Our Blog

Happy Gums, Happy Heart!

May 24th, 2017

Medical doctors and dental health professionals, like Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, have debated over the connection (or lack thereof) between gum disease and heart disease. While there still is no unanimous consensus on whether there is a link – or the extent to any link there may be – several studies offer some interesting insight into possible correlations that may prove that there are some common factors that point to a likely correlation between the two.

Could there be a link between gum disease and heart disease?

Dr. Simone Ricketts reported on the findings of an Australian study of 80 patients in Profile Magazine. That study showed that 70% of the patients who participated in the study and needed heart transplants also had gum disease. She noted that other studies show a similar pattern, indicating that patients who needed heart transplants or other cardiac surgery procedures, were more likely to have dental problems.

Not Just Heart Disease Linked to Gum Disease

It isn’t just heart disease that experts are linking to periodontal disease, however. More and more evidence is showing that many chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes can be linked to periodontal disease. Poor oral hygiene resulting in gum disease was evident in blood tests that showed positive markers for inflammation.

Experts looked at a combination of over 120 medical studies focusing on a link between dental health and heart health. The findings of that research were published in the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology. While there was no agreement on a definitive link, the research showed some promising results, and offer information that may be helpful to both dental health professionals and their patients.

On its own, gum disease increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that gum disease increases the risk factor for blood vessel and artery diseases when those arteries supply blood to the brain.

This is especially important for strokes because they are a common cause of inadequate blood flow to the brain. Data from another study of 50,000+ people found a higher risk of stroke among people with gum disease and tooth loss.

The study did, however, show two very important connections between gum and heart disease:

  • Both the gums of people with gum disease and the blood vessels of people who had atherosclerosis tested positive for similar types of bacteria.
  • Both patients with atherosclerosis and those with gum disease showed the presence of inflammation in their bodies.

Patients need to understand the importance of taking care of their mouths and doing whatever is necessary to ensure or support heart health – even if there is no guarantee that doing so will prevent either disease.

Oral Cancer Facts and Figures

May 17th, 2017

Oral cancer is largely viewed as a disease that affects those over the age of 40, but it can affect all ages, even non-tobacco and alcohol users. Oral cancer can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inside lining of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, and the floor of the mouth. Our team at Pediatric Dental Associates recently put together some facts and figures to illustrate the importance of visiting our Anchorage, AK office.

Our friends at the American Cancer Society recommend an oral cancer screening exam every three years for people over the age of 20 and annually for those over age 40. Because early detection can improve the chance of successful treatment, be sure to ask Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team to conduct an oral exam during your next visit to our Anchorage, AK office.

  • Symptoms of oral cancer may include a sore in the throat or mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal, a red or white patch that persists, a lump or thickening, ear pain, a neck mass, or coughing up blood. Difficulties in chewing, swallowing, or moving the tongue or jaws are often late symptoms.
  • The primary risk factors for oral cancer in American men and women are tobacco (including smokeless tobacco) and alcohol use. Risk rises dramatically (30%) for people who both smoke and consume alcohol regularly.
  • Oral cancers are part of a group of cancers commonly referred to as head and neck cancers, and of all head and neck cancers they comprise about 85% of that category.
  • Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer among men.
  • Oral cancer is more likely to affect people over 40 years of age, though an increasing number of young people are developing the condition.
  • Death rates have been decreasing over the past three decades; from 2004 to 2008, rates decreased by 1.2% per year in men and by 2.2% per year in women, according to the American Cancer Society.
  • About 75% to 80% of people with oral cavity and pharynx cancer consume alcohol.
  • The risk of developing oral cavity and pharynx cancers increases both with the amount as well as the length of time tobacco and alcohol products are used.
  • For all stages combined, about 84% of people with oral cancer survive one year after diagnosis. The five- and ten-year relative survival rates are 61% and 50%, respectively.
  • It is estimated that approximately $3.2 billion is spent in the United States annually on treatment of head and neck cancers.

