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Gum Disease And Rheumatoid Arthritis: Are They Connected?

If you or any member of your family have been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis; or if you know someone who suffers from this disease; or if you have family history of it, then the topic of this article may be of interest to you.  Today’s topic is how gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis may be linked.  Come on, let’s talk briefly about a few things I learned recently.

The Research

Researchers from University of Louisville’s School of Dentistry in Kentucky have found a link connecting the bacterium that causes gum disease and periodontal disease and the earlier onset of rheumatoid arthritis.  They feel this connection can cause the disease to progress more rapidly as well as become more severe in nature.  If you know anyone who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, then you know how much discomfort they experience.

The Disease Process

It seems that the gum causing bacterium spawns an enzyme that appears to react with the residue of some proteins.  When this happens, the body looks at the reaction between the bacterium and the proteins and sees an intruder.  This initiates an immune attack response that results in chronic inflammation in the body.  This chronic inflammation can eventually cause bone and cartilage inside the joints to be destroyed.  The offending bacterium is called Porphyromonas gingivalis and the unique enzyme that is produced is called peptidylarginine deiminanse (PAD).  Dr. Jan Potempa from the University of Louisville School of Dentistry Oral Health and Systemic Diseases said: “Taken together, our results suggest that bacterial PAD may constitute the mechanistic link between P. gingivalis periodontal infection and rheumatoid arthritis, but this ground-breaking conclusion will need to be verified with further research.”

What This Means To You

While the pain, disfigurement and disabilities associated with advancing rheumatoid arthritis can be significant to both the patient as well as those who love them, there is some hope.  For those of you who know and love a sufferer of rheumatoid arthritis or if you have family history of the disease, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.  Regular brushing and flossing and regular dental checkups are being touted as going a long way toward helping to prevent the onset of the disease and can help to keep it under better control when it does present.  Your Long Island Periodontist can identify and treat gum and periodontal disease in any member of your family.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631) 661-6633 or visit him online at http://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Did You Know There Is A New Link Between Gum Disease and Breast Cancer?

If you are like millions of ladies on Planet Earth who have family members with history of breast cancer or have had breast cancer themselves, then you may wish to pay particular attention to this article.  I recently an article about a newly released study done in Sweden that had some eye opening results.  There appears to be a link between gum disease and breast cancer!

Gum Disease

For those who do not know, gum disease is basically a sticky bacterial film that develops on the oral tissues.  This is called plaque and it develops below the gum line where you can’t see it.  It is caused by the foods and beverages that you consume in your normal living habits.  This plaque, over time, will cause gum disease that will present itself as swollen and bleeding gums, bad breath, loose teeth and, eventually, tooth and bone loss.

Study Results

The study, the first to show this link, actually demonstrates that there is an increased risk of breast cancer in patients having gum disease!  The researchers at Karolinska Institute in Sweden looked at over 3,000 patients who had gum disesease and tooth loss and found an 11% increased risk of developing breast cancer.  For those of you who are in the know, previously done studies have shown that gum disease has been positively linked with pancreatic cancer, heart disease, stroke and premature and low birth weight babies!

Risk Factors

There are many risk factors involved here, some of which you can control and some that you cannot.  The controllable ones include habits like smoking, poor oral hygiene, emotional stress and malnutrition.  The risk factors that are out of your control include heredity, medical problems which affect your immune system (like leukemia, diabetes, AIDS, etc), medical conditions or treatments that reduce the flow of saliva (like Sjogren’s syndrome, dysfunction or removal of the salivary glands) or some prescription medications that cause dry mouth.    They have recently found that vitamin D deficiencies also seem to have an affect on gum disease and its associated maladies.  They have found that some major health conditions like cardiovascular disease and cancers are found in patients whose who are chronically deficient in vitamin D.  A simple blood test can be done to determine your vitamin D levels.

Gum disease is treatable and there are a number of different ways to treat it.  Your Long Island Periodontist can identify and guide you in those treatments to find the best way to deal with your oral health situation.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631) 661-6633 or pay him a visit at http://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser rather than a scalpel.

 

 

Is There a Connection Between Vitamin C, Gum Disease and Heart Disease? Part 2

Welcome back!  It pleases me so that you came back to read “Part 2” of this important topic.  In Part 1, we talked about a simple definition of gum disease, defining it as an inflammation in the oral tissues that can, if left identified and treated, develop into some pretty nasty infections in your mouth.  We talked about how these infections could result in tooth loss, bone loss and degeneration of the soft tissues in your mouth. We also talked about some statistics that have recently been published by the American Academy of Periodontology and the American Heart Association.  In Part 2, we will talk about why it is vital to identify, treat and control gum and periodontal diseases and how vitamin C can play a role in the control part of the equation.

