According to a report by the U.S. surgeon general in 2016, e-cigarettes are the most popular tobacco product among American youth. In fact, the use of these alternatives to cigarettes grew by 900 percent among high school students in just four years between 2011 and 2015.
One study conducted by the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests that electronic cigarettes do as much damage to gum tissue as traditional cigarettes. The study was the first of its kind to look at the cellular and molecular levels of oral health and their relationship to the use of e-cigarettes.
A new study from the University of Buffalo has found that estrogen therapy to treat osteoporosis could help prevent gum disease in older women. Researchers looked at nearly 500 postmenopausal women, 365 of whom had been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Of those 365, 113 were receiving estrogen therapy as treatment for their osteoporosis. The results of the study found that that the women receiving estrogen therapy for at least six months had periodontal pockets that were shallower than those who weren’t receiving the treatment. In addition, the women receiving estrogen therapy had less space between their teeth and gums and less bleeding of the gums than those who had not been receiving the treatments.
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. It’s also incredibly common even though it’s highly preventable in most cases. A consistent, efficient oral hygiene routine that consists of brushing twice a day and flossing can do wonders to help prevent the complications that come with this damaging disease. Seeking professional care as soon as you notice an issue will help you reverse the damage before it becomes more severe. There are four stages of gum disease that increase in severity and invasiveness of treatment as it progresses.
The earliest stage of gum disease is marked by swollen, red gums and sometimes bad breath. Bleeding gums is one of the most common symptoms and the easiest to notice. The good news is, since bone loss has not yet begun, the damage done in this stage of gum disease is usually reversible with treatment.
As part of a regular dental and checkup, the dental hygienist who performs the cleaning part of the exam will check the gums for gaps or pockets. These pockets are home to millions of bacteria that cause tooth decay and periodontal infections. If the depth of these pockets is four millimeters or greater, the hygienist is likely to recommend a deep cleaning or root planing procedure in order to reverse the damage caused by periodontal disease.
Deep cleaning, also known as scaling, is a process in which plaque and tartar are physically removed from the deep pockets surrounding the teeth through ultrasonic or manual scaling. Plaque is a biofilm full of bacteria, that blankets the teeth in between brushings. While plaque is soft enough to be brushed and flossed away, if a patient does not practice good oral hygiene, plaque calcifies into tartar. Tartar is a hard, bony substance that cannot be brushed away. Tartar spreads over and in between teeth and also stretches below the gumline.
Most people know that smoking is bad for their health. Smoking affects every part of the body and causes diseases like emphysema, cancer, high blood pressure and stroke. In the mouth, smoking impacts taste buds and smokers face twice the risk as nonsmokers of developing periodontal disease. New research from the University of Louisville also shows how smoking promotes bacterial growth in the mouth and opens the immune system to attack. Dentists see firsthand the impact of smoking on the mouth and frequently caution their patients about smoking and tobacco use.
Teeth are covered in bacteria that live in a biofilm. Biofilm is a thin, slimy or sticky film of bacteria that clings to the surface of teeth and gums. One of the most common biofilms in the mouth is plaque. Plaque leads to gingivitis and other periodontal diseases. The Kentucky study suggests that smoking blankets biofilm in the mouth with a protective layer that makes it hard to brush this film away, allows it to thrive and makes treatment with antibiotics difficult. Dangerous biofilm found in the mouths of smokers include Staphylococcus aureas, Klebsiella pneumonia and Streptococcus mutans. Streptococcus mutans is a contributor to tooth decay and causes a life-threatening infection in the lining of the heart known as endocarditis.
Bad breath, or halitosis, ranks as one of the top reasons why people visit the dentist - coming in just after tooth decay and concerns about gum disease. The most common reasons behind bad breath are dry mouth or poor oral hygiene. Odors are created as a byproduct of digestion as bacteria break down food that is left behind in the mouth if it is not brushed, flossed or rinsed away. Most people find a remedy with a toothbrush, a quick swish of mouthwash or just pop a mint for temporary relief.
For many other people, bad breath is severe and recurring – despite their best efforts to practice proper oral hygiene. In these cases, bad breath indicates a more serious health problem. "Dentists are often the first to connect bad breath to potential health problems in their patients," says Dr. Amy Norman, D.D.S., P.S.
Patients with chronic heartburn or acid reflux disease experience bad breath because bad-smelling stomach acid backs up into the esophagus, throat and mouth. "Stomach acid and the bacteria that go along with it cause tooth decay, gingivitis and periodontal disease which also result in bad breath," according to Norman.
Breath that has a fruity odor can indicate possible ketoacidosis in patients that have diabetes. Ketoacidosis occurs when insulin is low, and may result in a diabetic coma or death. Some patients with ketoacidosis are not even aware they may be diabetic until there is a connection to the smell of their breath. Breath tests have proven to be more accurate than urine tests to signal a patient has ketoacidosis and diabetes.
Fishy or ammonia smelling breath can indicate possible kidney failure. This type of bad breath occurs when the body is unable to break down certain organic compounds found in some foods. As a result, this foul smelling compound comes out in sweat, urine, and breath.
Dr. Amy Norman continually stresses the importance of practicing good oral hygiene to her patients, and that includes more than just brushing those pearly whites. The condition and health of your gums is equally important. Without proper care, patients are at risk for periodontal disease, a bacterial infection around the teeth and gums. Here are five ways you can keep your gums healthy:
1. Floss! This is no-brainer, but it’s often a step many people skip. While some patients may find it inconvenient and time-consuming, it’s necessary in preserving gum health. Regular flossing removes plaque that accumulates between the teeth which can develop into tartar, turning into a breeding ground for bacteria.
2. Use Mouthwash Mouthwash is more than just a breath-freshening elixir. It helps protect your teeth and gums from harmful bacteria. Look for an antibacterial mouthwash which can reduce oral bacteria by as much as 75 percent.