Jul
27
2013

Flossing and Brushing Saves Your Heart

It was not until about the mid 1990’s when it became apparent that gum infections and severe tooth decay could cause inflammation in the blood measurable by using the CRP marker (C-reactive protein). As this link shows Dr. Joseph Muhlestein at the University of Utah demonstrated in 1996 that chronic gum infection could cause a heart attack. He isolated the bacterium Chlamydia pneumoniae in 79% of patients undergoing coronary bypass surgery, while samples from heart transplant patients isolated this bacterium in only about 5%. The new thinking was that bugs that multiply in diseased gums could migrate into the blood and cause platelets from the blood to clump together and block coronary arteries causing heart attacks. Harvard University researchers have confirmed this. In the past it was known that a bad tonsillitis with an aggressive bacterium, Streptococcus viridans, could cause subacute endocarditis, a dangerous infectious disease of the heart valves, which can be responsible for sudden death in younger persons. Neglected cavities in teeth can also harbor this bacterium. Another study in 2009 showed that two particular strains of bacteria in infected gums, Tannerella forsynthesis and Preventella intermedia, were associated with an increased risk for heart attacks; but it was more the overall burden of bacteria in the infected gums than the specific bacteria strains that mattered most.

Flossing and Brushing Saves Your Heart

Flossing and Brushing Saves Your Heart

 

Preventing heart disease by brushing and flossing

With this background it is easier to understand that we need to take good care of our teeth and gums, if we want to maintain good health. As a start most people should see their dental hygienist (who usually works in a dentist’s office) twice a year. The dental hygienist will probe the depth of gingival pockets with a periodontal probe. A normal depth measures up to and including 3 mm. Deeper pockets than that usually indicate that the patient did not floss regularly. One needs to floss at least once per day, better twice per day and it should not bleed after flossing (initially when a person flosses for the first time the gums tend to bleed a bit).

The hygienist will do scaling of plaques on the tooth enamel. Any cavity that is detected will be brought to the attention of the dentist. At the end of the scaling procedure fluoride is applied, which puts a coating on the tooth surfaces to prevent tooth decay.

When deeper pockets (6 mm or more) are detected a trial of subgingival root brushings has shown to have a very beneficial result within only 14 days.

Periodontal pockets were improved and bacterial counts of periodontal infections were shown to have improved as well.

Oral care and cavity prevention in the population

It has been accepted for quite some time that a combination of brushing and flossing are the best methods to control dental plaque, which is the precursor for cavities.

In order to test the knowledge of adults in families with small children these authors from the School of Public Health of the Maryland University investigated Maryland’s adult population knowledge regarding caries prevention. It turns out that there were deficiencies in knowledge about the prevention of dental caries and the importance of fluoride to create strong, decay resistant enamel.

A randomized, prospective study is planned in Hong Kong which will start teaching oral hygiene to kindergarten children aged 3 and will be reinforced several times later to instill good dental hygiene behaviors into these children’s health routine as outlined in this link. Not only is it important to teach brushing and flossing, but also food habits with cutting down on sugary and starchy snacks as these foods make the saliva acidy promoting caries producing bacteria in the plaque.

This English study shows that a primary school based caries prevention program reduced caries by 35% when sugar intake was limited in the interventional group and brushing of teeth was done twice per day along with flossing.

An addition to flossing for those with narrow tooth intervals or those with braces is a waterpik system. This can be used to clean food residues from the spaces between your teeth and from gum pockets. Flossing once or twice per day is still needed to remove plaque to avoid tartar build-up. Before bedtime it is advisable to floss first, then use a waterpik, then use your electric toothbrush with a fluoridated toothpaste. During the day use the waterpik after meals followed by brushing with an electric toothbrush with non-fluoridated toothpaste.  Water Picks are also called “water flossers”; they are easier on your gums.

Other measures helpful in preventing tooth decay

Xylitol is a natural sweetener originally derived from birch. Sugarless gum often is sweetened with Xylitol. This study has shown that chewing Xylitol containing gum can effectively reduce caries. This paper describes that the increased saliva production from chewing gum provides a slightly alkaline environment for teeth. This helps to clear out sugar faster from the oral cavity after a meal, inhibits bacterial growth, neutralizes the pH in plaque that is on the acidy side after sugar consumption. The authors concluded that chewing Xylitol gum is a useful addition to the other known preventative measures of dental decay prevention, such as brushing and flossing teeth.