Gum Inflammation Caused by Plaque

The foods and beverages that we consume naturally cause a film to develop on our teeth and other oral tissues.  If this film is not regularly and properly cleaned from those oral tissues, it can develop into a sticky, yellow substance called plaque.  This plaque forms below the gum line where we aren’t able to detect it.  And, since the mouth is a great incubator for bacterial growth, the inflammation caused by the presence of this plaque substance can fester and bloom into many, nasty infections.  The signs that this has occurred are usually “pink toothbrush” caused by bleeding gums initially and then, as it progresses, you can experience tooth loss, bone loss and further damage to other oral tissues.  Not only are these symptoms uncomfortable and unsightly, they are dangerous as those same bacterium are circulated throughout the body via the blood stream and can wreak havoc on virtually every organ and system in your body!

The Link for Vitamin C

Do not dispair!  There is hope!  Now for some positive input…in a recent issue of Journal of Periodontology, it was reported that vitamin C can help to curb developing gum disease!  They shared that people who consume less than 60 milligrams of vitamin C daily are 1.5 times more likely to develop gum diseases as compared to those who consume 180 milligrams or more daily.  An interesting historical fact was reported…18th century sailors ate limes to prevent bleeding gums when they were on long voyages.  What an interesting old time remedy that actually has some solid medical help imbedded in it!  And, even scientists are now agreeing that vitamin C is a natural anti-inflammatory and has been shown to help rebuild bone and connective tissue.

What Are the Best Sources of Vitamin C?

According to science, the chewable form is not the best way to get vitamin C because it is acidic and can eat away at the enamel of your teeth.  They recommend eating things like brussels sprouts, broccoli, oranges and red peppers to get the best usable form of vitamin C.  You can also try chewing gum with vitamin C , a fairly new form of vitamin C, to help to reduce plaque and early signs of gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Your Periodontist on Long Island can help identify and treat gum and periodontal diseases in any member of your family.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631) 661-6633 or pay him a visit on the web at http://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Is There a Connection Between Vitamin C, Gum Disease and Heart Disease? Part 1

How much do you know about gum disease, heart disease and your overall general health?  Have you ever wondered about connections that might exist between gum disease and other health issues?  How much do you know about how your diet affects your overall general health?  If you have asked yourself or others any of these questions; or, if you have any personal or family history of serious health problems like heart disease, diabetes or stroke, then this article may be of interest to you.  Come along with me while we briefly discuss the possibility of connections between gum disease, heart disease and vitamin C.

What is gum disease?

First of all, perhaps we need to make sure everyone is on the same page in their basic understanding of gum disease.  I know that you have most likely heard media reports on it, or have seen articles in magazines and newspapers about it, and have probably heard the term from your dental profession at least once in your lifetime.  The attention this topic is given is very well deserved as you will soon realize.  I will briefly and simply explain what gum disease is and why it is so vital a topic in regard to your overall general health.

Basically, gum disease has its roots (pun intended) in inflammation that is present in the soft tissues of your mouth.  This inflammation can go unnoticed for a long time before it begins to progress and display symptoms of painful gums and “pink” toothbrush caused by bleeding gums.  If this condition is not identified and treated, it can progress to significant infections in the oral tissues which can, over time, cause tooth loss, bone loss and deterioration of the soft tissues in your mouth.  Normal eating and drinking can cause a soft, yellowish film called plaque to develop on your teeth.  If not properly removed and cleaned by teeth brushing and flossing, this plaque can harden below the gums where you can’t see it and cause the above mentioned pain and bleeding symptoms that accompany periodontitis, gingivitis and other gum diseases.

The Heart and Gum Connection

Once the inflammation starts, it can progress to more significant and advanced stages of periodontal disease which are neither pretty, healthy nor comfortable for the patient.  The American Academy of Periodontology reports that people having gum disease are twice as likely to develop heart disease at some point in their lives; and, they report that those with missing teeth or cavities are at an even higher risk for heart disease!  Add to this the fact that if you are aged 65 years or older, your risks increase for atherosclerosis or clogging of the arteries!   This presents a very sad and serious picture for our U.S. population!

Before you get too depressed over this grim picture, fear not, for there is hope!  There are ways to protect yourself and your family from these serious health maladies.  Come on back next week and we will talk more about this “tale of two cities”, good and bad.  In the meantime, it is important to remember that your Periodontist in Long Island can help to identify and treat gum disease in any member of your family.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or visit him online at http://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

 

Is Periodontal Regeneration Right For You?

How many of you reading this article today suffer from some degree of periodontal or gum disease?  Have you lost teeth or maybe even had some periodontal surgery to repair some of the gum and tooth loss?  Are you still battling the symptoms of your ongoing gum disease?  If you have suffered loss of teeth or any oral tissue, you need to know that you are also at increased risk for some overall general health problems as you age.  If you are interested in reclaiming your mouth and want to make it a happy place again, periodontal regeneration may be an option for you.

