Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body
The benefits of proper oral hygiene and care of your mouth and gums extend far beyond that sparkling smile. A healthy mouth directly contributes to maintaining a healthy body!
Pancreatic Cancer & Heart Disease
Good oral health that is free of inflammation and infections has been linked to reducing risk factors for other health problems including pancreatic cancer and heart disease. Periodontal disease and inflammation allow bacteria in the mouth access to your bloodstream and subsequently other parts of your body. It can travel to other parts or systems, causing or worsening infections in many areas.
Maintaining your healthy smile doesn’t only help you avoid oral conditions such as gingivitis and periodontitis, it can also improve your memory! The Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry conducted a study in which adults with gingivitis scored lower than those with healthy gums on tests of memory and cognitive skills. They also were more likely to score lower on tests of delayed verbal recall and subtraction. Imagine being able to maximize your mental abilities just through basic oral care!
Diabetes diminishes the body’s ability to combat infections, including periodontal infections. Thus, diabetics are more likely to experience periodontal complications. Additionally some studies indicate that periodontal disease impacts the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels. With proper and thorough treatment of periodontal disease, even in its earliest stages, you can improve your diabetic state and reduce the risk of further diabetic complications.
Preterm Delivery & Low Birth Weight Babies
Research indicates a connection between gingivitis and preterm births and low birth weights. Expectant mothers go to great lengths to ensure the health of their unborn children, and oral health should not be discounted from those efforts. Dental exams are an important part of your prenatal care. We can offer important, basic steps to take toward a safe and healthy pregnancy.
And this is just a sampling of how a healthy mouth really does support a healthy you!
A Healthy Mouth Begins in Childhood
Good oral health is a life-long habit that should begin early. By teaching your children from a young age about how to care for their teeth and gums, you are starting them on a path for decreased health risks in adulthood. If you’re tempted to be lax in your own oral care, remember that you’re the role model your children look to. Show them that you, too, know the value of a healthy mouth.
Dangers of Gum Disease
Extensive research is being done to better determine the links between periodontal disease and other health complications. While some studies remain inconclusive, others reveal potential links and mechanisms connecting gum disease and other systemic problems. Such studies have suggested increased risk for conditions including heart disease, ischemic stroke, respiratory disease, head and neck cancers, kidney disease, diabetes, and risk of preterm delivery or low birth weight.
When considering your oral health, it’s important to know that periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adults. Remember that gum disease is an active, living infection in your mouth that requires professional treatment to prevent its progression and avoid tooth loss and other health complications.
Stages of Gum Disease
Do you know that an estimated 75% of Americans have some form of gum disease? Are you aware that gum disease not only creates otherwise avoidable dental problems but also increases risk of health complications including diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and premature births/low birth-weight? Now, would you believe that with daily brushing and flossing, along with regular check-ups, gum disease is largely preventable?
Gum disease progresses through three main stages.
Stage 1: Gingivitis
The earliest stage of gum disease is called gingivitis. Gingivitis occurs when plaque builds up around the gums. This built-up plaque traps bacteria at your gum line, causing inflammation. Trapped bacteria will cause an infection and further stages of gum disease. In this first stage, the progress of gingivitis is reversible because no damage has yet occurred to the bones and tissue holding your teeth in place.
Signs of gingivitis include red or swollen gums instead of pink color. Additionally, bleeding may occur during regular brushing or flossing. (Healthy gums won’t bleed as a result of daily hygiene.)
Stage 2: Periodontitis
When left untreated, gingivitis progresses to periodontitis. In this pivotal stage of gum disease, structural damage occurs to the bones and tissue holding your teeth in place. This damage can only be repaired through aggressive treatment and surgery. Plaque and bacteria that built-up during gingivitis create pockets in the gums. These pockets are hollow areas at the base of the teeth which will hold plaque, food, and bacteria deeper within your gums. Immediate treatment is required to address these issues and prevent further damage and tissue or bone loss.
Periodontitis causes visible signs such as your gums receding and gaps forming in between teeth. Periodontitis can also cause chronic bad breath or even a bad taste in your mouth. At times, pus may emit from the gums.
Stage 3: Advanced Periodontitis
If periodontitis is left untreated, the gum disease will progress to advanced periodontitis. In this final stage, the bacteria existing in gum pockets spread throughout the gums, destroying the connective tissue and bones that support your teeth. The pockets that were formed during Stage 2 become significantly deeper, which can allow teeth to loosen or shift, potentially altering your bite. Aggressive treatment is required to combat the systemic problems caused by the disease.
