Younger Age Groups Are Falling Behind On Maintaining A Healthy Smile
Posted on Feb 10, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
A recent survey, commissioned by the American Association of Endodontists, showed that working or studying from home is having a negative impact on the oral health of adults. It findings reveal that more than half of Americans say the pandemic has caused them to delay their regular dental exams and cleanings, which can lead to serious oral health problems.
Being stuck in one’s home has become an adjustment people across the globe have had to make. In spite of having easy access to a toothbrush and toothpaste, this has resulted in factors that are out-doing daily dental hygiene routines. Significant findings include:
31% admit to snacking more on sweets
24% report they are flossing less frequently with another 23% not flossing
1 in 4 said they delay brushing until later in the morning, while 21% aren’t brushing in the morning at all
28% didn’t schedule or forgot to schedule a dental visit
This has become a more prevalent problem for adults in the millennial age group. These adults were born between 1981 – 1996 and are presently between the ages 24 of 39. According to several surveys, millennials are not only doing a poor job at oral hygiene upkeep, the convenience of working from home is working against them as well.
In a 2017 study, 30% of millennials polled admitted to only brushing their teeth once a day, and some millennials have gone over 2 days without a brushing at all. Because this survey was conducted prior to the pandemic constraints, keeping more adults inside 24/7, the figures are likely even worse.
At the time of the survey, 43% stated that working from home or attending virtual classes disrupted their usual oral hygiene regimens during the pandemic lockdown. Couple this with not having a set schedule to follow (thus, no daily brush-&-floss routine). Work-from-home adults (or students) also have 24/7 access to snacking.
All these factors equal future oral health problems for a large percentage of millennials. These include cavities, gum disease, and subsequent tooth loss. Is the nonchalance of oral hygiene because tooth loss is not a true worry, as with baby boomers?
Many baby boomers (now between ages 57-75) grew up with parents or grandparents who kept a glass by the bathroom sink where their dentures would “soak” during the night. This image may have helped to keep the over 55 age group more determined to maintain good oral health and keep their natural teeth.
Regular dental care is important for all ages, but especially for the aging adult. A thorough brushing and flossing routine at home is simply a greater need as older adult experience more challenges when it comes to oral health.
Older adults must deal with oral dryness, which creates an environment for more rapid bacteria growth. The cracks and fractures that natural teeth endured over the years can also give way. This leads to the need for crowns and even dental implants to replace lost teeth.
And, wallets are thinner in retirement. As people retire, there is less insurance coverages for dental expenses in addition to less income. To continue with regular, preventive dental care, an older adult must budget carefully to include these appointments.
Yet, baby boomers are also more determined to hold onto a more youthful sense. Losing natural teeth, to this age group in particular, is associated with an “old age” mindset that has been widely resisted by boomers.
Statistics from 2018 showed that nearly 50,000 more cosmetic procedures were performed on those 55 and older than in the previous year, with noticeable increases in surgical procedures like liposuction, hair transplantation and breast augmentation along with options like Botox and fillers. This age group also accounted for nearly half of all eyelid surgeries and two-thirds of facelifts.
However, segmenting oral health habits into age groups is not the chief concern among those of us who are dental caregivers. As a periodontal specialist, I see all ages and know every adult should be highly committed to good oral health. Now, more than ever, having a healthy mouth can be a booster to the body’s overall immune system.
Gum disease occurs from an overload of infectious bacteria that the immune system can no longer manage. It extends below the surface and can no longer be brushed or flossed away.
These destructive bacteria can enter the bloodstream through tears in diseased gum tissues. Research has linked this bacteria to serious health conditions including heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, some cancers, preterm babies, arthritis, diabetes, impotency and even Alzheimer’s disease.
However, twice-daily brushing and daily flossing, on their own, will not shield you from developing gum disease. If you’ve been avoiding regular dental check-ups, the problems in the future can require costly repairs and even tooth replacement – problems that may have been easily prevented.
If you have delayed dental care or have been less-than-diligent in maintaining good oral health, be aware of the signs of periodontal disease. These include seeing blood in the sink when brushing teeth, sore or swollen gums, gums that darken to a red color, persistent bad breath and sensitivity to hot or cold.
In our Asheville periodontal dental office, patients can begin with a consult in our private consultation room to discuss oral health options. A referral is not required.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule.
Smokers CAN Lower Oral Health Risks With Proper Measures
Posted on Feb 04, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
If you smoke, you may be tempted to quit as one of your New Year’s resolutions. By now, you may be “over the hump” and feel success in this challenge (and breathing much easier!). Good for you!
