Thursday, 3 November 2016

How your next teeth cleaning might protect you from pneumonia

Published November 03, 2016

Aside from protecting your pearly whites, here's more motivation to squeeze in that twice­a­year teeth cleaning: It could keep you from getting sick. A new study suggests that regular dental visits may protect against pneumonia by reducing levels of harmful bacteria in the mouth (ick).

The study's findings—based on the health records of more than 26,000 people nationwide—suggest that people who never get dental checkups have a far greater risk of getting bacterial pneumonia than those who keep up with biannual visits.
"There is a well­documented connection between oral health and pneumonia," said lead author Michelle Doll, MD, assistant professor of internal medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University, in a press release. "We can never rid the mouth of bacteria altogether, but good oral hygiene can limit the quantities of bacteria present."

The body contains 10 times as many microbes (including bacteria, fungi, and viruses) as it does human cells, she explains. Most of those microbes aren't harmful (or they are even beneficial), and even the dangerous ones cause disease only under certain circumstances. In the case of bacteria that cause pneumonia, for example, they have to be inhaled to cause an infection. Getting regular cleanings and check­ups may reduce the amount of these bacteria, says Dr. Doll, and the odds you'll breathe them into your lungs.

RELATED: 4 Things Your Mouth Can Tell You About Your Health

The number of people who actually got pneumonia in this analysis was small—only 1.68 percent of the total sample. But after adjusting for age, gender, income, and other factors, the researchers found that those who never visited the dentist had a 1.8­ fold higher risk—almost double—those who went twice a year.

The study, which has not yet been published or peer­reviewed, was presented today at IDWeek 2016, an annual conference for infectious disease specialists. In her presentation, Dr. Doll acknowledged that people who see their dentist regularly are also likely to practice other healthy­mouth behaviors (like brushing and flossing regularly). They may also have healthier behaviors in general, which might affect their pneumonia risk, as well.

But finding ways—even potential ways—to reduce pneumonia risk is important, says Dr. Doll, given that nearly 1 million Americans get the infection ever year, and 50,000 die from it. While it is more common in older people, or people with chronic illnesses, anyone can get it.

RELATED: 20 Mistakes You're Making With Your Teeth

Of course, this isn’t the first time mouth health has been linked to overall health; studies have shown that gum disease can raise inflammation levels throughout the body, for example, and that it may be linked to mental decline in older adults. Strange symptoms involving teeth, gums, or tongue can also hint at problems elsewhere, like diabetes and gastroesophageal reflux disease.
Remembering this may help the next time you're suffering from dental dread: Those cleanings might be key for more than just a pretty smile.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

7 Signs of Disease Your Teeth Can Reveal
Dentists are trained to spot more than just cavities: These red flags of
dental problems in your mouth may signal a health issue happening
elsewhere in the body.

By Rachel Grumman Bender/Readers Digest

You may have type 2 diabetes

Red, swollen gums that may bleed are the hallmarks of periodontal disease—an
incredibly common condition that affects more than 47 percent of Americans 30 and older and more than 70 percent of adults 65 and older, according to the CDC.
Periodontal disease is brought on by bacteria in the mouth that infect the tissues and create plaque. "Diabetes makes periodontal disease worse," says Paulo Camargo, DDS, professor of periodontics and associate dean for clinical dental sciences at UCLA School of Dentistry. "Periodontal disease can also make the blood sugar more difficult to control." Research shows that diabetes is a major risk factor for periodontitis, a more serious form of periodontal disease that can damage soft tissues and destroy the bone that supports teeth. In fact, people with diabetes are three times more susceptible to developing periodontitis than those who aren't diabetic. "If gums bleed a lot and are swollen or the patient is having frequent abscesses or infections, the dentist might start to question if you have a family history of diabetes," says Sally Cram, DDS, a periodontist in Washington, DC, and a spokesperson for the American Dental
Association. Diabetes isn't the only health problem associated with periodontal disease:
The disease, which triggers a harmful, inflammatory response, is also linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. These are other type 2 diabetes symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.

You have acid reflux

Eating garlic knots and forgetting to brush your tongue aren't the only causes of bad breath. In some cases, especially if you already have a solid brushing and flossing regimen in place, a lingering case of halitosis can signal a health problem, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). You may not even know you have it since GERD is sometimes a silent condition and can occur during sleep. But over time, GERD can wear away your teeth. In fact, research shows that 24 percent of people with GERD have tooth erosion, which a dentist can easily spot. These are other silent signs of acid reflux you might overlook.

