If you are facing surgery, one of the most important things to add to your checklist is seeing a dentist. That’s because a new study shows that seeing a dentist before you get surgery can potentially help reduce your risk of complications, including pneumonia and death.
And, of course, maintaining good oral health helps your body stay healthy in many other ways, making regular dental visits critical to your overall health.
This study was published by the British Journal of Surgery (BJS) last month. Researchers in this study utilized the huge national health database from Japan to look specifically at complications after cancer surgeries. They focused on two main complications: pneumonia and death within 30 days after surgery. The database included records of over 509,000 surgical patients who went under the knife from May 2012 to December 2015. The patients had many different kinds of cancers, including liver, lung, colorectal, gastric, esophageal, and other head and neck cancers. Of these surgical patients, only 3.09% developed pneumonia and 0.34% died.
But the complication rates were even lower for the approximately 82,000 who saw a dentist before they got surgery. After adjusting for risk factors, pneumonia risk was lower by 0.48 % for these patients, almost a sixth of the average risk. And those who got dental care had a 0.12% lower risk of death.
In absolute terms, those are relatively small drops, but in relative terms, it means that you could reduce your risk of death after surgery by almost a third, just by visiting the dentist.
This study shows us that good oral health is about more than just having a pretty smile. It’s a foundation for good overall health, especially when your body is stressed, like when you have surgery, develop serious illness, or get older.
When you don’t take good care of your oral health, your mouth can be a shelter for bacteria, which can reproduce and spread through the rest of your body. It can become, for example, pneumonia by traveling to your lungs. Recent research shows that oral bacteria actually contribute significantly to pneumonia risk. Oral bacteria can also move through the body to the brain, the heart, and elsewhere. Oral bacteria can be especially bad about colonizing implants in the body, such as replacement joints or cosmetic implants.
But even if the bacteria stay in the mouth, they can stress your body in dangerous ways. A chronic infection like gum disease can impact the way your immune system functions. Gum disease has been linked to autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, in which your immune system attacks your joints. Oral bacteria can also confuse your immune system so that it has a harder time recognizing cancer cells. Plus, gum disease has been linked to higher risks for many forms of cancer, including lung, breast, and esophageal cancers.
If you are looking for a good way to build a strong foundation for good overall health, finding a dentist is a great start. If you are looking for a dentist in The Woodlands, please call 832-610-3123 today for an appointment with Dr. Scott Young, Purveyor of Fine Dentistry.