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Are You Gambling With Gum Disease And Other Serious Illnesses? Part 2

Hi there!  Welcome back.  As you may recall, we were previously discussing periodontal disease and how, if left untreated, it can result in some pretty serious health conditions as we age.  We told a little story about “Bob” and how he intentionally took “good” care of his teeth…or so he thought…and wound up being sent to a periodontal specialist by his local dentist for treatment for periodontal disease.  This week, we will discuss how your gums are under attack.  Let’s get started and learn more about gambling with gum disease and other serious diseases.

Your Gums Are Under Attack!

How does it start?  From where does the attack come?  Well, the answer to these questions is pretty basic — it starts when you put food and drink into your mouth.  Almost everything you eat and drink contains starches and / or sugars that hook up with the bacteria in your mouth and produce a substance that we’ve all heard about called plaque.  This plaque is described as a colorless and sticky film, so, it isn’t something that you can identify yourself when you open your mouth to have a look inside.  However, your dental hygienist or your dentist can definitely see it because it will accumulate and harden on your teeth surfaces and become calculus or, a more common term you may have heard, tartar.  This tartar formation creates an environment that encourages more tartar to form.  After that, it’s all down hill with the plaque and tartar causing inflammation that leads to swollen and painful gums that accompany gingivitis, the earliest stage of periodontal disease.  The on-going buildup causes more buildup and the vicious cycle continues until moderate to severe periodontal disease causes tooth and bone loss.

The Body’s Self Defense Mechanism

And, those swollen, painful and bleeding gums are only the tip of the iceberg!  Gingivitis is generally a progressive issue, the plaque spreads and begins to grow below the gum line.  When this is allowed to progress, the body will automatically step in to fix things.  The anti-inflammatory cells that are being sent to the gums are being dispatched by the body’s immune system to fight the invading inflammatory process.  At some point, the body begins to engage in a sort of “friendly fire” and pretty much turns on itself, breaking down the bone and other tissues that support the teeth.  Pockets are created when the gum pull away from the tooth surface and more bacteria develop in this pocket.  If there is no intervention, eventually, enough bone loss will occur that your own teeth will likely fall out on their own.

There is More to the Story

As I am sure you can readily see from the information I have provided above, the plaque and tartar that forms on your teeth can lead to some pretty uncomfortable and unsightly issues with your oral health, but, this is only part of the story.  There are some major risks for serious systemic illnesses that lurk in the background as well.  Come back next time and we will talk about some of those systemic illnesses.  In the meantime, if you don’t have a relationship with a dental professional, I urge you to get established with a good dentist.  Your Periodontist on Long Island can help to identify and treat gum and periodontal disease in any member of your family. Contact us to schedule an appointment today!

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Are You Gambling With Gum Disease And Other Serious Illnesses? Part 1

How much do you know about gum disease? Do you know what is normal and what is not in your mouth? Do you realize that your gums are under attack? The topic of this article series is how we are all gambling with gum disease and all of the health stuff that goes with it.

He Didn’t Know

Let me tell you a story about a friend of mine.  We’ll call him “Bob” for the sake of anonymity. Bob brushed his teeth every day without fail, generally brushing multiple times a day. He thought he was taking good care of his teeth and gums. Even so, when he would brush, his gums would bleed. Thinking he was taking good care of his teeth, he just assumed this was normal and this gum bleeding was just how it was going to be since it had become a pattern that had developed over several years.  He really didn’t know he had a problem!

He Joined A Large Group

Eventually, he was referred to a Periodontist in another city for treatment of periodontal disease. Bob became one of  over 65 million Americans who suffer from this disease, that if left untreated can result in tooth loss and more.

