the ages of 45 –to 64. Statistics specifically related to baby boomers carry a confidence factor of plus or minus 6 percent.

Links Between Oral and Overall Health

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease increases with age. Researchers believe that these diseases often manifest in the mouth ? making dentists a key player in diagnosis.

According to the American Diabetes Association, 90 to 95 percent of diabetics suffer from type 2 diabetes, the onset of which usually occurs after age 40. Bad breath, dry mouth and bleeding gums are often indicators of diabetes. However, only 29 percent of those boomers surveyed were aware of this connection. Studies have shown that diabetics are more susceptible to developing oral infections and gum disease than those who do not have diabetes. Oral infections tend to be more severe in diabetic patients than non-diabetic patients. And, diabetics who do not have good control over their blood sugar levels tend to have more oral health problems.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 44 million Americans are at risk for osteoporosis, particularly menopausal and postmenopausal women, yet 97 percent of boomers do not discuss their risk of this debilitating disease with their dentist. Dental X-rays may show the first stages of bone loss. Dentists will be able to detect some of the early warning signs of osteoporosis by noting advancing gum disease and loose or ill-fitting dentures that lead to mouth sores and difficulty speaking or eating.

The American Heart Association reports heart disease is the number-one killer of Americans. When people reach the age of 45, their risk of developing heart disease triples. A sore and painful jaw should send a warning signal to older Americans that a heart attack might be looming, but 60 percent of this population did not identify these symptoms as warning signs of a potential heart attack.

While people may lack knowledge about these links, they are not lacking experience with these symptoms. One-quarter of boomers reported that they had exhibited one of these telling signs. Knowledge of these symptoms and their potential indications may help boomers recognize a more serious condition.

Dentists Are key Health Care Partners

"As research strengthens the link between oral and overall health, the AGD encourages baby boomers to pay attention to oral symptoms that may indicate early signs of potentially life-threatening diseases," said Craig Valentine, DMD and member of the AGD's Public Information Council. "Still, knowing about these links isn't enough. Boomers need to take charge of their wellness and discuss these symptoms with their dentist."

According to the AGD's survey, however, the majority of baby boomers do not take advantage of this valuable relationship. While 78 percent of baby boomers say they consider dental care to be part of their preventive health care routine, nearly half (49%) do not visit the dentist every six months as recommended by the AGD. In addition, almost one-third (31%) of baby boomers never go to the dentist or only go in an emergency.

"This survey revealed that patients who are at risk for these diseases need to be educated that their mouth can act as a window to their body's overall health, " said Dr. Valentine. "Consumers ? in particular, members of the baby-boomer generation ? who don't visit the dentist every six months may miss important warning signs of a larger health problem. Visiting a dentist twice a year is key to good overall health."

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Original content of this reprinted with permission of the Academy of General Dentistry. © Copyright 2007-2009 by the Academy of General Dentistry. All rights reserved. Read the original article here.

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