Don’t Beware the Dentist’s Chair

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 26 million Americans suffer from diabetes. Even more troubling, another 57 million – about a fourth of U.S. adults – have pre-diabetes, which means their blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not yet high enough to be classified as diabetes. Delta Dental is reminding Americans during “National Diabetes Month” that regular dental visits are crucial for people with diabetes.

According to the American Diabetes Association, controlling blood sugar levels is a key to preventing many serious complications of diabetes such as heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Research also suggests a two-way relationship between serious periodontal (gum) disease and diabetes. Not only are people with diabetes more susceptible to severe gum disease, but it may have the potential to affect blood glucose control and contribute to the progression of diabetes.1 People with diabetes tend to develop periodontal disease earlier in life, and more severely. Instead of losing their teeth from gum disease in their 60s, they might begin losing teeth in their mid-40s. Smokers with diabetes are especially at-risk for gum disease and tooth loss.

Unfortunately, studies have found that people with diabetes see their dentist less often than those without the disease.2 Dentist visits are crucial because oral diseases such as tooth decay and gum disease are often reversible if they are diagnosed early and preventive treatments are delivered. Dentists will also check for other common mouth conditions that afflict people with diabetes such as dry mouth, ulcers and infections. Mouth conditions may also be a sign that other medical conditions exist elsewhere in the body. Depending on their findings, the dentist might advise patients to seek medical attention.

Daily brushing and flossing, regular dental check-ups and good blood glucose control are the best defenses against periodontal disease. In addition, quitting smoking may be the most important thing that people can do to protect their oral and overall health. The good news is that with proper dental hygiene at home and regular visits to the dentist (at least twice annually), there’s no reason people with diabetes should have worse oral health than people without.

1 American Diabetes Association. News and Research. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/oral-health-and-hygiene/oral-health-faqs.html Accessed October 2012.

2 Macek MD, Tomar SL. Dental care visits among dentate adults with diabetes and periodontitis. J Public Health Dent. 2009 Fall;69(4):284-9.

Top 4 Tips for Antibiotics Use

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that antibiotic resistance is one of the world’s most pressing public health problems. According to the CDC, an estimated 50 percent of antibiotic prescription use in hospitals is inappropriate or unnecessary.(1)

Other studies have found that dentists also may prescribe antibiotics unnecessarily.(2-3) During “Talk About Prescriptions Month,” Delta Dental advises people to be responsible about how they use antibiotics.

Antibiotics are powerful medicines that fight bacterial infections. They work by killing bacteria or preventing them from reproducing until the body’s immune system can fight off the rest of the infection. When prescribed and taken correctly, their value in helping cure or prevent the spread of disease is significant. Contrary to popular belief, antibiotics do not fight infections caused by viruses such as the common cold, flu and bronchitis.

Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. These resistant germs can then be spread to others and over time, an antibiotic resistant strain of bacteria can become a community problem. Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria.

Dentists mainly prescribe antibiotics for the management of infections in and around the mouth, which are usually caused by bacteria. They are sometimes used after oral surgery as a preventive measure or to treat a toothache. Most common dental infections take the form of a toothache and require some type of treatment, like a filling, root canal therapy, or tooth extraction. Antibiotics cannot cure a toothache and are not always necessary after routine oral surgery.

Individuals who are taking antibiotics should keep a few things in mind:

Take the entire prescription: Even if your condition is improving and you feel cured, finish the prescription. If you stop too soon, some bacteria can survive and reinfect.

Only take antibiotics to treat a bacterial infection: People instinctively want to take medication to make them feel better, even if they just have the flu or common cold. Antibiotics only work on bacteria, however, and the common cold is usually a virus.

Don’t save the bottle for future reuse: Antibiotics degrade when they are stored for months at a time, rendering them ineffective. Check with your pharmacy for appropriate disposal of expired medications.

Don’t share your antibiotics with others: Antibiotics are prescribed for specific purposes. Your doctor will typically check for potential adverse interactions or drug allergies before prescribing.

1 “Antibiotics: Will they work when you really need them?” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/getsmart/campaign-materials/week/downloads/factsheet-Monday-GetSmart-week.pdf. Accessed September 2012.

2 Zadik Y and Levn L. Clinical Decision Making in Restorative Dentistry, Endodontics, and Antibiotic Prescription. Journal of Dental Education January 1, 2008 vol. 72 no. 1 81-86

3 Dar-Odeh NS, Abu-Hammad OA, et.al. Antibiotic prescribing practices by dentists: a review. Ther Clin Risk Manag. 2010; 6: 301–306.

Take it to Heart: Oral Health is Important

Heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the U.S. since 1921, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which estimated that nearly 1.24 million people – or 141 every hour  and 2.35 every minute – suffered a new or recurrent heart attack in 2010.1 Valentine’s Day – a holiday commonly associated with the heart – seems like the perfect time to point out the connection between oral health and heart health.

Researchers continue to find associations between periodontal (gum) disease and other chronic health conditions including heart disease. Persons with periodontal disease and heart disease share common risk factors such as smoking, older age, low-income status and obesity. Ongoing studies are attempting to determine questions such as if you treat the gum disease will you lower the likelihood of developing or worsening heart disease?

A mix of conditions, behaviors and genetics including high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and a combination of poor diet and insufficient exercise leading to obesity have helped keep coronary ailments king. Genetics likely has some role in high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other heart disease factors. Odds are that an individual you know and love has dealt with some kind of heart ailment in their lifetime.

Studies show that people with periodontal (gum) disease may be at a higher risk for coronary artery disease (CAD), the most common type of heart disease, than those without it. Researchers are now trying to determine if bacteria and inflammation in the gum tissues as a result of periodontal disease contribute to the clogging of arteries and lead to CAD. 2 

So, for your heart’s sake practice sound dental hygiene habits like brushing and flossing teeth twice daily and eating healthfully. In particular, don’t smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products. Finally, make time for regular dental check-ups. It is an oft-neglected, but vital aspect of maintaining good oral health. Like most diseases, periodontal disease is much easier to treat and control if discovered early.

Your dentist and hygienist play a major role in detecting and treating any gum problems. Based on what they see in your mouth, they may also suggest you see your physician to evaluate you for other important health problems including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

1Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Roger V, Go, A, Lloyd-Jones, D, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2011 update. a report from the American Heart Association Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee Circulation 2011;123:e1-e192.

2“Gum Disease Links to Heart Disease and Stroke.”American Academy of Periodontology, May 8, 2008. www.perio.org/consumer/mbc.heart.htm Accessed 2010.