Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Breast Cancer and Gum Disease

Yet another reason to care for your gums and teeth

There are 10 times as many germs in our bodies as there are cells. Not only do our bodies play host to a great variety of germs, germs interacting with our bodies can either help us or harm us. Researchers are continually studying the role germs play in causing chronic inflammation and how germs contribute to systemic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The association between cancer and germs is not new and has been studied for years. Bacteria that live in the mouth have been found in breast cancer tumors and studies have found that almost all women who have been treated for breast cancer have some form of gum disease. 

Periodontal disease is an inflammatory disease. In its early stages (gingivitis) it causes bleeding, puffy gums, and in the later stages tooth and bone loss (periodontitis.) Almost 50% of adults in our country who are over 30 and over two-thirds of adults over 65 have some degree of periodontitis. Breast cancer risk also increases as women age.
Gum disease &
breast cancer risk.

photo by YM
new study reveals that postmenopausal women who have been diagnosed with periodontal disease by their dentists have a 14% higher risk of developing breast cancer. That number jumps to over 30% in women who have smoked within the past 20 years. Smoking is a huge contributing factor to periodontal disease and is also known to increase breast cancer risk

More research is needed to discover fully how bacteria contributes to diseases like breast cancer but enough evidence already exists to suggest that taking care of one's oral health pays off in better overall health.

This blog is not intended to treat or diagnose any condition. Please see you dentist or doctor if you aren't feeling well and take care of yourself!

Monday, November 30, 2015

You are what you drink

Walk around with water

I was not surprised to read about a recent research study out of Australia that concluded "diet" beverages are bad for the teeth. Sugar has long taken the blame for contributing to cavities, and deservedly so, but sugar is not solely to blame. Plaque also has to be present because plaque converts that sugar into acid on the teeth.

While beverages like diet soda contain sugar substitutes plaque germs
can't use to make acid, these drinks themselves contain acid (usually citric, carbonic or phosphoric.) Acid, whether it is made by plaque or in the drink itself, will erode enamel.

It doesn't matter to teeth where the acid comes from. Sipping on an acidic diet drink all day, in terms of the affect on the teeth, is just as bad as sipping on a sugary drink. The only benefit of most diet drinks is the elimination of the sugar and there are many who would argue that sugar substitutes are just as bad for overall health.
Diet Soda - Phosphoric and Citric Acids
Photo: Y. Mikalopas

The best rule of thumb is this: Drink any drink that is NOT water with a meal. Otherwise, drink water. You can't go wrong with water because it is the only drink that is both sugar and acid free.

(Did you know that black coffee and tea are acidic - about a pH of 5, but that green and herbal teas are close to water, about a pH of 7.)

This blog is not intended to treat or diagnose any dental or medical condition - see your dentist or doctor if you need help!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Be a Quitter

The Great American Smokeout

Cigarette smoking kills over 500,000 Americans each year including deaths due to second-hand smoke. Illness due to smoking results in hundreds of billions of dollars in medical costs. (

Every third Thursday each November, the American Cancer Society asks smokers to quit, even if it's for just one day ( After 20 minutes of not smoking, heart rate and blood pressure decrease; after 12 hours, carbon monoxide levels in the blood
Quit Smoking Today
Photo: Y. Mikalopas
drop. The longer a person stays smoke free the more health benefits are gained.

In addition to being devastating to the entire body, smoking affects the mouth and teeth in very significant ways. Smokers may find that their gums don't bleed, ordinarily a sign of health. However, smokers actually have a higher incidence of both periodontal disease and tooth loss than non-smokers. The gums aren't bleeding because the blood vessels are constricted and oxygen is needed more urgently by the lungs and heart. 

Smoking also increases risk for the following conditions in the mouth:
  • oral cancer 
  • esophageal cancer
  • periodontal/gum disease
  • cavities
  • tooth loss
  • black hairy tongue (if you've never seen it, Google it)
  • dry mouth
  • bad breath
Diseases caused by smoking and second hand smoke are preventable. Quitting, if only for one day, is the first step to better health.

sources: Ann Periodontol. 1998 Jul;3(1):88-101.,,, This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you need medical or dental treatment, seek help from your doctor or dentist. If you smoke, QUIT!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

November is American Diabetes Month

Diabetes and the Mouth

More than 30 million people in our country have diabetes, with another 80 million who are pre-diabetic and 7 million undiagnosed, making diabetes one of the largest health care concerns in our nation. The American Diabetes Association ( has declared November as American Diabetes Month to bring awareness to the disease.