Cancer can affect any part of the oral cavity, including the lip, tongue, mouth, and throat. Through visual inspection, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team at Pediatric Dental Associates can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage, when treatment is both less extensive and more successful.

Please let us now if you have any questions about your oral health either during your next scheduled appointment, by giving us a call or asking us on Facebook.

Diabetes and Dental Care

May 10th, 2017

When most people think of complications of diabetes, they think of an increased risk of blindness, limb amputation, heart disease, and neuropathy. However, Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our team want you to know that emerging research is revealing a possible connection between uncontrolled diabetes and dental problems. Whether you have type 2 diabetes or type 1, uncontrolled high blood glucose level increases the risk of certain oral health conditions, including:

  • Cavities
  • Tooth decay
  • Gingivitis (early gum disease)
  • Periodontal disease (advanced gum disease)

Diabetes and proper dental care

If you have diabetes, it is more important than ever to take your dental care seriously and practice excellent oral hygiene. These recommendations will help:

  1. Manage your diabetes. First and foremost, it is vital to control your high blood sugar in accordance with your physician’s instructions — not only for the sake of your oral health, but your overall health. With properly controlled blood sugar, you reduce your risk of developing gingivitis and other oral health issues.
  2. Practice good at-home oral hygiene. This means brushing at least twice a day AND flossing. At a minimum, brush your teeth in the morning and at night, but after meals and snacks if you can. Use a soft toothbrush to avoid injuring your gums. Don’t neglect flossing, because it helps to remove plaque below the gumline and between teeth.
  3. Visit the dentist regularly. While it is important to see the dentist every six months even if you don’t have diabetes, it is even more crucial to have a professional teeth cleaning and dental exam if you have the disease. As dental professionals, our team at Pediatric Dental Associates is able to detect early dental conditions before they develop into something more serious and costly.
  4. Tell your dentist that you have diabetes. If you were recently diagnosed with diabetes, be sure to let us know as soon as possible, and remind us at every appointment.
  5. Be conscientious about examining your own gums and teeth. By looking for early signs of gum disease, which can include bleeding gums, irritated gums, gums that are red (versus a healthy pink), or swelling, we can get started on treatment right away.

Managing diabetes takes effort, not only in watching your diet, exercising, monitoring your blood sugar levels, and taking your medication, but obtaining proper dental care.

To learn more about the link between diabetes and oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous, please give us a call at our convenient Anchorage, AK office!

Are thumb sucking and pacifier habits harmful for a child’s teeth?

May 3rd, 2017

Depending on how long the thumb sucking or constant pacifier use continues, and how aggressively the child sucks a thumb or the pacifier, it can indeed be an oral health issue. Generally speaking, most children outgrow these behaviors or are able to be weaned off them successfully sometime between ages two and four. When children wean off the behaviors in this age range, long-term damage is unlikely.

Why Kids Suck Their Thumb or Pacifier

Both of these habits are actually a form of self soothing that your child likely uses when he or she is very upset, or feeling stressed, confused, frustrated, or unable to properly express the emotions. If your son or daughters is a regular thumb sucker, or the child wants to use the pacifier almost constantly, it is best to try to taper off these habits at a young age.

If your child continues to suck a thumb or request a pacifier consistently after leaving toddler-hood, this could be a source of concern, and it should be addressed with Dr. Michelle Slezewski and Dr. Paul Engibous and our staff. We will be able to evaluate your child's mouth to look for any signs of damage such as palate changes or teeth shifting.

Say Goodbye to Old Habits

In the event that your child is quite reluctant to give up a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit, there are a few things you can do to discourage these behaviors.

  • When you notice that your child is not using a pacifier or sucking a thumb, offer effusive praise. This type of positive reinforcement can be much more effective than scolding the child.
  • Consider instituting a reward system for giving up the habit. If the child goes a certain amount of time without this behavior, award him or her for being such a “big kid.”
  • Employ the help of older siblings or relatives that your child admires. When a child’s role model says that he or she stopped sucking thumbs at a certain age, your child is likely to try to emulate that.