Tag Archives: Oral Hygiene

Gum Disease Increases COVID-19 Deaths San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry

Wearing masks, social distancing, and washing hands frequently are effective precautions against contracting COVID-19, but your oral hygiene is also an important part of staying healthy.  

Proper oral hygiene might not prevent you from getting infected with COVID-19, but a new study shows that gum disease is linked to worse outcomes for infected patients because it triggers additional respiratory issues that increase the risk of death. Brushing and flossing have always been important, but COVID-19 is a reminder that avoiding gum disease is crucial. Here’s why:

Deadly protein leads to cytokine storm

In a three-month study organized by Dr. Shervin Molayem, founder of the UCLA Dental Research Journal, and Dr. Carla Pontes, a scientist and healthcare researcher in South Africa, researchers identified a harmful protein called IL-6 that is released in patients with gum disease. This protein can spread to the lungs and promote inflammation. Patients who have gum disease can inhale the IL-6 laden bacteria in their gums, where it adheres to the lung tissue. This can cause what is known as a cytokine storm, which is an overreaction of the body’s immune system that leads to severe inflammation of the lung tissue. One of the most common symptoms of COVID-19 is difficulty breathing, and a cytokine storm exacerbates this.

Higher chances of ventilator use and death

Patients who are infected with COVID-19 and have high levels of IL-6 due to gum disease are 22 times more likely to be placed on a ventilator. According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, 80% of all COVID-19 patients who were put on a ventilator ending up dying earlier in the pandemic. The rate of recovery has increased in the last few months, but there is still no defining predictor of which patients will have worse outcomes. Patients of all ages and health backgrounds continue to die from the virus, and one of the only common denominators is likely the prevalence of gum disease.  

Protecting the vulnerable

As a result of the study, researchers are prompting places with vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes and hospitals, to adopt regular dental screenings to catch early signs of gum disease before patients catch COVID-19. The elderly are especially vulnerable, as they are already more susceptible to gum disease. Most COVID-19 deaths have occurred with patients over the age of 65. 

Regardless of age or health condition, researchers recommend everyone optimize their oral hygiene routine, reduce sugar and carb consumption that can encourage bacteria growth in the mouth, and take daily doses of vitamin C, vitamin D3, zinc and turmeric. While following these recommendations won’t prevent you from contracting COVID-19, they will reduce your chances of ventilator use and death.

“As the death toll keeps climbing, the CDC now predicts [COVID-19] will be among the leading causes of death in the United States, just behind heart disease and cancer,” said Dr. Molayem in a press release about the study. “Now that we suspect periodontitis makes it even deadlier, if you’re worried that you may have gum disease, your next trip to the dentist may actually save your life.”

Get checked for early signs of gum disease 

In addition to daily brushing and flossing, a good oral health routine includes at least twice-yearly visits to the dentist for an exam and professional cleaning. But if you suspect you might have gum disease—symptoms include red, swollen, or tender gums, or bleeding while brushing or flossing—call San Diego Periodontics and Implant Dentistry at (619) 543-0905 to schedule an immediate exam.

Dental Care for the Elderly (San Diego)

Dental health is important for people of all ages, including seniors. As we age, maintaining oral hygiene becomes more challenging—medical conditions like arthritis make brushing and flossing difficult, and cognitive issues cause forgetfulness. Still, it’s crucial to prioritize oral health in older age, when dental problems begin to have a more direct impact on overall health. Here are some examples:

Heart disease

By age 65, about a quarter of adults in the US have severe gum disease, which occurs when the gum tissues become infected, usually after a buildup of plaque on the gums and teeth. People with gum disease are twice as likely to experience heart disease, and it can worsen existing heart disease and increase the risk of developing clogged arteries.

Respiratory disease

The bacteria that are present in gum disease can migrate to the lungs and wreak havoc on the respiratory system, causing existing lung conditions to worsen or leading to lung infections or severe pneumonia. In general, seniors have a much harder time recovering from respiratory diseases than younger people.

Diabetes

Advanced gum disease, called periodontitis, may hinder the body’s ability to utilize insulin, which is especially dangerous for people with diabetes. Additionally, high blood sugar levels can lead to gum infections, creating a vicious cycle of gum disease causing more gum disease.

Dry mouth

Older adults typically experience a reduction in saliva production, leading to dry mouth. A variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause similar conditions as well. Saliva is necessary to flush bacteria, viruses and fungi out of the mouth—without it, dry mouth can cause gum disease and significant tooth decay.

Acid erosion

A lifetime of exposure to acids present in food and beverages can cause gums to recede, leaving the roots exposed. And because roots don’t have enamel to protect them like teeth, they are more prone to decay.

