Tag Archives: oral health

The Relation Between Gum Disease and Your Health

We’ve been discussing a lot about cosmetic dental work over the holidays, but a bit of news turns our attention to some critical health issues. Inadequate gum health may not just enhance your risk of needing dental implants. NYC residents should be aware of research from Yale University that links gum disease to a larger incidence of pneumonia. Oral health, particularly the health of the gums, has long been connected with various health issues in other parts of the body, including heart disease and diabetes, but this latest dental news reveals that there’s a connection between the mouth and pneumonia.

How does gum health relate to pneumonia? Well the easy explanation is the fact that bacteria in the mouth are breathed into the lungs from the throat, infecting the lungs and causing respiratory illness. This link between oral health and respiratory disease has been established for several years. The science behind it is a a bit more complex, but the basics should be adequate to motivate all of us to take excellent care of our gums. Diseased gums harbor a host of numerous bacteria which can be absorbed into the bloodstream, but they can also be inhaled into your lungs. Dr. Samit Joshi of Yale University suggests that changes occurring in oral bacteria can increase the susceptibility to acquire pneumonia. Increasing symptoms of gum disease are a source of that bacteria change.

Leading British dentists are warning individuals about the risk, pointing to several studies linking oral health and respiratory disease. Both the elderly and the young are especially at risk, and their gum health should be monitored closely. CEO of the British Dental Health Foundation offers some advice:

  • Brush teeth regularly with fluoride toothpaste
  • Reduce sweet food and drink intake
  • Visit a dentist regularly

Sound advice for any situation, but winter months presents a greater cocktail of respiratory germs, with more people locked indoors, and colds and flues on a higher level of incidence, so extra vigilance is a great idea. Things to look for include bleeding from the gums during regular brushing, bad breath, frequent mouth infections, or loose teeth. These are all signs of gum disease, that could contribute to pneumonia.

According to the CDC, pneumonia accounts for about 17.3 deaths per 100,000 people in the United States, so keeping track of your oral health and the oral health of your loved ones is not just about pretty teeth, it’s about protecting lives.

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Planning on Losing Weight in the New Year?

Ny Dental ThanksgivingDo you feel about as stuffed as that turkey that was on the table this Thanksgiving? In the height of holiday season the last thing we want to think about is our weight. Usually it isn’t until the new year approaches and we start feeling a little extra tightness in the waistband that we consider making a resolution to exercise, diet, and lose weight. However, weight loss is a good thing to keep in mind right through the holidays, especially as NY Dental professionals ponder new information from a recent study revealing an alarming connection between obesity and gum disease.

In the study, 31 overweight individuals who had gum disease were given the same periodontal care. However, a control group underwent gastric bypass surgery to facilitate weight loss. After a period of time, all participants’ gum conditions had improved some due to the periodontal care. However, those who had enjoyed weight loss due to the surgery showed far greater improvement in overall gum health, reduction of inflammation, and a marked decrease in glucose levels.

Gum Disease Ny DentalInflammation of the gums can lead to harmful effects over time, causing bone erosion and tooth loss. It also allows harmful oral bacteria to enter the blood stream. This bacteria has been linked to diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and other conditions.

One of the theories scientists propose for the connection between obesity and oral health is that excessive fat cells, called adipocytes, create more cytokines which reduce the ability of insulin to properly deal with sugars in the body. The result is elevated sugar in the blood stream which presents a constant assault on the gums and teeth. Other studies show that the blood vessels in the mouth show thickening in obese individuals, which decreases blood flow to the tissues. Reduced blood flow allows bacteria to stagnate without being removed by the immune cells in the body.

In earlier dental news, previous studies confirm the findings of this latest research, and there are many convincing factors that explain the connection. Not only does obesity promote periodontal disease, but it also increases risk of adult onset diabetes, which in turn has its own gum disease risks.

holiday goodies NY DentalSo, as you enjoy your holiday goodies, keep in mind moderation is always a good habit. Start planning today for a weight loss program that includes healthy eating and regular exercise. A healthy wight not only makes you feel better, but your mouth will thank you as well. Making an appointment with your dental care professional wouldn’t be a bad New Year resolution either!


Healthy Mouth, Happy Heart!

Heart Disease and DentistryCardiovascular disease claims the lives of about 2,400 people every day.  New medical guidelines published in the American Journal of Cardiology encourage medical and dental professionals to cooperatively diagnose and manage patients who are at risk for heart disease and stroke. According to the American Academy of Periodontology, healthy gums can ward off heart disease and prevent you from becoming a statistic.

Periodontology meets cardiology.

Most people have experienced gingivitis, which is the mildest form of gum disease. If gingivitis is left untreated, it can progress and involve the deeper tissues surrounding the teeth.  Gum disease leads to inflammation and bleeding, which allows oral bacteria to access the bloodstream. Research has suggested that some of these bacteria can cause blood clots in the arteries, which may contribute to blockages that lead to stroke.

Research conducted at several major universities, including the State University of New York at Buffalo, has concluded that inflammation is a common factor underlying both cardiovascular and periodontal disease. What does this mean for people living with heart disease or those at risk? Ultimately, controlling both conditions simultaneously leads to improved overall health for patients.  Don’t be surprised if your dentist refers you to a cardiologist, or if your physician sends you to the dentist’s office for an evaluation.

Are you at risk for developing heart disease? There are a number of steps you can take to positively impact your health:

EKG stethoscope picture

  • If you take Statin – type medications for high cholesterol, take them consistently.
  • Keep up with your medical and dental checkups.
  • Eat a healthy diet. It’s good for your gums and your heart.
  • Tell your dentist if you are being treated by a physician.
  • Brush and floss regularly, and have regular dental cleanings.
  • If your dentist tells you that you have periodontal disease, follow through with the recommended treatment… it could save your life!


Aquafresh, toothbrush, toothpaste

Most people realize that their dental checkups are important, but people who have or are at high risk for periodontal conditionsshould be seen for more frequent exams and cleanings? Sometimes this additional service is covered by insurance and sometimes it isn’t – regardless, rest assured that your dentist is making recommendations that are in your best interests.  We look forward to seeing you at your next visit and would be happy to help answer any questions you may have about managing your risks for cardiovascular or periodontal disease, and improving your overall health.


Dry Mouth: Beyond Thirst

Is your mouth constantly dry and uncomfortable? Do you drink glasses and glasses ofDrugs can can dry mouth water in an attempt to hydrate your tongue, cheeks, and gums—but nothing seems to cure your ailments? Well, first things first: maybe you’re not thirsty! While dehydration is most obvious cause of dry mouth, there are other factors that commonly contribute—and they’re probably incorporated into your daily routine.

In its simplest regard, dry mouth is a result of inadequate saliva production. Saliva is produced to assist people in speaking, eating, and swallowing. Without enough saliva, any normal activities involving your mouth will continue to dehydrate your mouth. Throughout a day, you habitually and often unknowingly utilize your mouth, and in turn constantly deplete your saliva at practically all times. When your body isn’t producing saliva, the dryness builds up more and more, causing further symptoms detrimental to your oral health.

Red, dry, raw, cracked lips are some symptoms of dry mouthThe most common symptoms associated with diagnosed dry mouth are frequent thirst, dry/sticky tongue, sores, dry lips, cracked corners of the mouth, dry or burning mouth and throat, rawness of the tongue, hoarse voice, and even bad breath.

So dry mouth and it’s correlated symptoms are caused by a reduction in saliva—but if drinking a lot of water isn’t helping you produce more saliva, what inhibits your body from this natural function?

Various pharmaceuticals are the largest cause. Recent studies have found that many drugs, over the counter or prescription, have mouth drying and saliva inhibiting side effects. The ADA and other health organizations are trying to bring awareness to consequences and risks of over 500 drugs and their contribution to dry mouth. Many people ingest dry-mouth-causing drugs on a daily basis (nearly half of Americans) because it’s a common side effect of pain relievers, anti-depressants, blood pressure medications, asthma and allergy relief, and diuretics.

This poses problem because the people who take these drugs are usually especially dependent on their medications. Prescriptions and other meds greatly assist the daily functions of millions of Americans. But at the same time, they cause other problems that may have bigger consequences than users realize.

And other than discomfort, dry mouth can contribute to actual oral health problems. When your mouth is dry, it’s more susceptible to getting sores, which can become quickly infected without protection from saliva. Also, saliva helps prevent teeth decay by cleaning and coating your teeth, so dry mouth often contributes to decaying, chipping, and overall unhealthy teeth.

If you’re not on any sort of daily medication and dry mouth persists, there are a few other causes. Smoking and chewing tobacco have huge health risks, dry mouth among them. Also, neck or back injuries can cause nerve damage that inhibits the body from sending saliva production messages to the brain. Any medical condition that resulted in the surgical removal of salivary glands would also cause dry mouth.

If you have dry mouth, here are some dos and don’ts to help you cope:

DO: Maintain a daily oral health routine. Brush your teeth and tongue with toothpaste that has fluoride. And as always, remember to floss.

DON’T: Eat spicy, sugary, or dry foods. They’ll only add to the dryness.

