FAQs about Fluoride for Children

When it comes to keeping you and your kid’s teeth strong and healthy, you’ve probably heard that fluoride is the best bet. Fluoride from different sources – water, oral health care products, and professionally-applied products – can help make your teeth more resistant to acid attacks by decay-causing bacteria. But other than that, there are a whole lot of things to know about this very important mineral.

Below are some of the questions parents often ask about fluoride and how it can contribute to the good oral health of their children.

How does fluoride protect against tooth decay?

Fluoride prevents tooth decay by neutralizing the acids produced by decay-causing bacteria in the mouth, and by making the tooth enamel more resistant to these acids. And if the decay happens to be already there, this mineral helps arrest the disease process to prevent further destruction.

To reap the benefits of fluoride, make sure that your kid brushes his or her teeth with fluoride-containing toothpaste.

When can kids start using fluoride toothpaste?

According to the American Dental Association (ADA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), kids may be allowed to use fluoride toothpastes once his or her first tooth shows up.

For kids below three years of age, a smear of toothpaste should be enough while a pea-sized amount may be given for those aged three and up.

Is it safe to drink fluoridated water?

Both the ADA and AAP agree that fluoridated water is safe and also an effective way to obtain the fluoride you need for your teeth. If you can, it is advisable to check the amount of fluoride in your drinking water, as too high levels can cause fluorosis.

Fluorosis pertains to the tooth discoloration caused by too much fluoride. It often appears as white spots or brownish streaks on the tooth enamel.

In more severe cases, it even alters the surface texture of the enamel, making it rough and bumpy. You can learn more about fluorosis in this article.

Can I mix fluoridated water with infant formula?

According to the ADA, it is fine to use fluoridated water to reconstitute infant formula. If your baby is primarily fed or exclusively feeds infant formula, then there’s the risk of mild fluorosis as side effect. This won’t affect your baby’s overall health but if you’re worried, you can always consult your pediatrician or dentist for some valuable professional advice.

What are the other sources of fluoride?

Aside from fluoride toothpastes and fluoridated water, you may also bring your kid to the dentist to avail of topical fluoride treatment.

Fluoride supplements are also available, but you may have to ask your dentist or pediatrician first prior to giving it to your kid. This supplement is often prescribed in kids living in areas without optimal fluoride levels in their drinking water.

Fluoride can also be obtained from food, so be sure to provide your kid with a healthy, balanced diet.

To determine your kid’s specific fluoride needs, and from which source will they get their fluoride needs best, talk to your dentist or pediatrician.

The Oral Health Effects of E-Cigarettes

In the recent years, electronic cigarettes (or e-cigarettes for short), have become increasingly popular due to their look and feel that match that of real cigarettes. They are even being endorsed as the safer alternative to your conventional smoking, as these e-cigarettes can give smokers their nicotine fix without the adverse effects associated with tobacco use.

Nonetheless, studies have found that this supposedly safer alternative is actually posing more dangers to its users, particularly in their oral health.

Listed below are some surprising adverse reactions of e-cigarettes that you should watch out for:

Decreased Salivary Flow:

One of the most common side effects of e-cigarettes is decreased salivary flow, which occurs as a result of nicotine constricting or narrowing the blood vessels. Without enough saliva, there will be other problems like mouth and throat dryness which, in turn, can lead to tooth decay and bad breath.

Mucosal Irritation:

The nicotine in the e-cigarettes, or even tobacco smoking for that matter, gets absorbed by the oral mucosa. This, in turn, may cause irritation particularly of the mucosa of the cheeks and pharynx. Such irritation may manifest as redness, mouth sores and blisters.

Gum Recession:

Nicotine, being a vasoconstrictor, can also reduce the amount of blood flow to the gum tissues. Without enough blood, the gums do not receive the right amount of oxygen and nutrients needed for them to survive and stay healthy; hence, they shrink or recede.

Gum recession, in turn, exposes tooth roots and thus cause sensitivity.

Hides Symptoms of Gum Disease:

This effect is also related to the vasoconstrictive effects of nicotine. Bleeding is the main symptom of gum disease, which dentists use to determine the severity of gum inflammation.

