A Healthy Mouth and Healthy Aging

For over 20 years, September has been designated healthy aging month. This is an annual celebration of the positive side to growing older. During this month, a variety of sources provide Inspiration and ideas for baby boomers and adults aged 45 and above to help them to improve their physical, mental, social, as well as financial well-being.  It is our hope that we at Designs For Dental Health can provide some pertinent information to contribute to our fellow baby boomers.

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It is interesting to note that there are over 76 million baby boomers today over the age of fifty and the first of the 82 million Generation X-ers are about to reach that milestone in 2015.  Why not use September as a time to look back on where you’ve been and consider what you might truly like to do with the rest of your life.  If you’re happy and fulfilled with what you’re currently doing, keep on keeping on!  If not, this is definitely the time to make a change.  From my point of view, I’m happy to keep on doing what we, as your dental care providers, love to do most.  Help to keep you healthy! dreamstime_l_21764121

So, with that in mind, here’s our question for you today: How’s your smile? 

  

First of all, research supports the idea that those who smile more are just plain happier.  Secondly, those with a healthy mouth are much less likely to develop a myriad of diseases commonly suffered by those of us in the 60+ population. So ask yourself- when is the last time that you had a comprehensive dental examination to determine your overall oral health and the best methods used to maintain it?  I promise to provide such a comprehensive examination free of charge for anyone over age 55 who has been a patient in our practice for more than 5 years and who requests it.  That’s right!  All you have to do is ask! I’ll sit down with you for as long as it takes to discuss your concerns and desires.  Then, we’ll do a comprehensive examination including an oral cancer screening, evaluation of your teeth, gums, and bite. Together, we’ll discuss any options that might be available to you to improve your dental health and from that discussion we will arrive at the best treatment plan for you.

 

Consider this – a mere 60 years ago, it was assumed that we would lose all of our natural teeth as we aged.  Now we know that a healthy mouth and teeth will help you to not only look good, but to eat delicious and nutritious foods, to speak clearly and to be confident.  An excellent quality of life demands a vibrantly healthy mouth.  Just consider the fact that those whose oral health is subpar are at risk for various serious medical conditions including: heart disease, stroke, diabetes, pneumonia, cancer, and various other diseases which are common in older adults.

 

What are some common oral health problems?

 

  1. Dry mouth.   Reduced salivary flow is most commonly the result of cancer treatments, the use of certain medications, and certain diseases. Dry mouth is a significant cause of decay and gum disease in older patients because saliva serves to buffer acids that are produced as we eat.  Without the protection of these buffers, rapidly advancing problems occur. 

  2. Darkened teeth.   Our teeth tend to darken with time as the pulp in our teeth recedes and the outer layer of enamel becomes thinner, thus allowing the darker dentin to show through. There are various methods available to whiten the teeth for a more youthful appearance.  These techniques do not harm teeth and most patients are extremely happy with their whiter, more beautiful smiles. 

  3. Root decay. As the gums recede, exposure of the tooth roots result. Exposed root surfaces are less resistant to decay than enamel and decay here is quite common. Good brushing and plaque removing habits go a long way to protect these surfaces. In addition, the judicious use of fluoride rinses can be most helpful to protect these exposed surfaces. 

  4. Gum disease. Inflammation of the gums and resulting bone loss in more advanced cases is quite common in adults over the age of 50.  Gum disease is worsened by poorly fitting tooth restorations, less than ideal dietary choices, and certain diseases like anemia, cancer, and diabetes.  The best way to fight gum disease is to practice excellent oral hygiene and have regular dental exams and cleanings as recommended in your particular case. 

  5. Tooth loss. Gum disease is the number one cause of tooth loss; however, teeth which have broken due to old, large silver fillings or simple attrition require prompt attention to avoid unnecessary loss of teeth!  Restoring a broken tooth is always better and less expensive than losing a tooth and later trying to replace it. 

  6. Uneven jawbone. This common problem is a result of premature tooth loss.  Once a tooth is lost, the bone previously around that root vanishes and teeth adjacent to and opposing the missing tooth will shift.  This causes an uneven bite and places for food and bacteria to become trapped. 

  7. Oral cancer. Routine examinations are essential to identify possible cancerous conditions in the mouth. Always report unusual lumps or bumps or discolorations to your dentist or hygienists promptly! 

