Fight Gum Disease
April 18, 2017 No Comments

Gum Disease No Big Deal? These Connections to Other Serious Illnesses May Change Your Mind

Gum disease is a condition that as many as 85% of American adults suffer with, signifying an undeniable epidemic of the disease. And yet, many peoples’ reaction to learning they have gum disease is underwhelming.

What most don’t realize is the connection between gum disease and countless other serious conditions. Learning about the links between gum disease and these other “scarier” diseases, as well as the overall importance of oral health, is key to ensuring people change their lifestyle habits to improve their gums and general health.

Though more research needs to be done to signify causal relationships, there is enough evidence to suggest that improved oral health can only help you prevent contracting or worsening conditions. Here are a few of the connections that have been suggested between gum disease and other illnesses and conditions.

Diabetes

Research has shown that people with diabetes are more likely to develop severe gum disease and lose more teeth from it than people who don’t have diabetes. Additionally, gum disease has the potential to hinder the regulation of glucose levels. It creates a circular relationship because the inability to control glucose levels provides an environment for the bacteria that cause gum disease (which thrive on sugars) to grow. Experts agree that controlling blood sugar levels decreases the risk of gum disease, as well as other complications from diabetes.

Heart Disease

Swelling is the main correlation (though not a causal relationship) between the gum and heart disease. Hardened, or swollen, arteries are a symptom of heart disease and decrease the flow of blood to your heart, which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke.

Swollen gums, the primary symptom of gum disease, is a cause for concern with those at risk for heart disease. Bacteria can travel throughout the body via the many vascular pathways in the mouth, including those that lead back to the heart. In other words, the more bacteria you have in your mouth, the more bacteria you could have in your heart. Experts agree that if you address your oral health, you may decrease the number of bacteria that could be present in your heart.

Stroke

Researchers in Germany found in a 2004 study that gum disease increased the risk of an ischemic stroke when the patient also had severe gum disease (also known as periodontitis), particularly for men and for subjects under 60 years of age. An ischemic stroke is a type of stroke caused by a blocked blood vessel that delivers blood to the brain. Experts agree that by preventing gum disease, you decrease the risk factor for certain types of stroke.

Breast Cancer

Researchers at University of Buffalo’s School of Public Health found in a recent study that women who had gum disease had a 14% overall increased risk of breast cancer over women who didn’t have gum disease. The percentage jumps to over 30% if the woman is a smoker, or has smoked in the past 20 years. More research is needed to see if there is a connection between the inflammation gum disease causes and the development of breast cancer.

As if that weren’t enough, systemic connections have also been suggested between gum disease and erectile dysfunction, obesity, arthritis, dementia and Alzheimer’s, osteoperosis, child birth risks and liver disease. For more in-depth information on the connections between these illnesses/risks and gum disease, check out our Total Health page.

The good news is that moderate to severe gum disease is treatable. Until recently, traditional cut and sew surgery was the main method for treating gum disease, which is why many people opt not to get their oral health in check. However, the FDA cleared the LANAP® protocol as a laser surgery option is a less painful, more successful treatment with a shorter recovery time. (For more information on the FDA-cleared LANAP® protocol, visit www.LANAP.com.) If you currently suffer from one of these systemic conditions, ask your dentist if you are at risk for gum disease and what treatment is right for you.

March 20, 2017 No Comments

It’s Time for Spring Cleaning—And Don’t Forget Your Teeth!

Spring is just around the corner, and with it, spring cleaning. From decluttering a countertop to taking a hard look at organization, it’s time to celebrate the end of winter.

However, another important cleaning this spring is also likely due: your dental hygiene appointment. And it’s a crucial one not to miss, especially if you want to prevent gum disease.

You have probably heard all your life that you should get your teeth cleaned every six months. You have heard it because it’s true. Getting the tartar and plaque buildup removed from your teeth is essential to your oral health. Failure to take care of your hygiene appointment can lead to more serious conditions with your gums, conditions that can affect your overall health.

Before you scoff at the notion, consider this: Nearly half of the adults over age 30 in the U.S. have gum disease (47%) according to the CDC. Not only that, but gum disease also affects over 70% of adults over the age of 65.

Leading Cause of Tooth Loss

Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss caused by an infection in the gum tissue that progresses below the gum line and damages the bone and supporting tissues of your teeth. Patients who suffer from gum disease have red swollen gums and even bleeding, among other symptoms. Perhaps worst of all, however, is that gum disease has been linked to other serious health conditions like diabetes, heart disease, strokes, and even some forms of cancer.

Gingivitis is a less severe form of gum disease. It results from plaque buildup and tartar on the teeth that grows along the gum line. As this tartar buildup or calculus increases, it irritates your gums causing redness and bleeding. However, many patients with gingivitis might not know they have it. That’s where your hygienist comes in handy.