Since nicotine can cause decreased blood flow to the gums, bleeding will be minimal to none, thus giving that false impression that the gum tissue is healthy even when you actually have gum disease. This makes it hard to diagnose the disease and by the time it is detected, the disease has progressed and is in a worse state already. More severe gum disease means more complicated treatment required.

Furthermore, the constriction caused by nicotine does not go away upon cessation of smoking – it lasts long after you quit.

Grinding:

Nicotine can also fire up the muscles, especially during sleep. The increased muscle activity may cause you to start grinding your teeth, or if you already are a grinder, then the grinding habit will be more intense than before.

Studies say that those who are exposed to nicotine, whether through electronic or conventional cigarettes, are five times more likely to develop teeth grinding habits that those who aren’t.

There are many other possible impact of e-cigarettes not only on oral health, but on overall health as well.

Although manufacturers claim that e-cigarettes are healthier than traditional cigarettes, more studies must be conducted to provide more solid evidences for such claim. Until then, the best thing to do is to stay away from both e-cigarettes and cigarettes.

Top 5 Foods that Help Bust Bad Breath

We all know how foods like onion and garlic cause bad breath due to the pungent oils they produce. Fortunately, there are also foods that have the opposite effect. These foods can help bust bad breath, but only temporarily – like an hour or two. Nonetheless, this is already enough time until you are able to do something about the real cause – the odor-causing bacteria in the mouth.

Green Tea

We are all aware of the many health benefits green tea has, so it is not surprising that this wonder beverage can also fight bad breath. The bad breath-fighting ability of green tea is attributed to the chemical called cathecin. Cathecin is a powerful antioxidant that helps fight the bacteria that causes the foul odor. This compound is effective not only against odor-causing bacteria, but also against other harmful bacteria in the mouth.

In fact, according to some sources, green tea is more effective than mints in masking bad breath.

In addition to fighting bacteria, green can also reduce the amounts of volatile sulfur compounds in the mouth, which is the actual cause of the bad breath.

Parsley

Parsley is another popular remedy to bad breath, next only to green tea. Its odor-fighting ability is due to a compound called chlorophyll, which is found mostly in green and leafy plants. Chlorophyll has a strong scent that follows the sulfur compounds all the way to the bloodstream and lungs, thereby masking the smell when you breathe.

Yogurt

Yogurt contains live cultures of good bacteria that can effectively combat the bad bacteria that cause foul breath. In addition, it can neutralize the volatile sulfur compounds, particularly hydrogen sulfide, produced by these bad bacteria. But to be more effective, you have to consume one that’s free of sugar.

Fibrous Fruits and Vegetables

Fibrous fruits help get rid of bad breath by mechanically removing bacteria much like brushing does. They also stimulate the production of saliva which helps wash away the odor-producing bacterial by-products. Apples, pears, carrots, celery, and cucumbers are the most effective for this purpose.

Nuts

Nuts like almonds and walnuts work in pretty the same way as your fibrous fruits and vegetables because they are also loaded with fiber. Likewise, they are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids which can help reduce the amount of bacteria in the mouth.

Take note that while the foods listed above are effective in masking foul breath, they should not, in any way, be a substitute to your oral hygiene practices. The solution they provide is only temporary. The more permanent solution is (and always will be) brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day. When brushing your teeth, be sure to brush your tongue as well because it is where odor-causing bacteria thrive the most.

Furthermore, visit your dentist regularly for checkups and professional cleaning. If you’re bad breath remains persistent, your dentist will refer you to a medical doctor because the foul odor could be a sign of something else.

Things You Should Know About Toothpastes

toothpaste. This toothbrush buddy comes in many forms, and they contain different ingredients. There are ordinary toothpastes, and there are ones formulated for your special needs. Learn more about this oral health goodie below.

What is Toothpaste Made up of?

Different toothpastes contain different list of ingredients, but the general components include the following:

  • Abrasives – along with your toothbrush, aid in the mechanical removal of debris and surface stains.

  • Fluoride – makes the teeth stronger by rendering it more resistant to the acids produced by decay-causing bacteria.

  • Humectant – retains water and prevents your toothpaste from drying out and getting lumpy or gummy.

  • Detergent – acts as foaming agent that helps spread the toothpaste around the mouth; it also has some cleaning action.

