Posts for: December, 2012
Did you know that studies have shown a relationship between gum disease and heart disease?
The common link is inflammation. This means that if you reduce inflammation caused by gum disease (periodontal disease), you also reduce your risk for heart attacks and strokes. The methods we stress for good dental hygiene — consistent effective brushing and flossing, regular professional cleanings by a hygienist, and dental treatment when needed — are also important for the maintenance of a healthy cardiovascular system (from cardio, meaning heart, and vascular, meaning blood vessels).
Here's how it works. Dental plaque is a film of bacteria that settles on your teeth near the gum line every day. When you brush and floss, you remove as much of this bacterial film, or biofilm, as you can. Bacteria that are not removed multiply and produce acid products that begin to dissolve the enamel of your teeth. They also irritate your gum tissues.
Your immune system tries to remove the bacteria and their byproducts through inflammation, your body's way of attacking substances that shouldn't be there (such as bacteria). However, long-term inflammation can be harmful to your own tissues as well. Inflammation in your gums, a symptom of periodontal disease, can destroy gum tissue, bone and the ligaments that hold your teeth in place.
Ongoing inflammation can also increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Bacterial byproducts of periodontal inflammation have been shown to cause the liver to manufacture a protein called CRP (C-reactive protein) that spreads the inflammation to the arteries, where it promotes formation of blood clots.
Of course, other factors are also related to an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease. These include smoking, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity. Family history and depression can also influence gum disease and heart disease.
Diet is another factor. You have probably heard of “good” cholesterol (HDL) and “bad” cholesterol (LDL). The bad one, low-density lipoprotein or LDL, is found in animal fats. It can cause an accumulation of fat breakdown products (also called plaque, but a different substance from dental plaque) inside your arteries. The arteries become narrow, so that they can be easily blocked, resulting in heart attacks and strokes. Studies have shown that inflammation of the lining of the blood vessels accelerates this effect.
If tests show that you have high levels of LDL, your doctor may advise you to modify your diet and take specific medication to reduce arterial plaque. You will also be advised to make lifestyle changes to reduce your risk factors. Lowering your weight, getting more exercise, and stopping smoking can have a positive effect on your heart health — and so can improving your dental hygiene to combat periodontal disease.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about the relationship between gum disease and heart disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”
There's a lot to like about dental implants, today's state-of-the-art tooth-replacement system. We consider them the best choice for replacing missing teeth because implants are:
You may not realize this, but when a tooth is missing, the bone underneath it begins to melt away. That's because bone needs constant stimulation to rebuild itself and stay healthy, and it receives this stimulation from teeth. It's a delicate balance that's disrupted by the loss of even one tooth. Because implants are made of biocompatible titanium, they actually fuse to the bone and prevent bone loss.
The fusion of implant to bone is an extremely solid connection. Not only does it offer a strong replacement for a missing tooth, but it can also offer support to other tooth-replacement methods such as fixed bridges or dentures. By themselves, these other methods would not preserve bone and might even hasten its loss in the case of dentures. But with implants, bone-loss is prevented — as is embarrassing and uncomfortable slippage of dentures.
When you receive your implant, it is left alone for a few months to complete the fusion process described above. Then it is topped with a crown made of a realistic tooth-like material. The result is so convincing as a tooth replacement, only you and your dentist may be able to tell it's not a natural tooth.
Dental implants have an amazing success rate — over 97%. And once they fuse to the jawbone, they should never need replacement. In fact, they will likely outlast the crowns to which they are attached, but this is not a problem. Implant crowns are precision components that detach for easy replacement, should the need arise.
Implants have a higher initial cost than other forms of tooth replacement, but when you consider how long they last, they are very economical. Consider it an investment in your health, appearance and self-confidence.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
Do you constantly feel like you are running on empty? Do you snore, feel like napping every day, or even drink multiple cups of coffee just for the caffeine boost? You may have a sleep related breathing disorder (SRBD) or Sleep Apnea (“a” – without; “pnea” – breath) in which your airways become obstructed causing chronic loud snoring. The good news is that we can help both diagnose and treat this disorder, which means you will be able to finally get the rest that you (and your sleeping partner) so desperately need.