What is Periodontal Disease?

Simply defined, periodontal disease is gum inflammation that progresses into various stages of infection or disease of the oral tissues.  This means that you could have gum or periodontal disease and not know it if you don’t have regular dental checkups.   I recently read an article about the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the research they are doing into how prevalent periodontal disease is in Americans.  What they found was certainly eye opening…reporting that over half of Americans over the age of 30 years of age suffer from some degree of gum or periodontal disease; and what is even more eye opening is the fact that it is even more prevalent in those over the age of 65 years!

Why is the CDC so interested?

You ask why is the CDC so interested in this?  This latter is certainly significant when you consider that those over 65 are also most likely suffering from many age-related health conditions like heart disease, diabetes and strokes, to name only a few.  The CDC is always looking for ways to help keep Americans healthier as they age.   If you live and breathe on planet Earth these days, you really will have a hard time avoiding the media attention given to research into how some conditions in the body can contribute to other more serious health conditions.  The overall oral health of Americans and its influence on the overall general health of our bodies is certainly among the hottest topics under the microscope!

Perio Therapy’s Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal in any phase of perio therapy is to help the patient to have healthy and functional oral tissues while keeping as much of their own natural tissue types as possible. Periodontal Regeneration is one of the “new kids on the block” in Dentistry and there is a great deal of research being done.  While some periodontal regeneration options are still under investigative scrutiny, there are some phases of it available to dental professionals now.  Your Periodontist on Long Island can evaluate and provide options for perio therapy for any member of your family.  Together you can decide which is best for you.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or pay him a visit online and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

 

Did You Know That Teeth Flossing Can Help Prevent Strokes? Part 2

Welcome back!  I am so glad you came back to read “the rest of the story”.  As you may recall, last week we began this topic with part 1 in which I asked you to consider how some of our overall health habits can have far-reaching effects on our long range health situation.  We talked about how the state of our oral health / cleaning regimen is one of those overall health habits that can contribute to health conditions as we age.  Today, we will talk about how those same oral health regimens can work either positively or negatively for our ongoing general health.

In Review

Last week, I provided a brief and simple definition of what a stroke is.  As you may remember, I defined a stroke as simply being a disruption or disturbance in the flow of blood through a vessel to the brain.  This disruption or disturbance can be in the form of a blockage, called an ischemic event; or, it can be in the form of a blood vessel bursting and causing bleeding to occur in the brain, called a hemorrhagic event.  I also explained that because nerve cells in the brain can die within minutes when they are starved of blood, either of these types of strokes can cause functional impairment that can be significant and can even be permanent.

I don’t know if you know anyone who has suffered or is currently suffering from the impairments caused by a stroke, but anyone who has will tell you that this is not a place in which you will want to find yourself!  Some of the functional impairments that can occur from a stroke can affect your ability to process thoughts and do other cognitive activities, can affect your memory, can affect some or all of your motor skills, preventing you from being able to move around on your own power.  While a stroke will likely not kill you, it can leave you with health conditions and life style changes that will not only affect you but also those you love.  Any steps that you an take to reduce your risks of stroke will be worth the effort.

The Study

The researchers at Hiroshima University studied people who had strokes and compared them to people who were being treated for other conditions.  They found that those patients in their fifties and sixties who had had strokes had significantly fewer teeth than those in the same age group who were being treated for other conditions.  And, those patients in their fifties had significantly fewer teeth than those in the same age group in the general population.  It was discovered that those having 24 or fewer remaining teeth had a fifty-seven percent higher risk of stroke than those having 25 or more remaining teeth.

The study strongly suggests  a link between periodontal disease and heart disease.  Periodontal disease ranges from gum inflammation to diseases that can damage or destroy bone and other supporting tissues for the teeth.  And, periodontal disease is the major cause of tooth loss in people over the age of forty!

Your mouth is chock full of bacteria, both healthy and unhealthy.  This bacteria can be carried throughout your body to every tissue type, bone and every vital organ where all sorts of damage can occur and; over time, can cause some pretty major health problems like heart disease, diabetes and strokes to name only a few.  Keeping your mouth as healthy as possible is one major step you can take to protect yourself and your family.  Your Periodontist on Long Island can help to identify and treat periodontal and gum disease in every member of your family. Call Dr. Scharf at (631)661-6633 or pay him a visit on the web  and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

Did You Know That Teeth Flossing Can Help Prevent Strokes? Part I

Have you ever had a reason to consider how some of your overall habits can affect your health…now and in the future?  Have you ever considered how various types of hygiene habits could affect your future health?  Well, I have never really stopped and given this topic much thought…that is…until recently.  Being an avid reader, especially of medical topics, I recently read an article about some research that has gotten my attention.  The subject of that article was the possible relationship between teeth flossing and the risk of strokes.

