Oral health is critical to our well-being and yet too many of us take it for granted. Despite decades worth of research linking oral health to systemic health, far too many people remain unaware of the importance in maintaining good oral health. A quick search on the internet reveals millions of articles discussing the link between gum disease and major chronic diseases such as cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, pre-diabetes, arthritis, pre-term births etc. Gum disease is the most prevalent human infection with little progress being made.
No one would walk around with with chronically bleeding fingernails or pus-filled scabs on their arms, but because gums are hidden from view, most people will ignore their symptoms until it is too late and much damage has been done. Why is this? Studies have demonstrated the general unwillingness to address chronic gum disease when up to 70% of patients diagnosed with gum disease failed to get treatment due primarily to cost and fear of pain. (It can be assumed that 100% of those undiagnosed are not seeking treatment and this may represent about half of the population). Read More
A recent study conducted by the CDC, estimates that nearly half of Americans 30-years-of-age or older show some form of periodontal disease— whether this ranges from mild illness, with shallow pocket formation around teeth, to severe illness involving bone loss and systemic inflammation. For seniors, the numbers are even higher— skyrocketing to an astounding two-thirds of the population sampled. As with most complex illnesses, early intervention is often key to a better outcome; in this case, intervention may prevent tooth and bone loss, or even later manifestations of cardiovascular disease.
Unsurprisingly, oral bacteria and plaque are the main drivers behind periodontal disease. As a bacterial biofilm, with a complex, communal structure, plaque is much more resilient than single-celled bacteria and has greater resistance to bodily defenses and antimicrobial agents. Even in the short term, plaque biofilms have been shown to promote the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and enzymes from immune cells; these substances, in turn, contribute to the breakdown of the periodontal ligament— the connective tissue that holds teeth in place. Read More
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is an unpleasant condition where insufficient saliva is produced to keep the mouth moist and comfortable. It can be due to several different reasons, as it can be a side-effect of existing health conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease,or Alzheimer’s, or it can be due to tobacco use, and some cancer treatments can permanently damage the salivary glands, reducing saliva production.
Sometimes it can be down to medication, as certain drugs, especially those used to treat depression and anxiety, or to treat Parkinson’s disease or medication for high blood pressure, can create dry mouth as a side-effect. Xerostomia can also be as a result of nerve damage to the head and neck area. Older people are also more likely to suffer from dry mouth, not because aging is a risk factor for this condition, but because they are more likely to suffer from health conditions which may cause dry mouth, and are more likely to be on medication that can exacerbate the condition.
Did you know that gum disease affects more than half of all people over the age of 30? As prevalent as this disease is, many people still remain undiagnosed. Typical symptoms of patients with gum disease include red, swollen, and puffy gums that feel tender to the touch. If left untreated, the disease can progress and result in loss of connective tissue, gum recession, and even tooth loss. Pus can also develop in the pockets between the teeth and gums as the body attempts to fight the infection. Not surprisingly, this creates a permanent bad taste in the mouth, and sufferers will also have bad breath. Not only does gum disease wreak havoc in your mouth, studies have also shown that is linked to serious conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and even impotence.
By: Veronique Benhamou, DDS, BSc, Cert. Perio, FPFA, FADI, FACD
It has been known since the beginning of the last century that microorganisms can be killed by various combinations of dyes and light. Ancient Egyptian, Indian and Chinese civilizations used light to treat various diseases, including psoriasis, rickets, vitiligo and skin cancer. In 1901, Niels Finsen used light to treat smallpox and cutaneous tuberculosis and in 1903, he won the Nobel Prize for his work on phototherapy (Nature 2003, Dennis et al) However, the interest in antimicrobial Photodynamic Therapy (aPDT) was diminished concurrently with the introduction of antibiotics; it is only in recent years, with the emergence of antibiotic-resistant strains, such as methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus and vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecalis that a search for alternative treatments has stimulated a revival of interest on aPDT. It is an effective antibacterial therapy that involves the use of specific-wave light energy to activate a photosensitive compound (photosensitizer), which interacts with locally present molecular oxygen. APDT has the potential to be a powerful alternative to antibiotic therapy, particularly for the treatment of localized infections of the skin and the oral cavity. Microorganisms that are killed by this technique include bacteria, fungi, viruses, and protozoa. Read More
Apparently poor dental health could be attributed to our modern diet, as today’s food tends to be a lot mushier than in ancient times. A recent conference, Evolution of Human Teeth and Jaws: Implications for Dentistry and Orthodontics in North Carolina put forward the suggestion that our diet is so radically different from our ancestors that numerous dental health problems, including cavities and crowded teeth are just about inevitable.
