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Oral Health Care and Serious Health Conditions

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We have heard a lot about health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes that are linked to poor oral health. Staving off serious health problems is an excellent reason to use your health and dental insurance benefits to keep up with regular trips to the dentist. But if you are already undergoing treatment for a serious health condition, your dental care needs may differ from those of healthy individuals.

The following are some examples of health conditions that can change your dental health needs. It is by no means a complete list. For more information about the implications of managing a health condition and your oral health, talk to your doctor and your dentist.

Prescription Medications

Some medications like anti-inflammatories, antihistamines or anti-depressants can contribute to dry mouth. A dry mouth is a problem because it can contribute to oral health complications like gum disease. Other conditions that have been known to cause dry mouth include diabetes, high blood pressure and pregnancy. Before making any changes to your medication regime or trying over the counter saliva substitutes, be sure to check with your doctor.

Diabetes

People who develop Type 2 diabetes are twice as likely to have gingivitis and gum disease. It is important for everybody to floss daily, but it’s especially important for diabetics to keep up with flossing because they are more susceptible infections. If antibiotics are required, this can change your daily insulin needs. The best way to avoid oral health complications stemming from diabetes is to keep up regular dental hygiene at home and make regular trips to the dentist.

Heart Disease

The link between heart disease and poor oral health is still under debate in the cardiology community, but one thing that is clear is the need for special treatment for those with congenital heart defects who are undergoing dental procedures. Patients with heart defects benefit greatly from regular, ongoing dental care because of their susceptibility to infections that can be worsened by gum disease. Many of these patients will be prescribed antibiotics to be taken in advance of any dental treatment, including regular cleaning appointments.

Cancer Treatments

As though cancer isn’t enough to deal with on its own, there are oral health considerations to keep in mind when undergoing cancer treatments like radiation and chemotherapy. The same at home dental care instructions, brush twice and floss once, apply to cancer patients too. There is some evidence that at-home fluoride rinses can minimize oral health complications for cancer patients. Of course, before making any changes to your oral health routine, be sure to discuss the treatment with your oncologist.

Even though your dental health care needs may be different when you have an ongoing health condition, it’s important to keep up your visits to the dental office. Your dentist is an important member of your health care team. Check your health and dental insurance policy for detailed coverage information, and be sure to alert your dentist to any changes in your health status.

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