Frequent Recreational Use of Cannabis Is Associated with Gum Disease | Alhambra Dentist

Recreational use of cannabis is permissible in some states, including California. Anecdotal and observational reports have pointed to Cannabis use being involved with receding gums and gum disease. An analysis of the data from the National Health and Nutritional Examination (NHANES) indicated the following:

Periodontal (gum) disease, one of the most common chronic conditions in the United States, is a major cause of tooth loss among adults. Although periodontitis has a genetic component, factors such as increased age, gender, chronic conditions such as diabetes, exposure to tobacco, and oral hygiene may also increase the risk or severity of the disease. Researchers examined data from the 2011-2012 cycle of the National Health and Nutritional Examination survey to evaluate whether cannabis use (i.e., marijuana or hashish) may also be a risk factor for periodontitis prevalence and severity.

NHANES is designed to be representative of the noninstitutionalized civilian population of the United States aged 30 years or older and includes both a demographic and behavioral questionnaire, as well as a full-mouth periodontal examination conducted at 6 sites per tooth.

This analysis was restricted to the 1,938 adults who received a complete periodontal examination and answered questions on substance use. Those who reported they used marijuana or hashish once or more every month for the last 12 months were categorized as frequent cannabis users, while those who reported using marijuana or hashish less than once per month were categorized as non-frequent cannabis users. Frequent cannabis users had significantly greater clinical attachment loss than non-frequent, and significantly higher mean number of sites with pocket depths of 4 mm or more and attachment loss of 3 mm or more.

Confounding factors for age, gender, race/ethnicity, family income, diabetes, alcohol and smoking, and treatment for gum disease within the past year were accounted for in the study. The odds of severe periodontitis were 1.4 higher for frequent cannabis users than those who never or rarely used cannabis.

This analysis demonstrates the effect of cannabis as a potential risk factor for periodontal disease. Check with your dentist about the possible effect of cannabis use on your dental health. (Portions of this article was excerpted from ADA News.)

If you would like more information about gum disease, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Sugar Eats Away Your Teeth and Your Brain | Alhambra Dentist

According to the American Dental Association, Americans consume sugar, particularly in the form of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), at an alarming rate. SSBs are a leading cause of dental cavities, obesity, and type II diabetes. SSBs are sports drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, flavored milk, and other beverages that contain added caloric sweeteners.

Sadly, new evidence indicates SSBs are also associated brain shrinkage. So, it can be said that SSBs can eat away your teeth as well as your brain.  

In the United States, SSB consumption has reached epidemic proportions. The average American is now consuming a whopping 50 gallons per person per year! This is the second highest consumption rate in the world (after Mexico). This consumption is equivalent to approximately 1.5 cans of soda per person per day. SSBs are the leading source of added sugar in the American diet and is strongly associated with the high rate of dental caries in the U.S.

Obesity is associated with diabetes. The United States is amid an obesity epidemic fueled in great part by SSBs. Americans are among the most overweight and obese population in the world. Today, over two-thirds (69%) of all Americans older than 20 years are overweight, and just over one-third (35%) are obese. It is no wonder that the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that in 2017 more than 100 million adults in the United States have diabetes or pre-diabetes. This is estimated to be over 30% of the entire U.S. population. 

What is not well known is, according to the Framingham Heart Study, one or more sugary drinks per day resulted in lower total brain volume, lower hippocampus volume. Hippocampus is an important part of the brain for memory and is also where the process of Alzheimer’s disease starts. In other words, normal shrinking of the brain due to aging is accelerated by consuming sugary drinks.

This study reported that those people who consumed one or two sugary drinks per day experienced the equivalent of 1.6 years of accelerated brain aging per year. Those subjects in the Framingham study taking in more than two sugary drinks per day showed an astounding 11.0 years of brain aging.

The Framingham Heart Study is a long-term, ongoing cardiovascular cohort study on residents of the city of Framingham, Massachusetts. The study began in 1948 with 5,209 adult subjects from Framingham and is now on its third generation of participants.

So, the next time you are tempted to drink a soda or other sugary drink, remember it’s not just your teeth but your brain that is also at stake. Don’t let these beverages eat away your brain! 

If you would like more information about the effects of sugar, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Floss Only the Teeth You Want to Keep | Alhambra Dentist

Yes, floss only teeth you want to keep, and forget the rest! Seriously, only floss removes plaque and debris that adhere to tooth surfaces between teeth. Toothbrushes do not reach these in-between spaces. Since caries (cavities) and gum disease develop most frequently between teeth, the wise choice is to floss the teeth, rather than lose them. According to the Academy of General Dentistry, “Floss is the single most important weapon against plaque, perhaps more important than the toothbrush.” Of course, this is not to say you don’t need to brush your teeth. Brushing should always be done, followed by flossing.

Bluntly speaking, flossing requires a certain level of manual dexterity that many people don’t have and a steep learning curve for which many people don’t have patience. However, there is an easier way. This is called the “loop method.” Take an 18-inch piece of floss and tie together the two ends, to form a circle, or loop. Place all your fingers within the loop except for the thumb. Then simply use your index fingers to guide the floss through the lower teeth, and the thumbs to guide the floss through the upper teeth. Try it. It’s easy.