Tooth & Bone Loss
Losing a tooth or several teeth can result from a variety of problems. Injury, birth defects, or decay can all lead to tooth loss. Tooth loss or removal can also cause additional dental complications and overall health concerns.
When tooth loss causes the alignment of remaining teeth to shift, it can impair your ability to properly chew food. If most or all teeth are lost, chewing is virtually impossible, restricting your diet to soft foods that don’t require chewing. A soft food diet is unable to meet the nutritional requirements of the body. This malnourishment can lead to constipation, arthritis, indigestion, and rheumatism. Teeth are essential tools to meeting the nutritional needs of the body.
Teeth play a significant role in your ability to speak. Sounds from letters like s, z, d, x, n, th, and sh, are formed by tongue-to-tooth contact. These and other sounds are not easily made if you are missing your teeth and can cause you to speak with a lisp. This can be embarrassing and can also make you difficult to understand. After tooth loss, your tongue will expand to fill the additional space within your mouth. A thickened tongue is more difficult to control, impairing pronunciation and causing your speech to harder to understand.
Loss of Bone in the Jaw
Your teeth and bite provide important stimulation to your jaw bone. When a tooth is lost, the alveolar bone that once supported the tooth no longer receives that stimulation via biting and chewing. The bone begins to deteriorate and is reabsorbed by the body. This deterioration begins almost immediately after tooth loss and persists throughout a person’s life, although the rates of deterioration vary greatly between individuals. Once deteriorated to a certain point, prosthetic devices such as dentures are no longer useful as there’s not enough bone structure to hold them in place.
Misalignment of teeth occurs when remaining teeth lack opposing teeth to meet. Without the oppositional force from a lost tooth, the remaining tooth can become loose. The bone supporting the remaining teeth may also deteriorate from lack of stimulation. The loss of just one tooth can have a domino effect on all those remaining, causing them to shift and potentially altering your bite, which can cause head, neck, and jaw pain.
Your teeth provide the structure that shapes lips and cheeks. If teeth are missing, the flesh of your lips and cheeks no longer have any support. When you close your remaining jaw structure, the exterior of your mouth and face will appear “sunken in,” which significantly ages a person’s appearance.
The relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease is significant and complex. Studies show that these conditions interact in a two-way relationship; each disease is linked to higher risk of complications in the other. Diabetes has been shown to increase a patient’s susceptibility to developing gum disease and advancing disease progression. Periodontal disease, in turn, has been linked to inhibiting the regulation of blood sugar and metabolic rates in diabetics. It is critical that both diseases are properly treated and managed to reduce the risks that each disease poses to the other.
Diabetes Increases Risks of Periodontal Disease
Diabetes poses several risk factors for developing periodontal disease and driving disease progression. Diabetics are generally more susceptible to infections like periodontal disease than those without diabetes. When diabetes is not under control, high blood sugar levels significantly increase the risk of infection and advancing stages of periodontal disease. Diabetic spikes in blood sugar impair white blood cells, compromising their ability to attack bacteria and prevent the infection that causes periodontitis. Persistent high blood sugar levels also trigger the body’s production of chemical compounds that cause excessive inflammation at sites of infection. This inflammation of the gums is the most significant risk factor toward advanced stages of periodontal disease. Additionally, high blood sugar causes blood vessels to thicken, which reduces the flow of nutrients and waste to and from the site of infection.
Together, these factors contribute to overall increased disease progression and damage. The compromised white blood cells and reduced flow of nutrients and waste can slow healing at infected and damaged sites. This slower recovery allows for other risk factors, such as increased inflammation, to advance the infection more aggressively, causing greater damage at faster rates.
Periodontal Disease Impacts Blood Sugar Regulation
When viewed in the opposite direction, diabetics with periodontal disease have greater difficulty regulating their diabetic status. Studies indicate that periodontal disease causes problems in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
The gum inflammation that occurs in periodontal disease causes an overproduction of chemicals which are linked to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance means that although the body still produces insulin, the insulin is less able to adequately perform its role of transporting sugars from the bloodstream. Such resistance leads to greater difficulty in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. The longer this disruption persists, the greater the patient is at risk for diabetic complications such as glaucoma, neuropathy, and high blood pressure. Several studies suggest that treating periodontal disease supports better regulation of blood sugar.