So what is the best way to maintain your good oral health?  It’s the same regardless of your age!    

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  1. Brush at least twice a day with good quality toothpaste as recommended by your dentist or hygienist. The most important time to brush is just before bed!! 

  1. Floss or otherwise thoroughly clean between your teeth at least one time each day. 

  1. Visit your dentist or hygienist on a regular basis as recommended by them for regular cleanings and oral examinations.  

  1. Use appropriate rinses or fluorides or other such adjuncts as recommended by your dental professionals. 

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If you have any questions about healthy aging month or would like a complementary comprehensive examination please call us at 908.359.6655 or contact us via our website at www.DesignsForDentalHealth.com

Gum Disease, Inflammation, and Your Health

All of our body’s organ systems are interconnected. What happens in one system can and often does affect other systems. One prominent and currently emphasized interrelationship is the one between periodontal (gum) disease and cardiovascular disease. And in particular, it is inflammation which is the common link between these two conditions.

Inflammation by itself is not a bad thing. Acute inflammation is the body’s normal response to injury and infection. This type of inflammation is experienced as redness, pain and swelling. Immediately after an injury, there is a biochemical reaction which improves blood flow to the affected area. Nerve and other cells send out signals to recruit white blood cells which help fight foreign bodies. This acute inflammation is absolutely necessary for normal good health.

There is another kind of inflammation which is our main concern in this article. That is chronic inflammation which is also known as low–grade or systemic inflammation. This inflammation is long–lasting and examples include autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. In these cases the body mistakenly initiates an inflammatory response even though there is no actual infection or injury to be fought. Other examples of chronic inflammation include inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

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Chronic “hidden” inflammation occurs throughout the body when something engages the immune system. This engagement varies from person to person but may include repeated or prolonged infection, smoking and gum disease. Obesity also makes one prone to inflammation as fat cells turn out inflammatory proteins called cytokines. Most people don’t know that they are inflamed. There is a test which measures the inflammatory marker called the C–reactive protein but it is not used routinely to determine increased risk of associated diseases. The important point is that inflammation is the primary cause for most of our serious chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cerebrovascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease to name but a few.

As far as the connection between gum disease and cardiovascular disease, research indicates that heart disease, clogged arteries, stroke and bacterial endocarditis may all be linked to oral health. Researchers believe that gum–disease–producing bacteria enter the bloodstream and make their way to the heart. And just as these bacteria create chronic inflammation and damage of the gums and bone around the teeth, the same bacteria can cause a similar response in the blood vessels. Inflammation can begin and accelerate the build-up of plaques with in blood vessels – called atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries. These plaques decrease the flow of blood to both the heart and the brain, and if such a plaque breaks free can result in a heart attack or stroke.

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What can you do? Roughly 75% of adults have some form of gum disease and 30 % have moderate to advanced periodontitis. Those with more advanced gum disease are much more likely to develop associated inflammation-related heart disease or stroke or the other inflammation-related illnesses. Having a thorough periodontal examination and following up with necessary gum disease periodontal therapy is the best first step. Avoid the obvious creators of inflammation which have been proven to be unhealthy. Prime examples are smoking and heavy drinking of alcohol.

There are many who advocate an “anti-inflammatory” diet. Many of the recommended foods would be typical of Mediterranean cuisine and certainly represent good nutrition. Such a diet would include:

• Generous amounts of fruits and vegetables

• Using healthy fats like olive oil

• Eating small portions of nuts

• Drinking red wine in moderation

• Eating fish regularly

• Limiting or eliminating red meat

If you would like more information about inflammation, gum disease and your health, please feel free to contact us by telephone at 908.359.6655 or via our website at www.DesignsForDentalHealth.com

Dr. Nadler Lectures at SMC

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This past Thursday evening, I had the pleasure of speaking to the Diabetes Support Group at the Somerset Medical Center.  The title of the talk was “Diabetes in Dentistry –What You Need To Know.”  Two themes were emphasized during the hour-long lecture.

First, all systems and organs in the body are connected.  And, in this case, diabetics are at risk for more severe periodontal infections than the general population.  In addition, uncontrolled periodontal disease actually aggravates the diabetes as well as the reverse.

