Posts for: July, 2012
Did you know that studies have shown a relationship between gum disease and heart disease?
The common link is inflammation. This means that if you reduce inflammation caused by gum disease (periodontal disease), you also reduce your risk for heart attacks and strokes. The methods we stress for good dental hygiene — consistent effective brushing and flossing, regular professional cleanings by a hygienist, and dental treatment when needed — are also important for the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system (from cardio, meaning heart, and vascular, meaning blood vessels).
Here's how it works. Dental plaque is a film of bacteria that settles on your teeth near the gum line every day. When you brush and floss, you remove as much of this bacterial film, or biofilm, as you can. Bacteria that are not removed multiply and produce acid products that begin to dissolve the enamel of your teeth. They also irritate your gum tissues.
Your immune system tries to remove the bacteria and their byproducts through inflammation, your body's way of attacking substances that shouldn't be there (such as bacteria). However, long-term inflammation can be harmful to your own tissues as well. Inflammation in your gums, a symptom of periodontal disease, can destroy gum tissue, bone and the ligaments that hold your teeth in place.
Ongoing inflammation can also increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Bacterial byproducts of periodontal inflammation have been shown to cause the liver to manufacture a protein called CRP (C-reactive protein) that spreads the inflammation to the arteries, where it promotes formation of blood clots.
Of course, other factors are also related to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. These include smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity. Family history and depression can also influence gum disease and heart disease.
Diet is another factor. You have probably heard of “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL). The bad one, low-density lipoprotein or LDL, is found in animal fats. It can cause an accumulation of fat breakdown products (also called plaque, but a different substance from dental plaque) inside your arteries. The arteries become narrow, so that they can be easily blocked, resulting in heart attacks and strokes. Studies have shown that inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels accelerates this effect.
If tests show that you have high levels of LDL, your doctor may advise you to modify your diet and take specific medication to reduce arterial plaque. You will also be advised to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk factors. Lowering your weight, getting more exercise, and stopping smoking can have a positive effect on your heart health — and so can improving your dental hygiene to combat periodontal disease.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”
If you wake yourself by snoring or have been told by others that you snore, you should share this fact with us during your next visit. Why? Many people are shocked to learn that their dentist is a vital resource for treating snoring and Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a condition that occurs when the upper airway (back of your throat) is blocked or obstructed causing significant airflow disruption or even no airflow whatsoever for 10 seconds or more.
Self Test For Sleep Apnea
While your responses to the following questions are not a diagnosis for OSA, they can be warning signs that you may have OSA or another condition that is impacting your sleep.
- Are you a loud habitual snorer?
- Has anyone ever witnessed you holding your breath, gasping for air or even choking while asleep?
- Do you regularly feel un-refreshed or tired even after waking from eight or more hours of sleep?
- Do you find yourself easily falling asleep throughout your day at work or at home?
- Do you suffer from poor concentration or judgment, memory loss, irritability and/or depression from lack of sleep?
- Are you 15 pounds over the normal weight range for your height and/or does you neck measure more than 17 inches around if you are male and 16 inches if you are female?
If you answered, “yes” to any of the above questions, you should share your responses to all of these questions with both your physician and us so that you can receive a thorough examination to address your sleep concerns. And if you are diagnosed with OSA, we can help with specific oral treatment options that may work best for you.
It can start with a simple twinge or be as severe as excruciating pain. From time to time, we have patients asking questions about tooth sensitivity — what causes it? What can be done about it? For these reasons, we have put together the following list of frequently asked questions (FAQs) so that you can develop a healthy understanding about this painful and often avoidable condition.
What is tooth sensitivity?
The first layer of protection of the teeth is enamel. Enamel is a dense crystalline structure, the hardest substance produced by animals. It is an inert substance that has no nerve supply and thus it protects the teeth from temperature and pressure changes. When it is compromised, worn thin, or exposed due to gum recession, it leaves the dentin exposed and vulnerable. Unlike enamel, dentin is living and has delicate nerve fibers within it.
What triggers tooth sensitivity?
Once dentin is exposed, it can become sensitive. It typically occurs when the dentin comes in contact with heat, cold, or the “double whammy” combination of both cold and sweets. Even the bristles of a soft toothbrush can irritate exposed dentin causing sensitivity and pain.
What can be done to minimize tooth sensitivity?
One of the simplest ways to minimize or prevent sensitivity is by teaching proper brushing techniques so that teeth are cleaned without causing either sensitivity or damage. Brushing too hard is a frequent culprit. Being overzealous can literally cause gum recession, leave dentin, and wear it away leaving it grooved. Another step to minimize sensitivity is to use a toothpaste containing fluoride. Fluoride increases the strength of tooth surfaces and thus makes teeth more resistant to attack by acids and sweets. If severe, we may need to apply a barrier to cover the sensitive areas. These barriers may range from concentrated fluoride varnishes to replacing lost tooth structure with filling materials.
Want to learn more?
To learn more about this topic, read the article “Sensitive Teeth.” Or if you are suffering from this condition, please contact our office to schedule an appointment. During your appointment, we will conduct a thorough examination to ascertain what is causing your sensitivity as well as what we can do to treat and/or prevent future issues.
Sucking their fingers or thumbs makes young babies feel secure and is completely normal behavior. Babies have been observed to suck their fingers or thumbs even before they are born. But like many comforting habits, over-doing pacifier, thumb, or finger sucking habits may be harmful.
Stop Pacifier Use by 18 Months
Studies have shown that pacifier use after the age of two may cause long-term changes in a child's mouth. We recommend that pacifier use should stop by about 18 months. A pacifier habit is often easier to break than finger or thumb sucking.
Stop Thumb and Finger Sucking by Age Three
Most children naturally stop thumb and finger sucking between two and four years of age, but some children continue this habit much longer. This may cause their upper front teeth to tip towards their lips or to come into position improperly. It can also cause their upper jaw to develop incorrectly. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that children stop these habits by age three.
Use of Behavior Management to Encourage Quitting
We offer creative strategies for gentle ways to cut back and stop pacifier use, including behavior management techniques that use appropriate rewards given at predetermined intervals. Meanwhile, make periodic appointments with us to carefully watch the way your child's teeth and jaws develop.
When your child is old enough to understand the possible results of a sucking habit, just talking about what may happen to teeth as a result can often encourage him/her to quit. As a last resort, a mouth appliance that blocks sucking may be needed.
If you are worried about your child sucking a pacifier, thumb, or fingers, please visit us to put your mind at rest. For more information read “Thumb Sucking in Children” in Dear Doctor magazine. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about children's thumb sucking.