Arthritis? Recommit Yourself To Having Good Oral Health.
Posted on Jun 20, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
According to the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), over 47 percent of American adults are living with some level of gum disease. For those age 65 and older, this figure jumps to 70 percent.
These concerning statistics are nothing to ignore. Although gum disease is so common, it increases risks that go far beyond the mouth. Over the years, research has tracked many diseases and conditions that correlate with gum disease bacteria. The inflammatory reactions triggered by these infectious bacteria have been linked to heart disease, stroke, some cancers, diabetes, preterm babies, and impotency.
Research has also shown a notably close relationship between gum disease and rheumatoid arthritis (RA). These studies have been ongoing for many years, and the findings should be concerning to all adults.
RA is a debilitating, painful disease that destroys joints. RA often emerges gradually, initially causing morning stiffness and weak, sore muscles. As inflammation from RA worsens, joints become swollen. Joints become achy and stiff most often in the fingers, wrists, elbows, hips, knees, ankles, toes and neck. Unfortunately, there is no cure for RA.
On a positive note, studies have shown that treating RA patients who have periodontal disease helps to improve RA symptoms. It is felt that this occurs because of a lighter burden of oral inflammation to the body’s immune system.
Below are some of the findings you may want to review. First, however, it’s important to understand how gum disease begins and some signs and symptoms.
In the initial stage of periodontal (gum) disease, known as gingivitis, the gums may bleed when brushing. Bad breath is more frequent and the gums may be tender or swollen. As the disease progresses, the gums turn red and may pull away from the base of some teeth.
Bad breath becomes persistent and pus pockets may form at the base of some teeth. As the infectious bacteria attack the bone structures that support tooth roots, teeth will begin to loosen and may need removal. Gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in the U.S.
In addition to the devastating damage in the mouth, the infectious bacteria of gum disease can enter the bloodstream through diseased gum tissues, causing the inflammatory triggers that activate serious health problems, such as RA.
Years ago, researchers noticed an RA-perio trait among people with rheumatoid arthritis. While RA sufferers had gum disease more often, they observed that people with gum disease tended to have RA more often.
As researchers delved deeper into the connection, it appeared that the association is much more complicated than previously thought. Findings now suggest that oral bacteria could actually be a cause of rheumatoid arthritis.
In the past, doctors felt that periodontal disease was a result of RA itself since stiff, painful hands make it challenging to maintain good oral hygiene. They also suspected that medications prescribed to treat RA could be a factor since the drugs, which suppress the immune system, inhibited the body’s ability to fight harmful oral bacteria.
Both conditions cause chronic inflammation in tissues that connect to bone with both diseases having a similar inflammatory trigger. Even more similar is the particular species of bacteria found in periodontally-diseased tissues when compared with tissues around arthritic joints. In one study, a particular pathogen associated with periodontal disease was found to activate the same destructive process of rheumatoid arthritis.
In 2017, study findings were released by Johns Hopkins University Division of Rheumatology, which noted evidence that the tissues in the mouth of a periodontally-compromised individual and the tissues of the joint in RA have a number of likenesses. Research has also shown a genetic link between the two.
Above all, these findings reinforce how oral health correlates closely to our overall health. When you consider how the presence of gum disease can significantly increase your risk for serious health conditions, having good oral health should be a priority for every American.
What can you do to lower your risks for tooth loss and contributing to (or worsening) serious health problems? Recommit yourself to thorough oral hygiene at home and having twice-a-year exams and cleanings.
If you have signs of gum disease, have treatment at your earliest convenience. Gum disease will only worsen and requires more treatment time and expense as it progresses.
Call 828-274-9440 to schedule an examination, or begin with a consultation to discuss your needs.
‘Perio’ Dental Terms
Posted on Jun 14, 2021 by William J. Claiborne, DDS MS
Occasionally, I like to remind readers of the benefits of thorough communication in dental offices, and especially in dental specialists‘ offices. When unfamiliar terms are used by the doctor or staff, it can easily leave patients in a confused state.
When patients feel less involved in their dental situation, they struggle to make decisions that are in their best interests, including decisions that can greatly affect long-term dental health.