If you still don’t like it, try “floss-holders.” These devices, which may be disposable, can be shaped like a miniature sling-shot, with the floss stretched between the two prongs. Or, they can look like a miniature hack-saw, with the floss stretched between two ends. With the aid of a mirror and very little practice, you can get the floss between the teeth without too much trouble.

Now that you’ve got the floss in between your teeth, what do you do? First of all, don’t cut your gum by going down too far. And don’t drag the floss back and forth like you are polishing your shoes. Just go up and down between the teeth. That’s all.

Do it between all the teeth at least once a day. If your gums bleed easily, be sure to see your dentist. You might have gingivitis, or periodontitis, a severe form of gum disease.

If you feel that even floss doesn’t quite get all the debris out, then, in addition to flossing, you can buy or obtain from your dentist special brushes designed to get between the teeth. They are called “proxy brushes.” Shaped like a pipe-cleaner with an angle, these tiny brushes can be slipped between the teeth. Back and forth movement of the tiny brushes will further clean and remove plaque and debris that may remains after flossing.

If you have certain spots between the teeth that almost always trap food when you eat, it’s a good idea to bring some floss with you so that you can floss after meals. However, it also advisable to use “proxy brushes” to cleanse those food traps after meals. Some brands of proxy brushes come with a convenient cap, so that you can keep it in your purse or pocket. If you have these habitual food traps, you should consult your dentist about how these spaces may be closed. Filling, crowns, or even orthodontic treatment may be necessary. If left untreated, food traps can lead to gum disease, or cavities despite regular flossing.

Lastly, waterpicks are also effectively in cleaning between the teeth, but only after you brush and floss first. Waterpicks are especially recommended if you have bridge work. Your dentist may also suggest that antibacterial agents or mouth wash be mixed with the water in the waterpick to better control bacterial infection of the gums.

Even though brushing and flossing greatly reduces your risk of cavities and gum disease, you still need to see your dentist regularly to check for abnormal changes.

If you would like more information about flossing, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Sunshine Can Save Your Smile | Alhambra Dentist

Girl lying on the grass

Cod liver oil, which contains Vitamin D, was the first product to be endorsed by the Council of Dental Therapeutics of the American Dental Association (ADA) in 1931. The ADA judged by scientific evidence at that time that cod liver oil, with vitamin D as the main ingredient, was beneficial to teeth and gums.

In addition to its dental benefits, vitamin D, also called the “sunshine vitamin”, is essential to general health. Without it, cells could not perform their functions and the brain would not fully develop, according to an article published in the Blaylock Wellness Report. The article further states that despite benefits of the sunshine vitamin, the rising number of malignant melanomas in the United States caused alarms to be raised over overexposure to sun. But, by making people vitamin D deficient, we inadvertently, increased people’s risk of developing all forms of skin cancer, including the malignant melanoma. The major source of vitamin D is from the sun. But, getting enough sunshine to produce our own vitamin D has been strongly discouraged, and, as a result, the average person’s level of vitamin D has plummeted, according to the Blaylock Report.

A recent publication by the Mayo Clinic states that vitamin D plays a role in reducing major medical problems including heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis. The best way to obtain vitamin D is from sunshine. The body synthesizes vitamin D after exposure to sunshine. Casual exposure to sunlight of ten to fifteen minutes twice per week can generate up to 50,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D. For those who live in an area with limited access to sunshine, eating foods fortified with vitamin D, such as milk, eggs, sardines and tuna fish may also provide sufficient amount of this vitamin. Be sure to consult with your physician about whether you should be taking vitamin D, calcium or any other supplement.

Numerous studies indicate that vitamin D and calcium deficiencies result in bone loss and increased inflammation. Inflammation is a major symptom of periodontal (gum) disease and is recognized by many dental scientists that vitamin D and calcium may be a risk factor for this common disease.

The increase of a protein called “proinflammatory cytokine” is associated with a number of infectious diseases, including periodontal disease. It has been demonstrated through studies that vitamin D can suppress cytokine production, and possibly lower the risks associated with this protein.

According to the ADA, vitamin D synthesis is important in promoting healthy gums, but not the entire answer to treating this disease. Periodontal disease occurs in the presence of specific types of bacteria (periodontal pathogens), in the form of plaque, that triggers in the susceptible host (the patient who is genetically vulnerable) an inflammatory process, including the production of cytokines. This inflammatory cellular reaction incites certain white blood cells (e.g., polymorphocytes) to destroy the bone supporting the teeth. As bone is destroyed, deep spaces are formed between the gum and the root. These are called gum pockets. Over time, these pockets deepened and spread, resulting in the eventual loss of teeth.