  • Binder – thickening agent; it helps stabilize and hold the toothpaste formula together.

  • Flavoring Agents – add some sweetness and scent to your toothpaste, making it more pleasant to use.

Why are Some Toothpaste More Expensive than Others?

Even though they have the same basic ingredients, not all toothpastes are created equal. Depending on the type of toothpaste, some special ingredients are added for increased benefits, hence the higher price. These include ingredients that are especially formulated for tartar control, whitening, and relief of sensitivity. More often than not, the most expensive toothpastes are the ones for sensitivity.

What are the Different Types of Toothpastes?

Toothpastes are classified based on what oral health problem they were formulated for. These types include:

  • Fluoride Toothpastes – these are your ordinary toothpastes which are formulated to fight and prevent tooth decay. As the name suggests, the main ingredient is fluoride. Fluoride strengthens the enamel and makes it less susceptible to tooth decay. And if tooth decay is already there, fluoride toothpastes may also aid in the arresting the decay process.

  • Tartar Control Toothpastes – these toothpastes do not move tartar deposits per se; rather, they work to remove as much plaque as possible to prevent further tartar buildup. Some manufacturers claim that this type may also work to soften the deposits.

  • Whitening Toothpastes – if you’re looking to give your smile a little bit of sparkle, then this type of toothpaste is your best bet. Whitening toothpastes have more abrasives than ordinary toothpastes, allowing them to be more effective in removing surface stains. Some may also have bleaching ingredients like peroxides, or polishing agents that makes the teeth shinier.

Take note that whitening toothpastes are intended only to restore the natural color of your teeth. It won’t make your teeth any whiter than its natural shade.

  • Desensitizing Toothpastes – this type is prescribed for individuals who experience sensitivity, either as a result of tooth decay or gum disease.

Desensitizing toothpastes contain compounds that work to physically block the exposed tubules of the tooth. These tubules connect directly to the nerves in the pulp, causing sensitivity. Blocking these tubules brings quick relief from sensitivity.

Which Type of Toothpaste is the Best?

The best toothpaste for you depends on what your oral health needs are. But no matter which one you choose or which one your dentist prescribes, always make sure that it has a seal of approval by the American Dental Association.

Bad Breath 101: Identifying the Causes of this Oral Malady

Like tooth decay, another common oral health problem around the world is halitosis, of what is commonly known as bad breath.

According to statistics, as much as one in every four Americans experience this oral malady.

While popping those breath mints and practice of good oral hygiene should be enough to keep your breath fresh, it is still important to know what causes that stinky breath to begin with.

Poor Oral Hygiene

Poor oral hygiene is the number one cause of bad breath. If you don’t brush your teeth well, plaque can accumulate and harden into tartar. The rough surface of tartar promotes further plaque accumulation. In addition, you’ll also have food stuck between your teeth that can rot over time.

The numerous bacteria in plaque combined with the rotting bits of food in your mouth cause the unpleasant odor.

Practicing good oral hygiene is the only solution in this case. Be sure to brush your teeth every after meal, and go to your dentist regularly for check-up and professional cleaning.

Certain Foods and Spices

Aside from poor oral hygiene, another common cause of bad breath is the food you eat. Food with strong smell and flavor are usually the culprit. These include garlic, onions, cheese, and soda to name a few. Garlic and onions, in particular can cause bad breath right after consuming them.

You can get rid of the odor by brushing and flossing, but only temporarily. They continue to produce the bad odor long after you’ve eaten them because they get absorbed in the bloodstream and get expelled from the body through the lungs.

Therefore, the best way to prevent bad breath caused by these foods is to reduce your consumption as much as possible.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, or what dentists call xerostomia, is caused by reduced salivary flow. It can be due to smoking, medications, problems with the salivary glands, or even sleeping with your mouth wide open.

The saliva is the mouth’s natural cleanser, given its ability to wash away bacteria and their acids. If your mouth is dry, bacteria can accumulate and the acids they generate can cause tooth decay. And needless to say, a decayed tooth does not smell so good.

Your dentist can manage this by prescribing saliva substitutes, or by asking you to take sugar-free gum or increase your fluid intake. If you are a smoker, you will be advised to quit smoking.