DO: Chew sugar free gum or suck on sugar free candies and lozenges. This can help stimulate saliva production.

DON’T: Smoke or drink excessive alcoholic or caffeinated beverages.

DO: Try out mouth guards with gel to produce artificial saliva.

Most of all, DO tell your doctor or dentist. They can help you figure out the cause of your dry mouth case, suggest treatment, and possibly change your daily prescription to something with less harmful or annoying side effects. At best, DON’T let your dry mouth persist.


Vitamin D and Your Oral Health

Medical researchers have long known that Vitamin D has many oral and overall health benefits, but there is growingconcern that deficiency of this critical nutrient is more common than once thought. Understanding the benefits of Vitamin D, where it comes from and who is at risk for deficiency could make an important difference in your general and oral health.

Somewhere along the way you can probably remember being told to have plenty of calcium in your diet to build strong bones and teeth… mothers admonish their children, and doctors advise pregnant mothers about the importance of getting adequate calcium. Fortunately calcium is everywhere – readily available in many of the foods we all love like milk, cheese, ice cream and even commercially added to orange juice, breads and cereals. Perhaps you didn’t know that without Vitamin D, the body can’t absorb that calcium… no matter how much of it you swallow!

According to a Canadian study, only about 10% of women in their second trimester of pregnancy had adequate Vitamin D levels, a phenomenon which was correlated the frequency of milk and prenatal vitamin consumption. Babies born to women with low levels of vitamin D during pregnancy may be at increased risk for tooth enamel defects and therefore, early childhood tooth decay. A diet lacking or low in vitamin D will contribute to a phenomena known as “ burning mouth syndrome”, symptoms of which can include dry mouth, a burning sensation of the tongue and oral tissues and a metallic or bitter taste. The condition is most common in older adults who, coincidentally, are frequently found to have a Vitamin D deficiency! Oral Health scientists have found that in addition to many general health benefits, Vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation in the body, which is widely known to have a direct impact on the development and severity of periodontal (gum and bone) disease. As a matter of fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Dentistry1 among 6700 research participants, those who had the highest blood levels of Vitamin D were about 20% less likely to have gum disease. Since more than half the people in the country have some form of gum disease, which may be a very good reason to drink your milk!

Vitamin D is produced naturally by the human body when skin is exposed to sunlight, but more often than not people choose to protect themselves from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays. Sunscreen and protective clothing may prevent getting enough vitamin D from the sun; and deficiency is common among people who live in northern latitudes or otherareas that receive limited sunlight. Up to 50% of older adults have inadequate Vitamin D levels, perhaps partly due to decreased outdoor activity and sun exposure; and African Americans of all ages produce less Vitamin D, probably due to the darker color of their skin.

Although it is a rule of thumb that the best source of nutrients is a natural one, Vitamin D supplements are readily available over the counter and routinely recommended to individuals at risk for deficiency. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that Vitamin D drops be given to breast-fed infants, because breast milk usually has low levels of vitamin D. Do you have unexplained body or mouth symptoms? Could you be at risk … or have you been recently diagnosed with low Vitamin D levels? Your doctor and dental professional can advise you about the benefits of a supplement, and a recent discovery of Vitamin D deficiency is a good reason to schedule your regular dental checkup.

1. Journal of Dentistry (2005), 33:703–10.


Reasons for the Removal of Wisdom Teeth

Should you have your wisdom teeth removed? 

It’s true that removal of wisdom teeth is a very common practice, though not everyone knows the reasons for it. Just because wisdom teeth grow in doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be removed. In fact, there is much debate on whether to remove them or not, but they do often cause problems that call for extraction.

Wisdom teeth usually come in around mid/late teenage years to early twenties and are generally associated with pain. During growth, the pain may feel like pressure in the back of the mouth and the growth areas may feel sensitive to touch of a toothbrush, food, etc. The irritation most frequently occurs for one or both of these two reasons:

1. Newly growing in teeth don’t always grow in straight; they frequently grow in either angled towards the front, back, or even completely sideways. This angling causes them to impact other teeth or rub against the tongue or cheeks, which may result in irritation and possible infection. According to Scienceline, an NYU research program, the reason for the shifted growth of wisdom teeth is because human jaws have evolved smaller and smaller over time.

2. It can be difficult to clean in the crevices between the gums and wisdom teeth in the back of the mouth. This can lead to bacteria buildup and infections and soreness. Similarly, wisdom teeth might not even come all the way through the gum line, which results in soft gum tissue or cysts around the area of the tooth. This is especially difficult to clean and also causes bacteria buildup and infections.