The reason that sleep apnea is so disruptive to daily living is that it causes awakening for a few seconds up to 50 times per night, significantly decreasing the amount of deep sleep that is necessary for full rejuvenation. Airway blockage during sleep commonly results from obesity, an enlarged tongue or tonsils, and other factors that can cause your airway to close off when you lie down, all increasing the likelihood that you will suffer from sleep apnea. These conditions are dangerous and impair the brain and heart from receiving adequate oxygen, increasing your risk for both stroke and heart attack.
The study of sleep and its disorders is relatively new. One successful way to treat sleep apnea is with a “CPAP” machine which uses a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure mask overnight to keep air passages open while sleeping. Another more comfortable, less noisy, and unobtrusive method is to use Oral Appliance Therapy, which features an appliance like a retainer that can be custom fitted to your mouth made by a dentist trained in sleep medicine.
And yes, dentists are increasingly being recruited to help study and treat sleep disorders. There are actually several ways in which we can help. Because we see our patients on a regular basis, we are uniquely qualified to diagnose early signs of SRBDs. For example, if you start to snore almost immediately after falling asleep in the dental chair, we will be able to discuss this important warning sign with you. We can also examine the back of your mouth to see if you possess any of the traits that point to SRBDs, including large tonsils and/or an elongated uvula — the tissue in the back of your throat that looks like a little punching bag.
So, if you want to stop snoring and start sleeping well or you think you may have a SRBD, call our office to schedule a basic oral exam and consultation. If you would like to learn more about the link between dentistry and the treatment of sleep disorders, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”
How much do you know about dental implants? Test yourself with this quiz.
- Earliest recorded attempts at using dental implants were from
- Medieval England
- The ancient Mayans
- U.S.A. in the 1950s
- Dental implants are called endosseous. What does this mean?
- They fuse with the bone
- They are inside the mouth
- They are not real teeth
- What are most dental implants made of?
- What part of the tooth does an implant replace?
- The implant is the root replacement
- The implant is the root plus the crown
- The implant is the crown
- What is the success rate of dental implants?
- 50 percent or less
- 75 percent
- 95 percent or more
- What could cause an implant to fail?
- Smoking or drug use
- Poor bone quality and quantity at the implant site
- Both of the above
- What is a tooth's emergence profile?
- The implant and crown's shape as it emerges from beneath the gum line
- A measure of the urgency of the tooth replacement
- A measure of the time it takes for you to be able to chew on the new implant
- What are some of the factors that go into the aesthetics of designing the crown?
- Choice of materials
- Color matching
- Both of the above
- b. The concept of dental implants goes back to the Mayan civilization in 600 AD.
- a. The word endosseous (from endo meaning within and osseo meaning bone) refers to the implant's ability to fuse with or integrate with the bone in which it is placed.
- b. Most implants are made of a titanium alloy, a metallic substance that is not rejected by the body and is able to fuse with the bone.
- a. The term “implant” refers to the root replacement, which is anchored in the gum and bone. A crown is put around the implant where it emerges from the gumline.
- c. The majority of studies have shown long term success rates of over 95 percent.
- c. Factors that could cause an implant to fail include general health concerns such as smoking and drug use, osteoporosis, or a compromised immune system; poor bone quality or quantity; and poor maintenance such as lack of proper brushing and flossing.
- a. The emergence profile has a lot to do with the implant's natural appearance. It involves the way the crown, which attaches to the implant, seemingly emerges through the gum tissue like a natural tooth.
- c. Choices such as materials, color, and position can be worked out in the design of a customized temporary crown, which acts as a template or blueprint for a final crown.