National Dental Hygiene Month
October is National Dental Hygiene Month. The purpose of NDHM is to promote good oral health maintenance to the public. At Dentistry at Pelham Pointe, we are taking this opportunity to educate and increase our patient’s knowledge of the impact oral health has on their physical well-being. For this reason, we have adopted as our theme,
“Healthy Mouth, Healthy Body.”
Good health is a lifestyle. We cannot create and sustain our dreams if we step over our health to get there. The impact that the condition of our mouth has on the overall health of our body is well documented in research. Unfortunately, little has been done to spread this knowledge to the public.
The purpose of our celebration of NDHM is to inform and to educate our patients of four very important factors affecting total body health. These factors are periodontal disease, inflammation, nutrition, and the mouth-body connection. We want our patients to understand how all of these factors, if left uncontrolled, will cause major issues with our mouth and a multitude of systemic diseases.
In today’s world, foods are chemically altered and full of sugars, carbohydrates and empty calories, which make them cheaper to produce and more addicting to consume. This craving-packed “carboholic” culture tempts us at every turn and entices our children. It is no wonder most Americans are sicker and heavier than ever.
Dentistry is entering the greatest era of opportunity ever seen—the era of health and wellness. By addressing oral inflammation and overall health, dentists will help save lives. My hope is that you will take time at your leisure to read over the material posted in this blog. As always, we are here to answer any questions that you may have.
Shera Davis, RDH
In dentistry, we continuously deal with chronic inflammation in the mouth, primarily in the form of periodontal disease. We teach our patients how to resolve inflammation with proper home care, diet, and medication. We also educate them on how this inflammatory condition is not isolated to the mouth—it is evidenced throughout the body.
Every chronic disease, from cancer to the common cold, has one common denominator: inflammation. If we learn how to prevent and reverse inflammation, we can prevent and reverse almost all disease. We will also live longer, active lives.
What is inflammation? Inflammation is how the body responds to injury or infection and is a natural, healthy process. The body responds by neutralizing harmful microorganisms to help repair the wound and heal the injury. When the causes of the inflammatory process are not removed, chronic inflammation sets up residence which overwhelms our natural defenses and damages DNA. Inflammation is beneficial when needed, but it is disastrous when chronic.
Chronic inflammation signals that our immune system is “out of balance.” Uncontrolled, chronic inflammatory conditions lead to more serious disease processes, such as: allergies, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, autoimmune diseases, cancer, diabetes, gastritis, heart disease, osteoporosis, and periodontal disease. This list is by no means complete, but each disease does have the common denominator of inflammation.
In order to prevent or reverse chronic inflammation, you have to know the five most common causes of inflammation:
a. The standard American diet is pro-inflammatory and a major source for increasing chronic disease. It is too rich in refined carbohydrates, specifically genetically-modified sugars and white flour products. The average American consumes more than 160lbs. of sugar and 200lbs. of white flour per year. This increases blood sugar which in turn releases pro-inflammatory chemicals.
b. Acidity is another problem. Ingredients that increase acidity are far too common in the American diet: too much salt, sugar, white flour, dairy, meat and soft drinks. The latter is one of the biggest culprits affecting our health and waistlines, which includes sodas, juices, sports/energy drinks, teas and coffees. Chronic inflammation results from this increase in the body’s acidity, which increases the likelihood of heart attacks, obesity, cancer, type II diabetes, and dementia.
c. Excessive omega-6 fatty acids are also pro-inflammatory; omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory. When both of these are consumed in equal amounts, balance is achieved. The typical American diet consumes 20-30 times as much omega-6 fats as omega-3 fats. Omega-6 fats are corn, safflower, sunflower, soy, canola and peanut oils. Grain-fed beef, poultry, farmed fish, processed foods, and fast foods are high in omega-6 fatty acids. In contrast, wild sources of fatty seafood, grass-fed beef and heathy high-fat foods such as avocados, whole eggs, nuts, extra-virgin olive oils, and coconut oil are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids. When a balance of fatty acids is “out of whack,” inflammation occurs.
d. Milk and milk products can cause inflammation because modern dairy cows eat grain-containing diets, which produce excess omega-6 fats. Also, a large percentage of the population is allergic or sensitive to dairy.
e. Hydrogenated oils are also pro-inflammatory. These “franken-oils” are in most prepackaged foods like candy, margarine, peanut butter, and baked goods. They are most commonly called trans-fatty acids, and our bodies lack the necessary enzymes to fully break them down, leading to more inflammation.