Systemic Diseases

Certain systemic conditions can also have bad breath as one of its manifestations. These include diabetes, liver diseases, kidney disorders, respiratory problems, cancers, and GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease).

Problems of the upper respiratory tract, for instance, produce sputum that can be coughed up into the oral cavity, causing halitosis.

If your dentist identifies systemic problem as the cause, he or she will refer you to a physician for proper management.

Malnutrition

Starvation, whether intentional or not, can cause bad breath due to the breakdown of certain chemicals as the body tries to desperately cope up with the lack of available energy source from food. If this is the cause, you will be advised to eat right.

If you have bad breath, don’t hesitate to talk to your dentist about it. Your dentist can help identify what’s causing this problem and devise a treatment plan that will help get rid of it.

For more tips and advice on how to prevent or eliminate bad breath, check out this article.

Guilt-Free Treats For Your Sweet Tooth

Let’s face it: anything that could satisfy our sweet tooth isn’t going to be considered healthy at all – and that’s for one simple reason sugar! But the thing is, there are now a lot of low-sugar, or even sugar-free options that you can choose from and they actually include beneficial nutrients like protein or fiber.

So here are some of the guilt-free ways to indulge your sweet tooth.

Dark Chocolate

The health benefits of consuming dark chocolate has been circulating for quite a while already, but it’s still good news especially to all chocolate lovers out there.

Dark chocolate is loaded with these three powerful antioxidants – flavonoids, polyphenols, and tannins. Out of these, tannin is the most important due to its antimicrobial property.

In addition, it also prevents bacteria from sticking onto the surface of your teeth.

Take note that when choosing your chocolate, not any chocolate bar will do. Dark chocolates consist of at least 70% cacao.

Such percentage is recommended, because it contains much less fat and sugar than normal chocolate.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberry

If the bitter taste of dark chocolate is not your thing and you want to add a little punch to it, try eating it with another healthy food like strawberries.

Melt dark chocolate and allow it to cool for a bit. Dip your fresh strawberries into it then refrigerate until the chocolate hardens.

Choco-Banana Ice Cream

Ice cream lovers would surely love this healthy version of their favorite sweet treat.

Bananas are an excellent source of vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.

Start by melting a cup of dark chocolate, then allowing it to cool at room temperature.

Get 2-3 bananas then peel and slice them into small pieces. Put them into a blender and process until smooth.

Add in the melted chocolate and process again until thoroughly combined. Adjust sweetness by adding some honey.

Transfer to a container with lid then put back in the freezer. Allow it to freeze for at least an hour before serving.

Yogurt Parfait

Greek yogurt is one of your best and healthiest options you can indulge if you want a sweet treat.

Plain or vanilla-flavored yogurt will do. Yogurt may contain some sugar, but it is also loaded with proteins to keep you full for longer.

Get a cup of this yummy goodie then top it with nuts, fruits, or granola. Make it even yummier by putting dark chocolate shavings on top.

Fruit Popsicle’s

Another refreshing way to satisfy your sweet tooth is to make a fruit Popsicle from your favorite fruits.

Watermelon, peaches, and berries are just some of the options that will make great pops.

Put your chunks of your preferred fruit into a blender or food processor.

Add some lime juice, apple juice, and honey to sweeten. Process until smooth, then pour into Popsicle molds. Freeze for a few hours before serving.

Although these treats are healthy and practically guilt-free, you must still consume them in moderation.

And after eating, it is still advised to brush your teeth or at least follow it up with a good swish of water until you have the chance to brush.

It is also recommended to visit your dentist for regular checkups and professional cleaning.

Anyway, you can always reward yourself with a nice delightful treat after your visit.

Management of Oral Habits

As we have learned from our previous blog post, oral habits are pretty common especially in young kids. We’ve also discussed how these habits can cause unsightly changes to teeth and/or jaws.

In this second article, we will now focus on treatment.

Thumb Sucking:

Thumb sucking is caused by many different things, and it’s important to determine what the underlying issue is before rendering any treatment or intervention.

First of all, you should know that thumb sucking is actually a self-soothing habit for kids, but it can be detrimental to the alignment of the teeth in the long run.

In most cases, kids simply grow out of it without any intervention, while others just can’t bring themselves to stop it. Extreme cases, meanwhile, can be solved only with the help of a child therapist.

