The Connection Between Oral Health and Cardiovascular Health

Many people are under the assumption that there are no vital organs associated with our teeth and mouth and consequently, they consider oral health problems to be somewhat trivial.  This can’t be further from the truth!

To say it simply, if your oral health is compromised, the damage caused can be much more detrimental to your body than just affecting your smile. Let’s look at the issues in more detail that can arise from poor dental health.

Two different studies from the American Heart Association conducted 10 years apart indicate that bad oral health can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. One of the studies that was published in 2003 revealed that poor oral health in terms of missing teeth and cavities is similar to cholesterol building up in the arteries, which is a major risk factor for coronary heart disease.  A more recent study indicates that periodontal inflammations can lead to the development of heart problems.

Cardiovascular Problems are Crucial

It is important to understand the connection between bad oral health and cardiovascular health because the latter is affecting more than 80 million US citizens in one form or another. That’s not all. Cardiovascular diseases are one of the leading causes of deaths in the country.  Every year, more than 600,000 people die of heart-related illnesses.

A Joint Report Highlighting the Correlation of Oral and Heart Health

A joint report has been created by the respective bodies dealing with oral and cardiovascular health issues. The report reinforces the assertation regarding the strong association between oral and cardiovascular health.  More than 100 research papers and medical studies related to oral and cardiovascular health were reviewed in the report and consequently, some important points were established regarding the association of gum health and heart disease.

  • Oral health issues are a major risk factor in the development of artery and vessel diseases
  • Gum diseases are a proven risk factor for coronary heart disease
  • Clogged arteries in the lower limbs also have an association with gum disease

The report was not able to provide a definitive underlying reason for the cardiovascular problems; however, experts have provided some important information regarding this association, as discussed in the next section.

How Bad Oral Heath can Prompt Cardiovascular Problems

Development of Coronary Artery Disease

It starts with being careless about your dental hygiene by neglecting the regular routines of brushing and flossing. With poor maintenance of your oral health, harmful bacteria can start accumulating on and around the gums, leading to gingivitis and in more severe cases, advancing to the development of periodontitis. This is a serious gum disease (although easily preventable) that can result in an increased thickness of the blood vessels, due to the growth of bacteria that reached deep into the gums of your mouth.  When these pathogens advance underneath the gum line, they can destroy the gum tissue and easily enter the bloodstream. This bacteria-laden blood results in the buildup of plaque along the artery walls.

This condition stiffens the artery walls which restricts the normal and healthy blood flow through the body. In medical terms, this restricted blood flow is known as coronary artery disease.  A severe condition that can lead to heart attacks when blood flow through the arteries gets blocked. One can easily see how lack of care with oral health might lead to the development of fatal diseases.

Bleeding Gums and Endocarditis

Bleeding gum is a common occurring with people who are not serious in maintaining their dental hygiene. Their gums even start to bleed when they eat something. This frequent oral bleeding has the potential to lead to a rare but fatal heart condition called endocarditis.

In endocarditis, the bacteria that can seep into bloodstream plague the inner walls of the heart resulting in the impeding functions of heart valves. This impairment of essential cardio activity can directly result into terminal heart failures.

Breaking the Connection

It has clearly been established that healthy gums can ensure a healthy cardiovascular system. One can significantly reduce the risk of heart diseases by taking care of his/her oral health. Here are given some tips to break this malevolent link between bad oral and cardiovascular health:

  • Maintaining a routine of regular brushing and flossing while avoiding the things detrimental to both oral and cardiovascular health such as smoking
  • People already suffering from heart problems must be very attentive about their dental health because poor dental health can only aggravate their existing medical condition.

It is important to have regular dental checkups to get a better picture of your oral health in order to protect yourself from more serious and life-threatening diseases.

 

 

Tooth Decay: An Ongoing Oral Health Issue

Decaying TeethPhoto by – yayimages.com

Tooth decay or cavity formation is one of the most prevalent oral health issues in the US. It is an ongoing process that can lead to serious consequences in oral health and in particular, your overall health.

