Posts for: April, 2022
Gum disease's impact goes well beyond your teeth and gums—other aspects of your health can suffer too. Here's why.
Gum disease targets the gums, connective tissues and bone that support the teeth. These bacterial infections arise mainly from dental plaque, a thin biofilm that builds up on tooth surfaces. The risk is higher if you're not adequately cleaning your teeth of dental plaque every day with brushing and flossing.
As the infection ravages through your periodontal structures, you could eventually lose affected teeth. But two important aspects of gum disease also increase the risk of harm to other parts of your body.
For one, gum infections contain high levels of harmful bacteria and toxins. As periodontal tissues break down, these toxins can enter the bloodstream and spread infection to other parts of the body.
In the second aspect, inflammation normally occurs in diseased gum tissues in response to the infection. Although a crucial part of the body's defense mechanism, inflammation that becomes chronic (as it often does with gum disease) can itself become harmful.
Some research seems to show that gum inflammation might also influence other inflammatory diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease or arthritis to make them worse. Conversely, these conditions could also elevate your risk for a serious gum infection.
Gum disease can also affect pregnancy, and vice-versa. Because of hormonal changes, pregnant women have a higher risk for developing gum infections. And an active gum infection and its associated bacterial load could likewise affect the overall health of both mother and unborn child.
In light of its potential impact on your whole body and not just your mouth, it's prudent to prevent gum disease or promptly treat it should it occur. As previously mentioned, daily oral hygiene is foundational to dental disease prevention, with regular dental cleanings and checkups further reducing your risk of infection.
You should also watch for signs of infection, including swollen, reddened or bleeding gums. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, make a dental appointment as soon as possible. The earlier we can identify gum disease and begin treatment, the less damage it will cause your gums—and the rest of your health.
If you would like more information on how your oral health can impact your well-being, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”
During the time it might take you to eat a meal, meet someone for coffee or watch your favorite television show, someone in the U.S. will die from oral cancer. Nearly 10,000 people in the U.S. succumb annually to the disease—about one every hour, every day of the year.
While other cancers may have higher occurrence rates, few have oral cancer's dismal 5-year survival rate of 57%. To put it into perspective, only a bit more than half of the 54,000 Americans diagnosed this year will still be alive in five years. That's why we're recognizing April as Oral Cancer Awareness Month—to put a spotlight on this dangerous and deadly disease.
So, why is the disease's fatality rate so high? For one thing, it's been perennially difficult to diagnose oral cancer early, which could increase a patient's survival odds. This is because the lesions produced by various forms of oral cancer can mimic other types of benign sores. It's easy to dismiss what might be pre-cancerous or cancerous tissue as a simple mouth sore.
A biopsy, removing some of the questionable tissue and viewing it under a microscope, is the best way to confirm whether the area is cancerous. But although biopsies are the diagnostic "gold standard" for oral cancer, they're costly and not particularly pleasant for patients to undergo. Usually reserved for the most suspicious cases, biopsies would increase exponentially if we scrutinized more general mouth sores for cancer.
But not all is gloom and doom regarding over oral cancer: Recent years' survival statistics have shown some modest improvement. That's due not only to greater awareness and efforts to improve early detection, but better success in preventing oral cancer development in the first place.
Dedicated oral hygiene, a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle all help lower your risk of oral cancer. Concerning the latter, you can drastically reduce your risk by avoiding tobacco and lowering your alcohol consumption.
Although taking care of both your oral and general health are your best means for preventing oral cancer, it won't eliminate your risk entirely. You may need to add oral cancer screenings to your regular dental visits as you get older or if you have a family history of the disease.
Pay attention as well to any suspicious mouth sores, especially any that don't seem to clear up within a few weeks—sufficient reason to have your dentist examine it. Taking this proactive approach to your oral health can help you get out ahead of this dangerous disease—or avoid it altogether.
Up and coming performers are often pressured by their handlers to change their appearance, and many have over-the-top stories to prove it. But they'd be hard pressed to outdo Kirsten Dunst's experience just before filming 2002's Spider-Man: Producers actually drove her to a dentist for her to get what they considered a more attractive "Hollywood" smile.
Dunst didn't get out of the car: Although a 19 year-old newbie in the business, Dunst had enough fortitude to hold fast about her appearance. And perhaps she had a bit of intuition about what she calls her "snaggle fangs": Her quirky smile is one of her appearance trademarks.
The lesson here is not to avoid any cosmetic dental changes, but rather to choose the smile you want. If you count your slight front tooth gap or the faint crookedness of your teeth as unique to your personality, then rock on.
On the other hand, if you're uncomfortable with your dental flaws, then there are numerous ways to upgrade your smile, from a simple whitening procedure to a comprehensive "smile makeover." You simply have to decide what you want to keep and what you want to change about your smile.
To help guide you along this potentially life-changing journey, here are few key tips to follow.
Find your "right" dentist. If you're going to change your smile, you need a partner—a dentist who is not only skilled in cosmetic techniques, but with whom you feel comfortable. One of the best ways to do this is to make note of smile changes your friends and family have undergone that you find attractive, and ask who did their dental work.
Dream a little. Finding the right dentist is important for the next step: Exploring the possibilities for a new and improved smile. After assessing your current smile, your skilled dentist can give you a range of options to improve it. And, to actually help you "see" how those options might turn out, "virtual smile" technology can show you the proposed changes applied to an actual photo of you on a computer monitor.
Match it to reality. Once you're aware of all the possibilities, it's time to narrow them down to what you really desire. At this point, you'll want to decide what "quirks" you want to keep, and what you want to improve. You'll also have to consider your overall dental health and financial wherewithal to see what's truly practical and doable.
With that in mind, you and your dentist can then formulate a treatment plan. And just like Kristen Dunst, the end result should be the smile that makes you happy and confident to show.
If you would like more information about to get the best smile for you, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cosmetic Dentistry: Fix Your Smile With Veneers, Whitening and More.”