Treating Periodontal Disease in Diabetics
By better understanding the two-way relationship between periodontal disease and diabetes, you can see the negative cyclical impact they can have upon each other. Because of this, immediately addressing the conditions is critical.
If you currently have diabetes, schedule an appointment to determine if you have signs of periodontal disease. Periodontal treatment options vary and may significantly help you regulate your blood sugar and control your diabetic status. Ensuring the health of your gums can not only improve your oral and overall health, but ultimately save you time, worry, and money!
The link connecting gum disease and heart disease has been recognized for decades; however, until recently, little was understood about this connection. Because the diseases share many common risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure, it’s difficult to confirm a relationship independent of these factors. Many researchers and healthcare professionals have asserted that gum health may also simply be an indicator of overall health and wellbeing.
In 2010, research out of the University of Bristol, in collaboration with the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, found evidence suggesting that streptococcus bacteria, which occur naturally in the mouth, may directly impact the heart health of patients with periodontal disease. The naturally occurring bacteria cause infection as they collect in the pockets formed during periodontitis. As the bacteria accumulate and the pockets expand and deepen, the bacteria are able to enter the bloodstream.
Once in the bloodstream, the bacteria produce a protein that attracts blood platelets, causing them to clump together. The platelets surround the bacteria, creating a protective casing that shields the bacteria from white blood cells and other immune responses. Scientists suggest that the clumped masses can attach to heart valves, causing atherosclerosis (hardened arteries), forming blood clots, or potentially inflame blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the heart and brain.
This and similar studies underscore importance for further research into the various mechanisms linking periodontal disease and heart disease. Continued examination of these complex interactions helps develop a clearer understanding of the relationship, subsequently providing better insights into treatment. Until more information is available, proper daily oral hygiene and regular examinations are critical steps towards good oral as well as overall health.
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death among older Americans. It is estimated that in the United States, one person suffers a stroke every 45 seconds. One in 4 men and 1 in 5 women over the age of 45 will have a stroke. With these odds, any steps in reducing your risk of stroke can be vital, even life saving.
A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain, carrying the brain’s oxygen supply, is cut off, even if momentarily. This occurs when the blood vessels carrying oxygenated blood are obstructed or damaged. Oxygen deprivation in the brain can result in lasting and sometimes permanent health complications, including paralysis, weakness, aphasia (loss of language abilities), and mental health changes.
Stroke & Periodontal Disease
Recent research links moderate to severe periodontal disease to increased risk of stroke. In 2004, the American Stroke Association estimated that patients with severe periodontitis are 4.3 times more likely to suffer a stroke than those with only mild or no periodontal disease.
During advanced periodontitis, the bacterial infection in your gums accesses your bloodstream via the open wounds or pockets at the base of your teeth. Once in the blood, bacteria can cause a chain of chemical responses or systemic inflammation, potentially increasing the risk of stroke. Further research is needed to better determine the exact interaction between periodontal disease and strokes.
Remember that periodontal disease is an active infection within your body that can penetrate beyond your gums into other systems. While this poses various risks, periodontal disease is both preventable and treatable. Proper daily brushing and flossing and regular oral examinations are easy steps you can take towards reducing your risk of stroke and improving your overall health.
Low Birth Weight & Preterm Births
A healthy pregnancy depends upon a healthy mom-to-be. During pregnancy, eliminating habits like smoking and drinking, following a healthy diet, and seeking prenatal care are widely accepted measures to ensure your baby’s health. What some women may not know is that periodontal health also plays a key role in a healthy pregnancy.
Research suggests that pregnant women with gum disease are at higher risk for preterm and low birth weight deliveries. Preterm and low birth weight babies are at significantly higher risk for health complications, including neurological conditions, developmental and learning disabilities, respiratory problems, and infection.
Several studies have demonstrated a correlation between periodontal disease and preterm, low birth weight delivery. Studies out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Dentistry found that women with gum disease may by up to 7 times more likely to deliver a preterm, low birth weight baby, whereas alcohol consumption and smoking posed only a three-fold increased risk. Similarly, in 2007, the Journal of Periodontology published a study in which 79% of sampled expectant mothers who did not receive treatment for periodontal disease delivered preterm, low birth weight babies.
While further research is necessary to fully understand the impact of gum disease on pregnancy, healthcare professionals and dentists agree that any active infection in a mother’s body is a threat to fetal health. Gum disease is a living, active infection in your mouth for which immediate treatment is essential in preventing complications to your pregnancy.
