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Dental Hygiene Month raises awareness at Keesler

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. -- October is Dental Hygiene Month, and in honor the 81st Dental Squadron seeks to raise awareness of the connection between oral and physical health.

The mouth and body are closely interlinked physically and systemically. Oral health is essential to general health and vice versa. A healthy mouth enables not only nutrition of the physical body, but also enhances better systemic health. Gum disease has been associated with a number of systemic conditions such as obesity, diabetes, pre-mature births, coronary artery disease, stroke and others.

Though the biological interactions between oral conditions such as gum disease and other medical conditions are still not fully understood, it is clear that major chronic diseases, including obesity, share common risk factors.

Diet is a risk factor for dental cavities, obesity, diabetes and other systemic diseases. The food and drinks we consume to nourish our body have an important influence on our health and well being. A good diet provides the body with the appropriate quantity and quality of nutrients it requires to sustain health.

Overeating or excessive intake of nutrients leads to obesity, a recognized major health risk factor, and studies have shown that eating a healthier diet can have a protective influence against systemic inflammatory diseases. Recent studies have demonstrated how individuals with normal weight showed a lower prevalence of gum disease, decreased plasma levels of inflammatory markers, and increased insulin sensitivity.

Inflammation has become an especially hot topic in gum disease research. The understanding of gum disease is veering away from what was considered to be just bacteria causing the disease to the role of inflammation, which is believed to be one of the most important factors in the progression of the disease.

Fat cells were once thought of as having limited function energy storage. It is now known that fat cells produce many systemic chemical signals and hormones. Many of these substances are thought to increase overall inflammation in the body. This may lead to decreased immune status, which increases susceptibly to gum disease.

The inflammation may also decrease blood flow to the gums and cause disease progression. It is thought that this association, in part, could also be due to lifestyle characteristics that make individuals more prone to both obesity and gum disease.

Proper care for oral hygiene by tooth-brushing and flossing as well as diet control are the best defenses against gum disease and obesity. Both these diseases impact an individual's overall health.

Currently, the dental residency program at Keesler is screening Defense Department beneficiaries for severe gum disease.

For more information, call 228-376-5225 to receive a free screening of your gums.