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Oral-Systemic Health

June 21st, 2017

Oral-systemic health is the idea that oral health is a critical and interconnected component to a patient’s overall health and well-being. Studies show that people who have poor oral health are more likely to have other health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or a high likelihood of stroke.

Some of the data suggests that oral pathogens may trigger up to 50% of heart attacks, and that the oral bacteria P. gingivalis may cause a 13.6-fold increase in patients’ risk of a heart attack.

Still, the exact relationship between oral and overall health isn't fully known — whether one causes the other or how treating one might affect the other. But it should serve as a warning call to anyone suffering with poor oral health, especially periodontal disease.

More studies need to be conducted to establish the precise link between the two, but whatever it is, one thing is certain: good oral hygiene makes for good oral health. Many dentists and doctors realize the need to work together as a cohesive healthcare team to improve and maintain the health of their communities.

The American Dental Association says oral health is essential to overall health, and not just a luxury. They are setting goals to reduce the amount of tooth decay in low-income communities for both children and adults.

So what is a patient about this information regarding oral-systemic health? Here are some tips to increase and maintain your overall well-being:

  • Have an effective oral hygiene routine. Brush twice a day for two minutes each time, floss daily, clean your tongue, and avoid sugary beverages.
  • Visit your dentist regularly. Regular cleanings and checkups at your dentist’s office will keep your mouth clean and ensure you’re taking good care of it.
  • Eat a healthful diet. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and natural, unprocessed foods contributes to the overall health of your body.
  • Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of pure, clean water throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to drink eight eight-ounce glasses a day.
  • Relax, destress. Stress can play a big role in all forms of disease. Take time during your day to relax, meditate, stretch, and allow your body and mind to rest.

If you have questions about your oral health and how it may be affecting your general health, feel free to ask Dr. Shawn Davis during your next visit to our St. George office.

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Does chronic stress impact periodontal health?

June 14th, 2017

Many studies over the past several years have focused on this question. Since we will all face stressful situations during our life, it is a good question to ask. This question also delves into the mind-body connection—the psychological having an effect on the physical and vice versa.

Studies were performed as far back as the 1940s and continue today. Many of them have shown that stress "downregulates" or hinders cellular immune response. The most common periodontal diseases related to this stress-induced downregulation are gingivitis and periodontitis.

It is believed that stress and depression contribute to a state of chronic inflammation within the body. Stress also raises levels of cortisol in your body, which has been linked in studies to higher levels of tooth loss and deeper pockets between the gums and teeth.

Perhaps the biological side of this equation makes sense, but an important factor is that people who are stressed and/or depressed tend to neglect oral hygiene and other health-promoting activities. The studies seem to support both the behavioral and biological effects as risk factors for periodontal disease.

Here are some things you can do to help prevent stress-related periodontal problems:

  • Daily relaxation –You may consider meditation or yoga. Both have been proven effective at easing stress.
  • Practice good oral hygiene – Don't let your oral hygiene fall by the wayside. Doing so will obviously have a detrimental effect on your oral health. You should also aim to quit smoking if you do smoke.
  • Get regular dental checkups – Getting regular checkups will help you to spot anything that's amiss before it gets out of hand. You can speak with your dentist if you have any pain or concerns and have them take a look.

Stress is something that affects all of us but it can be managed. Each one of us may manage it in a different way. Find what works for you and always make sure to keep up with your oral hygiene routine. For more information about stress-related periodontal issues, schedule an appointment with Dr. Shawn Davis at our St. George office.

Gum Disease vs. Periodontitis

June 7th, 2017

Many people use the terms gum disease and periodontitis interchangeably, but periodontitis is only one stage of gum disease. The phrase refers to all diseases that affect the gingiva, or gums.

Periodontitis can vary in severity from early to advanced and is often treated by a periodontist — a dentist who specializes in treatment and prevention of gum disease — like Dr. Shawn Davis.

Gum disease begins with inflammation of the gums, but it can progress to cause damage to the soft tissues and bones in the mouth. Bacteria in the mouth that build up to form plaque and tartar cause the inflammation.

Inadequate oral hygiene is usually the culprit of this bacterial build-up, which leads to inflammation — what’s called gingivitis. Gums with gingivitis become red and swollen, bleed easily, and are sometimes painful. Practicing good oral hygiene and getting regular dental exams and cleanings can usually reverse gingivitis.

If left untreated, gingivitis can deteriorate into periodontitis, when the inflamed gums pull away from the teeth. This forms spaces or pockets where bacteria can gather and cause infection.

The body’s immune response and bacterial deposits start to break down the connective tissue and bone that hold teeth in place. This can result in loss of teeth and destruction to the surrounding bones and gums.

The main goal of any treatment for gum disease at our St. George office is to control the infection. Treatment varies, depending on the severity, and may include medication and surgery.

So not all gum disease is created equal, but it is all equally easy to prevent. It's best to avoid the problems of gum disease by:

  • Brushing twice a day and flossing regularly
  • Getting regular cleanings from your dentist or dental hygienist
  • Avoiding activities that harm the gums, such as smoking or chewing tobacco

 

Heart Disease and Oral Health

May 31st, 2017

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 200 million Americans suffer from some degree of inflammation of the gums. Over the past decade, researchers have published studies that link the bacteria involved in periodontal disease to cardiovascular disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have connected oral infections to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and low birth weights.

Studies suggest bacteria that cause periodontal disease are also responsible for causing a thickening of the carotid arteries, which increases the chance of a heart attack or stroke. Further research is being conducted to understand the link between oral health and heart disease better.

What is periodontal (gum) disease?

Dr. Shawn Davis and our team at Oral & Facial Surgery Institute hear this question all the time. Periodontal disease is an infection. Our mouths are filled with bacteria, and this bacteria forms plaque. If the plaque is not removed through brushing, flossing, and regular cleanings at the dentist, it hardens into tartar. If gingivitis (gum inflammation) is not treated early, it can advance to periodontitis. Bacteria get under the gum tissue and erode it as well as the bone that supports the teeth. The gums eventually pull away from the teeth, and infected pockets form.

Proving that periodontal gum disease is connected to heart disease has been difficult for researchers. However, there are two theories about to what might connect the processes.

  • Bacteria are released in the bloodstream through chewing and tooth brushing. The same species of bacteria that causes gum disease has been discovered in the plaque in arteries in the heart.
  • Inflammation in the mouth is a catalyst for inflammation throughout the rest of the body.

Practice good oral health habits

While the link between periodontitis and heart disease is not yet fully understood, you can prevent the possibility of health complications by practicing good oral health. It’s recommended that you brush and floss twice a day, as well as visit your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and exam. Oral health should not be taken for granted. By preventing oral diseases, you’re also minimizing the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

To learn more about the connection between heart disease and oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shawn Davis, please give us a call at our convenient St. George office! A clean mouth leads to a happy heart!

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