Their findings were based on studies of ancient teeth which tend to be well preserved. Archaeologists have been able to examine the teeth of not only our ancient ancestors, but also people who lived more recently, and who followed a hunter gatherer diet such as Kalahari Bushmen and the aboriginals. Around 13,000 years ago these hunter gatherers began to become farmers, and as a result food became much softer and didn’t need to be chewed so much. One of the effects is that the human jaw has become smaller, and more people suffer from overcrowding, and there is frequently little space for wisdom teeth to erupt.
A new research study, carried out by the University of London in collaboration with American research groups, has gone a little way towards explaining why gum disease is more likely to be found in older people. The study was recently published in Nature, and found that as we age, the production of a chemical called Del-1 gradually falls. It is hoped that gaining a better understanding about this chemical could lead to the development of alternative and hopefully more effective methods of treating and preventing gum disease.
The latest research is showing a link between low levels of the chemical Del-1 and an increased likelihood of developing gum disease.
Everyone knows that smoking gives you bad breath, but not everyone is aware that it greatly increases your likelihood of developing periodontal disease. The facts and figures are compelling. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that for people aged 65 and above, smokers are 2x more likely to lose all their teeth compared to non-smokers.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that smokers tend to have poorer oral hygiene than non-smokers as they are perhaps less health-conscious. Smokers are more likely to have significant calculus deposits that can only be removed during a professional cleaning, and this can depend on whether or not a person is a pipe or a cigarette smoker. Some researchers have found that pipe smokers tend to have more significant deposits1 of supragingival calculus. There is speculation that this is due to the fact that pipe smoke is of a higher pH than cigarette smoke, and pipe smokers tend to keep the smoke in the mouth for longer and produce more saliva which contains calcium, exacerbating the deposits of calculus.
Gum disease is by far one of the most common problem in cats, dogs and horses, and just like humans, gum disease can impact the whole body and have serious consequences for their health and well-being. The trouble is many animals hide their pain, and the disease is frequently late in being diagnosed.
According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, gum disease is estimated to affect around 80% of dogs and 70% of cats by the time they reach the age of three, although they can suffer from the disease from the age of six months onwards. Around a third of horses will suffer from some degree of periodontal disease, and about 60% of horses aged 13 years and older will have severe periodontal disease.
Gum disease in cats and dogs
With cats and dogs, just like in humans, the disease begins with signs of gingivitis, with the gum tissues becoming reddened and inflamed, and if not treated will result in periodontal pockets forming around the infected teeth. As the condition worsens, the symptoms the most common signs include bad breath, lack of appetite, weight loss, and a discharge from the eyes or nose. It’s more prevalent in animals that eat a lot of soft foods, and amongst those who don’t receive regular tooth brushing at home, or veterinary care.
It’s estimated that 85% to 90% of cases of bad breath or halitosis are down to bacteria living in the mouth. Bacteria consume food left in the mouth and excrete waste products, some of which are sulfur compounds. These compounds, called volatile sulfur compounds by dentists, are usually the reason for bad breath.
However not all of the waste products are sulfurous, as some have their own highly individual smells. These create odours which can mimic the smell of rotting meat, or worse. This is not very nice, but luckily these waste products are generally present at low levels and cannot be easily detected until these levels become elevated.
These waste products are produced by anaerobic oral bacteria which thrive in oxygen depleted environments. Even a thin layer of dental plaque can create ideal conditions for anaerobic bacteria. Although anaerobic bacteria will make a meal of just about anything, they do prefer high protein foods, and the worst offenders for causing bad breath are meat and fish which are easily trapped in between teeth, as well as to a lesser extent, dairy foods, pulses, nuts and cereal grains. In fact, many of the ingredients in deserts can be surprisingly high in protein.