Posts for: July, 2013
The increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in Americans have been getting a lot of attention lately. Most people know that the two are clearly linked. But did you know there's also strong evidence of a link between diabetes and gum disease?
Both diabetes and periodontal (gum) disease are chronic inflammatory conditions. That means they are disorders that develop over time (chronic), and are characterized by problems with a function of the immune system (inflammation). In diabetes, problems with the hormone insulin lead to abnormal levels of sugar in the blood. This can bring about a number of complications which, if not treated, may result in kidney failure, coma and even death. In many people, however, it's a condition that can be managed with drugs and lifestyle changes.
You may not think of gum disease (periodontitis) as a serious illness. But here's something you should know: If you have diabetes, having gum disease is a risk factor for worsening control of blood glucose levels, and may also increase the risk of complications. Likewise, having diabetes puts you at greater risk for developing more severe forms of periodontal disease.
What is gum disease? It's actually a group of diseases caused by many types of bacteria in the mouth, which affect the tissues around the teeth. Initially, it often causes swelling and redness of the gum tissue. Left untreated, it may result in bone loss, abscess formation, and ultimately the loss of teeth. But its ill effects aren't limited to your mouth.
Periodontal inflammation is associated with a higher systemic (whole-body) inflammatory state. That means it may increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke, and adverse pregnancy outcomes — as well as complicating the management of blood-sugar levels in diabetics.
Now, here's the good news: Treatment of periodontal disease which reduces inflammation has a beneficial impact on the inflammatory status of the whole body. For people who have both diabetes and periodontal disease, that means that periodontal therapy can lead to improved blood sugar control.
How do you know if you have periodontal disease? Bleeding gums and bad breath are both possible symptoms, as are redness and soreness of the gum tissues. But these warning signs may be masked by any number of other factors — or may not be noticed at all.
The sure-fire way to diagnose and treat periodontal disease is by getting regular dental checkups, followed by specialized periodontal treatment when necessary. If you presently have diabetes, or may be at risk for developing the disease, those check-ups and treatments are even more important.
If you have concerns about diabetes and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease” and “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease.”
Dry mouth is a condition that many of us have experienced at some point in life. However, for some people it is a problem that can wreak havoc on their lives. This is why we have put together this list of questions we are most frequently asked about dry mouth.
What is dry mouth?
The medical term for dry mouth is “xerostomia” (“xero” – dry; “stomia” – mouth) and it affects millions of people in the US alone. It is caused by an insufficient flow of saliva, the liquid produced by the salivary glands. These glands are located in the inside cheeks of the mouth by the back top molars and in the floor (under the tongue) of the mouth. When functioning properly, they produce two to four pints of liquid every 24 hours.
Can drugs contribute to dry mouth?
Yes, both prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs can cause dry mouth. This is one reason we so often find it in senior citizens, as they are typically on more medications than younger, healthier people.
What about diseases...can they cause dry mouth?
Certain systemic (general body) and autoimmune (“auto” – self; “immune” – resistance system) diseases, in which the body reacts against its own tissue, can cause dry mouth. Other diseases that can be the culprit include: diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cystic fibrosis, and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Radiation and chemotherapy used to treat head and neck cancers can inflame, damage or destroy the salivary glands—thus causing dry mouth.
Are there any remedies for dry mouth?
Yes! If medication is the primary cause of your dry mouth, there may be other, similar drugs that can be substituted that do not produce the same side effect. If you feel this describes your situation, discuss your concerns with the prescribing physician. Another option is taking an OTC or prescription saliva stimulant to temporarily relieve the dryness. Or, you can suck on a candy made with xylitol, a natural sugar substitute, four to five times a day. Xylitol has been shown to help stimulate the production of saliva with the added benefit of reducing the odds of getting cavities.
If you have a dental implant, you have already discovered how lifelike and comfortable this type of tooth-replacement option can be. In fact, you may not even really be aware of your implant anymore; to you, it's simply a tooth like any other. Still, it's important to keep in mind a few things about implant care so the investment you have made in your smile will last as long as possible.
Once an implant is functioning properly in a person's mouth, the biggest enemy is infection — in particular a bacterial infection known as peri-implantitis (“peri” – around; implant “itis” – inflammation). This infection can cause the supporting bone around your implant to deteriorate, which will eventually cause loss of the implant. The good news is this infection is pretty easy to avoid.
Working as a team, you and our dental hygienist can make sure your mouth stays healthy and your implant retains its attachment to the bone for a lifetime. The key is to prevent biofilm (plaque) from building up in your mouth. Your job is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine at home with daily brushing and flossing, and to come in to our office regularly for professional cleanings. The hygienist's job is to remove any buildup of plaque and tartar (hardened deposits) beyond the reach of your brush and floss.
To do this, she will use special instruments that won't scratch the crown on top of the implant or the abutment (connector) between implant and crown. This is important because a scratched surface can harbor bacteria. The metal instruments used to clean natural teeth are not appropriate for the highly polished surfaces of the crown and abutment. Power instruments can be used on implants with nylon or plastic sheaths on the tip and lots of water irrigation to clean and flush debris.
In spite of these cleaning challenges, implants are highly successful and, in fact, the best option for replacing teeth today. Studies have shown the success rate of dental implants to be over 95% — far greater than any other tooth-replacement method.