Tag Archives: periodontal disease

Gum Disease & ED

Find any list of qualities to cultivate for sex appeal, and you’ll find it includes an attractive smile. People consistently rate it as the most captivating physical feature – more than eyes, hair or even physique.

smileJust because a smile looks good, however, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy. And according to a new study, a particular kind of unhealthy one could be putting a damper on your sex life.

For a while now, we’ve known about the links between periodontal disease and inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke. All those are known to be physical causes of erectile dysfunction, and there appears to be a relationship between ED and gum disease, as well.

According to Wiley’s press release on research just published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine,

Turkish researchers compared 80 men aged 30 to 40 with erectile dysfunction with a control group of 82 men without erection problems.

This showed that 53 per cent of the men with erectile dysfunction had inflamed gums compared with 23 per cent in the control group.

When the results were adjusted for other factors, such as age, body mass index, household income and education level, the men with severe periodontal disease were 3.29 times more likely to suffer from erection problems than men with healthy gums.

Smokers, older men and those with systemic illness were excluded from the study, as all are already at elevated risk for both ED and periodontal disease.

As ever, correlation doesn’t equal causation; it only shows that two things occur together. It’s where things stand with the gum disease/heart disease link, as well. We know that they’re often present together; that oral bacteria are often found in the heart; that improving gum health may improve heart health. If you’ve been diagnosed with one condition, it’s worthwhile to get the other checked and do what you can to improve your health.

The good news with gum disease is that, unless severe or advanced, it’s usually reversible through a combination of improved home care and diet, frequent professional cleanings and sometimes surgery. Granted, it takes a time and money, but it’s certainly cheaper than replacing the teeth you’re sure to lose if gum disease goes unchecked.

Consider the results of a study published earlier this year in the Journal of Periodontology. Its authors found that those who had only baseline treatment could replace just 3 teeth with bridgework – or 2 with implants – before they’d be spending more than for a lifetime of perio care.

Those who had no treatment at all could buy 4.

Image by practicalowl, via Flickr

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Bleeding Gums Are NOT Normal!

A lot of people think that it’s perfectly normal if their gums bleed a little bit when they brush or floss.

You imagine they’d think so if, say, their scalp bled a little while they washed their hair? Their hands during scrubbing?

Blood is a sign that something is wrong. Bleeding gums are a sign of disease. If left untreated, the result is lost bone and, ultimately, lost teeth.

 

 

But it’s not just the mouth that suffers. Periodontal (gum) disease has been linked with many other inflammatory conditions, including heart disease, diabetes and stroke. For what happens in the mouth can and does affect the rest of the body. How could it be otherwise? Your mouth is connected to your body; your body is connected to your mouth.

Whoopi Goldberg, for one, found out about the oral/systemic link the hard way – and spoke of it quite powerfully on The View:

 

 

If you’re not taking care of your mouth, you’re not taking care of your body!

That’s plain, hard truth; wisdom that comes from, as Whoopi says, “paying the price” for neglecting her oral health for so long (and this despite the fact that she had insurance and far more than enough money to get regular, top-notch care).

Indeed, no one is immune from gum disease, though some are more susceptible than others. (Click here for a list of contributing factors.) Still, there are three important things we can do to lower our risk: 1) Don’t use tobacco; 2) Brush, floss and see your dentist regularly; and 3) Eat well, including lots of fresh vegetables and few sugary drinks and highly processed carbs.

Want to learn more about the connections between periodontal disease and systemic health? I recommend ZT4BG – Zero Tolerance for Bleeding Gums – a site maintained by dentist William C. Domb, DMD.

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Filed under Dental Health, Oral Health, Periodontal health

Stopping Gum Disease Naturally – New Study Shows Key Role for Fatty Acids from Fish, Nuts

A diet full of fish and nuts – foods rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) – goes a long way to keeping people’s smiles healthy, according to a new study.

Looking at the diets of 182 adults, researchers found that those who consumed the highest amount of n-3 fatty acids were 30% less likely to develop gum disease and 20% less likely to develop periodontitis (severe gum disease).

Lead author Dr Asghar Z. Naqvi of Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center says, “We found that n-3 fatty acid intake, particularly docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) are inversely associated with periodontitis in the US population.

