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Does Oral Health Affect Your Heart?

August 1st, 2012


Brushing your teeth every day keeps them cleaner, improves your breath, and reduces plaque buildup. But did you know that there may be a connection between your dental health and chronic illness? Some scientific evidence suggests that poor dental health may be linked to cardiovascular disease. Although more research is needed to explore this association, it provides yet another reason to brush your teeth twice per day, floss daily, and visit your dentist regularly.

Over 2,400 people die from cardiovascular disease each day, making it an immense public health problem. Cardiovascular disease occurs when arteries become harder, making it more difficult for blood to easily pass through your circulatory system. Plaques also build up in your blood vessels, further restricting blood flow. Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, affects nearly 75% of the U.S. population, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. It is a chronic inflammatory condition that can cause bone and gum tissue to deteriorate, causing bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums, sensitive teeth, and loose teeth.

If periodontal disease affects your teeth and cardiovascular disease affects your heart, what’s the connection between the two? Scientists have known for years that the two conditions share several risk factors. Increasing age, cigarette smoking, and type 2 diabetes increase your risk of developing both periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease. None of these risk factors, however, explain the causal mechanism connecting the two conditions.

According to a 2009 review article by the editors of the American Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of Periodontology, one possible explanation is inflammation. Moderate to severe periodontal disease triggers chronic systemic inflammation, affecting not only your mouth but also your circulatory system, leading to cardiovascular disease. Another hypothesis is that bacteria from your mouth can cause heart disease. People with periodontal disease have billions of bacteria and other microorganisms teeming in their mouths. Chewing food and brushing your teeth release these bacteria into the bloodstream. The Harvard Heart Letter reports that the types of bacteria that cause periodontitis have been associated with plaque buildup in your arteries.

Not all scientific findings have shown a relationship between the two conditions. In April 2012, the American Heart Association published a scientific statement in the journal Circulation denying that gum disease causes heart attacks or stroke. The American Dental Association’s Council on Scientific Affairs and the World Heart Federation also endorsed the statement, agreeing that there is no conclusive evidence that the conditions are related. More scientific research needs to be performed to determine the exact relationship between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease.

Although the scientific evidence has been mixed, periodontal disease can be very harmful to your health even if it does not lead to cardiovascular disease. It is important to reduce your risk of gum disease by careful tooth brushing, frequent flossing, and regular trips to the dentist.

What is Gingivitis?

July 27th, 2012


Gingivitis is a type of periodontal disease in which only your gums are affected. Gingivitis, according to the American Dental Association (ADA), is a milder and often reversible type of periodontal disease. However, it can lead to periodontitis -- a more destructive and serious disease -- if proper professional treatment and home care aren't put into place. No tissue damage or irreversible bone damage is present in the gingivitis stage of periodontal disease.

Many people with gingivitis won't experience any discomfort, particularly in its early stage. However, as the bacteria in plaque builds up, it can cause your gums to become inflamed, which may make them red and swollen. You may also experience blood when brushing your teeth, indicates the American Academy of Periodontology.

Causes of Gingivitis

The most common cause of gingivitis occurs when plaque builds up due to inadequate oral hygiene.

Other less common causes of gingivitis include:

* Diabetes
* Aging
* Smoking
* Improper nutrition
* Hormonal fluctuation
* Stress
* Pregnancy
* Substance abuse
* Certain medications
* Genetic predisposition

Up to 30 percent of people in the United States may be susceptible genetically to gum disease or are six times more prone to developing gum disease, according to the American Academy of Periodontology. Therefore, if one of your family members has gum disease, it may indicate that you have a higher risk of developing the condition as well. If you are one of these people who are more susceptible to developing gum disease, your dentist may recommend more frequent cleanings, check-ups, cleanings, and treatments.

Implications of Gingivitis
If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress to periodontitis. In periodontitis, the bone and inside layer of your gum pulls away from your teeth, allowing small pockets to form. These small pockets are danger zones because they allow bacteria to collect, and can they can then become infected. As periodontitis progresses, these pockets deepen, resulting in even more bone loss and gum tissue damage. Eventually, teeth that were once anchored in place become loose. Tooth loss often follows.

Treatment of Gingivitis
In practically all cases, gingivitis can be reversed, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Treatment includes proper control of plaque, which consists of having a professional teeth cleaning, at least two times a year. It also includes daily teeth brushing, which will eliminate plaque from the surfaces of your teeth. You should also floss daily to remove plaque and food particles from in between your teeth.

Lifestyle and health changes may help decrease the risk of developing gingivitis or reduce its severity or progression. These lifestyle changes include stopping smoking, decreasing your stress, eating a well-balanced diet, and avoiding grinding and clenching of your teeth.

What, exactly, is a root canal?

July 20th, 2012

Our team knows one thing no patient likes hearing when visiting our office is “root canal.” But what, exactly, is a root canal, and when might you need one? A root canal is a treatment uses to repair and save a tooth that is infected or badly decayed to the point where the nerve is involved. In the past, if a patient had a tooth with a diseased nerve, dentists in most cases would recommend an extraction. Today, however, with a procedure called root canal therapy, available at our office, you may save that tooth—and your beautiful smile—after all! Here are some symptoms that indicate a decayed or infected tooth, courtesy of WebMD:

• Severe toothache pain upon chewing, biting or application of pressure
• One tooth consistently more sensitive to hot or cold than other teeth
• Pain that hurts without any stimulus, keeps you awake or wakes you up at night
• A tooth that feels loose
• Discoloration (a darkening) of the tooth
• Pain that persists weeks following a filling or replacement of a filling
• Chronic pain and/or pressure that may extend to the ear, eye or neck

 If any of these symptoms apply to you, we recommend you schedule an appointment with us right away. The best way to avoid a root canal is to practice good oral hygiene at home, and that includes brushing at least twice a day and flossing to reduce plaque and bacteria. For more tips on how to avoid root canal therapy or for general questions about your dental treatment, we invite you to ask us during your next visit to our office! We also invite you to ask us on Facebook!

If I have braces, do I still need a dental checkup every 6 months?

July 11th, 2012

Thanks for the question! Yes! In fact, it's even more important that patients receiving orthodontic treatment visit our office regularly. When you're wearing braces, food may be caught in places that your toothbrush normally can't reach. This causes bacteria to build up and can lead to cavities, gingivitis and even gum disease. Believe it or not, an estimated 80 percent of American adults currently have some form of gum disease. Studies have shown a correlation between gum disease and heart disease, underscoring the importance of good oral health care. Our team will work closely with your orthodontist to make sure that your teeth stay clean and healthy while you're undergoing orthodontic treatment.
If it has been more than six months since your last visit to our office, please give us a call! We look forward to your next visit!

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