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Oral Health And Overall Health: Why A Healthy Mouth Is Good For Your Body
Tips for Becoming a Better Dental Assistant
Dental Assistants are Important
Fears about Dental Radiation
Fluoride in Young Children- New Guidelines

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Oral Health And Overall Health: Why A Healthy Mouth Is Good For Your Body

Taking good care of your mouth, teeth and gums is a worthy goal in and of itself. Good oral and dental hygiene can help prevent bad breath, tooth decay and gum disease—and can help you keep your teeth as you get older.
Researchers are also discovering new reasons to brush and floss. A healthy mouth may help you ward off medical disorders. The flip side? An unhealthy mouth, especially if you have gum disease, may increase your risk of serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, poorly controlled diabetes and preterm labor.
The case for good oral hygiene keeps getting stronger. Understand the importance of oral health — and its connection to your overall health.
What's in your mouth reveals much about your health
What does the health of your mouth have to do with your overall health? In a word, plenty. A look inside or a swab of saliva can tell your doctor volumes about what's going on inside your body.
Many conditions cause oral signs and symptoms
Your mouth is a window into what's going on in the rest of your body, often serving as a helpful vantage point for detecting the early signs and symptoms of systemic disease — a disease that affects or pertains to your entire body, not just one of its parts. Systemic conditions such as AIDS or diabetes, for example, often first become apparent as mouth lesions or other oral problems. In fact, according to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 90 percent of all systemic diseases produce oral signs and symptoms.
Saliva: Helpful diagnostic tool
Your doctor can collect and test saliva to detect for a variety of substances. For example, cortisol levels in saliva are used to test for stress responses in newborn children. And fragments of certain bone-specific proteins may be useful in monitoring bone loss in women and men prone to osteoporosis. Certain cancer markers are also detectable in saliva.
Routine saliva testing can also measure illegal drugs, environmental toxins, hormones and antibodies indicating hepatitis or HIV infection, among other things. In fact, the ability to detect HIV-specific antibodies has led to the production of commercial, easy-to-use saliva test kits. In the future, saliva testing may replace blood testing as a means of diagnosing and monitoring diseases such as diabetes, Parkinson's disease, cirrhosis of the liver and many infectious diseases.
Protection against harmful invaders: How saliva disables bacteria and viruses
Saliva is also one of your body's main defenses against disease-causing organisms, such as bacteria and viruses. It contains antibodies that attack viral pathogens, such as the common cold and HIV. And it contains proteins called histatins, which inhibit the growth of a naturally occurring fungus called Candida albicans. When these proteins are weakened by HIV infection or other illness, candida can grow out of control, resulting in a fungal infection called oral thrush.
Saliva also protects you against disease-causing bacteria. It contains enzymes that destroy bacteria in different ways, by degrading bacterial membranes, inhibiting the growth and metabolism of certain bacteria, and disrupting vital bacterial enzyme systems.
The problem with dental plaque: Links to infections and diseases

Though your saliva helps protect you against some invaders, it can't always do the job. More than 500 species of bacteria thrive in your mouth at any given time. These bacteria constantly form dental plaque — a sticky, colorless film that can cling to your teeth and cause health problems.
Your mouth as infection source
If you don't brush and floss regularly to keep your teeth clean, plaque can build up along your gumline, creating an environment for additional bacteria to accumulate in the space between your gums and your teeth. This gum infection is known as gingivitis. Left unchecked, gingivitis can lead to a more serious gum infection called periodontitis. The most severe form of gum infection is called acute necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis, also known as trench mouth.
Bacteria from your mouth normally don't enter your bloodstream. However, invasive dental treatments — sometimes even just routine brushing and flossing if you have gum disease — can provide a port of entry for these microbes. Medications or treatments that reduce saliva flow and antibiotics that disrupt the normal balance of bacteria in your mouth can also compromise your mouth's normal defenses, allowing these bacteria to enter your bloodstream.
If you have a healthy immune system, the presence of oral bacteria in your bloodstream causes no problems. Your immune system quickly dispenses with them, preventing infection. However, if your immune system is weakened, for example because of a disease or cancer treatment, oral bacteria in your bloodstream (bacteremia) may cause you to develop an infection in another part of your body. Infective endocarditis, in which oral bacteria enter your bloodstream and stick to the lining of diseased heart valves, is an example of this phenomenon.

Plaque as cause of common conditions?
Long-term gum infection can eventually result in the loss of your teeth. But the consequences may not end there. Recent research suggests that there may be an association between oral infections — primarily gum infections — and poorly controlled diabetes, cardiovascular disease and preterm birth. More research is needed to determine whether oral infections actually cause these conditions, which include:
  • Poorly controlled diabetes. If you have diabetes, you're already at increased risk of developing gum disease. But chronic gum disease may, in fact, make diabetes more difficult to control, as well. Infection may cause insulin resistance, which disrupts blood sugar control.
  • Cardiovascular disease. Oral inflammation due to bacteria (gingivitis) may also play a role in clogged arteries and blood clots. It appears that bacteria in the mouth may cause inflammation throughout the body, including the arteries. This inflammation may serve as a base for development of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries, possibly increasing your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Some research suggests that people with gum infections are also at increased risk of heart attack and stroke. The more severe the infection, the greater the risk appears to be. And gum disease and tooth loss may contribute to plaques in the carotid artery. In one study, 46 percent of participants who'd lost up to nine teeth had carotid artery plaque; among those who'd lost 10 or more teeth, 60 percent of them had such plaque.
  • Preterm birth. Severe gum disease may increase the risk of preterm delivery and giving birth to a low birth weight baby. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, in fact, estimates that as many as 18 percent of preterm, low birth weight babies born in the United States each year may be attributed to oral infections. The theory is that oral bacteria release toxins, which reach the placenta through the mother's bloodstream and interfere with the growth and development of the fetus. At the same time, the oral infection causes the mother to produce labor-triggering substances too quickly, potentially triggering premature labor and birth.
A compelling case for good habits
If you didn't already have enough reasons to take good care of your mouth, teeth and gums, the relationship between your oral health and your overall health provides even more. Resolve to practice good oral hygiene every day. You're making an investment in your overall health, not just for now, but for the future, too.
Related Information

