Dental experts call cavities “the plague of the 21st century.” While the phrase may seem comical or humourous, as cavities may not seem important to many people… these small holes in the enamel of our teeth lead to vicious problems. Untreated, cavities lead to rotten teeth, root canals and contribute to gum disease.
That’s the tip of the iceberg, however. Poor oral hygiene causes serious health issues, and has been strongly associated with early mortality. Thomas Porter (University of Florida College of Dentistry) told PolitiFact that it is possible to die from complications with an infected tooth.
If you have a few minutes, I’d like to share with you several other ways not properly caring for your teeth can shorten your life. As well as how to check for cavities yourself and how to prevent any of the unfortunate risks we’ll talk about.
All of our mouths contain bacteria – this cannot be avoided. The bacteria in our mouths, when left uncleaned or treated through proper brushing, turn into acids. These acids cause holes in our teeth, causing cavities. It’s been reported that cavities can grow into oral cancer. This includes cancers of the lip, tongue, cheeks, throat and the floor of your mouth. Possible symptoms include eroded areas on the lips and gums, speckled patches in your mouth, unexplained mouth bleeding (which lets bacteria invade your bloodstream), problems swallowing or chewing, consistent earaches and unexplained weight loss.
If these cancers are present, you will require dental surgery and chemotherapy and/or radiation to remove the cancerous cells. The American Cancer Society strongly recommends oral screening exams for people over 20 every 3 years – and once a year if you’re over 40.
Untreated cavities may lead to oral infection and tooth loss. Without teeth, diabetics (and people already at risk for diabetes) reduce their level of proper nutrition. This leads to infection, which can spread to your jaw bone and to your neck, thoroughly blocking your air supply and causing suffocation. Equally terrifying is the fact that gum disease makes it harder for diabetics to control their blood sugar levels, which (as any diabetic unfortunately knows) can damage the eyes, nerves and cause heart disease.
3. Heart Diseases
Coronary heart disease is associated with the atherosclerotic process – spurred on by cavities and periodontitis (gum disease). As if that weren’t enough, the atherosclerotic process helps plaque settle inside arteries – thickening and stiffening them. This means your blood circulation is severely hampered, reducing blood flow throughout your body – especially your brain and heart. Symptoms include hip, thigh and calf muscle cramping, leg numbness, hair loss, and erectile dysfunction in men.
How To Exam Yourself For Cavities
Knowing how to tell if you have a cavity is fundamental for preventing these diseases. In most cases, a routine examination from your dentist will tell if you have cavities. However, if a cavity exists you will almost always know about it. Frequent toothaches, oral pain when you drink a hot or cold beverage, and pits/holes in your teeth are common symptoms of cavities.
The common perception that cavities are mild nuances and harmless is a myth. We now see that not taking care of your teeth has much more dangerous, potentially fatal risks. Isn’t saving yourself worth taking 2-3 minutes of your time each day and night to brush your teeth?