You're majorly stressed out
Grinding or clenching your teeth can be a sign that you're under pressure. These are other signs stress is making you sick. Over time, you can grind down and damage your teeth, causing sensitivity and pain. "You can eventually get to the dentin, under the enamel," says Camargo. "Your bite height can change and you can create TMJ problems.
There's also a risk of fracture—you can break teeth." Another sign of stress? Having a painful canker sore or two. Although the jury is still out when it comes to the exact cause of canker sores, they occur more frequently in people who are stressed, notes Cram. Although the sores are painful, they're thankfully benign. Try one of these canker sore home remedies to make them disappear. That said, if you have a white (or red) lesion in your mouth that doesn't clear up in two weeks, that can be a sign of oral cancer and warrants a doctor's visit and biopsy right away.

Your bone mineral density is low
Loose teeth, including dentures that have become loose, and receding gums can be signs of low bone mineral density, which can lead to osteoporosis. Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to experience tooth loss than those who do not have the disease, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). NIAMS suggests that dental X-rays can be used as a screening tool for osteoporosis, noting that research shows dental x-rays are effective in identifying people with osteoporosis compared to those with normal bone density.

You may have an autoimmune disease
If your mouth feels as dry as a desert, certain medications may be to blame, but one possible cause is the autoimmune disease Sjogren's syndrome, which primarily affects women over 40. With the disease, the body attacks the glands that make saliva and tears, causing dryness in the mouth and eyes and increasing the risk of cavities.
Although there's no cure for Sjogren's, the symptoms can be managed with treatments that help bring back some moisture.

You're dealing with an eating disorder
Dentists can spot the signs of anorexia and bulimia in their patients. With anorexia, nutritional deficiencies, including a lack of calcium, iron and B vitamins, can cause tooth decay, gum disease, canker sores, and dry mouth, according to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). With bulimia, stomach acid from vomiting can erode tooth enamel, causing sensitivity to hot and cold food and changing the color and shape of the teeth. In some cases, teeth can become weak enough that they actually break.
NEDA notes that redness and cuts along the roof of the mouth brought on by purging is a big red flag for dentists since damage to the soft palate is rare in people who are healthy.

You may have celiac disease
According to the National Institutes of Health, dentists are in a unique position to
identify celiac disease in patients if they know what to look for. Even though the
condition—an autoimmune disease in which gluten damages the small intestine—is associated with gastrointestinal symptoms, celiac disease can also affect the teeth, leading to dental enamel defects. The disease can cause tooth discoloration: namely, white, yellow, or brown spots on the teeth. It can also cause teeth to appear pitted or banded, like a groove going across the teeth. These defects are symmetrical and typically crop up on the incisors and molars. Other oral symptoms of celiac disease include recurring canker sores; a smooth, red tongue (tongues are normally bumpy); and dry mouth.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Taking care of your pearly whites isn't rocket science, but it's easy to slip into habits that could cause heartache—er, toothache— in the long run. We got the latest on giving your teeth the TLC they need from two New York City pros: Alice Lee, DDS, an assistant professor in the Department of Dentistry for Montefiore Health System, and Alison Newgard, DDS, an assistant professor of clinical dentistry at Columbia University College of Dentistry, will clue you in on where you could be going wrong.

Multitasking while you brush
Every minute in the morning feels precious, so it's tempting to brush your teeth in the shower or while scrolling through your Twitter feed. "To each his own," says Dr. Newgard, "but I prefer patients to be in front of a mirror, over the sink; you can be sure to hit all the surfaces of your teeth, and you'll do a more thorough job when you're not distracted." Better to leave the bathroom a few minutes later having given proper attention to each step of your prep.

Overcleaning your toothbrush
Thinking about running your brush through the dishwasher or zapping it in the microwave to disinfect it? Think again: While we've all seen those stories about toothbrushes harboring gross bacteria, the CDC says there's no evidence that anyone has ever gotten sick from their own toothbrush. Just give your brush a good rinse with regular old tap water, let it air­dry, and store it upright where it's not touching anyone else's brush. More drastic cleaning measures may damage your brush, the CDC notes, which defeats its purpose.

Using social media as your dentist
The web is full of weird and (seemingly) wonderful DIY dental tips that can hurt much more than they'll help. Read our lips: Don't even go there. "I've heard of patients who go on Pinterest and find ways to whiten their teeth there—by swishing with straight peroxide, for example—which are not good for their teeth," Dr. Newgard says. "Use ADA­approved products that have been tested." (Another online tip to skip: trying to close up a gap in your teeth with DIY rubber band braces.)