Evolution has lead to wisdom teeth being unnecessary—they are officially included in Discover’s list of unnecessary body parts. Logically, they were needed when humans ate rough foods like raw meats, but overtime our diets and jaws have changed. Since we don’t need the teeth any more, it makes sense to have wisdom teeth removed in the case of oral health problems such as impacted teeth, bacterial infections, irritations, or cysts.


Nutrition and Oral Health: You Really Are What You Eat!

It’s true! Do you have gingivitis, periodontal disease, mouth sores or frequent cavities? Most people know that good nutrition is an important part of an overall healthy lifestyle, but did you also know that what you eat actually has a direct impact on the health of your teeth and gums?

Here is something to smile about: a well balanced diet that is high in fiber can improve your oral health, and may reduce the risk of other diseases as well. Poor nutrition impacts the entire immune system, making it less efficient at fighting disease – including oral disease. As a result, people whose diet is lacking in key nutrients are more susceptible to a variety of systemic disorders including diabetes and cardiovascular disease. As a matter of fact, a study that appeared in the Journal of Periodontology reported that periodontal (gum and bone) disease progresses faster and is more severe in patients whose diet is deficient in certain nutrients. The key nutrients for a healthy mouth include:

Calcium: Teeth and the bones that support them are strengthened by the calcium they contain; and when there is not enough in your diet, the risk of developing gum disease and tooth decay is greater. Researchers have studied the relationship between calcium intake and gum disease, and have found that the participants with the healthiest teeth and gums consumed more than 800 mg of calcium daily, whereas those who consumed fewer than 500 mg were 54% more likely to develop gum disease. The best sources of calcium are dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, however, beans, oysters and certain green, leafy vegetables are also rich in calcium. Calcium is also commercially added (fortified) to some juices and breakfast cereals. Supplements are available in various dosages for the lactose-intolerant and those who are calcium deficient in their diet.

Iron: Iron deficiency can cause tongue inflammation and mouth sores. Iron is found in many foods, particularly liver and red meat, but other iron-rich foods include bran cereals, some nuts, and spices.

Vitamin B3 (niacin): A lack of vitamin B3 can cause bad breath and canker sores in the mouth. To boost your B3 levels, eat chicken and fish.

Vitamins B12 and B2 (riboflavin) and folic Acid: When you do not consume enough of the vitamins B12 and B2 in your diet, you can develop mouth sores and a condition called pernicious anemia in which the body does not have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Pernicious anemia is often diagnosed in the dental office because patients with the condition will have a swollen red, shiny tongue. All three of these nutrients are essential for healthy gums .Red meat, chicken, liver, pork, fish, and dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese, are good sources of vitamin B12. Vitamin B2 is found in foods like pasta, bagels, spinach, and almonds. Spinach and broccoli are good sources of folic acid.

Vitamin C. Too little vitamin C may lead to bleeding gums and loose teeth. Not only does this vitamin support a healthy immune system for fighting disease, vitamin C is necessary to help the body produce collagen, a substance that gives support and structure to the gums and other body tissues. Sweet potatoes, raw red peppers, strawberries and citrus fruit like oranges are great sources of vitamin C.

Vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for the body absorb calcium. A diet low in vitamin D may cause a burning sensation in the mouth, with a metallic or bitter taste and dry mouth. Drink milk, and eat egg yolks and fish to increase your vitamin D intake.

Fiber: Foods with fiber stimulate saliva flow, which is the body’s natural defense against cavities. About 20 minutes after you eat something containing sugars or starches, saliva begins to neutralize the acids that destroy tooth enamel. As an added benefit, the fruits and vegetables that are fiber-rich are also good sources of other important nutrients!

Bacteria feed on leftover foods in the mouth and they produce acid which causes tooth decay. Carbohydrates like breads and pasta, or sticky foods that contain sugar – even natural sugar can be as harmful as a candy bar because they cling to the teeth and are not easily washed away by saliva. Soda that is high in sugar presents an obvious cavity risk, but all soda contains acids and phosphorous that erodes the tooth enamel. Even the fruits and vegetables that are so important nutritionally contain sugars that are damaging if left in contact with the teeth. You have heard it before: good homecare, including brushing and flossing are essential to a healthy mouth, and don’t forget about regular checkups and cleaning!

How sure are you that your diet is well balanced? Could you be at risk? Older adults or people with health issues that make eating certain foods difficult are at particular risk for oral health problems, but vegetarians who avoid meat and animal products may also be at higher risk for gum disease if they lack the nutrients these foods provide. Ensure that you’re getting the nutrients, vitamins and minerals your body needs… speak to your physician and dentist, and check out the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s website.