Second, it’s all about prevention.   Those with diabetes often have xerostomia or “dry mouth.“  So, not only do diabetics have a compromised ability to fight infections, butdry mouth also contributes to an increased risk of decay and gum disease.  As a result, cavities and gum disease can progress rather quickly in these patients.  And, by the time a person realizes that a problem exists, the issue is often quite advanced and requires more aggressive, costly and involved treatment to be addressed.  Prevention through regularly scheduled care  as well as proper home care is the best way to avoid such major problems. 

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The entire lecture as well as the questions and answers segment that followed was videotaped.  It will be on the hospital television channel as well as online at www.somervilletv.com under “Live TV.”

If you have any questions about diabetes and dentistry, it will be my pleasure to answer them.   I can be reached in the office @ 908.359.6655 or online at www.DesignsForDentalHealth.com  

 

Finding ways to “zen” with Diabetes

zen-gardenDiabetes patients may reduce depression and emotional problems through mindfulness based cognitive therapy!

For many patients, living with diabetes is no easy task. The day-to-day struggle of controlling the disease can take a toll on one’s mood. Being mindful of the moment may help diabetes patients boost their mental health.

Diabetes patients dealing with emotional problems may benefit from mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, according to a recent study.  In mindfulness-based cognitive therapy, patients learn to pay attention to their feelings of stress and depression while developing a new relationship with those feelings.

The idea is to help patients understand their negative feelings, to discover what makes them vulnerable to those feelings and to become aware of the factors that lead to those feelings.

Find out more about finding a “zen” in diabetes here!

Are We Making Our Kids Sick?

The Link Between Food, Childhood Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes         

For the first time in human history we are experiencing a childhood obesity epidemic.    40% of children are overweight and 2 million children in the US are considered morbidly obese, exceeding the 90th percentile for weight.  Even more alarmingly, the current childhood obesity epidemic is giving way to an increase of over 1000% in the cases of type 2, or “adult onset”, diabetes, in children.  In the past fifteen years the percentage of new cases of diabetes in children has risen from only 3% of all diabetes cases to over 50%!

On top of that, a new study has found that medications that are taken by adults with Type 2 diabetes are not as effective in children and often stop working altogether after a few years, leaving no option other than increasing the amount of insulin injections, which themselves can lead to weight gain, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

This is one of many adult diseases that are becoming commonplace in children.  According to a colleague who is concerned over the state of children’s health in our society:

I recently spoke at an Emory University conference on childhood type 2 diabetes.  I met a pediatric gastroenterologist and wondered what he was doing at a conference on diabetes.  He told me he now has 5-year-old patients with cirrhosis from fatty liver caused by years of drinking soda. There has been an over 50% increase in strokes in children aged 5 to 14(8).  We are now seeing heart attacks in teenagers, and twenty year olds needing cardiac bypass surgery because obesity and diabetes clogs their arteries.

Are We Making Our Kids Sick?

Are we making our own kids sick?  Is there a way to stop this?  Diabetes, specifically, is preventable and reversible, but it is not something that can be fixed with medication, health pamphlets or a handful of healthy meals.  To address and reverse this disturbing trend will take a series of lifestyle changes for our whole society.

Looking just at the obesity and diabetes issue, take these statistics, for example:

  • The average American consumes 54 gallons of soda each year
  • The average child in America consumes 34 teaspoons of sugar every day.

Does any doctor or parent honestly think that one can medicate a child out of the results of years of this behavior?  Sugar and junk food have been proven to be biologically addictive.  That it is acceptable and normal for children to be consuming such a high amount of this substance despite the known health risks associated with it is illogical and absurd, but it continues to be the norm.  We need to move beyond setting our children up for a lifetime of sickness and ill-health.

This is not just about “making better choices” or “cutting down” on harmful foods in the diet, nor is it about individual parents taking charge of their own children’s food choices one at a time.  In order to address the issue of food and health, our culture needs a complete overhaul of the way we look at food. 

According to our colleague, Dr. Mark Hyman:

The food industry has hijacked our taste buds, our brain chemistry, our kitchens, our homes, our schools and our communities.  When children have nearly unlimited access to sugar and processed food, when we have 600 calories more per day of sugar calories per person than 30 years ago we have to have an honest accounting of the playing field.  The food environment is designed for kids and adults to fail.

Making a Change

Making a change is imperative for everyone, not just those with children.  It is important for the future of our culture and society as a whole that Type 2 diabetes as well as childhood obesity are eradicated from the equation.  Healthy children are much more likely than sick children to grow into healthy, productive, successful adults.  The well-being of our children can increase the health of our communities and our culture as a whole.

There are many approaches to making the changes necessary for making living an unhealthy lifestyle unacceptable.  This means fostering health instead of disease.  It starts at home, with a healthy diet consisting of fresh and nutritious meals, low in sugar.  Breaking the sugar habit is a difficult, but important step to health. 

However, there are forces outside the home which encourage the consumption of sugar and junk food, and initiatives that could be undertaken to address these.  Some include stopping government subsidies of agricultural products that allow cheap, high-calorie, nutrient-deficient sugars and fats into the marketplace in a more accessible manner than nutritious, wholesome foods; taxing sugar and possibly processed junk food with added sugars to help cover the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of health care costs related to increasing obesity, diabetes and heart disease; banning the marketing of junk foods to children; and funding and supporting community-based initiatives such as community gardens and local farmstands, cooking and nutrition classes and programs to create healthy school lunches.

We have included a list of tips and actions you can take in your own home and community to address this issue and begin making a change, for the sake of our children and our future.  Please comment on this article to add your own ideas to the list of tips and steps we can take.  This is in our hands!

It starts with food.  Tips for a healthier future.

  1. Eat carrots, not cookies.  100 calories of a vegetable is NOT equal to 100 calories of processed sugars and fats.  Healthy snacks are packed with essential vitamins and minerals that you will not find in a snack pack of chips or cookies.
  2. Lead by example.  If you have kids, work with kids or are ever around them, you know that children follow the example of the adults around them.  If they see YOU making healthy choices on a regular basis, they will follow suit.
  3. Shop at your local farmer’s market.  You won’t find as many processed foods there and you may even be able to meet the farmer who grows your food.  Shopping at a farmer’s market instead of a grocery store will encourage you to purchase and use more fresh fruits and vegetables instead of processed foods high in sugar, fats and preservatives.
  4. Support a ban on marketing junk food to children.  The USA is only 1 of 2 countries who still allow junk food marketers to target children.  Contact your legislators and tell them you would support such a ban to ensure a healthy future for our children and our nation.
  5. Support a ban or reduction of government subsidies of junk food and products high in sugars.  Contact your legislators and tell them you would support such a ban to ensure a healthy future for our children and our nation.
  6. Support healthy school lunches.  Even if you don’t have children, contact your local PTO or PTA and Board of Education and tell them you want healthy, nutritious lunches for the children in the school to help ensure a healthy community and a healthy future for the community.
  7. Reduce sugar consumption in your diet and encourage the same for your family members and friends.
  8. Get active!  Don’t remain sedentary.  Move around, exercise, walk, run, play, anything to keep your body active and moving.
  9. Choose fresh foods over processed foods.  Processed foods contain many sugar and chemical additives and usually contain less nutritional content than fresh foods.
  10. Cook your own meals.  You know what goes into the meals you cook, but the same cannot always be said for pre-prepared meals, restaurant meals, fast foods and processed, pre-packaged meals.  You can control your sugar, fat and chemical additive intake with ease when you prepare your own meals.
  11. Change zoning around schools to limit access to fast food and convenience stores.  Help make it harder to get that bad food!
  12. …YOUR TIPS HERE! Don’t forget to comment on the article with YOUR tips for healthy eating and living.

 

LINKS AND RESOURCES

Livestrong.com: The Link Between Childhood Obesity and Diabetes: 

NYT- Obesity-Linked Diabetes in Children Resists Treatment: 

Time Magazine: Childhood Obesity and Diabetes 

Free E-book-Food Marketing to Children

Nutrition Education Resources for Teaching Children Healthy Eating Habits: 

 

Photo Credits in order of appearance (All Creative Commons on Flickr.com)

  1.  Clare Bloomfield
  2.  Stuart Miles
  3.   Imagerymajestic
  4.   Clare Bloomfield
  5.   Lobster20
  6.   Digitalart
  7.   David Castillo Dominici