However, if you’ve stumbled and faltered (and perhaps even thrown up your hands in defeat), you are not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), over 55 percent of smokers in the U.S. had made a quit attempt in 2018, with only 7.5 percent succeeding. (https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/cessation/smoking-cessation-fast-facts/index.html)
Yet, less than 7 percent of adult smokers reported (in 2015) that they had sought counseling or medications in their attempts to quit. Yet, the need for support is clear. For most people who are trying to quit, it is a long, tough journey. The CDC also reports that:
“more people in the United States are addicted to nicotine than to any other drug. Research suggests that nicotine may be as addictive as heroin, cocaine, or alcohol.”
As the need to maintain healthy immune systems has never been more urgent, smokers will hopefully reach out to every source in order to kick the habit, for good. Data assembled by a team at the University of California (San Francisco) found that smoking nearly doubles the rate of COVID progression.
The analysis took into account over 11,500 COVID patients. The findings showed by current and former smokers were twice as likely to have conditions that require hospitalization and higher death rates. (https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/05/417411/smoking-nearly-doubles-rate-covid-19-progression)
The authors of the study warned that both cigarettes and e-cigs were involved in this higher risk rate.
Smoking increases mucus production and inflammation, which injures the lungs’ defense system. This is why people who smoke are more likely to have serious respiratory infections and illnesses.
However, my role as an Asheville periodontist is not to lecture our patients. We believe our patients deserve to be informed about the risks to their oral health, in particular, and provide encouragement. Too, we want patients to understand the best ways to avoid developing periodontal (gum) disease and the subsequent repercussions (such as tooth loss) as a result.
So, let’s focus on your periodontal health if you smoke (including cigarette smoking or vaping).
Smokers are often unaware of what occurs in the mouth from smoking. To begin, smokers have a greater risk of periodontal (gum) disease due to its drying effect on the soft tissues in the mouth. When saliva flow is depleted, its ability to rinse away oral bacteria enables the mouth to a bacterial breeding ground.
As oral bacteria reproduce and accumulate in the mouth, gum tissues become inflamed. In the early stages of gum disease, symptoms may include frequent bad breath, tender and swollen gums, and gums that bleed easily when brushing teeth.
As gum disease progresses, the gums change in color from a healthy pink hue to red. The gums loosen their grip around the base of teeth and seem more spongy. Breath odor is consistently bad. Pus pockets may form at the base of some teeth.
Eventually, the bone and the tissue structures that support natural teeth are under attack. The infectious bacteria ramp up their onslaught of attack, tooth roots no longer have the firm support they need. Some teeth begin to loosen and may require removal.
Advanced periodontal disease, known as periodontitis, is a health risk that goes far beyond the mouth. For years, research has shown an intricate connection between the “good” bacteria in the mouth, especially beneficial in gut health. It has also been known that the “bad” and infectious bacteria of advanced gum disease can alter the roles of certain factors in the body that help to prevent the formation of disease.
For example, certain cancers can be activated or progressed through the inflammatory bacteria of gum disease. These bacteria are able to become blood borne and activate “pathogens” that create a domino effect of disease development.
When you factor in the vulnerability to the lungs from inhaling the toxic smoke of cigarettes, you have a perfect storm. Consider that the gum tissues are the first contact with these inhaled chemicals. Because oral tissues are absorbent in nature, they are at the front line of smoking’s effect.
If you do smoke, we want to help you minimize the risks it poses to your oral health. In addition to maintaining regular dental check-ups and cleanings (at least every 6 months), below are some tips for your at-home oral hygiene regimen.
• Brush twice a day (at least) for two minutes each time. Use a fluoridated toothpaste and a soft to medium bristle toothbrush.
• Floss your teeth every day and floss before your brush. You would be surprised at how many particles can be lodged between teeth that brushing won’t rid. If flossing is an awkward maneuver, try one of the water flossers, which are affordable and as effective as manual flossing.
• Brush your tongue after your teeth to unroot embedded bacteria, especially reaching the back area of the tongue (where most bacteria are embedded). This also helps to give you fresh breath.
• Use an oral rinse that replenishes moisture (and is alcohol-free) twice a day (or as directed). These are available OTC at most drug stores.
• Chew sugarless gum, preferably a brand that contains Xylitol. Xylitol looks and tastes like sugar, yet has 40 percent fewer calories.
• Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Be aware that beverages such as most coffee, tea and colas contain caffeine are drying to the mouth. Many medications also have the side effect of oral dryness – another good reason to stay hydrated.
• Limit your intake of sugar and carbohydrates. These are oral bacteria super boosters.
In our Asheville periodontal dental office, please know that we are here for you regardless of your needs or goals. Although we prefer you give up smoking, we want to give you the very best care possible so you can enjoy a healthy mouth and confident smile.
If you haven’t had regular dental exams or have any of the symptoms associated with gum disease (mentioned above), call our dental office to schedule a thorough periodontal exam at 828-274-9440.