When a hygienist cleans your teeth, they also observe changes in the gum tissues. They can see when the calculus buildup is irritating the gums, as well as the first signs of infection. They rate the gums by how they respond to stimulus and identify areas that the dentists should watch for signs of gum disease. They also can clean off the buildup causing the problem so that the irritation or infection can clear. Missing your hygiene appointment means missing out on this important survey of your oral health which can lead to more serious gum health issues if left untreated.

Gum disease becomes severe once the calculus buildups reach below the gum line. Now it is called Periodontitis. The buildup causes the gums to separate from the teeth and supporting bone forming periodontal pockets. These pockets cause swelling, pain, and misalignment, and if left untreated, can result in tooth loss. Not only that, the bacteria present under the gum line can leave the oral cavity through the extensive vascular network that leads from there and make it to other parts of the body, such as the heart.

What to Do When Your Gum Disease is Advanced

While periodontitis is serious, it is still treatable. However, once it reaches these advanced stages, it will require either traditional surgery with scalpel and sutures or laser treatment like the LANAP® protocol which is laser assisted regeneration that presents a less painful and more patient-friendly optionfor gum disease treatment.

One of the best ways prevent periodontitis is to maintain a regular schedule with your dentist and hygienist every six months. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) also recommends having a comprehensive oral health examination every year by your dentist. This attention to cleaning your teeth and assessing your gum tissue health can help catch gum disease in its earlier stages, before more serious treatments are necessary. Another important way to prevent gum disease is regular brushing and flossing in your day-to-day cleaning.

Spring cleaning is an excellent annual tradition for your home and your life. Your spring cleaning hygiene appointment is also a wonderful annual tradition for your oral health. Gum disease is more common than you think. Make sure you are doing what you can to catch it before it is too late. Call your dental professional to set up your Spring teeth cleaning today.

The Flossing Debate and Why There Shouldn't Be One
March 14, 2017 No Comments

The Flossing Debate and Why There Shouldn’t Be One

The debate about the merits of flossing all started last August with The New York Times. The prestigious paper ran a story that implied that it might not be necessary to floss to prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and bone loss. The dental community responded with a unified and resounding, “Yes, it is.”

The NY Times article referred to the latest dietary guidelines published by the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services that excluded flossing in their recommendations. The Associated Press reported that the government agency dropped flossing because officials had never researched whether flossing truly helped in upholding dental health.

The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) responded the same day. In their statement, they said:

“The American Academy of Periodontology recommends daily flossing as one part of a regular oral hygiene routine, which also includes brushing your teeth twice a day and ensuring you receive a comprehensive periodontal evaluation every year. The accumulation of plaque bacteria beneath the gum line may cause an inflammatory response which ultimately leads to gingivitis, a mild form of periodontal disease. If left untreated, periodontal disease can worsen, leading to tooth loss and increased risk for other systemic disease such as diabetes and heart disease. Flossing allows for the removal of plaque bacteria and debris from areas in the mouth that brushing alone cannot reach.”

The AAP went on to explain that flossing is a key element of an overall oral health plan, which includes brushing twice a day and a comprehensive dental evaluation at least once a year with a dental professional trained to diagnose and treat gum disease.

The AAP further addressed the reason there isn’t evidence to support the claims that flossing does benefit patients. The evidence needed would take a long time to gather, as gum disease progresses slowly over many years with other factors that influence its progression. Furthermore, legitimate evidence would require a sample from a vast and varied population with suitable indications of periodontal health.  None of the available evidence available today meets these requirements. However, the AAP also said that people should floss even without evidence of its benefits if for no other reason than it wouldn’t hurt.

The American Dental Association (ADA) also addressed the issue immediately after the NY Times article ran. On whether dental professionals should recommend flossing to their patients despite substantial evidence that proves it is effective, they said the following:

The first is to recognize that even in the absence of strong evidence, patients often look to the professional for guidance.  In this case, while the average benefit is small and the quality of the evidence is very low (meaning the true average benefit could be higher or lower), given that periodontal disease is estimated to affect half of all Americans, even a small benefit may be helpful.  The other side of the benefit-risk analysis is an absence of documented harms as well as minimal cost to patients.  Considering all this along with issues specific to the individual will allow the dentist to tailor an appropriate message for their patient.”

Why Do the Experts Love Flossing?

There are many benefits to flossing, per the experts. Among them are:

  1. The removal of harmful bacteria on surfaces of the teeth that a toothbrush cannot reach: You floss the sides of your teeth, where a toothbrush can’t go but the harmful bacteria can. These harmful bacteria, called biofilm or plaque, can cause decay on these surfaces.
  2. The prevention of inflammation in gum tissue: When you floss below the gum line, you remove any plaque that has made its way down into the spaces between the tooth and the gum. When you don’t, that bacteria flourishes down in the dark, moist environment, causing inflammation in the surrounding tissue. Dentists can see a difference in patients’ mouths who do floss and those who don’t.
  3. Reversing the effects gum disease has already made to tissues: Flossing can help gums heal even after inflammation starts. However, periodontal therapy will be needed in addition to more attention to flossing at home to eradicate the disease completely.

