Add 6 Years To Your Life With These Dental Health Tips

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Read a magazine, watch prime time TV, or check out your favorite business blog, and you are sure to find the story of an independent business owner. These are often the stories of young people who have made it big by disrupting their industries—and even those who have created entirely new sectors. While inspiring a whole new generation of entrepreneurs, what these stories tend to miss are those that are the bedrock of the American economy.

Did you know that the majority of dentists are in fact entrepreneurs? Even more so than doctors, dentists are more likely to run their own small businesses in the form of private practices. They hire and manage their own support staff, are responsible for all billing and operations, and remain experts on oral health.

That’s how I approached Dr. Dom earlier this year, but what really left an impression on me was the oral health risks Americans are taking everyday. I asked my own friend Dr. Dom to share his most essential information and tips with people who may not know the dangers of poor hygiene.

Steve Mariotti: My dentist is always telling me to floss. How important is it really?

Dr. Dominic Donato: This is no trivial question. In fact, it could be a matter of life and death. According to Michael F. Rozien, MD, daily flossing can add almost six and a half years to your life. (1) The oral diseases we hear about every day; such as, gum disease, abscesses in the bone around the teeth, and caries (“cavities”) below the gum line could be shortening your life. But wait! No one ever died from a cavity. Well, at least, not directly, but many have died from coronaries (heart attacks), bacterial pneumonia, complications from diabetes and strokes, just to name a few of the diseases linked to poor oral health.

A tongue scraper can be essential tools for oral health
A tongue scraper can be essential tools for oral health

SM: How does oral disease cause these and other systemic conditions?

Dr. DD: The easy and most direct answer is one word: bacteremia, bacteria in the blood stream. When oral hygiene is poor, the numbers of bacteria colonizing the teeth could increase 2- to 10-fold, introducing more bacteria into tissue and the bloodstream, leading to an increase in the prevalence and magnitude of bacteremia. (2) These microscopic, one-cell plants (interestingly, bacteria are neither plant nor animal, according to modern taxonomy) can cause trouble when the wrong ones are in the wrong place. The blood particularly doesn’t like them. So, our bodies mount an attack against the bacteria called an immune response, part of which is inflammation. It is the collateral damage from this attack, especially the by-products from the inflammatory response, which hurts us.

SM: What other kinds of diseases stem from poor oral health?

Dr. DD: I have found The following non-oral diseases come through pathways stemming from the everyday oral diseases:

Sub-acute infective endocarditis (heart), acute bacterial myocarditis (heart), brain abscess, cavernous sinus thrombosis, sinusitis, lung abscess/infection, Ludwig’s angina (an infection in the floor of the mouth that comes from untreated infected teeth), orbital cellulitis (infection of the eye socket), skin ulcer, osteomyelitis (bone infection), prosthetic joint infection , bacterial pneumonia. (3) Cerebral infarction (brain), acute myocardial infarction (heart attack), abnormal pregnancy outcome, persistent pyrexia (fever), idiopathic trigeminal neuralgia (severe face pain), toxic shock syndrome, systemic granulocytic cell defects (immune deficiency), chronic meningitis. (4) Behcet’s syndrome (blood vessel inflammation), chronic urticarial (hives), uveitis (eye inflammation), inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease (a bowel disease). (5) The occurrence of Type II Adult onset diabetes is increasing at an alarming rate. It is well known that diabetes exacerbates gum disease, but only recently has research revealed that it is reasonable to conclude that proper treatment of periodontitis (moderate to severe gum disease) can alter the control of type II diabetes.

There is, also, some evidence linking Alzheimer’s disease with periodontal disease. One study has shown the existence of a substance in the brains of some Alzheimer patients that also is found on the surface of a bacterium that is commonly associated with periodontitis. However, there is not enough evidence at this time to assert any causal relationship. (6)

Chapped lips may be a sign of a chronically dry mouth
Chapped lips may be a sign of a chronically dry mouth

SM: Can you recommend any ways we can maintain good oral health ?

Dr. DD: Here are some simple tips to help keep the bacteria in your mouth to a minimum and lessen the threat of life-threatening bacteremia:

Brush at least twice a day, morning and before going to bed

Floss once per day, preferably before bedtime (tips here)

Brush gums and tongue. A soft brushed used gently to wipe the gums and tongue.

Visit the dentist twice per year for checkup and cleaning

Do not use mouth wash. They cause oral dryness. Bacteria thrive in a dry oral environment. Dry mouth can come from many sources; some common ones are, medication, smoking, too much caffeine.

Use a baking soda mouth rinse at bedtime. It is not drying, kills bacteria, and increases the PH of the saliva. Oral bacteria for the most part are acidophilic i.e. they love acid. They produce acid and need it for growth. Also, it is their acid that causes cavities.

Watch your diet. Limit high carbohydrate intake. One thing you really want to avoid is “picking” on sweets throughout the day. If you must have sugary/carbohydrate snacks, eat all at one time and then brush. If you cannot brush after having a high carbohydrate snack, rinse out with water.

Don’t smoke. In addition to causing a dry mouth, the tars deposit on the teeth which causes increased adherence for bacteria.

Dr. DD’s References:

  2. J Clin Periodontol. 2002 Nov;29(11):1029-34.
  3. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2000 Oct; 13(4): 547–558.
  4. Clinical Microbiology Reviews,0893-8512/00 10Oct.2000, p.547±558 Vol.13, No.4
  5. Clinical Microbiology Reviews,0893-8512/00 10Oct.2000, p.547±558 Vol.13, No.4
  6. Clinical Microbiology Reviews,0893-8512/00 10Oct.2000, p.547±558 Vol.13, No.4

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