In addition to complications such as heart attack and stroke, diabetics also suffer from oral health problems. Diabetes is an illness that clearly demonstrates how disease in the body can affect the mouth and how good oral health habits can impact the body in a positive way. 

Diabetics often have periodontal issues, especially bleeding gums. Since diabetics have a compromised immunity, their bodies have a hard time fighting infection and a hard time healing. This, along with high blood sugar levels, creates an environment ideal for plaque germs to thrive. 

Medications such as cholesterol and heart meds that diabetics often take to treat multiple systemic conditions can cause dry mouth, a serious oral condition. (See my post on dry mouth, Diabetics may also be prone to thrush, a fungal infection. This shows up in the mouth as sore red and white patches.

People with diabetes should take their medications, eat right, exercise,
A healthy diet is important for everyone.
(photo Y. Mikalopas)
and take very good care of their mouths. Diabetics should know their A1C test results (average blood sugar level,) and inform their dentist and dental hygienist of any medication changes or changes in medical treatment. Because the disease pathway of diabetes runs both ways, taking care of the teeth and gums can help diabetics keep blood sugar and infection under control.

In order to help people who have questions about diabetes, is sponsoring a question and answer series on Facebook and Twitter over the next couple of weeks. Use #YesSalud to participate and to get more information.

This blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition or illness. Please see your medical or dental professional for treatment. Take care of yourself!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Happy Halloween!

Scary Tooth Tales and Tips for a Healthy and Happy Halloween

What is the scariest thing I ever saw in someone’s mouth, a young boy at a school I was visiting once asked me. My answer: nothing. No teeth. From years of dental neglect, the patient had dentures.
I want candy!

I tell kids that plaque is like a ghost. Like other germs you can’t see it, at first, but plaque will make its presence known. The teeth start to look yellow and feel fuzzy, the breath starts to stink.  So when plaque moves in, the sooner you get rid of it, the better since plaque causes other trouble, too – rotten teeth and bloody gums. Your toothbrush and floss are your daily plaque fighting friends. If plaque germs are ignored, they get really stubborn and then you’ll need help from the plaque and cavity hunters – your dental hygienist or dentist.

But enough scary stories. Halloween is fun for both children and adults and is really all about the candy.
Here are some ways to enjoy your Halloween and keep your mouth healthy:
  • Go ahead and have some candy. It’s a holiday, after all, the best reason to indulge a little.
  • Brush your teeth or have your children brush their teeth BEFORE they break into their goody bags. This removes the plaque germs, which in combination with sugar causes cavities. The less plaque, the less acid being formed. Brush again after treats to remove the sugar from the mouth and teeth. It doesn’t take long for plaque to grow again. (For more on how cavities form see my post at
  • Avoid sticky, chewy candies. These stick to the teeth and are hard to get off even with brushing: Think tootsie rolls, jelly beans, candy corn, fruit rolls, fruit chews. (There is nothing “fruit” about them except the name and maybe the shape or color.)
  • Even worse: “sour” candies. Not only sticky and sugary, these have lots of acid in them, too. Combining candy and soda is also bad for the same reason.
  • If your children are young, you control the candy. You’re going to check it before you let them eat it anyway, so ditch the really sticky stuff. Candy that dissolves fast and rinses easily with water, like chocolate or pixie sticks, are better. Chocolate, especially the dark kind, has less sugar and at least a smidgen of health benefits from the cocoa.
  • Consider giving trick-or-treaters sugar-free gums or lollipops, or non-snack items like stickers, tattoos, pens, pencils, small pads, little toys, etc. When I was a kid there was a lady that gave out pennies, nickels, dimes and, sometimes, quarters! We all have a big jar of change somewhere in the house, don’t we?
  • See if your local pediatrician or pediatric dentist has a candy “buy back” program. Offices that do this will exchange candy for non food “treasures” or sometimes even money.
  • On October 31, unwrap a new toothbrush for yourself and your child. When shopping for Halloween candy, buy floss. Holidays can become an opportunity to get into the habit to do something healthy for yourself and your family.
  • Have sugar-free gum around to “wean” yourself off the sugar the day after Halloween. For myself, this is key. It’s so hard to stop when the yummy stuff is around.
Holiday season, here we go!

This blog is not intended to treat or diagnose any condition. Please see your doctor or dentist if you need treatment. I want candy! photo: Y. Mikalopas