Avoiding x­rays
There have been several recent scares about dental x­rays, including a 2012 study published in the journal Cancer reporting a possible link between dental x­rays and benign brain tumors. However, the American Cancer Society notes that the study does not establish that x­rays actually cause the tumors, and that some people in the study had x­rays years ago, when radiation exposure from dental x­rays was much higher. "X­rays are important because not all conditions can be identified with a visual exam," says Dr. Lee. "For example, there might be cavities between the teeth, or there might be a cyst or other pathology in the jaw." If you're concerned about radiation, talk to your dentist about ways to minimize the number of x­rays you get.

Storing your wet toothbrush in a travel case 
It's important to stow your brush somewhere sanitary before you tuck it into your luggage for a trip—and equally important to set it free once you unpack. "Bacteria thrives in moist environments," says Dr. Lee. "While you should use a cover or case during transport, make sure you take your toothbrush out and allow it to air dry when you reach your destination." No stand­up holder in your hotel room? If you've got a cup for drinking water, that'll do just fine.

Drinking apple cider vinegar
According to assorted Hollywood celebrities and natural health experts, drinking unfiltered apple­cider vinegar can have nearmiraculous effects on your insides. Research doesn't support those claims, but dentists are sure of one thing: The acetic acid in the vinegar is terrible for your tooth enamel. When it comes downing ACV (as proponents call it), Dr. Newgard says, even a good rinse with water afterward might not mitigate the quaff's potential damage: "I just think you shouldn't use it at all." (Our suggestion: Instead of drinking apple cider vinegar straight, try it in a vinaigrette, or use it to soothe sunburn or get chlorine out of your hair.)

Ditching your retainer 
If you once had braces, whether as a teen or as an adult, it's smart to keep wearing your retainer for as long as your orthodontist recommends—which may mean several nights a week, forever. "A patient will have perfect teeth from braces," Dr. Newgard says, "and then they won't wear a retainer at night and their teeth will shift and they'll be unhappy all over again." Honor thy adolescent self, and keep those teeth in line for good. (Got a fixed retainer? Be sure to keep the device clean: "They can be plaque traps," Dr. Newgard says.)

Brushing right after your morning
OJ Like to start your day with a glass of orange juice—or oh­so­trendy lemon water? Brushing right afterward can wear away your enamel. "The acidic environment weakens the teeth enamel and erosion can occur during this vulnerable period," Dr. Lee says, "so neutralize your mouth first by drinking milk or water, or rinsing with a baking soda solution—or just waiting 30 minutes." The same goes for vomiting, Dr. Lee says, since that's acidic, too. (Gross but true!) If you've thrown up, be sure to rinse before scrubbing out your mouth.

Ignoring your daily (or nightly) grind. 
While mild bruxism—that is, clenching your teeth or grinding your jaw—might not seem like a big deal, severe cases can lead to everything from chipped and worn teeth to headaches, jaw trouble, and even changes in facial appearance. It's hard to know if you grind your teeth at night if a partner doesn't tip you off, of course, but if you experience telltale signs such as jaw soreness or a dull, constant headache, make haste to the dentist; he or she can fit you with a mouth guard to protect you from additional damage.

You already know smoking is bad for your lungs and heart. In case you need another reason to quit smoking: Besides the bad breath and stained teeth, smoking is one of the most significant risk factors associated with the development of gum disease (and the gum recession, bone loss, and tooth loss that come with it), according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Worse yet, smoking can also lower your chances for successful treatment if you've already got gum disease, since nicotine compromises your body's ability to fight infection.

Skipping dentist appointments
Hate sitting in the dentist's chair? The very best trick for short­circuiting anxiety about going to the dentist is—surprise—going to the dentist. "Most patients who don't like to come in feel that way because when they do, they need a lot of work," Dr. Newgard says. "If you're in every six months for your checkups, you're less likely to run into problems." Moreover, dentists are beginning to employ everything from serene, spa­like settings to animal­assisted therapy (that is, a gentle dog who sits beside you at your appointment) to alleviate patient discomfort; you can find a dental practice in your comfort zone.

Not drinking enough water
If your part of the country fluoridates its water (find out by visiting the CDC's My Water's Fluoride page), you're in luck: The simple act of sipping tap water can help strengthen your teeth. (Prefer bottled? Some bottled waters have fluoride, and some don't; if it's not listed as an ingredient in the one you favor, Dr. Newgard says, it's extra­important to use toothpaste with fluoride.) Swishing with and drinking water is also an important way to rinse accumulated sugars and acids from your teeth.