According to a report furnished by National Center for Health Statistics of the CDC, around 90% of US adults are suffering from the problem of dental caries (a scientific term for tooth decay).

Another survey indicates that 42% of children (between 2 to 11 years) in the US are facing the problem of tooth decay and cavities. More alarming is the issue that more than half of them haven’t undergone any treatment. The American Dental Health Association has termed tooth decay as the most chronic health problem among the child population in the US.

Consequences of Tooth Decay

Many people treat tooth decay as a natural course of growing old, however, this is not the case. Tooth decay possesses some serious ramifications if not treated appropriately:

  • Gingivitis or in more severe cases, periodontal (gum) disease will develop
  • Tooth decay with severe cavity formations and cuts causes intense chronic pain
  • Decayed teeth infested with bacteria produce odor in the mouth resulting in bad breath.
  • Tooth decay of a higher degree can result in inflammation and formation of abscessed teeth due to the infection of periapical tissues.
  • At the end-stage of tooth decay, dentists advise extraction of the affected tooth, leaving the space empty which can cause misalignment of the teeth.

On the whole, tooth decay significantly imposes major inconveniences and can severely affect the well-being of an otherwise healthy individual.

Dynamics of Tooth Decay

Unlike other diseases caused by specific viruses and group of infectious bacteria, tooth decay gets prompted with the presence of acidogenic bacteria in the mouth. In normal circumstances, these bacteria get neutralized by saliva. However, in a poor upkeep routine of oral and dental health, the remnants of carbohydrates, especially glucose interact with acidogenic bacteria.  

The bacteria break downs the glucose and sugar by creating acid as a by-product of their activity. This bacterial action transforms the oral environment into an acidic one which is harmful to teeth enamel, the peripheral covering made of phosphate and calcium.

Once enamel gets eroded due to the higher levels of acidity, dentin starts to get exposed to the acidic reactions. Structure of dentin is softer than enamel and that is why the process of tooth decay gets expedited.

Causes of Tooth Decay

Apart from poor dental hygiene, several other factors can also set off tooth decay.

Deep Teeth Pits and Fissures

Some individuals inherently have deep crevices and pits in their teeth. This type of tooth structure is ideal for the buildup of plaque and acidogenic bacteria. To prevent the tooth decay in people with deep tooth fissures, dentists use dental sealants.

Inviting Sugar into Your Body

Names of Sugar
Sugar can come in many forms (Photo: army.mil)

Sugar, as good as it tastes is a prime culprit for tooth decay. And it is not only candy or soda. As it has been previously discussed, carbohydrates with rich sugar content are one of the main sources of making the oral environment acidic.

With more proportion of sugar foods in your diet, you are not only inviting obesity, but you are making your oral cavity more susceptible to tooth decay. Drinks acidic in nature such as carbonated sodas and fruit juices also assist the process of tooth decay (See image above). Therefore, it is necessary to have moderation in your daily diet with all such dietary items, even if you are taking good care of your oral health.

Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

Dry mouth is a condition in which salivary glands in the mouth fail to produce enough amount of saliva required to maintain the acid-base balance of the oral cavity. Dry mouth is more vulnerable to the acidogenic bacterial reactions. 

A well-practiced physician and dentist can help patients with the problem of dry mouth issues. Non-prescription remedies for dry mouth include limiting caffeine intake and smoking.  Sugar-free gum and candies are also used for sufficient saliva production.

Tooth Grinding (Bruxism)

Other than the detrimental bacterial actions, tooth grinding can also bring about the decaying process. In bruxism, intense clenching of teeth occurs during sleep due to stress and anxiety. The resultant abrasion also destroys the enamel and exposes the inner dentin to bacterial reactions. Therefore, treatment of bruxism is necessary for the prevention of tooth decay.