Discontinuation should occur spontaneously and not forced upon the child. Once the habit is completely stopped, only then can definitive treatment be rendered.

The sooner or earlier the habit is stopped, the more likely the changes that occurred will correct itself. One way to do so is by counseling the kid.

The success of counseling depends on the kid’s level of understanding – that is, his or her ability to understand the troubles thumb sucking can cause. Counseling is therefore more appropriate for older kids.

Besides counseling, another approach is the so-called reminder therapy. This is for kids who need additional help in stopping the habit. It involves putting a cue – can be a bandage, a bitter substance, etc. – on the patient’s finger to serve as reminder that they should not put their finger into their mouth. But be sure to emphasize over and over again that the cue is a just reminder and not some sort of punishment.

Also, praising the kid for stopping the habit can help a lot. The reminder therapy may also be combined with a reward system, wherein if the kid is able to discontinue the habit within a specified amount of time, he or she will be given a reward. If either counseling and reminder therapy proves to be ineffective, only then will installation of preventive appliances be necessary.

Tongue Thrusting:

Management of tongue thrusting comes in two methods.

The first one involves the use of an appliance similar to a mouth-guard or it can also be a more permanent appliance adjusted by the dentist on a regular basis.

The other approach is by training the patient to change his or her swallowing pattern. This is achieved through a series of exercises called the orofacial myofunctional therapy. Such method sorts of “re-educate” the muscles into following the right swallowing pattern. The orofacial myofunctional therapy offers high and long-term success rate.

Lip Sucking:

There really isn’t much we can do to stop the lip sucking habit; nonetheless, steroids and antibiotic ointments may be applied to provide relief on irritated areas.

Bruxism:

Intervention is usually not necessary since most kids outgrow bruxism. But for those who don’t, there are a couple of treatments that can help. These include fabrication of mouthguards, performing stress-reducing exercises, removal of interferences on biting surfaces of the teeth, and referral to appropriate specialists to rule out any medical or psychological problems.

The first step is consulting your dentist to determine which of these options would be most appropriate for you or your kid’s case.

Nail Biting

The simplest, most practical solution to this habit is applying nail polish to discourage the practice. Behavioral therapy may also be helpful, but kids would probably prefer nail polish since it can also make their nails look attractive. And since nail biting has been linked to obsessive-compulsive behaviors, severe cases of this habit – which, in some cases could also involve finger biting – may therefore require the use of some anti-depressants.

The Effects of Medications on Your Oral Health

During your first dental check-up, one of the things your dentist will ask you about is the medications you are currently taking or have taken within the past months.

Certain medications – over-the-counter, prescription, and herbal preparations – can affect oral health. As these drugs become more available, there will more and more medication-related oral side effects seen among patients.

Information about your medications should help your dentist and medical doctor to work together in developing an appropriate treatment plan for you and ensuring that you will be safe during treatment.

Dry Mouth

A common side effect of many medications is xerostomia, which is more popularly known as dry mouth. It occurs as a result of decreased salivary flow. Saliva helps prevent tooth decay by neutralizing acids produced by the oral bacteria, and decreased amounts of saliva mean increased risk for tooth decay.

Medications that can cause dry mouth include anti-inflammatory, antihistamines, anti-glaucoma drugs, antihypertensives, antidepressants, anti-anxiety drugs, antipsychotics, anti-retrovirals (for HIV-positive individuals), and narcotics. Radiation treatment to the head and neck can also damage the salivary glands, leading to dry mouth.

To manage dry mouth, your dentist will prescribe saliva substitutes. These won’t treat the condition but only provide temporary relief. You will also be advised to avoid sugary foods and drinks, and brush your teeth right before going to bed and at least once during the day.

Alterations in Taste and Smell

Taste and smell disturbance is also a common side effect especially of medications that leave a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth. Examples of such are antidepressants, stimulants, cardiovascular agents, NSAIDs, respiratory inhalants, and nicotine skin patches.

Gingival Hyperplasia

Gingival hyperplasia pertains to the enlargement of the gum tissue. It is often associated with immunosuppresants and medications for epilepsy, heart diseases, and high blood pressure.

