Posts for: May, 2013
Did you know that roughly 75% of Americans suffer from some sort of gum disease? Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) refers to the progressive loss of attachment between the fibers that connect the bone and gum tissues to the teeth, and the consequential loss of the tooth-supporting bone itself.
As you get older, your chances for developing gum disease increase significantly. Here are a few other factors that might put you at a higher risk for developing gum disease:
- Family History. 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Luckily, there are new tests that can assess if you are at risk. However, even with good oral hygiene, studies have shown that genetically susceptible individuals may be 6 times more likely to develop gum disease.
- Tobacco. Smokers are four times more likely to develop periodontal disease. Smokers have more disease-causing biofilm bacteria and collect it more quickly. They also lose more attachment between the teeth and gums, which leads to more loss of bone that supports the teeth.
- Bleeding Gums. Some people mistakenly think that it is normal for their gums to bleed when they brush. In fact, this is an indication that you are not brushing and flossing effectively and a common symptom of gum disease. Pregnant women are also more likely to have bleeding gums, because elevated hormone levels may cause gum tissues to be more responsive to bacterial biofilm, thus bleeding more easily. That is why we recommend that pregnant women have regular cleanings at three to four month intervals.
We often refer to gum disease as silent, because symptoms may not appear until the disease has advanced. For this reason, you should conduct a self-assessment to identify if you are at risk.
- Have your gums receded and/or do your teeth appear longer?
- Are any of your teeth feeling or getting loose?
- Do your gums appear red or swollen?
- Have you recently had a tooth or teeth extracted because they were loose?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you may be at risk for gum disease. You should make an appointment with our office so that we can conduct a thorough examination and prescribe treatment, if necessary.
If you would like more information about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease.”
Oral cancer is a serious health problem, responsible for the death of about one person every hour, every day in the United States. It was once thought that folks over 40 were chiefly at risk for the disease. If present trends continue, however, younger people may soon form the majority of oral cancer patients. So, no matter who you are, it makes sense to recognize the risk factors, and find out what you can do to reduce your chances of getting the disease.
As in many other diseases, genetic factors play a role in determining whether an individual will develop oral cancer. At present, there's nothing we can do about these inborn traits. But there are several choices we can make that will lessen our risk of oral cancer. Most of these risky behaviors are associated with other types of cancer as well.
Moderate to heavy drinkers, and users of tobacco products of all types, are as much as 9 times more likely to develop the disease than non-users. Chronic exposure to the sun has long been associated with the development of cancers of the lip. And, because the sexually-transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can lead to oral cancer, unsafe sexual behavior is a factor that's fast becoming a primary cause of the disease.
So if you need another reason to quit smoking, stop drinking excessively, wear sunscreen and practice safe sex — consider this your warning. But there's still more you can do to reduce your risk for oral cancer, and improve your general health as well.
Eating a plant-based, whole food diet doesn't just reduce your risk of getting oral cancer — it also makes you less likely to develop many other cancers, and various chronic conditions like heart disease. The exact mechanisms by which this happens aren't completely understood, but its effects have been documented in numerous studies.
Avoiding certain chemicals, like the nitrites often found in preserved foods, can reduce cancer risk. And the antioxidants you get by eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help protect your body from cancer-causing substances.
Finally, don't ignore regular cancer screenings. The early signs of oral cancer are difficult for many people to distinguish from common mouth sores — but we are trained to identify possible problem areas, and can schedule further tests if needed. You can get an oral cancer screening (a fast and painless procedure) at your regular dental checkup. And you always get your checkups on time — don't you?
If you have concerns about oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Oral Cancer” and “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”