Tooth Decay Prevention

How to maintain good teeth and gums is essentially common knowledge, but we’ll discuss them briefly here:

Brush Daily

Like the commercial, be sure to brush after every meal. If that is not feasible, brush in the morning and at night. Soft brushes are better than hard brushes and you should brush your teeth for at least two minutes each time. Dentists do recommend using electric toothbrushes over manual ones.

Floss Daily

Brushing isn’t the only preventive technique to help prevent the buildup of plaque. Flossing is just as important. Without daily flossing, bacteria will accumulate in the spaces between the teeth. These are areas where brushing  is not that helpful. By flossing in the spaces between the teeth, you help keep the bacteria out and consequently, the plaque and tartar will not build up.

Visit Your Dentist

Needless to say, the above prevention methods are only part of the action you can take towards good oral health. Visit your dentist for a routine examination and a cleaning twice a year.

It is quite apparent that a good oral health regimen is the key to the prevention of tooth decay. 

Summary

Teeth will begin to decay when sugar combines with bacteria to form acid. This acid, also known as plaque will gradually eat away at the enamel of the tooth and if not corrected, will work its way down towards the second layer, called dentin. When this happens, cavities are formed.  If you haven’t been to the dentist, now is the time to go before your cavities reach the next layer, called the pulp and the possibility of root canal work may be necessary.

Learn more in this video on the hows, whys and protection against tooth decay.

Dr. Garelick Tips #1: 3 Drinks To Avoid For Healthy Teeth

Bottles of Soda
Coffee and soda can really have an impact on your teeth.

Many of us might be aware of the potential damage that certain foods and drinks can have on our teeth, not to mention the weight gain from some of them, but let’s take a closer look at what exactly happens to your teeth when you consume certain popular drinks.

Coffee and Tea

Tannic acids found in coffee and black tea can wear down the enamel and stain your teeth. Adding creamer and sugar to your coffee and tea can also speed up the growth of discoloring bacteria. If it’s too difficult to give up your daily coffee or tea, try to keep your consumption to a minimum of two cups a day or drink green tea instead. Also opt for drinking your coffee in one sitting instead of sipping throughout the day. Be sure to visit your dentist for a bi-annual cleaning. To prevent halitosis (bad breath) that can be associated with drinking coffee, use a tongue scraper after drinking and be sure to drink water throughout the day.

Fruit Juices & Smoothies

Grapefruit, lemons, limes, and oranges are very high in citric acid and sugar which can cause enamel erosion and tooth decay. Frequent consumption of these fruits as well as their juices can soften and erode enamel, leaving teeth exposed and susceptible to bacteria growth. Smoothies might seem healthy for your body, but they can be damaging to your teeth. Regularly sipping on smoothies and fruit juices throughout the day bathes our teeth in acid that can strip the teeth’s enamel.

Protect your teeth by cutting down on your consumption of fruit juices and smoothies. Be sure to wait an hour after drinking these to brush your teeth. This allows your enamel time to strengthen, as over brushing and brushing immediately after drinking acidic and sugary drinks can be even more harmful to tooth enamel.

Soda

Soda contains sugar, acids and carbonation, all of which are bad for teeth. Frequent consumption of soda and carbonated drinks can lead to tooth erosion and decay. Even diet soda contains acids that can damage teeth and weaken enamel. Since children and teens have tooth enamel that isn’t fully developed, their teeth are the most susceptible. To avoid damage to your teeth, avoid sodas and carbonated drinks as much as possible. Limit your consumption to just one 12oz can a day and be sure to drink plenty of water. Make sure to brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day and don’t forget to visit your dentist twice a year for cleanings and checkups.

Health Issues Related To Aging

Elderly Health IssuesOur health tends to deteriorate with aging. Due to the natural changes that take place within our bodies during the aging process, the efficiency of our organs and systems decreases. This, when combined with a poor lifestyle and food choices, can lead to certain health related issues and diseases.