Skimping on calcium and vitamin D
Minerals and vitamins are building blocks for bones and teeth, of course, but they're also key to maintaining their strength and density as we age—and these two are bones' strongest allies. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, adult women need 1,000­1,200 milligrams of calcium and 400­1,000 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day from food, sunlight (for vitamin D) and supplements. Consult your GP on your nutrient needs and be sure your teeth and bones are getting the support they need.

Reaching for the wrong mouth rinse
There are as many ways to wash that gunk right outta your mouth as there are types of gunk to have in your mouth. "Cosmetic" rinses, for example, will merely control bad breath and leave you with a pleasant taste in your mouth. Therapeutic rinses with ingredients like antimicrobial agents and fluoride, on the other hand, can actually help reduce gingivitis, cavities, plaque, and bad breath. (Fluoride rinses aren't recommended for children under 6, as they might swallow instead of spitting.)

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Monday, 9 February 2015

7 mistakes parents make with their kids’ teeth

By Julie RevelantChild at dentist.jpg
 You know regular brushing, a healthy diet and dental visits are some of the best ways to prevent cavities, yet experts say many parents are falling short when it comes to oral hygiene.

In fact, 42 percent of children ages 2 to 11 have had cavities in their baby teeth. And 21 percent of children ages 6 to 11 have had them in their permanent teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Here, find out the biggest mistakes dentists say parents are making and learn what you can do to keep your children’s teeth healthy throughout their lifetime.

1. Letting kids brush alone
Since most children don’t have the motor skills to brush effectively until they’re 8 years old, parents need to supervise brushing and check to make sure every surface of each tooth is clean.

“It’s not that they don’t want to do a good job, they’re just not physically capable yet,” said Dr. Edward H. Moody, Jr., president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.

2. Putting baby to bed with a bottle
It’s the easiest way to cause tooth decay, yet parents are still doing it, experts say. In fact, according to a survey by the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, 85 percent of parents said it wasn’t a good idea to put their babies to bed with a bottle of milk or juice, yet 20 percent did it anyway.

Whether it’s a bottle at bedtime or a sippy cup all day long, the habit keeps the sugar and bacteria levels in the mouth elevated all the time, Moody said. If your baby wakes up at night for a bottle or to nurse, wipe out her mouth with gauze or a soft cloth or brush if she has teeth.

“If you start early on it becomes part of the normal routine,” he said.

3. Making the first dentist appointment too late
Expert say it’s common to see children 2 or 3 years-old who need to go under general anesthesia to treat cavities and infections. One of the explanations for this is that parents aren’t bringing their babies to the dentist early enough.

The first trip should either be when the first tooth erupts or by your baby’s first birthday. Dental visits every six months from the get-go will also help your child feel comfortable—and even excited—to go every time.

4. Offering “healthy” foods
Bananas, raisins, and whole-grain crackers seem like healthy fare but foods that are sticky and have concentrated sugars like these will sit in the grooves of the teeth and create cavities. Instead of nixing them entirely, eat them with meals— when there’s more saliva— and always brush afterwards, said Dr. Joseph Banker, founder of Creative Dental Care in Westfield, N.J.

5. Thinking cavities are no big deal
You might think treating a cavity is an easy fix, but cavities can affect your child throughout his lifetime.  For starters, healthy baby teeth are necessary to maintain space for adult teeth. They help guide the jaw so it can grow.

Plus, if a cavity becomes infected, it can affect the development of the adult teeth and if there’s an abscess, the child will likely need sedation to treat it, Banker said. Cavities at an early age, especially if they’re not treated, can also lead to problems with speech articulation, poor sleep, and even low self-esteem and school performance.

6. Not using fluoride
Last year, the American Dental Association revised its recommendations and now suggests children age 2 and under use fluoride toothpaste, too. Although fluoride is controversial, experts agree that the research is clear: it’s one of the best ways to prevent cavities.

The appropriate dose, however, is key. For children 3 years old and younger, use the equivalent of a grain of rice, and for children 3 to 6 years old, a pea-sized amount is enough. Nevertheless, if you’re concerned about your child’s exposure to fluoride in the water and toothpaste, talk to your dentist.

7. Loading up on sports drinks
A common cause of tooth decay in older kids is sipping on sports drinks and soda at lunch, at games and at home. By bathing their teeth in acid all day, there’s no opportunity for the PH to re-balance, Banker said. If you can’t persuade your child to completely nix it from his diet, encourage him to limit the amount, then drink it and be done with it.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

No more root canals? Scientists aim to regrow teeth using stem cells

Could the days of the root canal, for decades the symbol of the most excruciating kind of minor surgery, finally be numbered?

