The Veterans Administration admittedly has a very difficult job. Sometimes they are caught up in policy fights that occasionally end up with the Veterans of the United States on the losing end.
The Agent Orange fiasco is a classic example. For years after the Vietnam War, the government ignored the problems associated with exposure to Agent Orange, then finally admitted that, yes… Agent Orange has a direct correlation with certain types of cancers and other maladies.
Then, some pencil neck at the VA came up with the idea to exclude naval personnel from any health benefits. The rationale was that since they were on ships and not under the jungle canopy being sprayed with the deadly toxin, they were allegedly not exposed to Agent Orange.
It wasn’t until last year when the Blue Water Navy Act put our Navy lads back in the mix. But, the VA… ironically fought the Blue Water Navy Act tooth and nail. Reason; it was a huge budget breaker. Paying 800,000 Vets going back to 1965 ish, was a chunk of change. The VA preferred a policy of delay and deny until they all die.
So, getting back to the thousands of underutilized dental clinics at VA facilities all over the USA; why in Heaven’s name does the VA treat our Veterans like they do? For the policy makers, the term “Thank you for your service” is nothing but a ploy to make you think they care about you.
They already know how an unhealthy mouth can literally kill someone, but they really don’t care. Sure, we want those with 100% disability to be first in line, with the Medal of Honor recipients before them. But, why does the VA turn away millions of other Vets who desperately need dental help?
THE EVIDENCE IS THERE
Oral health is about so much more than just the health of the mouth, teeth, and gums. Because the mouth is a primary entryway into the body, poor oral health can have negative consequences for the entire body. Teeth that ache, gums that bleed, and breath that smells bad are all indicators of poor oral health. Bacteria from the mouth can easily get into the bloodstream and cause infection and inflammation wherever it spreads.
It is important to practice good oral hygiene and to see your dentist regularly in order to avoid serious risk to the body’s overall health.
Here are some common health problems caused by bad oral health:
Having poor oral health puts a person at risk for heart disease. If the gums are inflamed due to the bacteria that causes periodontal disease, that same bacteria can actually get into the bloodstream causing the arteries to build up plaque and harden. This hardening of the arteries is called atherosclerosis, and it is very serious.
It leads to blood flow problems and heart blockages, and it increases the likelihood of having a heart attack. The damaging impact on the arteries and blood vessels can lead to hypertension and increase the risk for strokes. Endocarditis can also develop, which is an often fatal condition that occurs when the lining of the heart becomes infected.
Luckily, you can prevent gum disease with regular teeth cleanings and proper oral hygiene. This will reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and keep your smile healthy and strong.
Dementia (mainly found in VA policy makers)
Poor oral health can affect the brain. Substances that are released from gums inflamed by infection can actually kill brain cells and lead to memory loss. Dementia and possibly even Alzheimer’s disease can result from gingivitis when the bacteria in the mouth spreads to the nerve channels or enters the bloodstream.
The respiratory system can suffer as a result of poor oral health. Bacteria in the mouth from infected teeth and swollen gums can be breathed into the lungs or travel there through the bloodstream. Once there the bacteria can lead to respiratory infections, pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and even COPD. Throw in COVID 19, and it’s the perfect storm.
Diabetes (Navy CPOs who frequently hit up the Gedunk Shop)
Not only are diabetics already more susceptible to infection such as infected gums that lead to periodontal disease, but periodontal disease can in turn make diabetes more difficult to control. Symptoms can worsen as blood sugar levels go haywire because of gum disease.
It is especially important for diabetics to take good care of their oral health to prevent complications with their disease. Because gum disease can lead to higher than normal blood sugar levels, a person with poor oral health is at an increased risk of developing diabetes.
It is imperative for expectant mothers to practice good oral hygiene. Hormonal changes in the body during pregnancy can cause a woman to develop oral infections much more easily. Any infection in the mother’s body increases her risk of experiencing pregnancy complications.
Oral health problems in the mother such as periodontitis and gingivitis have been known to lead to premature birth and low birth weight in infants. Gum disease puts both mother and baby at risk for experiencing serious health issues.
There is a link between poor oral health and problems with infertility in women. Gum disease can lead to various overall health issues that can make it more difficult for a woman to conceive and sustain a healthy pregnancy. It can actually take longer for a woman with poor oral health to get pregnant than it would for a woman who has good dental health.
Erectile Dysfunction (Marines)
Having poor oral hygiene puts a man at an increased risk for suffering from erectile dysfunction. Chronic periodontal disease is known to be related with ED. CPD is an infection that occurs when gums pull away from teeth, which creates pockets that carry bacteria and allows the bug to spread to the bone surrounding teeth.
Bacteria from diseased gums can get into the bloodstream and cause blood vessels to become inflamed. This inflammation can block the flow of blood to the genitals, making erections more difficult or even impossible to achieve.
Obviously, poor oral health practices such as smoking or using tobacco products can lead to oral and throat cancers, but other types of cancer have also been linked to gum disease. Risk for kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer, and blood cancers is much higher for people who have poor oral health.
Chronic kidney disease is a serious health problem that affects the kidneys, heart, bones, and blood pressure. Infections in the body such as periodontal disease can lead to kidney disease. People with gum disease generally have weaker immune systems and are more likely to acquire infections. Many people who suffer from very poor oral health also suffer from kidney disease. Kidney disease can be fatal if it leads to kidney failure or cardiovascular disease.
According to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, people with gum disease were four times more likely to have Rheumatoid Arthritis. Both diseases have inflammation in common. The oral bacteria from gingivitis can increase inflammation throughout the body. This makes the risk for developing rheumatoid arthritis, a painful and debilitating inflammatory disease, much higher.
NOTE: Forgive our weak attempt at humor above. The subject is serious. An unhealthy mouth can kill you, but the VA doesn’t really care about dental problems that could literally kill you, or incapacitate you for the rest of your life.
The best way to prevent serious health issues caused by bad oral health is to practice good oral hygiene and schedule regular visits with your dentist. If you are Veteran of the United States and maybe living on social security and cannot afford a dentist, the United States Government and Veterans Administration says, F.U. and the horse you rode in on.
Good oral hygiene comes in many forms:
Brush the teeth and gums for two minutes at least twice a day.
Floss the teeth daily.
Avoid smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco products.
Use toothpaste and mouthwash products that contain fluoride.
Limit sugary foods and drinks.
Eat a well-balanced diet for optimum nutrition.
Take supplements that will boost your dental health.
Healthy teeth are clean and free of pain caused by cavities and disease. Healthy gums are pink and do not bleed when brushed or flossed.
Oral health is an indicator of overall health. Taking care to prevent oral health problems like gingivitis and periodontal disease can go a long way toward decreasing the risk for more serious health problems throughout the body.
We know there are many dedicated people who work in the VA, but the leaders of the agency and the government really don’t seem to care. They would rather spend billions on taking pictures of Mars or making sure Afghan children can watch Sesame Street, rather than help alleviate the dental pain or preventing a slew of maladies that could literally take a life.
One of our own staff members who proudly served our country had a tooth break off below the gum line. He pleaded with the VA for help and the doctor sent him some anti-biotics telling him he needed to get it looked at soon or he could have a heart attack. The VA doctor then said, “Thank you for your service,” and hung up.
If you have a dental story connected with the VA, send it too us. We plan to share stories so that everyone knows what a stupid and pathetic policy the VA has concerning who gets dental treatment and who does not.