While there are some diseases for which scientists have not yet found the real causes, prevention or cure, the majority of health risks can be avoided and/or decreased by undertaking certain precautionary measures; such as, maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle and taking proper care of your diet. Here we list of some common health related conditions of seniors and some measures for them to take in order to maintain a healthy life:

Cardiovascular issues

When we age, our heart rate naturally decreases a bit and our arteries and blood vessels also get a little stiff. This may become the cause of several cardiovascular diseases and hypertension.

Cardiovascular diseases can be defined as diseases of heart and/or its blood vessels. These include coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke and arrhythmia. According to research, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease increases after 45 years of age.

Eating the right kind of food and staying active are the most important measures to maintain a healthy heart and prevent these cardiovascular diseases. According to nurses health study, the risk of developing CVD can be reduced up to 80% by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle means eating a balanced diet, avoiding smoking or consuming too much alcohol or any other types of drugs and include exercise or any other physical activity in your daily routine, as well as stress management and getting enough quality sleep.

Arthritis

Arthritis is one of the most common health issues among seniors. It affects the quality of their life by decreasing and limiting their mobility. This may occur due to the natural aging process, which reduces the fluid in joints and damages the cartilage or it may occur due to old injuries.

Important measures for preventing arthritis include exercising regularly to stay physically active and maintaining your weight. Although arthritis limits your mobility, it is important that you stay physically active even if you are suffering from arthritis. Consult your doctor for developing a personalized activity plan to maintain your health.

Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that is very common among seniors. Although scientists have not yet found how this mental disease can be avoided, they advise that the elderly can improve their overall mental health by staying mentally active. According to doctors, staying mentally active is as important as staying physically active and playing mental games, like puzzles and Sudoku is an interesting way of doing it. Maintaining a healthy heart is also important for mental health.

Eye related issues

Eye diseases like glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy and the general loss of eyesight are also common issues that come with increasing age. Eating foods that have antioxidant properties and essential vitamins may help in maintaining overall eye health. Smoking is considered as a contributor to macular degeneration.

To prevent any serious eye problem, schedule regular eye checkups, especially after 40, protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses whenever you go out and eat food that is good for your eyes

Bottom Line

Stay active don’t be a couch potato. Eat healthy foods, exercise and maintain a healthy weight. Exercise your mind and don’t smoke, take illegal drugs or drink too much.

 

The Importance for Seniors to Stay Fit

Elderly Woman ExercisingWe all have this common misconception that too much movement and activities are just too dangerous for seniors. In all honestly, it is the opposite that puts them at jeopardy. Staying inactive for such a long period of time not only makes them a victim of many diseases, but also lowers their life expectancy.

As we begin to age, our bones become brittle and the muscles lean towards shortening; as a result, elderly people begin having trouble staying active, flexible, and simply, coordinating their movements. That is where all the exercises and physical fitness techniques come in handy.

In addition, keeping the blood flowing during exercise helps the mind stay active also. One senior that we knew well remained active his entire life, by making sure he exercised to what would equate to walking 10 or more city blocks a day, every day. Our patient lived till he was 99 years old, four months before he reached 100. In this case of course, he was totally independent and did not need the convalescence of a nursing home, but for those that are already residing in nursing homes, it cannot be more emphasised that the individual exercise everyday (of course, under a doctor’s guidance*).

Let’s discover the importance of exercising and how exercise can help people in their later years:

Flexibility

As we grow older, we begin to grow weak. Exercise is one of the most effective means of maintaining our strength. Sitting in the same spot for hours and avoiding any kind of physical exertion will not only make the seniors inactive, but will also bring several physical problems with it; one of them being atrophied muscles. Regular movements and even basic exercises, such as walking, could lead to better mobility and an active lifestyle.

Healing

David C. Niemen, a Ph.D. doctor and author, believes that the effect of physical activity on healing is so high that no medicine can even come close to replicating its effects. It was found that people who begin exercising early built up a better immune system which subsequently helped them deal with their injury faster.

