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Letter From Dear Doctor

Issue 38 of Dear Doctor Magazine

Healthier Mouth, Healthier Body

Would you find it surprising if you went to the doctor's office because your diabetes was getting harder to manage and you were referred to a periodontist—a dentist who specializes in gum disease? What if your dentist said that you don't really have tooth trouble, but you may have a nerve disorder? Or if you were told that your sinus problems actually stem from an infection in one of your molars? You might wonder if there was some kind of medical mix-up—but as you'll see in this issue of Dear Doctor, those situations are real…and as more research is done, scientists are finding ever stronger connections between oral health and overall health.

At first, it might seem strange that that a problem in the mouth could actually have its origin somewhere else—or cause trouble in a different part of the body. But when you consider that the mouth is both a gateway to the body and a small ecosystem on its own, where the balance between helpful and harmful microorganisms is constantly shifting, it isn't so difficult to see how those connections can exist.

Take diabetes, for example: It's well established that poorly managed diabetes can cause periodontal (gum) disease to get worse. Likewise, having gum disease often makes diabetes harder to control. It can also increase your risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and other problems. We explore those links in our article on gum disease and general health. In our consultation on sinusitis and tooth infections, we examine the connection between dental problems and chronic sinus trouble. And in our story on referred pain, we look at the situation where pain felt in one part of the body actually comes from somewhere else.

In addition to exploring the mouth-body connection, we will focus on some specific dental problems and treatment options for kids—including the somewhat common condition known as "tongue tie" and the orthodontic device called a Herbst appliance. We'll also take a closer look a couple of interesting general questions, including: what researchers can learn about us by studying our teeth; why dental work wears out; and what options are available for transitioning to dental implants for total tooth replacement.

Of course, the art and science of dentistry remains focused on the mouth—but we hope this issue of Dear Doctor will show you that by caring for your mouth, you are also helping to take care of your whole body.


Mario A.Vilardi, DMD