Baby boomers looking for the warning signs of adult-onset diseases may be overlooking key symptoms in their mouth that
should signal alarms about their overall health. According to a survey commissioned by the Academy of General Dentistry (the Academy), 63 percent of baby boomers (ages 45 - 64) with an oral symptom considered to be a key indicator of a more serious health condition were unaware of the symptom's link to the condition. Boomers' failure to recognize that oral health holds
valuable clues could negatively impact their overall health.
Links Between Oral/Overall Health
The risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease increases with age. Researchers believe that these diseases often manifest themselves in the mouth -- making dentists a key player in diagnosis.
-- According to the American Diabetes Association, 90 to 95 percent of diabetics suffer from Type 2 diabetes, the onset of which usually occurs after age 45. Bad breath and bleeding gums are often indicators of diabetes. However, only 29 percent of those boomers surveyed were aware of this connection.
-- The National Osteoporosis Foundation estimates that 44 million Americans are at risk for osteoporosis, particularly menopausal and post-menopausal women, yet 97 percent of boomers do not discuss their risk of this debilitating disease with their dentist. Dental X-rays may show the first stages of bone loss.
-- The American Heart Association reports heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. When people reach the age of 45, their risk of developing heart disease triples. A sore and painful jaw should send a warning signal to older Americans that a heart attack might be looming, but 60 percent of this population did not identify these symptoms as warning signs of a potential heart attack.
While people may lack knowledge about these links, they are not lacking experience with these symptoms. A quarter of boomers reported that they had exhibited one of these telling signs. Knowledge of these symptoms and their potential indications may help boomers recognize a more serious condition.
Dentists are Key Health Care Partners
"As research strengthens the link between oral and overall health, the Academy of General Dentistry encourages baby boomers to pay attention to oral symptoms that may indicate early signs of potentially life-threatening diseases," said Craig Valentine, DMD and member of the Academy's Public Information Council. "Still, knowing about these links isn't enough. Boomers
need to take charge of their wellness and discuss these symptoms with their dentist."