The Importance Of Good Dental Care

Regular dental checkups coupled with good oral hygiene habits can go a long way toward achieving and maintaining a healthy mouth. Striving to keep your teeth and gums healthy can help you avoid the periodontal complications suffered by my friend Bob. Not only can untreated gum disease result in loss of teeth, but it can cause issues that reach beyond the teeth and gums. Links have been made between periodontal disease and other more serious medical problems throughout the human body.   The purpose of this article series is to go into more detail about those conditions.  In the coming weeks, we will talk in more detail about how the detrimental effects of periodontal disease can result in significant health deterioration if left untreated.  This information is given to emphasize and reinforce the importance of good oral hygiene habits, learning to recognize the signs of gum disease as early as possible and to urge you to seek prompt and appropriate treatment sooner rather than later.

Next week, we will start with an explanation of how your gums are being attacked.  I hope you will come back for the next segment, but in the meantime, review your oral hygiene regimens with your dental professional for any recommendations to improve it. Your Periodontist in Long Island can identify and treat gum disease in any member of your family. Contact us to schedule an appointment today!

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Do You Know How To Prevent Gum Disease Before It Begins?

Do you have gum disease in any stage of development?  How about your family members, are they also being afflicted with this malady?  When did it start?  How did it begin?  How can you protect yourself and your family from this insidious oral problem and the ultimate serious health complications that can accompany it?  I have asked myself these questions, and apparently, much of the dental research community is also asking the questions — and, they are getting some answers!  Follow along with me while I briefly discuss an interesting article that I read on the topic of preventing gum disease before it starts.

How Does Gum Disease Start?

The best explanation that I have found of this phenomena is basically this:  our mouths contain all sorts of bacteria, some good and some bad.  When the balance of that bacteria gets off kilter, the body responds to the imbalance with an inflammatory response.  When inflammation increases, the process of gum disease which leads to bone loss is the result.  Of course, this process doesn’t happen overnight but, rather, can take years to develop in the secret places of your mouth — under the gum line.  Only regular dental checkups can identify and monitor the condition of the tissue below the gum line and the overall general health of your mouth.   Did you know that nearly half of American adults are afflicted with this condition?  Did you know that it can lead to serious systemic illnesses like heart disease and diabetes?

Promising Research

With some collaboration from researchers from the School of Dental Medicine and the Perelman School of Medicine, there may be some promising treatment down the road that could result in preventing or even reversing periodontitis.  They are studying a molecule that is part of our own immune system’s arsenal called complement.  Previous research showed them that Porphyromonas gingivalis is a bacterium that is responsible for many cases of periodontitis.  It seems to play a game of subterfuge in the body, meaning that it has some sneaky ways to trick and hide from the immune system’s arsenal to avoid being killed.  And, yet, paradoxically, it actually seems to feed off the inflammation that the immune system uses in its response to bacterial imbalance!  Through their current research and that of others, they have found a drug that is already in development to treat other diseases called Cp40 is helping.  This drug seems to be able to reduce inflammation and significantly prevent the bone loss that accompanies it.  It is effectively protecting the monkeys that are being used in the project.

While it is felt this drug has the potential and offers promising treatment options for treating adults with periodontitis, it is not currently available for use.  It is an option that will likely surface down the road,  but in the meantime, remember my previous statement that only regular dental checkups can identify and monitor the condition of your gums and other oral tissue.  It is vital for your current and future health to maintain regular dental checkups with your Long Island Periodontist.  Call Dr. David Scharf at (631)661-6633 and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser rather than a scalpel. Contact us today!

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How Important Is Nutrition To Your Oral Health?

How healthy is your diet?  When you plan your meals, do you give consideration to proper nutrition, balancing the carb, protein and fat intake in it? Do you know how what you eat correlates with your overall general health, or with your oral health?  Let’s talk about some information I recently found in respect to nutrition and your oral health.

Nutrition Position

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics published their official position in the practice paper “Oral Health and Nutrition” in May 2013.  By the way, for those of you who aren’t familiar with the term “practice paper”, it is defined as a critical analysis of current research literature that enables Academy members to translate nutrition science into the highest quality advice and services.  Anyway, this document supports the Academy’s position on oral health and nutrition.  The Academy feels that nutrition is an integral part of oral health.  They feel that health care professionals need to be sure that their patients and charges understand the importance of nutrition as it applies to what they choose to eat and the resulting health condition of their mouth.