Abnormal Bleeding

Alterations in normal blood flow are often caused by medications such as aspirin, steroids, and anticoagulants like heparin and warfarin. Aspirin and anticoagulants, in particular, are used as blood thinner to prevent common conditions such as strokes and heart attack. If you plan to undergo tooth extraction or any other procedure where bleeding is anticipated, it is important to tell your dentist about these drugs to prevent excessive bleeding during the operation.

Tooth Discoloration

Tooth discoloration is often seen as a side effect of antibiotics, particularly tetracycline, which causes bright yellow to dark brown staining. The staining occurs most often in developing teeth of young children and unborn baby of a mother who uses it. Other antibiotics that can cause staining are ciprofloxacin and minocycline. Minocycline can cause staining even in fully-developed teeth.

Tooth Decay

Some medications can cause tooth decay due to their high sugar content. These include syrups, cough drops, vitamins, antacids, and some oral anti-fungal agents. Long-term use of these medications increases your risk of developing tooth decay, unless you practice good oral hygiene.

Given the side effects discussed about, you now know how really important it is to tell your dentist about the medications you are taking so he or she tailor the most appropriate dental care plan for you. Always provide an accurate history of your medications – both prescription and non-prescription – and inform your dentist of any changes in medication use.

How Smoking Affects Your Oral Health?

Smoking is bad for the health – a fact that all of us know. It is responsible for 90% of lung cancer cases and about 30% of all reported cases of cancer.

It also increases one’s risk for heart attack and shortens lifespan by 10-15 years on the average.

Simply put, smoking is the singlemost important preventable cause of illness and death.

Based on how smoking is performed, it should not come as surprise that this habit also affects the health of the teeth and oral tissues.

For one, it can cause bad breath as well as dulled sense of taste and smell, but that’s just the beginning of something far worse.

Here are the other possible oral health impacts of smoking, as well as other forms of tobacco products:

It Increases Your Risk for Oral Diseases

All forms of tobacco products – pipes, cigarettes, and even chewing (smokeless) tobacco—increases one’s risk for oral disease, most especially gum disease and tooth decay.

It does so by interfering with the normal function of the body’s immune system, making it harder to fight off bacteria and other disease-causing microorganisms.

Smokeless tobacco, in particular, can irritate the gums and cause it to pull away from your teeth and recede.

Gum recession exposes the tooth roots, which leads to the sensitivity of the teeth involved. This, in turn, makes eating and drinking uncomfortable.

Exposed tooth root also increases risk for decay, especially since smokeless tobacco also contains sugars.

A report by the Journal of the American Dental Association revealed that smokeless tobacco users are more likely to develop tooth decay than non-users.

Furthermore, smokeless tobacco also has sand and grit that can wear down the teeth and make gum disease worsen much faster.

It has been shown that bone loss and gum recession are more severe smokers and smokeless tobacco users than in individuals with no such habits.

It Masks the True Severity of Oral Diseases

Gum disease is characterized by the presence of red, swollen gums that bleeds easily when you brush or floss.

As the disease get worse, the gum tissue starts to break down and pull away from the teeth, forming what is known as periodontal pockets.

This pocket will get deeper and deeper as the supporting structures are continually destroyed. Eventually, the teeth will become loose and eventually fall out.

In smokers and smokeless tobacco users, the symptoms of gum diseases are not as apparent as those in non-users. They have much less gum bleeding, redness, and the gums look normal overall.

This gives the impression that the gum tissue is healthy when in reality, there is destruction underneath.

It is therefore extremely important for tobacco users to have regular dental visits to evaluate the true condition of their gums.

It Encourages The Accumulation of Plaque and Calculus

The main cause of gum disease and most oral diseases is plaque. Gum disease is an infection caused by the bacteria that grow in the dental plaque.

The harmful substances produced by these bacteria, along with the immune system’s reaction to them, results to the breakdown of the soft tissues and bone.

Calculus, more popularly known as tartar, is the hardened form of plaque. It has a rough surface that where plaque can stick to, leading to further accumulation.

Smokers and tobacco users tend to have more plaque and calculus compared to non-users. The increased accumulation is attributed mainly to decreased salivary flow.

Poor Response to Treatment

Smoking and tobacco use not only increase your risk of developing gum disease, but they also makes treatment much more difficult, unpredictable, and less likely to succeed.

