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Health

Oral health and overall health are closely linked. Visiting your dentist can help make sure that your teeth are bright, white, and cavity-free. However, these visits also help take care of your gums, preventing and treating gum disease. Regular cleanings and periodontal treatment can help lower the risk of developing serious health issues connected to poor oral hygiene.

Many health conditions are either worsened, caused by, or connected to gum disease, including these:

Fevers From Infection

A normal fever can spike between 100.4 F and 104 F. A fever can be caused by an infection anywhere in the body, including your mouth. If you develop an abscess or other infection due to poor oral hygiene, you may find yourself with a fever, pain, and other severe symptoms. This may be a medical emergency. Reach out to a dental professional as soon as possible, or visit your local emergency department if you can't keep the fever under control with over-the-counter medication. Many dentists' offices keep emergency appointments available for these types of situations, as well.

Cardiovascular Disease

All orthodontists are trained dentists, but only five percent of trained dentists are also educated as orthodontists. No matter which type of professional you see, it's vital that you manage your oral health regularly in order to stay healthy overall. Bacterial infections in the gums that cause gingivitis and periodontal disease can get into the bloodstream and have a dramatic effect on the heart. There's strong evidence correlating poor oral health to blood clots, heart attacks, and stroke. If you have a history of cardiovascular issues in your family, pay special attention to your oral health so that you can prevent these issues.

Erectile Dysfunction

Around 30 million men in the U.S. are affected by erectile dysfunction symptoms. Men with severe gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from erectile dysfunction, compared to those with healthy teeth and gums. Spending more time daily on your oral hygiene routine may help improve your overall oral health, but it may also help reduce the symptoms of ED. If you're struggling with one or both of these conditions, it may be worth considering additional oral health measures to see if you can improve the situation. Talk to your doctor and dentist about the issues that you're experiencing, as they may be able to work together on a treatment plan.

Diabetes

Diabetic patients are more prone to infection from gum disease, which can then spread to other locations in the body. In addition, uncontrolled gum disease can make blood sugars harder to control. If you're diabetic, it's especially important that you make regular appointments with your dentist. Proper oral hygiene can make it easier to keep your blood sugar in check and help you stay healthier overall. Otherwise, you may find that you're carefully cooking your meals, exercising, taking your medication, and your blood sugars are still out of control. Speak to your dentist about the fact that you're diabetic so that they can include this in your overall treatment plan.

It's easy to put off going to the dentist for a cleaning, assuming that it's not an important part of your overall health care. However, oral health is actually an extremely important part of your overall health. Neglecting these trips to the dentist can worsen your diabetes, lead to severe medical crises, cause issues with your heart, or even contribute to erectile dysfunction symptoms. Schedule an appointment for an initial cleaning and overall evaluation with a dentist near you today, so that you can take care of your gums, your teeth, and your entire body.

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Covid-19 vaccine

Photo by Hakan Nural on Unsplash

There were many times, I'm sure, when my mother was disappointed in me, but one memory is seared into my brain like rice scorched into the bottom of a forgotten pot on the stove. Imagine it's your mom's favorite pot. The one she inherited from the good grandmother.

I was 16, and for reasons I can't remember, I had to get a blood test at the hospital where Mom worked as a nurse's aide. This was the age when I was diagnosed with severe asthma, so maybe this was a test to see if I was going to die. I may be exaggerating.

Anyway, this blood test was a very big deal to both of us for different reasons.

For Mom, this was a chance to introduce her oldest daughter to dozens of co-workers before I left for college and immediately forgot the names of the parents who raised me (Mom's fear).

For teenage me, it was the daylight version of a slasher film, in which someone you trust coaxes you down the hallway and into the arms of the guy wielding a pickax. You might call it a needle.

Seventeen years earlier, my mother had to give up her dream of becoming a nurse because she became pregnant with me. She never put it like that. I was a gift from God, she always said, who helped her see that she was destined to be a mother.

Still, wouldn't it be nice, she often added, if her oldest daughter decided it would be her dream come true to become a nurse? Purely coincidentally, of course.

I was all in, until the day we went for that blood test. Again, I don't remember the details, but that never mattered as long as Mom was alive, because she remembered it with the accuracy of that witness to multiple crimes who nails the police lineup every time.

Apparently, it took a lot of negotiating to get me into the one-armed chair. After the needle pierced my skin, I started to hyperventilate. "What a performance," Mom said every single time we talked about this, which was often. For decades.

After the blood test was over, I reportedly stood up and said, ever so softly, "Uh-oh." Down I went, taking Mom with me.

Here comes the part I do remember: We're in the car in our driveway, after a silent trip home. Mom cuts the engine, looks at my bandaged forehead and says, "Maybe Leslie will be the nurse."

And God said, "It is done."

My sister Les became the nurse Mom had always wanted to be.

I still hate needles. Two years ago, a friend started describing over dinner how she loves to watch her blood shoot up the line when she donates it. I ended up with my head between my knees to keep from fainting right there in the restaurant. "Just looking for an earring," I said.

"Where is this going?" you may wonder.

Come with me. I'll drive.

We're sitting in my Jeep, made by union workers in Ohio, as we turn into the county fairgrounds. We are joining dozens of other cars slowly streaming in front of us and behind us. Remember that last scene in "Field of Dreams," when that long line of cars is winding its way to the magical baseball field in the cornfield? It's like that.

Friendly people wearing masks and smiling eyes are welcoming us, nodding hello to you, my passenger, as they check my license. One nice woman directs me to veer right because, being my mother's daughter, I have already printed my medical form and filled it out before leaving the house.

The sun is shining (it really was), and something is happening inside me as I slowly pull into what looks like a 4-H barn at the county fair. It's a feeling I've never had before.

I can't wait to get that shot.

I lower my car window, shove up my sleeve and offer it to the masked man with the needle. "Thank you," I tell him as he injects my first dose of the Moderna vaccine. "Thank you, thank you."

A week from today, I will be 28 hours out from my second dose of this vaccine for COVID-19. I may experience some side effects, but I can't wait to get that next shot. I'll let you know how it goes.

If Mom were here, she'd tell you that if her oldest daughter can get this shot, so can you.

Then she'd tell you a story. You know the one.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "...and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. She is also the author of The New York Times bestselling novel, The Daughters of Erietown. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com