Treatment consists of the careful removal of plaque, which is made up of millions of colonies of harmful bacteria lodged under the gum. This procedure is called root planing. If the pockets are normalized after root planing, the patient should return for regular recall visits for disinfection of the pockets. Bacteria that cause gum disease are analogous to termites that destroy the foundation of your house. The disease cannot be cured but can only be controlled through regular maintenance care. Surgery, or special non-surgical methods, may be necessary if root planing and good oral hygiene does not return the patient to normal.

To keep your teeth and gums healthy, brush and floss your teeth two or three times daily, see your dentist regularly. You might even try a spoonful or tablet of cod liver oil, along with a little bit of sunshine this summer.

If you would like more information about vitamin D benefits, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Your Tongue and Bad Breath | Alhambra Dentist

In traditional Chinese medicine, some doctors can diagnose an issue just by looking at the patterns and colors on the tongue. Medical doctors and dentists can also tell a lot about your health by looking at your mouth and tongue.

What if you notice your tongue has white spots? It could be tongue plaque. Your tongue naturally cleans itself and renews the cells on the surface to get rid of bacteria, dead cells, and debris. But when someone has tongue plaque, that renewal doesn’t happen, and your tongue gets covered in a white film. This can happen with age, dry mouth, tobacco and alcohol use, and also with fever or illness. You can clean off tongue plaque by scraping your tongue and using mouthwash. There are a few other conditions that can cause white spots on your tongue. If you see separate white spots on your tongue, it could be a sign of a superficial fungal infection, an inflammatory condition, or even early signs of tongue cancer. It would be best if you see your dentist or doctor when you suspect something is wrong.

Another reason for having white coating on your tongue is if you’ve been on antibiotics for a while. Prolonged antibiotic therapy could lead to a yeast infection in your mouth that turns your tongue white. For this reason, doctors will also encourage you take probiotics to replenish the “good” bacteria in your intestines when you are undergoing antibiotic therapy.

A healthy tongue should be pink and covered with small, uniform papillae bumps. When you’re brushing your teeth, it’s a good idea to brush your tongue to get rid of any bacteria that might be lingering on the surface. A tongue scraper also does the same thing and is a handy tool to have. Your dentist or dental hygienist can show you how to do this if you’re not sure.

Another side effect of having plaque on your tongue would be bad breath which has other causes. So, if you are plagued by bad breath, it could be periodontal (gum) disease. In this disease, bacteria induce a chronic inflammatory process which, over time, results in loss of bone around the roots of the teeth. This loss of bone is for the most part symptom-free and painless until the advanced stages, when a white coating on the tongue appears, along with bad breath and loose teeth.

Untreated, periodontal disease is associated with systemic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis and even Alzheimer’s disease. So, if you see white spots, a cream-colored coating or any lesions on your tongue, see your dentist or physician for diagnosis and treatment.

There appears to be more and more medical experiments and studies delving into what about Chinese medicine makes it work, how it works, and why it works. Maybe Chinese medicine has more to contribute to western medical science than what is known in the public sector.

If you would like more information about your tongue, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.

Why General Health Is Important to Dental Treatment | Alhambra Dentist

Nellie, age 42, went for a dental checkup for the first time in ten years. Routine blood pressure monitoring disclosed that her blood pressure reading was abnormally high (180/115). No dental treatment was rendered. She was immediately referred to a physician and was diagnosed and treated for hypertension, high blood pressure. Her physician told her that if left undetected her condition could have led to a heart attack or stroke. She returned for dental treatment after her condition stabilized.

Nellie’s case is the result of the kind of routine screening dentists generally conduct to look for medical conditions that need medical attention. In addition to hypertension, one of the most common medical conditions that are of particular concern to dentists is “mitral valve prolapse,”a malfunction of a heart valve that leads in backflow (regurgitation). These abnormal heart valves are said to be susceptible to bacterial infection that originate from oral sources. In such cases, prophylactic (preventive) antibiotic, such as amoxicillin, should be taken before dental treatment is begun.

Diabetes is sometimes suspected when the patient presents with a family history or diabetes and severe, uncontrolled periodontitis (gum disease). In this case the patient may be referred for a medical checkup and blood test.

Another common problem is that of “dry mouth” (xerostomia). This condition may be associated with such conditions such as diabetes and menopause. But dry mouth is also a common side effect of over 400 commonly prescribed drugs. Patient suffering from dry mouth are especially susceptible to gum disease and dental caries (cavities). If there is no apparent cause for dry mouth, the patient is referred for medical consultation. If it clear that dry mouth is associated with a diagnosed disease or side effects of medications, treatment planning will probably include home application of topical fluoride with gels, rinses and fluoride toothpastes. To reduce risk of gum disease, more frequent deep cleanings, anti-bacterial rinses, topical administration of antibiotics and home application of anti-bacterial solutions.

These are just a few examples of conditions your dentist will be concerned with at your dental checkups. Feel free to discuss any medical issues, even those you suspect may not relate to your dental treatment. You may be surprised at how medical condition affect dental health, and vice verse.

If you would like more information about the ways your general health can affect your dental health, call Dr. Chao in Alhambra, CA at (626) 308-9104 or visit www.alhambradental.com.

Dr. Chao proudly serves Alhambra and all surrounding areas.