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.