It is really important to be aware of your oral health for so many reasons. Let’s start off with something that is considered to be really obvious; the loss of a tooth. When gum disease or a cavity gets to the point where a tooth is damaged beyond repair, it is likely that you will have to extract that tooth. This is a shame because once that tooth is gone, it becomes quite costly to replace it. Many years ago, it was so much easier to ‘just pull it out’ because this was simple and cheap. More recently, if your dentist was to extract a tooth, they would suggest a dental implant to replace that missing tooth. Unfortunately, this is expensive, and surgery would be needed. This is why so many people do not replace a missing tooth.
Another aspect of having a tooth pulled out is that upon removal of the tooth, the bite on that side will experience an almost immediate collapse in which the jawbone (condyle) will now go more deeply into the socket. This is where a TMJ problem begins. When that condyle jams further up into the jaw socket, it will impinge on the articular disc that covers the condyle. This can cause a gradual displacement of the disc and subsequent TMJ disorder. If multiple teeth are removed this can readily lead to the discs being pushed way out of proper placement and this can be quite painful for so many people.
With periodontal disease, the bone and gum support around the tooth becomes weaker over time. This can lead to the tooth getting loose in the socket and it can no longer be a good vertical support for the jaw joints. Just like the foundation of a house, if it starts to rot away, the whole house can tip sideways. The jaw is similar. If the teeth become looser due to periodontal disease, this can destabilize the jaw joints and the discs in those joints can become damaged more readily. By maintaining good periodontal support for your teeth, this will help the jaw joints stay healthier and stronger.
Unfortunately, oral cancer should be mentioned in this blog. Cancer in the mouth can lead to loss of teeth and bone which of course can lead to loss of TMJ support. This is why it is so important to keep up with your dentist and at least yearly have them do an oral cancer screening. This screening only takes a few minutes, yet it could save your life and your health. So many people are very afraid of cancer but if detected early enough it is fairly easy to treat.
As Dental Health awareness month is April, be smart and reach out to your dentist about your dental health. Ask questions. Ask if they are checking for periodontal disease. Ask about cavities. And most importantly, ask if they are checking for any signs of oral cancer or other diseases.