Reduces Stress

It is not just physical fitness that can be achieved through exercises. In fact, it is our mental health that benefits from it too, just like most people run to get rid of their stress or play their favorite sports to release all that strain. Similarly, an elderly person too can have a positive effect on their mental health by doing exercises. Just taking a light stroll down the street on a bright sunny day can do wonders to lift their spirits.

Social Activity

Exercises are a solution to many of the senior problems and one of them includes loneliness and solitude. Joining group exercises and group activities will not only help seniors deal with all the rigidness in their bones, but will also give them an excellent opportunity to meet new people and have a positive impact on their life.

Prevents Injuries and Accidents

Most fatal injuries in seniors are caused by falling, which incidentally happens because of their bad coordination. Due to aging, muscles begin to grow weak and the only way to stay up to date with their body is through exercising. It will reduce the chances of falling and ultimately, lead to fewer risks of deadly injuries.

Better Sleep

Sleepless nights are just a side effect of growing old and the best way to deal with it is to have enough physical exertion in the daytime that will enable them to sleep peacefully at night.

Do not wait until later to get your elders in the habit of exercising. At the first sign of weakness, visit a doctor for an exercise plan and then reap the benefits.

* Disclaimer. This article is for information purposes only and as such, we highly recommend that the patient or the patient’s guardians refer to a physician for the appropriate type and amount of exercise that should be recommended for the person in question.

 

Supreme Court Supports Obamacare

The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in King vs. Burwell by a vote of 6-3 that the current Affordable Care Act will authorize federal tax credits to eligible Americans who are living in states how have their own exchanges, as well as the 34 states that have federal marketplaces.

The ruling has been considered a major victory for the ACA, confirming its role in the health care system and validating President Obama’s signature achievement. All three broadcast networks comvered the story, as well as social media, with NBC devoting nearly eight minutes to the subject, more than twice as much as ABC.

There were two lawsuits brought to the Supreme Court lawsuits regarding the Affordable Care Act:

  • The 2012 NIFIB V Seleblius case, which ruled in favor of the ACA with some changes.
  • The 2015 King V Burwell case also ruled in favor of Obamacare.

Although this was a major victory for President Obama, much still needs to be done regarding the Affordable Care Act. Tince there still exists a health care plan that has a $6,000 deductible. This necessities that a lot of work to be done before this ACA can be considered an effective tool for the American citizens who have need for it.

Five Moments of Hand Hygiene

In 2010, one in 25 hospital patients were subjected to Healthcare associated Infections (HAIs), as per a CDC study. Other studies (in the US and worldwide) have also found metrics similar to the CDC study.

In view of this, The World Health Organization (WHO) has provided “Five Moments of Hand Hygiene” guidelines that hospital staff members should adhere to when working with patients and also for their own safety. Specifically the WHO points out times when staff should ensure they have cleansed themselves from bacteria. They stress washing hands prior to touching a patient or aseptic procedures, after exposure to bodily fluids and after touching a patient and the patient’s surroundings.

Although these guidelines are practical and make sense, to enforce them is another story. Enter new technology. General Sensing, a technology company that specializes in using sensor networks to help increase the quality of care in hospitals has developed sensor devices that can monitor hygiene among hospital staff. In addition, it will subsequently ensure compliance with WHO guidelines. 

Called Medsense, it is a series of beacons that monitor when and how a staff employee washes their hands and transmits data to a central station for review by both the hospital administrator as well as the staff member. The employee wears a badge that contains a chip to monitor their hygiene.

According to a 2014 study in the Journal of Infection and Public Health showed that the WHO guidelines were followed 25% more in one month when health care employees utilized the MedSense network against those that didn’t.

Some employees may have abstentions to wearing the badge; however, it is part of the technocigal progress towards better health care and this will surely take priority and it is a known fact that employees perform better when they know they are being observed. A phenomena known as the Hawthorne Effect.

Dr. Garelick commented that “with the advent of 21st century techniques and technology, expect to see accelerated advancement in the quality of care for patients and employees in the medical field”.