Aspects of Good Nutrition

The Academy promotes food practitioners to educate their patients and clients in the important aspects of good nutrition health and how it relates to good oral health.  Here are some of the suggestions and recommendations they make:

  • When fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy products like milk, cheese and yogurt are consumed, they recommend not adding any additional sugar as this will reduce the opportunity for cavity production.
  • Consuming less food and drinks that are acidic — examples given are: fruit juices, pickled foods, sour candies, citrus fruits and wine — these foods may cause dental erosion and cavities.
  • Consume fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, like soft drinks, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks as this may also cause dental erosion and cavities.

These are just a few of the suggestions for changes in your nutritional habits that can help to improve your overall oral health situation.  If you have any doubts about any food or beverage, help is always available by seeking guidance from any registered dietician.  Your Periodontist on Long Island can also help.  He can help to suggest changes in your diet and eating habits that will help to improve and maintain better oral health.  And, remember that he can identify and treat gum disease in any member of your family.  Contact us to schedule an appointment for treatment today!

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Can Smoking Have An Affect On Your Oral Health? Part 2

Welcome back!  I am so glad you came back to get more information on this vitally important topic.  As you may recall, last week we started this article mini-series on the affects smoking can have on many different areas of human health.  We provided some horror stories about real people who are currently paying dear prices for involving themselves in the habit of smoking.  Some of those people aren’t suffering any longer because they died of smoking-related cancers!  We pointed out that the dangers of smoking don’t relegate themselves solely to either gender, any age group and any socio-economic class.  This week we will continue this discussion as we talk about the CDC’s 2014 summer campaign which focuses on oral health.

2014 Summer Campaign

The summer campaign was launched on July 7, 2014 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues emphasizing health conditions like cancer risks and outcomes and is also including periodontal disease,  premature births and HIV complications.  Now, if you’re like me, you probably don’t usually associate periodontal disease or premature birth or HIV complications with any detrimental involvement with smoking.   They have new advertisements in which couples share how they each lost all or most of their teeth to gum disease that was a direct result of smoking.  These new ads are being done in Spanish and are running on national Spanish media channels.  These and other powerful ads are being generated in all media in an attempt to highlight some previously considered uncommon disease processes associated with cigarette use.  The former smokers are sharing with the world what it is like to live with the disabilities and disfigurements that result from smoking.  Many smokers admit that what they have seen and heard in these ads has helped them to quit.

Tips Campaign

The Tips Campaign associated with these ads has proven to be quite successful.  The Existing Tips campaign ran earlier this year and resulted in nearly 650,000 unique visitors t the Tips website during the nine weeks it ran.  As in previous campaigns, smokers were encouraged to call a phone number or visit the website to view former smokers’ stories and share their own.

According to the CDC, more than 16 million Americans live with smoking-related diseases.  Approximately 480,000 Americans die each year from smoking-related diseases and causes. These deaths very sad indeed, but more importantly, they are preventable!  If you are a smoker, please seriously consider quitting, do this for yourself and for your families, many of whom are victims of second-hand smoke.  Keep up with your oral health with your local dental professional.  Your Periodontist on Long Island can help to identify and treat gum and periodontal disease in any member of your family. Contact us to schedule an appointment today!

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Can Smoking Have An Affect On Your Oral Health? Part 1

If you live and breathe on this planet of ours, then you have been exposed to the media and their on-going reports about the effects of smoking on general overall health.  And, most likely, you have also been exposed to the toxic contaminants contained in cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke — whether it is from the cigarettes, cigars or pipes  that you personally smoke or from the smoking of others.  You don’t have to go very far to see or hear some media report on the effects of that smoke on the human body.  You probably don’t have to go very far to find people who have suffered some of the maladies that have been positively linked to smoking — heart attacks, strokes, various types of cancers, etc.  Today, we are going to talk about how smoking specifically affects your oral health.

