THE TRUTH ABOUT SOME COMMON DENTAL MYTHS

The profession of dentistry has experienced an amazing evolution over its lifetime. References to tooth decay can be found in various ancient texts. At one time, a local barber would provide haircuts and pull troublesome teeth in the same shop. Dentistry evolved from these humble beginnings to what we know today: a structured medical discipline where patients benefit from evidenced-based care. Oddly enough, though, several oral health myths and misconceptions have failed to fade away....

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SIMPLE STEPS TO MAINTAIN YOUR ORAL HEALTH

On the list of common reasons people avoid the dentist, cost is usually near the top. It is a fact — some dental treatments are expensive. However, you have some control in working to avoid pricey dental procedures. Two of the best ways to avoid needing expensive dental treatments are to visit a dentist regularly for an exam and cleaning and following proper dental hygiene advice every day.

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COMMON SLEEP DISORDER WREAKS HAVOC ON THE BODY

The National Sleep Foundation estimates over 18 million adults in the United States, or about one in every 15 people, suffer from sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that interrupts breathing, resulting in disruptive sleep. Individuals suffering from obstructive sleep apnea will experience a repetitive (partial or complete) airway collapse throughout their sleep, which prevents air from reaching the lungs.

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GUM PROBLEMS CAN REACH BEYOND YOUR MOUTH

Diabetes

It is well documented that people with diabetes are more likely to have periodontal disease. Moreover, studies have shown the relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease is bidirectional, meaning the presence of one condition promotes the presence of the other. Diabetic patients with periodontal disease have difficulty controlling their blood sugar, making diabetic complications more likely to develop at a higher rate.


Heart Disease

Several studies have shown an association between periodontal disease and heart disease. It is believed the inflammation associated with periodontal disease may be responsible for this association. Periodontal disease may increase the risk of heart disease and may also worsen existing heart conditions.


Stroke

The association between stroke and periodontal disease has been shown in some clinical studies. Periodontal disease has been linked to a higher rate of strokes caused by the hardening and blockage of large arteries in the brain.   

Osteoporosis

Patients with osteoporosis have a greater tendency to lose bone around the teeth. It has been suggested osteoporosis is a predisposing or influencing factor in the progression of periodontal disease.


Respiratory Disease

It is believed people with periodontal disease may aspirate or breathe bacteria into their lungs, causing respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.


Cancer

Clinical studies have shown men with gum disease were 49 percent more likely to develop kidney cancer, 54 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer and 30 percent more likely to develop blood cancers.


RISK FACTORS

In addition to following good oral health practices, it is also important to be mindful of other factors that may put individuals at a higher risk of developing gum or periodontal disease. These include:


Age

Older people are at higher risk of developing periodontal disease.


Smoking

Numerous studies confirm the relationship between smoking and periodontal disease. Smokers have increased risk and the progression and severity of periodontal disease is substantially higher in smokers compared to non-smokers.


Genetics

Some individuals may be genetically susceptible to periodontal disease. They are more likely to develop periodontal disease despite aggressive oral care habits.


Stress

Stress is associated with many serious conditions, including hypertension and cancer. It is also a risk factor for periodontal disease. Research shows stress can make fighting off infection, including periodontal disease, more difficult for the body.


Medications

Certain medications, such as oral contraceptives, antidepressants and heart medicines, may affect the gums.


Obesity

Studies show obese individuals are at a higher risk of developing periodontal disease.


HOW CAN A PERIODONTIST HELP

A periodontist is a dentist who has received up to three years of additional training focusing on the treatment of gum disease and replacement of missing teeth with dental implants.


A periodontist can perform a thorough clinical and radiographic exam of a patient’s mouth to determine if periodontal disease is present or if there is risk of developing the condition. Periodontists have been trained in both surgical and non-surgical methods of disease treatment. Today, there are many advancements in the treatment of periodontal disease, such as the use of minimally invasive procedures and laser treatments.

DR. MOHANAD AL-SABBAGH


Dr. Mohanad Al-Sabbagh is a professor and Chief of Periodontology at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. His clinical interests include treatment of periodontal disease with laser, minimally invasive procedures for the treatment of gum recession, cosmetic periodontics and dental implants to replace missing teeth. Dr. Al-Sabbagh sees patients both in the Periodontics Clinic, located in the Dental Science Building at 800 Rose Street in Lexington, as well as UK Dentistry at Turfland, located at 2195 Harrodsburg Road, Suite 175 in Lexington. More information about UK Dentistry is available at  www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu/dentistry.

Many people have heard of periodontal or gum disease and they understand those who suffer from it can experience tooth loss if the condition is left unchecked. In fact, periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss, damaging the mouth silently with possibly little to no symptoms such as pain. What some people may not understand is the association between periodontal disease and other systemic, chronic conditions.


Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease. In an effort to fight bacteria in the mouth, the body basically attacks itself. During this attack, tiny spaces or pockets may develop between the teeth and gum line. The creation of these spaces allows tartar (a hard, crusty deposit that must be removed by a dental professional), plaque (a sticky substance created from leftover food particles and saliva) and other bacteria to settle between the gum line and teeth. These pockets can become infected by toxins from bacteria and cause bone loss and additional inflammation that affect other areas of the body.


SYSTEMIC CHRONIC CONDITIONS

Inflammation present in chronic gum disease is thought to be responsible for the documented association between periodontal disease and other systemic chronic conditions. The treatment of periodontal disease may actually help prevent or manage the following systemic chronic conditions: