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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IMPACTS OF PERIODONTAL DISEASE CAN REACH FAR BEYOND YOUR MOUTH

Periodontal disease can worsen these odds because people with gum disease are almost twice as likely to have heart disease. In addition to following advice to keep their hearts healthy, men should also work on protecting their hearts by keeping their mouths healthy.


Cancer

Periodontal disease is a common inflammatory disease, and the known risk factors — age, smoking, obesity, hypertension and diabetes — are also considered to be risk factors for systemic, or metastatic, cancer. Researchers have found men with gum disease are 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.


Prostate Health

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein produced exclusively by prostate cells. The chance of getting prostate cancer increases as PSA levels rise. There is evidence of a possible link between prostate health and periodontal health. The research shows men with indicators of gum disease, such as red, swollen

gums, as well as prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate, have higher levels of PSA than men with only one of these conditions.


Impotence

Research demonstrates an increased risk of impotence in men younger than 30 years and older than 70 years who also have periodontal disease. This does not mean gum disease causes impotence, only that there is an association between the two conditions. Men who have been diagnosed with periodontal disease have problems with impotence more often than men without gum disease.


Male Infertility

Periodontal disease has also been proposed to have a negative effect on a couple’s ability to conceive. According to the World Health Organization, roughly 8 percent to 10 percent of people are affected by infertility. In half of these cases, the issue seems to be related to male infertility. The same bacteria involved in causing periodontal disease are significantly involved with infertility issues.


Signs and Symptoms

The American Academy of Periodontology encourages people to watch for these common signs of periodontal disease:



Prevention

Luckily, adding certain habits to daily routines can help prevent periodontal disease.



Treatment

Treatment of gum disease varies based on the location and severity of the disease. A good place to start is to get a comprehensive periodontal evaluation (CPE) from a dental professional. During a CPE, a dentist will review your teeth, plaque level, gums, bite when the teeth close together, bone structure and other risk factors.

DR. ALLISON WRIGHT

Dr. Allison Wright is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. She is a specialist in periodontology, and her clinical interests include cosmetic surgery, soft-tissue grafting and dental implants. More information about UK Dentistry is available at www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu/dentistry.

more articles by dr Allison Wright

Recent studies show periodontal disease – more commonly known as gum disease – is much more common than previously thought, with almost half of the adults in the United States suffering from it. The prevalence of periodontal disease is even worse when looking at the male population: 60 percent of men over age 30 years suffer from gum disease.


Usually, the cause of periodontal disease is a sticky build-up of bacteria and plaque on the teeth. If left untreated, this build-up can cause the gums to become red and swollen and bleed easily. This swelling and inflammation can negatively affect the bone around the teeth, causing them to become loose.


Why are men more likely to suffer from gum disease? Men are typically less likely to go to the dentist for regular care, so often they have higher amounts of dental plaque and tartar and more bleeding in the gum area. Left untreated, these issues can lead to periodontal disease, which in turn can lead to tooth loss. Making matters worse, men who suffer from untreated periodontal disease may also see dramatic impacts on other areas of their heath.


Cardiovascular Disease

Men are already more likely to develop heart disease than women.