Some Examples

I recently read an article from the ADA News that talked about this subject and, in that article, they gave some examples of people who had suffered some of the side effects of smoking in different areas of their lives.  Here are the examples they gave:

  • Amanda: aged 30 years is a female who smoked during her pregnancy.  Her baby was born prematurely — by two months!  After the premature birth, the baby spent weeks in an incubator.
  • Shawn: this 50 year old male now has to breathe through an opening in his throat as a result of smoking- related cancer.
  • Brian:This man is 45 years old, HIV positive and a former smoker.  This terribly harmful combination caused his blood vessels to become clogged and a stroke was his result.
  • Terrie:We really don’t want to forget her.  This 53 year old female died last fall as a result of smoking-related cancer.

As you can readily see from these examples, the horror stories resulting from smoking don’t necessarily contain themselves to a specific gender nor do they contain themselves to any specific age group.   I believe, if you dig deeper into the histories, I am confident that you will find that no particular economic status or any particular job or walk of life  has the corner on the market either.   The ravages of smoking to the human body just don’t care who you are, what you do for a living or what your gender — the deadly process just goes on and on!

CDC Anti-Smoking Campaign

The article that I read talked about the CDC’s anti-smoking campaign that launched on July 7, 2014 and it focuses on the periodontal outcomes from smoking.  Do I have your attention yet?  Periodontal disease as a side effect isn’t usually discussed or even thought of when the subject of health issues that have been linked with smoking comes up.  The CDC has been collecting some pretty powerful stories from former smokers since they launched the initial campaign in 2012 and they are sharing these stories in the hope that people will become more aware and will steer clear of this deadly and addicting habit before it’s too late.

Come back next week and we will talk more about what they are doing to help increase public awareness.  In the meantime, if you smoke, please consider quitting.  Your Periodontist on Long Island can help to identify and treat any existing gum and periodontal disease in any member of your family.  He can help you achieve and maintain a healthier mouth with on-going continued care.  Contact us to schedule an appointment for treatment today!

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Is It Possible That Bad Teeth Can Be Blamed On Your Genes? Part 2

Welcome back! I’m glad you returned this week for part 2 of this topic.  As you may recall, last week we talked about the fact that some people have great teeth, have few cavities, eat tons more sweets and don’t practice as good an oral hygiene regimen as they should.  And, at the same time, others do all the right things and still spend way more time in the dental chair than any of us would like.  We asked where is the justice in that?  We talked about how, while the science of genetic dentistry is still in its infancy, it is believed that approximately sixty percent of the risk for tooth decay appears to be genetically related factors.  Mary L. Marazita, Director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics at the University of Pittsburg School of Dental Medicine reports that scientists have identified five areas of concern in which they believe genetics play a major role.  Last week we talked about our preferences for sweets and the strength of our tooth enamel.  Now, let’s continue with the remaining three areas of concern for bad teeth.

  • Taste Ability.  Taste ability is defined as the measure of the variety of things you can taste.  It is not simply whether you are genetically predisposed to enjoy certain flavors but also whether you are able to perceive certain flavors.  This is, apparently, a complicated process that seems to include your tongue and is linked to your sense of smell.  The example given in the article that I read was that of cilantro and the ability of some people to taste it and find it to be the perfect topping for fresh fish tacos while others who tasted it said it tasted like soap.  Studies are showing that the greater the variety in your genetic taste ability profile, the less risk you have to develop tooth decay.  It is not yet clear if this is because a greater variety of tastes leads to less sweets or if there are other reasons for this theory.  Scientists will continue to study this for better information.
  • Saliva Strength.  Science says that calcium, potassium and some other elements are vital for strong and healthy teeth that are able to resist tooth decay.  Unfortunately, it is not as simple as eating the correct foods but it is also important that these foods be metabolized appropriately to be useful.  Your saliva is a big player in this particular process and science has identified gene variants that will make some people champs at this while others are water boys.
  • Microbiome.  Did you know that there is a field of scientific study called microbial ecology and it looks at the various communities of bacteria that exist in the human body?  And, yes, you read that correctly … various communities … plural.  In fact, in just your mouth alone, there are separate communities of bacteria on your tongue, on the surface of your teeth and below the gum line.  All together, these communities make up your “microbiome”.  Don’t be alarmed, this is all quite normal.  This kicker to this one is that your immune system responds to these communities which can affect many things, one of which is your particular risk for tooth decay.

