Oral health plays role in overall wellness
If the eyes are the window to the soul, the mouth is the window to health.
Oral health increasingly is being seen as an indicator of overall physical health, said Dr. Janice Harbin, a dentist and president and chief executive officer of the Anthony L. Jordan Health Corporation.
“Infections in the mouth weaken the body’s ability to control diabetes,” said Harbin, who will join me at 5:30 p.m. July 19 for Walk and Talk with a Doc at the Westside Farmers Market. Walkers receive a $3 coupon to use at the market
Harbin will explain connections between gum disease and overall wellbeing. “The big toe really is connected,” she said, referring to the spiritual. She will talk about ways to achieve and maintain good oral health, and how that can help us deal with chronic conditions.
“The mouth really is part of the body,” she said.
Harbin said that individuals and medical professionals started to pay more attention to oral health after a report in 2000 by Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher.
Researchers have been looking at connections between infections in the mouth and chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, Harbin said.
While poor oral health doesn’t cause diabetes, she said gum disease makes it more difficult to get blood sugar under control.
“People who have diabetes already have problems processing sugar. If they have diabetes and a gum infection, it’s a double whammy.”
Harbin said researchers are looking at connections between gum disease and heart disease.She said that approximately 90 percent of people with heart disease have gum disease. Researchers don’t know which comes first.
“If you have gum disease, you are at higher risk of heart disease,” Harbin said. “It becomes one of the factors like smoking, excess weight or unhealthy diet.”
Like with other aspects of health, there is only so much a doctor can do to help you
“As adults, we encourage you to have six-month visits for cleaning, but you have to do proper home care,” Harbin said. “You have to do your homework.”
Harbin stressed the importance of oral health from an early age and said Jordan is working with mothers on proper dental care for their babies and children to prevent cavities.
Which recalls last week’s conversation, in which nutritionist Kristine Reed explained how sugar from fruits and vegetables is different from sugar in candy.