This is especially true if it is an oral surgery treatment like dental implant placement.

That’s because the nicotine in tobacco causes the blood vessels to constrict, resulting to impaired blood flow. Impaired blood flow means less oxygen delivered to the tissues, and this affects wound healing and overall response to treatment.

Oral Cancer

Cancer is probably the greatest health threat posed by this nasty habit.

Aside from lung cancer, smoking has been proven to increase the risk of oral cancer, as well as cancer of the throat and esophagus.

It may also lead to cancer of the bladder, kidneys, and several other organs. And according to the American Cancer Society, patients who continue the habit after cancer treatment will develop second cancers of the mouth, throat or larynx.

When smoking or tobacco use is coupled with alcohol consumption, the health effects can be even more devastating.

Oral Diseases and Systemic Health

The importance of our oral health does not end with having that nice-looking smile – it is also essential to our general health and well-being.

A healthy mouth not only allows for good nutrition of the physical body, but it also enhances self-esteem and overall well-being.

Furthermore, experts have known for quite some time that the mouth is connected to the rest of the body, and may therefore give signals about any underlying disorder that the body is experiencing.

The mouth like most areas of the body contains a lot of bacteria, most which are harmless. Under normal circumstances, our body’s immune defenses coupled with good oral hygiene can keep these bacteria under control.

However, if there’s lack of proper oral hygiene, the amount of bacteria grows into amounts that the body can no longer handle, leading to oral infections. The most common of these are tooth decay and periodontal disease.

Recognizing that oral health infections can have adverse effects on general health is essential for your dentist to devise an appropriate oral health care program.

Listed below are the systemic conditions that can affect or be affected by oral health in one way or another.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetics are more prone to oral infections than any other patients with systemic diseases. Periodontal disease is so among diabetics that it is often referred to as the sixth complication of the disease. It pertains to the inflammation of structures that support the teeth, which include the gums, attachment apparatus, and bone. The severity of inflammation is often indicative of how well the diabetes is under control.

Diabetes mellitus and periodontal disease is actually a two-way street, as severe forms of periodontal disease can also affect the patient’s blood sugar levels.

Treating diabetes helps in the resolution of periodontal disease in the same manner that treating periodontal disease leads to better control of blood sugar levels. Other oral diseases associated with diabetes include dry mouth and tooth decay. Dry mouth can also increase one’s risk of developing periodontal disease.

Heart disease

It has also been suggested that periodontal disease is linked to heart disease, most especially bacterial endocarditis. The association between the two is mainly brought about by periodontal inflammation which is triggered when the oral bacteria enter the bloodstream and attach themselves to the blood vessels that supply the heart. In endocarditis, the bacteria go as far as into the inner lining of the heart.

Periodontal disease can also cause any existing heart conditions to worsen. This necessitates the use of prophylactic antibiotics in a patient who wishes to undergo dental treatment – especially procedures where bleeding is anticipated (i.e. extractions, implant surgery, etc). Your dentist and cardiologist will determine if you need prophylactic antibiotics.

Stroke

Due to their effect on the blood vessels, there also exists a relationship between oral infections and cerebrovascular accident – a.k.a. stroke. This relationship is based on several studies which evaluated oral infection as a possible risk factor for the disease. The results revealed that most patients who have had stroke were more likely to have an existing oral infection compared to the healthy participants.

Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weak and brittle bones, is often associated with bone loss in periodontal disease. The connection is in the drugs used to treat the condition, which can cause some damage to the jawbone. As the density of the jawbone continues to decrease, the teeth will no longer have that solid foundation to support them. This ultimately leads to tooth loss.

Respiratory Disease

According to research, the bacteria found in the oral cavity may be aspirated into the lungs and cause respiratory diseases, the most common of which is pneumonia. Such relationship is frequently observed in patients with periodontal disease.

Cancer

Arguably the most dreadful of them all is the association between oral diseases and cancer. Studies say that individuals – men, most especially – who suffer from periodontal disease are more likely to develop kidney, pancreatic, and blood cancers compared to those with good periodontal health.

Now, aren’t these some very good reasons for keeping your mouth and teeth healthy from now on? If you suffer from any of these conditions, better consult your dentist now for specific instructions on how to maintain your oral health.