This section is dedicated to the latest information on oral health topics, culled from authoritative sources such as the American Dental Association.
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Poor dental hygiene can cause a host of problems outside your mouth-including your heart. Medical research has uncovered a definitive link between heart disease and certain kinds of oral infections such as periodontal disease. Some have even suggested that gum disease may be as dangerous as or more dangerous than other factors such as tobacco use. A condition called chronic periodontitis, or persistent gum disease, has been linked to cardiovascular problems by medical researchers.
In short, infections and harmful bacteria in your mouth can spread through the bloodstream to your liver, which produces harmful proteins that can lead to systemic cardiac problems. That's why it is critical to practice good oral hygiene to keep infections at bay-this includes a daily regimen of brushing, flossing and rinsing.
In some cases, patients with compromised immune systems or who fear an infection from a dental procedure may take antibiotics before visiting the dentist.
It is possible for bacteria from your mouth to enter your bloodstream during a dental procedure in which tissues are cut or bleeding occurs. A healthy immune system will normally fight such bacteria before they result in an infection. However, certain cardiovascular conditions in patients with weakened hearts could be at risk for an infection or heart muscle inflammation (bacterial endocarditis) resulting from a dental procedure.
Patients with heart conditions (including weakened heart valves) are strongly advised to inform our office before undergoing any dental procedure. The proper antibiotic will prevent any unnecessary complications.
Dentistry Health Care That Works: Tobacco
The American Dental Association has long been a leader in the battle against tobacco-related disease, working to educate the public about the dangers inherent in tobacco use and encouraging dentists to help their patients break the cycle of addiction. The Association has continually strengthened and updated its tobacco policies as new scientific information has become available.
Smoking and Implants
Recent studies have shown that there is a direct link between oral tissue and bones loss and smoking. Tooth loss and edentulism are more common in smokers than in non-smokers. In addition, people who smoke are more likely to develop severe periodontal disease.
The formation of deep mucosal pockets with inflammation of the peri-implant mucosa around dental implants is called peri-implantitis. Smokers treated with dental implants have a greater risk of developing peri-implantitis. This condition can lead to increased resorption of peri-implant bone. If left untreated, peri-implantitis can lead to implant failure. In a recent international study, smokers showed a higher score in bleeding index with greater peri-implant pocket depth and radiographically discernible bone resorption around the implant, particularly in the maxilla.
Many studies have shown that smoking can lead to higher rates of dental implant failure. In general, smoking cessation usually leads to improved periodontal health and a patient’s chance for successful implant acceptance.
Before prescribing any medications — even lifesaving ones, such as those used to reduce blood pressure or prevent epileptic seizures — your health care professionals carefully weigh the benefits a drug offers against the possible risks of taking it, including its potential side effects. In most cases, the side effects are relatively slight: for example, drowsiness, an upset stomach, or minor aches. But in some individuals, particular drugs may produce side effects that are more troublesome.
This is sometimes the case with a class of drugs called calcium channel blockers (CCBs), which are commonly used to treat high blood pressure (hypertension) and certain other heart conditions. Some people who take these medications experience a condition called gingival hyperplasia, or an overgrowth of gum tissue. This effect has also been seen in some epileptics who take an anti-seizure medication called phenytoin.
Possible Side Effects
CCBs work by dilating (widening) the blood vessels, which makes it easier for the heart to pump blood. But in a small percentage of people, they also cause changes in the gums. Gum tissue may become thick and lumpy, and it may sometimes extend abnormally and start to cover the teeth. This change in appearance can cause social embarrassment, as well as discomfort and difficulty in chewing.
The overgrowth of gum tissue also makes it difficult or impossible to clean the spaces between teeth. This can cause a rapid deterioration in oral hygiene that may lead to full-blown gum disease if not treated promptly. And since poor oral hygiene is itself a contributing factor in gum overgrowth, the condition can easily spiral out of control.
In addition, some CCBs also reduce saliva flow. This may not only cause the mouth to feel dry, but may also severely reduce saliva's protective effects on the teeth and gums.
What To Do About Gum Overgrowth
It's always a good idea to tell your health care providers about any side effects you may be experiencing as soon as you notice them. However, even though gum tissue overgrowth may be a worrisome issue, it doesn't mean you should stop taking your blood pressure medication! There are several options for controlling this condition, which should be discussed with all members of your medical team.
With your doctor's consent, it may be possible for you to change your dosage or switch to a different blood pressure medication that produces fewer side effects. It can take a few months for your gums to return to normal after the change, while you are maintaining good oral hygiene at home. But even if it's not possible for you to change your medication, there are a number of in-office treatments that can be used to help alleviate the problem.
Non-surgical treatments like scaling and root planing (a type of deep cleaning) are sometimes the first step to controlling gum overgrowth. These relatively minor procedures can dramatically improve your overall oral hygiene. If necessary, they may be followed by surgical treatments to remove overgrown tissue and eliminate periodontitis — a serious condition which, if left untreated, could result in tooth loss.
In addition to regular dental cleanings, you will need to be extra vigilant at home: proper brushing technique and the use of interdental cleaners (such as floss) are needed to clean the spaces between teeth is a must. Your progress will be monitored at follow-up dental visits as needed.
While gum tissue overgrowth may seem a daunting problem, experience has shown that it can be successfully controlled by initial periodontal therapy, good at-home care, and frequent follow-up visits. Meanwhile, you should continue to follow all of your doctors' recommendations for maintaining a healthy blood pressure.