Oral Health Practices

If you occupy any space at all on this planet, then you have likely had numerous visits to your family dentist.  And, at those visits, your dental professional has undoubtedly discussed the condition of your oral tissues and the need for good oral hygiene.  Part of the ongoing recommendations being given by dental professional includes teeth flossing.  This one step in recommended oral health regimens is probably the one that most of us dislike the most.  I mean, come on, how many of you ENJOY sticking a piece of string between your teeth once or twice a day to yank pieces of food out.  But, recently released research done by researchers in Japan show that this really boring step can have some very far-reaching effects on your overall general health later in life, specifically as it relates to teeth flossing and the risk of strokes.

What is a stroke?

At this point in this article, I will attempt to briefly define the term “stroke”.  A stroke is basically a disturbance or disruption in the flow of blood to the brain.  This can involve any or many parts of the brain.  This disruption of blood flow can occur when a blood vessel becomes blocked, called an ischemic stroke; or, it can occur when a blood vessel bursts and causes bleeding in the brain, called a hemorrhagic stroke.  When any nerve cells in the brain suffer oxygen deprivation, those nerve cells can die within minutes.  When these nerve cells die, functional bodily impairment follows which can sometimes be permanent and significant.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is a term that we are all quite familiar with and heard it over the years way more times than you probably care to admit.  But, redundant as it may be, it is an important health issue.  Over the years, we have learned a great deal about gum and periodontal disease and the cause and effect of its presence in our mouths.  Research has learned that there are healthy bacteria that live our mouths and are good for us. Research has also learned that poor oral hygiene habits help to provide an environment in our mouths in which unhealthy bacteria can flourish.  That bacteria, whether healthy or unhealthy, gets into our bloodstreams and is transported to every vital organ and tissue type in the body.  This re-population of unhealthy bacteria has been proven to be a contributor to some pretty major health issues, like heart disease, diabetes, strokes and many more.

Some Japanese researchers did pursue this.  They did find a connection between teeth flossing and risk of stroke and that discussion deserves more time and space.  I invite you to come back and check out this blog next week and I will provide you with “the rest of the story”.

But, in the meantime, please do not skip that teeth flossing step…or start it if you don’t do it regularly.  Your Periodontist on Long Island can help to identify and treat gum and periodontal disease for any member of your family.  Call Dr. Scharf at (631) 661-6633 or visit him online and find out how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.

 

 

Flossing: A Conflict Between Dentists and Scientists?

For those of you who have memories of all those trips to the dentist while you were growing up and for those who remember the constant barrage of recommendations they gave you for taking care of your teeth, this article might bring a chuckle or two.  I remember being told to brush at least twice a day in those early years of appointments and later being told that flossing your teeth was also very important.  Over the years, I have decided that, given the emphasis placed on teeth flossing, the dental community must feel that this added step is pretty important in the overall scope of good oral hygiene.  But, like so many other areas, scientists apparently don’t necessarily agree.  Let’s talk about a recent article I read about this very topic…when dentists say you need to floss and science says you don’t.

Statistics

When science got involved in this topic, initial studies done in 2006 showed 10 to 40% of Americans floss regularly.  While these percentages aren’t spectacular, they aren’t really that bad, are they? They would certainly seem reasonable to me.  But, studies were done initially on a groups of young children aged four to thirteen.  They had a group of participants who had their teeth flossed by a professional hygienists for 5 days a week for 1.7 years.  This group enjoyed a 40% decrease in cavities over the study period.  However, another group of participants were trained to floss and were required to perform this task on their own for the same period of time.  This second group were not as fortunate in their reduction rate for cavities.

Additional Research

Because the initial study design was weak due to the fact that most of us don’t have access to a professional hygienist to floss our teeth every day, and given the fact that the study participants did not have good teeth brushing habits nor did they have exposure to adequate levels of fluoride — the anion of the element fluorine know to prevent cavities, it was determined that additional research was necessary.  Subsequent studies were done with appropriate changes made to the study design and the results showed “flossing was found to yield statistically significant reduction in levels of gingivitis and plaque buildup, however the reductions were minuscule, almost to the point of being unnoticeable.”  So, scientists suggest that flossing may not be as vital as dentists attest it to be.

It would appear that the “jury” is still out on this topic.  It seems that it is in the best interests of your family’s oral health to continue to stress flossing as part of the overall oral health regimen practiced in your home. Your Periodontist on Long Island can help to train you in the proper technique for flossing, and can evaluate and treat gum and periodontal disease. Call Dr. Scharf at (631) 661-6633 or pay him a visit at http://drscharf.com and let him tell you how he can treat gum disease with a laser instead of a scalpel.