Scientists have made advances in treating tooth decay that they hope will let them restore tooth tissue—and avoid the painful dental procedure. Several recent studies have demonstrated in animals that procedures involving tooth stem cells appear to regrow the critical, living tooth tissue known as pulp.

Treatments that prompt the body to regrow its own tissues and organs are known broadly as regenerative medicine. There is significant interest in figuring out how to implement this knowledge to help the many people with cavities and disease that lead to tooth loss.

In the U.S., half of kids have had at least one cavity by the time they are 15 years old and a quarter of adults over the age of 65 have lost all of their teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An estimated $108 billion was spent on dental services in 2010, including elective and out-of-pocket care, according to the CDC.

Tooth decay arises when bacteria or infections overwhelm a tooth's natural repair process. If the culprit isn't reduced or eliminated, the damage can continue. If it erodes the hard, outer enamel and penetrates down inside the tooth, the infection eventually can kill the soft pulp tissue inside, prompting the need for either a root canal or removal of the tooth. Pulp is necessary to detecting sensation, including heat, cold and pressure, and contains the stem cells—undifferentiated cells that turn into specialized ones—that can regenerate tooth tissue.

Researchers from South Korea and Japan to the U.S. and United Kingdom have been working on how to coax stem cells into regenerating pulp. The process is still in its early stages, but if successful, it could mean a reduction or even elimination of the need for painful root canals.

While much of the work has shown promise in the lab and in early work in animals, including dogs, there have only been a few reports of experiments in humans.

The root-canal procedure involves cleaning out the infected and dead tissue in the root canal of the tooth, disinfecting the area and adding an impermeable seal to try to prevent further infection.

But the seal does not always prevent new infection. While the affected tooth remains in the mouth, it is essentially dead, which could impact functions like chewing. That also means no living nerves remain in the tooth to detect further decay or infection. Infection could subsequently spread to surrounding tissue without detection. An estimated 15.1 million root canals are performed in the U.S. annually, according to a 2005-06 survey by the American Dental Association, the most recent data available.

"The whole concept of going for pulp regeneration is that you will try and retain a vital tooth, a tooth that is alive," says Tony Smith, a professor in oral biology at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. "That means the tooth's natural defense mechanisms will still be there.

"I think we are really just at the opening stages of what is going to be a very exciting time, because we're moving away from traditional root-canal treatments."

Some scientists have focused on growing entirely new teeth. More are focused on trying to grow healthy new pulp inside the hard shell of tooth enamel, either by stimulating or encouraging stem cells or by better controlling the inflammation that goes on in the mouth in response to an infection.

Some of the challenges with making new teeth are generating not just the right tissue but also the right structure, as well as how to place the tooth or the new pulp in the mouth, according to Rena D'Souza, a professor of biomedical sciences at Baylor College of Dentistry. Beyond anti-inflammatory medication, options for tackling the infection while the new treatments work are limited. And, as with stem-cell research efforts with other body parts, successfully regenerating dental tissue in the lab or another animal doesn't mean it will work in a human body.

Dental stem cells can be harvested from the pulp tissue of the wisdom and other types of adult teeth, or baby teeth. They can produce both the hard tissues needed by the tooth, like bone, and soft tissues like the pulp, says Dr. D'Souza, a former president of the American Association for Dental Research who will become the dean of the University of Utah's School of Dental Medicine Aug. 1.

She and colleagues at Baylor and Rice University focused on regrowing pulp using a small protein hydrogel. The gelatin-like substance is injected into the tooth and serves as a base into which pulp cells, blood vessels and nerves grow.

In a study published in November, they were able to demonstrate pulp regeneration in human teeth in a lab. They will soon be testing hydrogel on live dogs. In addition, they are looking at the potential of the hydrogel to calm dental inflammation.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Dental Implants

During the last 20 years, dental implants have become a desirable alternative to other methods of replacing missing teeth. Excellent success rates and a range of available options give dentists a variety of new ways to treat and replace lost teeth.

Your dentist can evaluate your case and tell you if you are a candidate for dental implants. Structurally, a dental implant is a titanium-based cylinder that replaces the missing tooth root. After a period of time, other parts are placed on the implant to enable your dentist to eventually place a crown (cap) on the implant. Implants can also be used to support full or partial dentures, dramatically improving denture retention and stability.

Most patients with adequate bone mass can have implants, although it varies among individuals. Typically an x-ray and CT-scan are performed to determine if you have enough bone to place the implant, as well as to verify the size and kind of implant that should be placed.