“To date, the treatment of periodontitis has primarily involved mechanical cleaning and local antibiotic application. A dietary therapy, if effective, might be a less expensive and safer method for the prevention and treatment of periodontitis.”

Commenting on the study, Chief Executive of the British Dental Health Foundation, Dr Nigel Carter, said, “Most people suffer from gum disease at some point in their life. What people tend not to realize is that it can actually lead to tooth loss if left untreated, and in this day and age, most people should be able to keep all their teeth for life.

“This study shows that a small and relatively easy change in people’s diet can massively improve the condition of their teeth and gums, which in turn can improve their overall well being.”

The study was published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

“n-3 Fatty Acids and Periodontitis in US Adults” (Abstract)

Adapted from a British Dental Health Foundation media release.

Images by cobalt123 and s58y via Flickr

 

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Gum Disease & Cancer, Cancer & Smoking, Smoking & Tooth Loss

Over the past year or so, there’s been a lot more talk in conventional dental circles about the relationship between oral health and physical health, much of it focusing on the demonstrated links between periodontal (gum) disease and inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. One of the links we’ve heard less about – at least in the popular media – is that between oral health and cancer.

A little over a year ago, a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention cast some light on this relationship, looking to the effect of chronic periodontitis on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). As gum disease in its most severe form leads to bone loss in the jaw, researchers measured the amount of alveolar bone loss. (This is the bone that secures the teeth in their sockets.) Even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, alcohol use and missing teeth, they found that for each additional millimeter of bone loss, an individual’s risk of developing HNSCC increased by more than four fold, with the strongest association occurring in the oral cavity. The scientists concluded that chronic gum disease may well be an independent risk factor for HNSCC. Smoking may raise the risk even more, considering that it aggravates alveolar bone loss.

Because the alveolar bone is the fundamental structure that keeps teeth in the mouth, as it erodes, the individual becomes more susceptible to losing their teeth. There’s simply not enough bone to hold them in place. This is something we’ve known about for some time, but there’s continued interest in understanding the progress of gum disease, as well as the impact of risk factors such as smoking even after the the person has quit.

Along these lines, a sobering study was just published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, in which researchers looked at the long term effects of smoking and tooth loss among older adults. Unsurprisingly, current and former smokers both showed a much higher rate of tooth loss than those who had never smoked. Surprisingly, though risk declined significantly once individuals quit smoking, their risk remained elevated even after 30 smoke-free years.

For those who still think smoking makes you look cool or sexy, you might want to think about how cool you’d look without teeth or how sexy when taking out dentures each night before going to bed.

Yet another reason to quit the smokes – or never start in the first place.

 

Image via foldedspace

 

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Inflammation: A Link Between Dental and Chronic, Systemic Illnesses

When we think of symptoms, we usually do so very subjectively. For symptoms make us feel bad – not just physically, but mentally and spiritually, too, since our physical limitations may keep us from doing the things we want or need to do. Thus, we tend to see symptoms as things that must be stopped. And thus, conventional medicine provides all kinds of symptom-suppressing drugs and therapies. But since they fail to address root causes, illness gets pushed deeper into the body, creating more problems – and more symptoms – in the long run.

Suffice it to say, this is a very limited – and limiting – view of both sickness and health.

When we think about symptoms from a holistic, biological perspective, though, we see them as signs of a body trying to heal itself. For the body is a self-regulating system, always striving for homeostasis – the condition of being the same: normal temperature, normal levels of constituents in the blood, and so on. So when, for instance, a foreign substance enters it – pathogenic (disease-causing) microbes, say – your body's defenses go to work to try to neutralize or remove the invaders. You may run a fever, as heat kills some pathogens. You may sneeze, cough, vomit or get diarrhea as your body attempts to excrete toxins. Your tissues may become red, swollen and tender as lymphocytes battle the foreign element.

Thus, what the holistic practitioner wants to do is not help a patient “manage” an illness by suppressing symptoms but work towards real cure by providing treatment that supports the body in its ability to heal itself.