Infections trigger powerful inflammatory processes in order to destroy invading microorganisms. Unfortunately, this same process damages our immune system. A weak immune system can result in repetitive infections, which can lead to more chronic inflammation—and a vicious cycle ensues.
3. CHRONIC STRESS
Stress produces hormones which can increase chronic inflammatory issues such uncontrolled acne and gastro-intestinal crisis. The latest research on stress shows it alters immune cells and prevents their ability to fight infection.
4. SLEEP DEPRIVATION
Chronic sleep deprivation upsets the balance between normal hormonal and metabolic processes. If your sleep suffers, so does your immune system.
5. POOR HYDRATION
Your body needs water! If you are feeling thirsty, you are already dehydrated.
Through our lifestyle choices, we cause chronic inflammation and age ourselves prematurely. This causes us to look old, to feel tired, and to suffer every imaginable disease. Chronic inflammation is under your complete control—take steps to prevent the causes listed above.
More often than not, dietary guidelines set by the government are not based on medical research but rather a means to drive mass production and increase profits, with no care or concern for the health of the public.
Richard DuBois, certified infectious disease physician has stated: “The number one factor in determining the health quality of your life is nutrition. Nutrition dictates the quality of your health and life—even more than exercise”. (Refer to DuBois’s book, The Inflammation Solution: When Everything Works and Nothing Hurts)
Through evidence-based research, we now know that nutrition plays one of the most vital roles in both causing and treating inflammatory conditions of the mouth and body. An anti-inflammatory diet has a focus on taming the internal inflammation of our blood, lymph, and organs—thus balancing our bodies pH. Do not confuse an anti-inflammatory diet with a traditional diet whose focus is on weight loss. An anti-inflammatory diet should be a daily lifestyle diet.
An anti-inflammatory diet includes increasing vegetables and fruits, decreasing trans- fats and unhealthy saturated fats, obtaining high quality omega 3 oils, reducing/eliminating refined foods/high sugar sources, increasing dietary fiber and water, and including spices such as ginger, curry and turmeric which have excellent inflammation-reducing properties. (Refer to Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid)
A list of the Top 15 Anti-Inflammatory Foods can be found by going to the following web address: www.draxe.com/anti-inflammatory-foods
So how does all this relate to your MOUTH and BODY?
First, let’s discuss inflammation and infection that is initiated in your mouth. As bacteria build up on teeth, the gum tissue becomes more prone to infection. The immune system attacks the infection and the gums become inflamed. The inflammation continues unless the infection is brought under control. Over a period of time, inflammation and the chemicals it releases eat away at the gums and bone structure that hold teeth in place. The result is severe gum disease, known as periodontitis or periodontal disease. This inflammatory process affects the rest of the body.
Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease caused by groups of specific microorganisms. The old model of periodontal disease focused upon specific periodontal pathogens. The new model refers to a colony of multiple, different bacteria working together to initiate a microbial imbalance resulting in periodontal disease. We refer to these colonies of microorganisms as “biofilms” which produce a sticky matrix on the teeth.
The sticky biofilm must be removed in order to prevent periodontal inflammation. After brushing and flossing, electron scanning microscopes have proven that this biofilm still remains at the gumline, below the gumline, and between the teeth. A more effective tool is needed to remove it—that tool is the WaterPik water flosser. The pulsating technology of the water flosser breaks up the remaining sticky biofilm from the tooth surface and removes it. No tool exists that works more effectively. We recommend the WaterPik to all of our patients.
We also tailor a specific home-care regimen for each patient, which may include the following: brushing twice per day, flossing at least once per day, using a water flossing device such as the Waterpik once per day, using other interproximal plaque removal devices and tools, and scheduling regular visits with your dental hygienist to remove calcified deposits as well as periodic oral examinations by your dentist.