Gum Disease & Pregnancy
Gum disease is an active infection living inside your mouth. Whether it is a pre-existing condition or if it develops during pregnancy, the further this infection is allowed to advance, the greater the risks it poses to the fetus. Women with a history of oral health problems are at higher risk for developing early stages of gum disease, gingivitis, during pregnancy. If not already present, gingivitis will usually begin to develop in the second or third month and can persist and advance throughout the pregnancy if left untreated. Gingivitis occurs as plaque and bacteria collect around the gum line and in between teeth, making gums red and swollen. Gums that bleed during regular flossing or brushing are indicators of developing gingivitis. This is a sign that you should seek treatment immediately.
If left untreated, the early stages of gum disease will advance to periodontitis. This bacterial infection affects the gums and bones supporting the teeth, causing the teeth to eventually loosen and potentially be lost.vThe natural spaces between your teeth collect bacteria which form pockets in the gums. As bacteria accumulate in these pockets, causing them to deepen and expand, the bacteria gain access to the bloodstream.
Once released into the body, research indicates that the bacteria trigger the production of chemicals that potentially induce premature labor. One study also found periodontal pathogens (bacteria and other toxins associated with periodontal disease) in the amniotic fluid of women who were at risk for preterm labor. This reaffirms hypotheses that such toxins could have a direct connection to increased risk for preterm delivery; however, continued investigation into these interactions is needed.
Until science provides better understanding of the relationship between periodontal disease and preterm, low birth weight delivery, the American Academy of Periodontology emphasizes the importance of daily brushing and flossing throughout pregnancy along with regular visits to your dentist prior to and during pregnancy.
How Do I Know If I Have Gum Disease?
Make an appointment with your dentist immediately if you exhibit any of the following symptoms:
- Red, swollen, or tender gums.
- Bleeding gums during regular brushing or flossing.
- Gums that appear to have pulled away or receded from teeth.
- Loose teeth.
- Change in bite.
- Pus emitting from between teeth or at the gum line.
- Persistent bad breath.
Osteoporosis is one of the leading causes of bone fracture in men and women over the age of 65. It is estimated that 40 million people are either already suffering from osteoporosis or are at risk to develop it. Recent research links osteoporosis to bone loss in the jaw, resulting in the potential loosening or loss of teeth.
What Is Osteoporosis?
The term osteoporosis means “porous bone.” Bone tissue has a honeycomb structure, which allows bones to be both lightweight and exceptionally strong. Bones are made of living tissue whose cells are constantly being reabsorbed and replenished by the body.Osteoporosis occurs when the rate of replacement fails to keep up with the rate of absorption, leaving large spaces and gaps in the bone structure. Such gaps decrease bone density and strength, making bones more brittle and increasing the risk for fracture and breakage. Everyday tasks such as sitting, standing, picking up a child, or even a hard cough pose a threat to potentially causing a break.vOsteoporosis occurs in both men and women, yet is most prevalent in Caucasian women over age 65.
Osteoporosis & Oral Health
Osteoporosis can occur in any bone throughout the body, including the jaw bone. A woman suffering from osteoporosis has a three times greater risk of tooth loss than a woman with healthy bone density. Decreased density in the jaw bone can cause loose teeth and, potentially, tooth loss. Additionally, osteoporosis may cause a woman to struggle with improper denture fit as jaw bone tissue is depleted over time.
Patients with both periodontal disease and osteoporosis are at even greater risk of tooth loss. Research shows a strong correlation between periodontitis, osteoporosis, and bone loss. Studies have also suggested that diminished jaw bone density can make the bone more susceptible to the bacterial infections of gum disease. Further research is required to better understand the interactions of these conditions as well as the impact of additional risk factors.
Steps towards Healthy Bones
Your bone health is vital to your overall health and quality of life as well as your oral health. Here are some basic steps you can take towards maintaining bone health:
- Eat a balanced diet rich in vitamin D and calcium.
- Exercise regularly. Weight-bearing activities such as walking, dancing and weight training are best to promote bone strength.
- Do not smoke.
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Report any signs of loose teeth, receding or detached gums, or a change in your denture fit to your dentist immediately.
While little is known about the direct causes of pancreatic cancer, key risk factors such as smoking, type 2 diabetes, and obesity have been identified as significant risk factors. In addition to these, recent studies have suggested that periodontal disease may also cause increased risk of pancreatic cancer.