 

purplemattfish/Flickr

 

Inflammation is one of the most common symptoms of all. It is a factor in a whole host of disease processes, from periodontal (gum) disease to cardiovascular disease (CVD, or “heart disease”), diabetes to stroke, arthritis to cancer. It also plays a role across the range of autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus, Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS) and Crohn's disease, as well as conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). In all such cases, the inflammation is chronic: ongoing, lasting for years, often before other symptoms are experienced or full-blown illness sets in. The body adapts, and over time, the inflammation becomes destructive. This is in contrast to acute inflammation – the kind that occurs, say, when you cut or burn yourself: an immediate and short term experience that encourages the healing process.

Periodontal Disease

In dentistry, inflammation is most commonly associated with gum disease. Gingivitis and periodontitis have many causes, including genetic predisposition, diet, hygiene, diabetes and stress, and eventually result in “pockets” forming between the teeth and supporting tissues.

When the gums are healthy, this space is less than three millimeters deep. But as inflammation sets in, the gums become red and puffy, and even normal brushing may cause them to bleed. The pockets deepen, becoming ideal homes for the oral bacteria that thrive in such dark, moist places. And as the microbes colonize and multiply, they also generate acidic, metabolic waste that further pollutes the body's biological terrain (internal environment). This, of course, perpetuates the disease which, if left untreated, ultimately leads to tooth and bone loss.

Fortunately, excellent home hygiene combined with regular deep, professional cleanings can stave off, stop or reverse periodontal disease, though in some cases, more extensive treatments such as laser surgery and tissue grafts may be needed to deal with the damage already done.

Over the past decade or so, much research has been done on the relationships between periodontal and other inflammatory diseases, and there are a number of interesting links. Some of the best evidence shows a relation between gum and heart disease, where we see the same pathogenic microbes in both the mouths and hearts of CVD patients. We also know that diabetes raises the risk of periodontal disease, while other links have been found between gum disease and cancer. These connections are recognized by orthodox dental medicine, as well as holistic. Consequently, even conventional dental researchers now acknowledge that good oral health and hygiene may be preventive of at least some systemic, inflammatory diseases.

Toxic Materials and Other Dental Sources of Inflammation

There are other dental conditions that can trigger inflammatory immune responses that can range from mild swelling and soreness to full-blown illnesses, including autoimmune disorders such as MS and lupus, and “enigmatic” illnesses such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and MCS.

In the case of dental materials, the issue is often one of biocompatibility. If a dentist places a filling, crown, bridge or other restoration made of material that is toxic (e.g., dental amalgam) or that the patient is allergic to, the patient may develop symptoms. Their severity and likelihood of progressing to chronic, systemic illness depend, of course, on the material itself and the patient's degree of sensitivity. Much depends, as well, on how effectively the patient can excrete toxins, their ongoing exposure to environmental toxins, their total toxic body burden and healthfulness of lifestyle (e.g., diet, drug use, tobacco use, physical activity).

Yet another issue with metal restorations in particular is oral galvanism: the creation of electrical currents in the mouth when different metals are near each other, close enough to be reactive. The mutual presence of gold and mercury is especially potent. Symptoms of oral galvanism may not be felt by the patient, or manifest merely as a metallic taste in the mouth or general sensitivity. But over time, these electrical fields can create great disturbances in the body, leading eventually to illness or dysfunction.

One other big area of concern is infection, both local and focal. Local dental infections include things like abscesses, which may be noticeable by touch (e.g., you can feel the sore with your tongue), as well as pain, pus or bleeding in the area. Focal infection is when infection in one area of the body, such as the mouth, affects other areas of the body.

Dental foci commonly stem from root canal teeth or cavitations (literally, holes in the jawbone), both of which – like periodontal pockets – are great harbors for pathogenic microbes. Indeed, in these cases, the environment is even more suited to infection, for both root canal teeth and cavitations involve dead tissue. Little oxygen reaches these sites, which is great for anaerobic microbes – organisms that thrive in the absence of oxygen. Their colonization furthers the decay of these tissues. However, because the sites are connected via the various circulatory systems, both microbes and their toxic waste products enter the body's general circulation. From there, they can wreak havoc elsewhere in the body. Indeed, this is a likely mechanism for the relationship between the systemic and oral diseases – gum disease and heart disease, say, or cancer.

The obvious solution, then, is to remove the source of infection. If problematic cavitations or root canal teeth are present, they must be, respectively, cleaned or removed and replaced with nontoxic, biocompatible restorations in order to stop the continuing toxication of the body. Once the source is removed, much more progress may be made in treating the systemic aspects of the disease and returning the body to full health. If mercury or other toxic restorations are the issue, they should be safely removed and replaced for the same reason.