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Fears about Dental Radiation

Recently it seems as though more and more people have been fearful over the amount of radiation exposure from dental x-rays. Dental offices do minimize the exposure of radiation to patients it is still best to get all the pertinent information. At Practical Dental Assisting of Oregon students must take a full mouth set of x-rays on a patient to send to DANB in order to get their radiology certification. The same precautions taken in dental offices are taken at Practical Dental Assisting of Oregon as well.
Recently in an article published by AEGIS Communications in Inside Dental Assisting magazine, AEGIS spoke to the fear of patients in regards to dental radiation. The article recognized that the average annual radiation exposure from natural sources in the U.S. is roughly 3.1 millisieverts, of which no negative health effects have been found from these levels. Radiation from medical and dental sources make up about 48% of the total radiation exposure per year. Also according to the American Dental Association dental x-rays account for about 2.5% of the total medical radiographs and fluoroscopies.
Furthermore with advances and changes in technology the amount of radiation from x-rays is continually decreasing. Currently intra oral radiographs use a quarter of 1% of the radiation that was necessary for these radiographs 90 years ago.
As a dental assistant and as a patient you should be cognizant of whether or not the office you work at or go to has good radiologic practices, some of these include:
  • use the fastest image receptor compatible with the diagnostic task
  • proper exposure and processing techniques
  • use of appropriate radiation shielding (lead apron, thyroid shields, etc.)
  • limit the number of images obtained to the minimum necessary to obtain diagnostic information
The moral of the story is that the average annual radiation exposure has not caused adverse health effects, but you should still be aware of the x-rays that are being taken to ensure they are not being taken in excess.
To read the full article from Inside Dental Assisting click here.

Fluoride in Young Children- New Guidelines

CBS News recently reported that the American Dental Association is saying that children should be given fluoride even younger than thought; as soon as their first teeth come in. In the past the American Dental Association has recommended fluoride toothpaste for kids age 2-6, but are now finding that more and more children have cavities before kindergarten, making it pertinent to start them with fluoride even younger. According to the American Dental Association more than 16 million U.S. children have tooth decay that goes untreated, making this issue ever more important. By not having fluoride children will be more susceptible to cavities and teeth wear. To read this full article by the CBS News click here. What do you think about giving children fluoride toothpaste as soon as their baby teeth erupt?

Link Between Alzheimers Disease and Poor Dental Health

          In a recent study conducted by the University of Central Lanchasire in the UK, researchers found that people who had poor hygiene or gum disease were at a higher risk for developing Alzheimer s disease, in comparison to those who had healthy teeth. This was evident in the presence of bacterium called Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is commonly connected with periodontal disease, that appeared in brains of those with dementia.
         Generally the Porphyromonas gingivalis is found in oral cavities, but it can spread throughout the body through various daily activities, such as brushing your teeth or chewing, and is even more likely to enter the body through aggressive dental treatment. These various things can lead to the bacteria entering the brain. When that happens, researchers found that it can trigger an immune system response, which subsequently can cause a release of too many chemicals that can kill neurons in the brain.
        This study added to previous studies that linked Alzheimer's disease and poor general health. Studies done by places such as New York University and University of New Mexico previously found that gum disease and other viruses and diseases, such as HSV-1 can increase cognitive dysfunction risk, and thus Alzheimer's disease. To read the full article click here.
        The moral of the story? Have your teeth professionally cleaned and checked every 6 months and keep up good home care, flossing every day and brushing your teeth at least twice a day. By having a healthy mouth you will have lower risk of other health issues as well.

Benefits of Implants

A new report put out by the International Journal or Oral and Maxillofacial Implants reveals that dental implants can save costs compared to other traditional alternatives and that they improve the quality of life. The study looked at long-term costs, primarily comparing implants to bridges. It concluded that for single tooth replacement implants tended to be more cost-effective than traditional bridges. When compared with full dentures, implant based treatment yielded higher initital costs, but that in the long term implants can be cost-effective as well. Furthermore when looking at dentures versus implants, those who had implants tended more often to have improved oral health and decreased health care costs. This article appeared in Medical News Today, click here to read the full article.
 
Not sure what implants are or want to learn more about their benefits? Click here for more detailed information. Below are some quick facts we have put together to introduce dental implants to those who may be unfamiliar with them.
 
What is an implant?
An implant is a small post that is placed in the bone socket where a tooth was extracted or where a tooth is a missing. After an initial healing period to ensure that the implant integrates into the jaw a connector is added to the implant, called an abutment, where then a crown can be attached. (See photo below for a comparison of a natural tooth and an implant).
What are some of the benefits of an implant?
  • Implants look and feel like your real teeth
  • Implants help improve your overall oral health
  • Implants last much longer than other traditional alternatives, such as bridges
  • Implants have a success rate of up to 98%
 
Dental Implant
Dental Implant
Dental Implant compared to a natural tooth