In our Asheville periodontal dental office, we pride ourselves on providing a comfortable, respectful environment to our patients. We find that even patients who are anxious or “jittery” about dental procedures relax when they feel fully versed as to their needs, how they may have occurred, and their options in resolving the problem(s).
However, some dentists, hygienists, and dental assistants can become “immune” to the foreign nature of some terms. They tend to throw them out without realizing the terms are going askew rather than being absorbed by the patients to whom they’re communicating.
Ideally, any term or explanation that isn’t clear will prompt the patient to ask for clarity.
Below are some fairly common terms you may hear used by your dental caregivers. Hopefully, these will help you better grasp the unique situation you have that brought you to the dental chair in the first place.
PERIODONTAL (or PERIO): Defined, this means relating to or affecting the structures surrounding and supporting the teeth. Generally, however, this refers to the gum tissues in the mouth.
GINGIVITIS: This initial stage of periodontal disease causes inflammation of the gums, typically because a film of plaque (consisting of oral bacteria), has accumulated on teeth. Gingivitis is a non-destructive type of gum disease but, untreated, can progress to more serious levels that are highly destructive.
PERIODONTITIS: This inflammatory reaction is triggered by a buildup of bacteria in dental plaque. This stage of gum disease leads to a loss of tooth-supporting bone, formation of deep “pockets”, and eventually tooth loss.
PROPHY: Also known as a dental cleaning, a prophy is a treatment that involves the cleaning and polishing of tooth surfaces to control bacteria on the teeth and just below the gum line. A prophy is recommended every six months to maintain healthy gums and teeth.
BUCCAL: This is the cheek-side of teeth. For front teeth, it may also be referred to as the facial surface.
LINGUAL: The opposite of buccal, this refers to the surface of teeth that face the tongue.
MESIAL: This is the surface of a tooth that is closest to the midline of the face.
OCCLUSAL: This is the chewing surface of back teeth.
POCKETS: This is a small opening in gum tissues between the gums and the teeth where the gum should normally fit snugly against the tooth. A pocket holds bacteria, which can allow infection to penetrate below the gum line.
DEBRIDEMENT: When a buildup of plaque and calculus becomes imbedded around the gums and between teeth, a dentist or dental specialist often must remove it in order to perform a thorough oral exam.
ROOT PLANING: This is a non-surgical procedure for the removal of plaque, hardened tartar ( calculus), and/or stains from a patient’s teeth and tooth roots. This is typically performed to reach oral bacteria that has moved below the gum line.
MAXILLA: This is your upper jaw, which holds upper tooth roots. This bone is part of the skull structure and does not move.
MANDIBLE: This is the lower jaw bone, where lower teeth are held. This bone is hinged to the skull and moves up and down and slightly sideways, made possible by the temporomandibular joints (TMJ).
ARCH or RIDGE: In dentistry, this refers to the raised, gum covered “u” that supports the upper or lower teeth. For example, a “full arch of teeth” indicates a complete row of all upper or lower teeth.
Our goal is to create informed patients who are active in their care and decision-making process for having excellent dental health.
Research has shown that a healthy mouth supports a healthy body. It has proven that oral health is intricately connected to our whole health. By minimizing the level of bacteria in the mouth, you can avoid many problems associated with the teeth and gums AND give your overall health added support.
Bacteria accumulation can sneak up on you. Gum disease symptoms begin with tender gums that may bleed when brushing. The gums may become red (versus a healthy pink color) and pull away from the base of teeth. Bad breath becomes more frequent and some swelling may occur.
As it progresses, periodontal disease can cause deep, pus filled pockets to form on the gums. The gums may loosen from their grip around teeth and bad breath is persistent. Bleeding gums may occur easily; even eating may prompt bleeding.
Eventually, the bone and tissue structures that support teeth are so damaged that the foundation for teeth gives way and teeth may need to be extracted. Gum disease is the nation’s leading cause for adult tooth loss.
If gum disease exists, it will only worsen without treatment. Please contact our Western NC periodontal office to arrange a consultation or a complete examination. A periodontist specializes in the treatment of oral tissues and is your best choice for restoring a healthy mouth.
Call 828-274-9440. Let’s get you smiling confidently, and often!