That said, if you have a chronic condition such as CVD, lupus or cancer, you can't just conclude that it's caused by your dental conditions. You don't just rush out and have thousands of dollars of dental work done immediately, and there are no instant cures. Thorough, comprehensive testing must always be done first to pinpoint the precise causes of any illness – or to rule them out. Then treatment must follow in a sensible, logical and scientifically valid way in order to insure that it's done right and helps, not harms. Proper detox protocols must be followed, and often further therapeutic interventions by naturopaths, homeopaths or other holistic healers are needed for full treatment. The dental aspect is just that – an aspect, albeit an important one. And it's rooted in what ties so much illness together: the inflammatory response, your body's attempt to heal.

Read more articles like this at our main office site, drerwin.com.

 

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Filed under Biological Dentistry, Oral Health, Periodontal health

Are You Only Partway Cleaning Your Teeth?

Brushing and flossing go together. Most of us know this, but while most of us manage to brush at least twice a day, only about half of us floss even once a day.

In other words, half of us are only partway cleaning our teeth.

A toothbrush can remove biofilm (plaque) from the exposed surfaces of your teeth, but it can’t thoroughly clean between teeth or below the gumline – areas that oral microbes love precisely because they’re dark, moist and harder to get to. Not flossing lets these microbes thrive. The result? Periodontal (gum) disease and, ultimately, tooth loss. What’s more, gum disease has been linked to other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

So not only does flossing support good oral health but good systemic health, as well. It may even help your memory.

 

pattyanne:made/Flickr

 

Interestingly, flossing may not be a strictly human activity. Monkeys, for instance, have been seen flossing, both in and outside the lab. A recent “Improbable Research” column in The Guardian describes some of the findings, including observations of the macaque flossing with human hair. (More info about the macaque – and a link to video of the behavior – here.)

It makes you wonder: Is flossing a “natural” behavior of sorts? If so, then why do so many of us humans not just avoid it but come up with all kinds of excuses for it?

The most commonly given reason is a lack of time – even as brushing and flossing together take less than five minutes. But if you’re that pressed for time, why not multitask? Floss while you’re in the shower, say, rinsing your hair, or while you’re relaxing with TV or a book after dinner, or sitting at home in front of the computer .

Once you make flossing habitual, it won’t seem to take much time at all. Besides that, as the health of your gums improves, flossing will no longer cause bleeding or irritation, eliminating a couple more of the common excuses. And if standard, thin floss hurts your fingers, switch to thicker, softer dental tape. Bingo! Another excuse gone.

To learn more about the correct way to floss, see the guides at About.com and Animated-Teeth.com.

 

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Filed under Oral Hygiene, Periodontal health

Understanding How Cigarette Smoke Destroys Your Gums

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A couple weeks ago, I wrote about the effects of secondhand smoke on children’s dental health. In passing, I also mentioned how smoking affects the smoker’s oral health, as well – especially the strongly increased risk of periodontal disease and associated bone and tooth loss.

We’ve known about this link for quite a while, but we still don’t entirely understand the mechanism – how tobacco does the damage it does to the periodontal tissues and underlying bone. Answers continue to emerge, though, including some from a new study I learned of shortly after publishing that post.

This study, published in the Journal of Dental Research, considered the effects of cigarette smoke condensate (CSC) – the particulate matter of smoke – and a microbe called P. gingivalis, which is one of the main players in the development of gum disease. Specifically, they wanted to see the effect of these combined factors on the collagen-degrading capability of human gingival fibroblasts – connective tissue cells found in the gingival crevice (the small space between a tooth and surrounding gum tissue).

Three groups of cells were tested. One was exposed just to CSC, one just to P. gingivalis and one to both factors. Looking at the effects of each exposure, the researchers found that the combination of CSC and the pathogenic microbe was more destructive than either component alone and did so by destroying specific secreted proteins in the extracellular matrix.

This is the kind of tissue destruction that ultimately progresses and manifests as receding gums. It’s also entirely preventable, potentially reversible through proper treatment and care, and offers just one more reason to quit smoking now.

 

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