Your Mouth May Reveal More About Your Health than You Think

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Taking a seat in the dentist chair goes far beyond maintaining a healthy smile.  

Our mouths are the gateways to our bodies and can tell us more about our health than we may think.  A dentist can detect nearly 120 medical conditions in their early stages.

Dr. Jonathan Levine, an oral health expert and aesthetic dentist practicing in New York City, talked to ABC's Katie Couric about how good oral health can affect our overall health.

Not caring for our teeth can lead to periodontal (gum) disease, which has become all too common in our country, with one in every two Americans suffering from some form of gum disease.

The inflammation caused by gum disease can be linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, pancreatic cancer and preterm birth.  Research also suggests that oral bacteria may be linked to heart disease, arterial blockages and stroke.

Unfortunately, 31 million Americans do not have access to dental health care.  This is what Dr. Levine calls ‘the unspoken epidemic,’ but he suggests fighting it with prevention and education.

By teaching children at a young age the importance of good dental care, they can fight long-term problems later in life.  Visiting your dentist one to two times a year is vital to maintaining good oral hygiene.  

While a dentist visit can provide clues about your overall well-being, it is important to connect your dentist and your general physician to be sure that there are no gaps in your healthcare.

Creating healthy habits can help reduce your risk of gum disease.  Focus on fighting plaque by flossing daily and staying away from sugar and foods that are high in protein and acidity.

The average American spends around 45 seconds brushing their teeth, far shorter than the recommended two minutes.

As Dr. Levine says, “Don’t rush the brush” as the consequences go far beyond your smile.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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