Despite these benefits, many people don’t floss the way they should. Moreover, many people don’t own up to it in the dentist chair. A study in 2015 revealed that 27% of adults in the U.S. lie to their dental professionals about how much they floss.

So why not floss? Many people think of flossing as a painful, unpleasant experience for them. In fact, 36% of the respondents in the study said they would rather do another unpleasant task, like cleaning the toilet, than floss their teeth.

However, experts agree that flossing should not be painful. Anyone who is experiencing pain after the first few times flossing is likely being too aggressive with the floss on their gum tissue. Dentists and hygienists are proponents of taking a different approach, advising patients to hug the tooth with the floss rather than sawing between the teeth.

For now, when it comes to the debate on flossing, the dental community agrees that there is no debate at all. Whether hard evidence exists to support it or not, the experts are in unanimous agreement that there is no downside to flossing, but plenty of downside to not flossing. You may have heard your dentist say it before: You don’t have to floss all of your teeth, just the ones you want to keep.

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February 24, 2017 No Comments

How are Hearth Health Month, Black History Month and Gum Disease Awareness Month All Related?

February is an important month for your gums. Why? February is Gum Disease Awareness Month, Heart Health Month, Black History Month and National Children’s Dental Health Month. And guess what? They’re all related to your gums.

This February is the fifth anniversary of Gum Disease Awareness Month. Started by the Institute for Advanced Laser Dentistry (IALD), the mission was to raise awareness about the disease that affects 85% of U.S. adults.

Of course, February is also Heart Health month. The Heart Foundation encourages all of us to make a difference in the fight against heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for people in the United States. A correlation exists between oral disease and heart function! While it isn’t known if one disease directly causes the other, researchers see a connection through inflammation which causes swelling. Hardened (swollen) arteries are a symptom of heart disease; swollen gums are a sign of periodontitis. The bacteria that causes gum disease may also be a contributor to mayocarditis — when your heart becomes inflamed. The theory is that the bacteria causing gum diseases flows through the vascular pathways from the mouth and travels throughout your body, affecting different systems along the way including your heart. That’s why addressing gum disease just may decrease the bacteria found in one’s heart, and it is not uncommon that heart surgeons require dental check-ups and treatment of gum disease before surgeries.

Black History and Gum Disease Awareness month seem unrelated, but they are also connected. How? Gum disease is highest among ethnic minorities. The 2015 study from the CDC reported that 59.1% of Non-Hispanic Blacks aged 30 and over are affected by periodontitis. Experts point to an oral health disparity that exists between racial and ethnic groups, as well as other factors, including economics, gender, age, and geography. With such a high amount of this population affected, it remains critical for all adults to have a comprehensive periodontal evaluation by their dental professional every year.

Finally, February celebrates National Children’s Dental Health Month. Dental health professionals and healthcare providers work throughout the month of February to promote the principles of excellent oral health to kids and those that care for them. Gum disease is more prevalent in an older population; however, it can affect children also. Gum Disease is considered a ‘communicable’ disease – meaning those with the disease can transfer to others. Using the same spoon to swipe a bit of your child’s dessert could actually transmit gum disease causing bacteria.

Furthermore, the good health habits one learns when they are young are the same that will help them prevent the onset of gum disease later. One of the best was to treat gum disease is prevention!

February is also National Pet Dental Health Month, because you can’t leave the fur babies out! Yes, your dogs and cat can also contract gum disease

It is important to remember that beginning gum disease is reversible and moderate to severe periodontal disease is treatable. For the more serious cases, traditional surgery used to be the only option for treatment. However, the LANAP® protocol is the only laser surgery approved by the FDA to regenerate the bone and tissues lost to gum disease. Good news – laser surgery is less painful with a shorter recovery time, and has been proven to eliminate the bacteria causing gum disease for successful long-term outcomes.

Gum health is an important topic any month, but many lines intersect for gums in February. If you haven’t already, be sure to make your appointment to see your dental professional to have a complete periodontal exam for 2017.

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February 14, 2017 No Comments

Gum Disease: The Silent Killer You Might Already Have

Tens of millions of Americans have it. Odds are you do, too. We’re talking about Gum Disease and we want to educate people on the serious and widespread nature of this condition in honor of the 5th Anniversary of Gum Disease Awareness Month.

Gum disease is more common than most people know. It outnumbers the cases of cancer, heart disease and even arthritis.  However, the clear majority of people are neither aware of its prevalence nor the consequences it can have on your overall health if left untreated.

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WI Fights Gum Disease
January 6, 2017 No Comments

Together We Can Fight Gum Disease

Gum disease is serious. So are our supporters. Let’s build off this groundswell and help save lives.

49 states in the United States now officially stand behind the grassroots movement to raise awareness of gum disease and its treatment options by proclaiming February as Gum Disease Awareness Month. Hundreds of dental clinicians are showing strong support for this important cause; and, the social media world is taking notice, with more than 15,000 followers joining the crusade.

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