We have talked about the sixty percent of risk for tooth decay being genetic, but how about the other forty percent of the risk?  Next week, we will finish this topic and I will share the other forty percent with you.  Until then, keep up with those regular dental checkups with your dental professional and maintain that good oral hygiene regimen they are recommending.  Remember that your Long Island periodontist can identify and treat gum disease with a laser rather than a scalpel. Contact us to schedule an appointment today!

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If You Are A Runner, Are You At Risk For Worse Oral Health?

I’ll bet this question is not one that comes to mind when you think about the health of someone who is a runner.  You would think that a runner would have to live a lifestyle and eat a diet that would maintain good health and a lean body to enable them to participate in this energy-sapping activity.  I recently read an article about runners and oral health that I would like to share with you.

Runners suffer from some health issues

Most runners will suffer from over-use injuries or skin cancer at some point in his or her running career.  They otherwise score pretty well in other measures of good health but recently new research has brought one area of concern to light — that of oral health.   The new research reveals that runners may suffer increased risks of tooth erosion and cavities than non-runners.  Does this surprise you?  It certainly did surprise me.  Let’s find out why the research is showing this.

Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports

There is a team of German researchers who did some dental research into the oral health of triathletes.  What they found was that significantly higher rates of tooth erosion in triathletes than in non-athletes.  It seems that they also found that those athletes who trained more had higher incidences than those who did not exercise and train as much.

Why is this the case?

Since inquiring minds need to know, I will share what THIS inquiring mind found out.  As we all know, athletes consume more carbohydrates than non-athletes to maintain the energy levels needed to compete in their chosen sports.  Those carbohydrates come in the form of sports drinks, gels and bars and these foods can decrease the PH levels in the mouth to below the critical level of 5.5.  This lowering of the PH in the mouth can result in erosion and caries.  Add to this situation the fact that most athletes will breathe through their mouths during periods of hard exercise.  This habit causes the mouth to get dry and less saliva is produced to protect the teeth.

The Study

The study was comprised of athletes and non-athletes.  Some of the athletes they studied drank sports drinks while some drank water.  They did not find any significant difference in cavities between the two groups but there was significantly more tooth erosion in the athlete group as compared to the non-athlete group.  Saliva profiles were tested and found to be similar at rest but, when the exercise began, the athletes produced less saliva and what they produced was more acidic.  Saliva is considered in the dental community to be important to good tooth health.

Based on the findings of this study, it suggested that endurance training can have a detrimental effect on one’s oral health.  Does that mean you shouldn’t exercise?  Absolutely not!  Our bodies need to be in motion to get and remain healthy in all its parts.  However, if you are involved in endurance training, it behooves you to consult with your dental professional to discuss how to avoid these issues to achieve and maintain good oral health.  Your Periodontist in Long Island can help.  Contact us to schedule an appointment today!

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Is It Possible That Bad Teeth Can Be Blamed On Your Genes? Part 1

Do you know people who seem to have beautiful, white and strong teeth despite the fact that they eat tons of sweets, rarely brush their teeth and have very little experience in the area of dental cavities?  And, you brush several times a day, and floss as directed by your dental professional and still have to deal with the “laughing gas” once or twice a year?  Where is the justice in that, you ask?  Well, I recently read an article on this topic.  Allow me to share what I learned about bad teeth and your genes from that article.

Common Chronic Disease Around the Globe

Some of you may remember an episode on the “The Simpsons” in which the dentist brought out the “The Big Book of British Smiles” in an attempt to scare a child into better compliance with the recommended oral hygiene regimen.  I am sure many viewed the episode laughed and thought it was funny but the sad truth is that this “bad teeth” situation is not just a British problem.  Science says that whether or not your teeth are healthy and to what extent you experience gum disease depends on a combination of both genetics AND dental hygiene.  The statistics that Mary L. Marazita, Director of the Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine quotes say that approximately sixty percent of the risk for tooth decay appears to actually be genetic!