In a 2007 paper, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute cited research including two different studies linking periodontal disease to pancreatic cancer. Study results showed that men with a history of periodontal disease had a 63% greater risk of developing pancreatic cancer than those with no history. The study also found these results to be significant when adjusted for shared risk factors such as smoking and socioeconomic status.
Lead author Dr. Dominique Michaud offered potential explanations of the mechanisms connecting these two diseases. Dr. Michaud suggested that inflammation caused by periodontal disease may drive systemic inflammation, potentially increasing the body’s production of chemicals linked to the creation of cancer cells. Another possibility is that the oral bacteria and toxins associated with periodontal disease are related to the production of pancreatic carcinogens.
The mechanisms offered by Dr. Michaud are still only theoretical explanations. Considerably more research is needed to fully comprehend the complex interactions between these serious conditions. While researchers seek deeper understanding, these findings underscore the importance of proper oral hygiene and care as it may help reduce your risk of developing one of today’s most fatal cancers.
Why Is Oral Hygiene So Important?
Periodontal disease and decay are both caused by bacterial plaque. Plaque is a colorless film that sticks to your teeth at the gum line, and it’s constantly forming. By removing plaque, daily brushing and flossing can help prevent periodontal disease.
How to Brush
Dr. Yoshida recommends using a soft to medium toothbrush. Position the brush at a 45-degree angle where your gums and teeth meet. Gently move the brush in a circular motion several times, using small, gentle strokes on the outer surfaces of your teeth. Use light pressure while putting the bristles between the teeth but not so much that you feel any discomfort.
When you’re done cleaning the outer surfaces of all your teeth, follow the same technique while cleaning the tongue sides of your back teeth.
To clean the tongue-side surfaces of your front teeth, hold the brush vertically. Make several gentle back-and-forth strokes over each tooth. Don’t forget to gently brush the surrounding gum tissue.
Then clean the biting surfaces of your teeth by using short, gentle strokes. Change the position of the brush as often as necessary to reach and clean all surfaces. Watch yourself in the mirror to make sure you clean each surface. After you’re done, rinse vigorously to remove any plaque you might have loosened while brushing.
If you experience pain when brushing, contact us for help
How to Floss
Start with a piece of floss (waxed is easier) about 18” long. Lightly wrap most of the floss around the middle finger of one hand. Wrap the rest of the floss around the middle finger of the other hand.
To clean your upper teeth, hold the floss tightly between the thumb and forefinger of each hand. Gently insert the floss between the teeth using a back-and-forth motion. Do not force the floss or try to snap it into place. Bring the floss to the gum line then curve it into a C-shape against one tooth. Slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth until you feel light resistance. Move the floss up and down on the side of one tooth. Remember there are two tooth surfaces that need to be cleaned in each space.
Continue to floss each side of all your upper teeth. Be careful not to cut the gum tissue. As the floss becomes soiled, turn it from one finger to the other to get a fresh section.
To clean between the bottom teeth, guide the floss using the forefingers of both hands. Don’t forget the back side of the last tooth on both sides, upper and lower.
When you’re done, rinse vigorously with water to remove plaque and food particles. Don’t be alarmed if during the first week of flossing your gums bleed or are a little sore. If your gums hurt while flossing, you could be doing it too hard or pinching the gums. As you floss daily, your gums will heal and the bleeding should stop.
Caring for Sensitive Teeth
Choosing Oral Hygiene Products
Automatic and “high-tech” electronic toothbrushes are safe and effective for most patients. We see excellent results with Rotadent and Interplak. Oral irrigators like Waterpik units will rinse your mouth thoroughly but will not remove plaque. You need to brush and floss in addition to using the irrigator.
Some manual toothbrushes have a rubber tip on the handle that you can use to massage your gums after brushing. There are also tiny brushes called interproximal brushes that can be used to clean between your teeth. Note, though, that if these are used improperly, you could injure your gums, so discuss proper use with Dr. Yoshida or one of our hygienists at your next visit with us.
Organic toothpastes and mouth rinses – or using baking soda and water or coconut oil – can reduce tooth decay as much as 40% with normal brushing and flossing. (Rinses are not recommended for children under 6 years of age, though.) Tartar control toothpastes will reduce tartar above the gum line, but gum disease starts below the gum line, so these products aren’t likely to help with gingivitis. Anti-plaque rinses contain agents that may help bring early gum disease under control. Use these in conjunction with brushing and flossing.
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