THE MOUTH-BODY CONNECTION
The body is a complete system. Inflammation from the mouth enters the bloodstream and travels throughout the body; chronic inflammation circulating throughout the body will have negative effects on other systems.
ORAL HEALTH AND DIABETES—the relationship between diabetes and periodontitis may be the strongest of all of the connections between the mouth and the rest of the body. Periodontal disease and diabetes have a two-way relationship. The inflammation from periodontal disease impairs the body’s ability to utilize insulin. High blood sugar, on the other hand, provides ideal conditions for infection to grow, including gum infections. Managing either of these conditions can help bring the other one under control.
ORAL HEALTH AND HEART DISEASE AND STROKES—50% of heart attacks and strokes occur in people with normal cholesterol levels. INFLAMMATION is the key contributor to heart disease and cardiac events. Over 90% of patients with heart disease have periodontitis. Inflammation in the mouth causes inflammation in the blood vessels, which can increase the risk for heart attack. Less blood can travel between the heart and the rest of the body when the lining of the blood vessel is inflamed. This also raises blood pressure. Because of the inflammation, a fatty plaque can break from the wall of a blood vessel and travel to the heart or the brain, causing a heart attack or stroke.
ORAL HEALTH AND PREGNANCY—Hormonal changes during pregnancy can increase a woman’s risk of periodontitis. Infection and inflammation can interfere with the development of a fetus in the womb, contributing to premature or low birth-weight deliveries. It is highly recommended to have a comprehensive periodontal exam if you are pregnant or before you become pregnant to identify this risk.
ORAL HEALTH AND OSTEOPOROSIS—Researchers currently are testing the theory that inflammation triggered by periodontitis could weaken bone in other parts of the body.
ORAL HEALTH AND SMOKING—One of the most important things you can do for your mouth and your body is NOT smoke NOR use smokeless tobacco. A smoker’s risk of severe gum disease is three times higher than a non-smoker. Nicotine causes blood vessels to constrict and interferes with the ability of gum tissue to fight infection. Smoking will also interfere with treatment of gum infections, making recovery more difficult. Smoking in the immediate post-surgical period after implants are placed delays healing thus increasing the chance of infection and early implant loss. Many dental professionals will not place implants in the mouths of patients who smoke.
Clearly, the body and the mouth are not separate. Taking good care of your teeth and gums will really help you live longer and better. Here is what your hygienist wants you to know…
- SCALING IS SO IMPORTANT. It can sound awful, but it really improves gingival
tissue (gums) and periodontal health. Periodontal disease is the most
common cause of tooth loss in adults. Scaling removes hard deposits
(calculus or tartar) and soft deposits (plaque or biofilm) where harmful
bacteria make their home. In turn, gums heal and deeper pockets reattach to
your tooth. Basically, this is how we prevent and turn around periodontal
disease and it is the most rewarding part of a dental hygienist’s job.
2. HEALTHY GUMS DO NOT BLEED. Bleeding is a sign that your immune
system is having to work overtime to fight the bacteria in your gums. Never
avoid the areas that bleed when you floss or brush. That makes those
bacteria very happy because you are leaving them alone to do their thing!
By removing the bacteria, your immune system can take a break. Moving
forwards, remember this: Bleeding is your cue to step up your home care
and to visit your dental hygienist again.
3. HOW OFTEN YOU VISIT YOUR DENTAL HYGIENIST SHOULD BE UNIQUE.
The old, standard routine of six months for everyone no longer holds up in
treating patients properly. How often you visit your dental hygienist should
be based on your periodontal health, medical history and cavity risk.
4. DID YOU KNOW YOU SHOULD NEVER BRUSH YOUR TEETH RIGHT AFTER
YOU VOMIT? When you vomit, your teeth have just been exposed to acid and
enamel is soft. A small amount of enamel can be brushed away. Rinse your
mouth with water or baking soda/water to neutralize the acid. The same
principle holds true for those with acid reflux disease, especially untreated reflux.
5. IF YOU CHANGE NOTHING, NOTHING WILL CHANGE. If your gums bleed
and your dental hygienist tells you that you have gingivitis or periodontal
issues, then you need to make a change. If you change nothing, gum
disease will advance.