Stomatitis

Stomatitis is a painful inflammation of the gum tissue beneath dentures, typically caused by ill-fitting dentures, poor oral hygiene, or the buildup of a fungus called Candida albicans. Regular gum health checkups with a dentist can help prevent the disease.

Shifting teeth

When seniors lose teeth and don’t have them replaced with implants, the jawbone starts to deteriorate and causes the surrounding teeth to shift into open spaces. This results in an uneven jawbone, potentially leading to severe bite issues and appearance concerns.

Preventive oral health for the elderly

Despite the serious health complications that can result from letting dental hygiene slide, maintaining a high level of oral health doesn’t have to be complicated for seniors. Here are some basic recommendations from the American Dental Association:

  • Brush twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste
  • Use an electric toothbrush if arthritis is an issue
  • Floss daily or use another inter-dental brushes to get areas that brushing misses
  • Consider using a Waterpik water flosser for plaque removal
  • Clean full and partial dentures daily and remove them at night
  • Drink fluoridated tap water
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of dairy and foods high in fiber
  • Reduce sugar intake, especially candy and soda
  • Quit smoking
  • Visit a dentist for regular cleaning and exams, even if you have dentures

Dental care for all ages

Whether you’re 1 or 100, maintaining proper dental hygiene is one of the most important things you can do for your overall health throughout your life. At San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry, we understand the unique challenges of senior dental care, so if you or an elderly loved one is in need of a check-up or consultation, fill out our contact form or call us at (619) 543-0905 today.

Why You Need to Make Oral Health a Priority

Brushing and flossing your teeth is an important part of your daily routine – and not just because you need to maintain a healthy mouth. Neglecting your oral health can negatively affect your mind, your body, and your budget. Skimp out on your oral hygiene habits and you could be headed for disaster. Here are just a few reasons why you should make your oral health a priority.

Oral Health is linked to overall health

Taking care of your teeth and gums is a crucial step in taking care of the rest of your body. Numerous studies have found a correlation between gum disease and an array of other health conditions, such as:

  • Cardiovascular disease

According to a statement from the American Heart Association, the chronic inflammation and infection associated with gingivitis have been linked to heart disease, stroke, and atherosclerosis.

  • Diabetes

Research reported by the American Diabetes Association suggests that serious gum disease can negatively impact blood glucose control, potentially leading to significant progression of the disease.

  • Memory loss

A study from the University of Central Lancashire School of Medicine and Dentistry concluded that specific gum disease bacteria can contribute to changes in the brain related to Alzheimer’s Disease, worsening symptoms such as confusion and memory loss.

  • Pregnancy

According to the March of Dimes, studies have shown that pregnant women with advanced gum disease have a higher incidence of premature birth, and their children experience lower birthweights.

Poor oral hygiene leads to low self-esteem

Gum disease has a lot of unpleasant symptoms, such as bad breath, bright red gums, and loose or missing teeth. This can impact your appearance and your willingness to interact with others, damaging your self-confidence and your overall quality of life. According to a 2017 study by the National Institute of Health, common dental disorders such as tooth decay, trauma, or tooth loss can have a profound negative effect on a person’s self-esteem, starting in adolescence. By practicing good oral hygiene and taking care of your teeth and gums, you’ll be able to show off a comfortable, confident smile – and you’ll feel better about yourself.

Treatment for oral disease can be costly

When it comes to your oral health, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Poor oral hygiene habits can lead to gum disease. Left untreated, gum disease can progress to severe infections and tooth loss, requiring expensive and extensive surgeries and treatments to repair the damage. It’s far easier – and more affordable – to prevent the destructive side effects of periodontal disease than it is to treat it after the harm is already done.

Improve your oral health with proper dental care

There are a few simple things you can do to prioritize your oral health and prevent complications from gum disease and tooth decay.

  • Practice daily dental care

The American Dental Association recommends twice-daily brushing for two minutes per session using a fluoride toothpaste, as well as daily flossing between the teeth.

  • Visit your dentist regularly

In addition to removing plaque and tartar buildup, your dentist will take x-rays of your mouth and perform visual inspections to prevent the progression of oral disease.

  • Don’t ignore the signs of gum disease

If you experience regular bleeding when you brush your teeth, have swollen or painful gums, or have bad breath that won’t go away, speak to your dentist about being treated for periodontal disease.

San Diego Periodontics & Implant Dentistry prioritizes your oral health

Prioritizing your oral health means partnering with a care provider that understands your periodontal needs and can provide you with the best possible service. At San Diego Periodontics, we’re committed to the health and comfort of all our patients, and we offer the latest and most minimally invasive periodontal treatments in a safe and friendly environment.

For more information on how San Diego Periodontics can help you prioritize your oral health, call us at (619) 543-0905.