Other Areas of Concern for Genetics

Mary reports that even though genetic dentistry is pretty much still in its infancy, they have identified five areas in which genes seem to play a role in tooth decay:

  1. Your preference for sweets.  While we know that everyone likes sweets, or so we like to think, we all know people who can take them or leave them.  Their worlds don’t revolve around that chocolate candy bar or bowl of ice cream.  Even children, whether you believe this or not, do not ALL morph into “crack-addled lunatics” at the mere sight of the candy aisle in department and grocery stores.    In actual fact, if all the other factors are the same, the stronger your sweet preference, the greater your risk for tooth decay.  So…literally…you could have two children in your home and they would not behave the same in regard to sweet preference, based upon their genes.
  2. Tooth Enamel.  This one can be pretty much a no brainer — we all know that not everyone has strong tooth enamel.  In this area, we also know that the tooth enamel protects the inner structures of the teeth from damage.  So, if the enamel is soft, it is easier for bacteria to get into the inner structures of the teeth and do their damage — end result is cavities.  Your genes have been proven to be the primary determining factor for the structure of the enamel of your teeth. Enter tooth decay if your genes say you have soft tooth enamel.

There are three more areas of concern that are related to your genes that are very important for this discussion.  Come back next week and we will continue this topic and talk about those other areas.  In the meantime, it is vitally important that you maintain your good oral health regimen and regular visits to your local dental professional. Your Periodontist on Long Island can help to identify and treat periodontal diseases in any member of your family. Contact us to schedule an appointment today!

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Digital Technology: Does It Have A Place In The Dental Practice?

In today’s busy electronic world, it seems there are digital devices for just about everything one could imagine.  We carry tiny computers in our pockets and purses or attached to our belts in the form of our smart phones; there are tablets that are small enough to put into your pocket and purse that are able to do virtually anything you can do on your personal computer.  We can even see our callers in real time when conversing with them on our smart phones, computers, laptops and tablets!  Who would have ever thought we’d be doing these things in 2014?  This is only scratching the surface of the hundreds if not thousands of digital products currently on the market or those that will be on the market in the very near future…and this is only for the personal use of ordinary people.  What about the digital uses in the commercial and medical communities?  Have you ever considered the uses of digital imaging in the dental office practice?  Well, come along with me and I will share some information I recently learned about some new digital technology being used in some dental offices.

Digital Technology in the Dental Office

It seems that, in the dental office like thousands of offices all over this country, digital technology is present and is increasingly determining the way work is being done.  Let’s talk about intra-oral scanners, for an example.  These digital devices can provide new treatment options for the patient as well as accelerate the prosthetic workflow.  In this particular case, there has been little solid information about how long it actually takes to make digital impressions but, recently a new study was released that increased our knowledge in this area.

Evaluation of Time Efficiency of Different Intra-Oral Scanners

Researchers continually seek to increase our knowledge and time efficiency in many areas in both the private sector as well as the medical sector.  In an attempt to evaluate the time efficiency of different intra-oral scanners, they considered three different models: 3M ESPE’s Lava Chairside Oral Scanner, Align Technology’s iTero intra-oral scanner and CEREC, which is manufactured by Sirona.  The researchers measured the time needed for different procedures using these three scanners.  They then compared the results for three conventional impression materials. What they found was interesting:  the time needed to digitize a single abutment, a short-span fixed dental prosthesis and a full-arch prosthesis preparation ranged from 6 to 22 minutes using the intra-oral scanners while making the impressions the conventional way took 18 to 30 minutes.  They concluded that the computer-aided impression making was significantly faster for all of the scenarios they tested.  This suggested that the digital technology could usher in more time-efficient workflows for dental offices. While this digital technology will enable more efficient time management for the dental office and better utilize the patient’s time in the office, it still requires that the patient be seen and diagnosed for the procedure.  Your Periodontist on Long Island can help to identify gum disease and the need for some of the above mentioned procedures.  Contact us to schedule an appointment for treatment today!

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