The techniques the dentist is using to treat plaque and dental decay have been refined by a new technique describe in this Australian publication as a minimum intervention caries prevention program.

The four methods used in minimum intervention dentistry are described here.

1. Recognition: to recognize potential caries factors early through lifestyle factor analysis and saliva testing.

2. Reduction: alter the diet and lifestyles to increase the pH of the saliva, which will reduce the risk factors for caries.

3. Regeneration: to arrest and reverse minimum lesions at the earliest stage. Use agents such as fluorides and casein phosphopeptides-amorphous calcium phosphates to achieve this.

4. Repair: when a cavity is present, a technique of “conservative caries removal” involves using bioactive materials to allow healing of the dentine layer of the tooth.

Reduction of cariogenic bacteria

I already mentioned above that alkalization of saliva by chewing Xylitol gum could significantly help prevent tooth decay. It does so by raising the pH, while chewing on sugary foods or starchy foods lowers the pH (making it more acidy). Growth of caries producing bacteria, which are called “cariogenic bacteria” is stimulated by acidy saliva and inhibited by alkaline saliva. For this reason people whose diet consists of a lot of vegetables and greens will have more alkaline saliva and are less prone to develop cavities. The worst foods to get cavities are sugar in its many disguises and starchy products (candies, bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, bagels, cookies, cakes).

What can cause bacteria from the mouth to appear in the blood? One common condition is periodontitis, which is a chronic inflammatory condition of pockets of the gums around the teeth. This originates from neglecting your teeth and not flossing. Smokers are more afflicted by this as well. Dental procedures called scaling and root planing are often done for chronic periodontitis. This study from January 2013 shows that there is about the same amount of bacteria that leak into the blood following these procedures when compared to flossing.

Sometimes a dentist will recommend using a short-term antibiotic to reduce the leakage of bacteria into the blood, particularly with people who have heart valve problems or had porcine heart valve replacement in the past. This publication from 2009 also describes that dental flossing causes bacteria to be shed into the blood (bacteremia).

Conclusion

Dental self-care should be taught to children at an early age to educate them to brush their teeth twice a day and floss them at least once per day. At the same time they need education what causes cavities in terms of food intake and that fluoride can help make teeth more cavity resistant. They should avoid sugar in pop, candies and cookies etc. Parents best teach by example! Regular visits to the dentist’s office will safe money on the long term. Regular scaling by a dental hygienist every 6-month will remove plaque from which cavities develop when bacteria thrive in them and produce acids that affects the enamel. Minimum intervention dentistry discussed above (4 methods used) can prevent your teeth from decaying. Regular flossing will keep your gums healthy and reduce the colonization of the mouth with bad, cariogenic bacteria. With all this in place you likely will keep your teeth for a long time and not need dentures or tooth implants because of lost teeth. At the same time you will prevent your immune system being overwhelmed by mouth bacteria, which could have lead to a heart attack had you neglected your teeth. As mentioned in the beginning, a CRP blood test is a useful tool to rule out chronic infection.

More information on:

1. Tooth decay: http://www.nethealthbook.com/articles/dentistry.php#Tooth_Decay

2. Heart attacks: http://nethealthbook.com/cardiovascular-disease/heart-disease/heart-attack-myocardial-infarction-or-mi/

Reference: http://www.webmd.com/heart-disease/features/your-guide-gum-disease

Last edited Nov. 7, 2014

Incoming search terms:

Jun
01
2013

Toxins In The Bathroom

In the past I never looked at labels on shower gel, hair conditioner or liquid soap. But one day I read that the cosmetic industry uses parabens as a disinfectant in many body care products including cosmetics. That’s when I found out about my major supply of hair care products contained various parabens, like methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben or heptylparaben.

Hair care and body care products

Officially, toxicity tests have shown that these substances are safe on the short term. What this means is that in short term experiments (usually up to 90 days) rats did not die from exposure to them. But long-term studies to see whether they would die from cancer have never been done. However, long-term exposure can lead to skin rashes in sensitive individuals (contact dermatitis, rosacea). This is still fairly harmless. Much more concerning are the effects of long-term exposure, which is what happens when we apply these chemicals to our skin every day. It has been shown that breast cancer specimens (what the surgeon cuts out during surgery) contain parabens, which can be measured in the lab. Further experiments have shown that parabens have estrogen-like hormone activity in animals and humans. They belong into the group of “xenoestrogens”. What this means is that they act like weak estrogens, and this can be cancer causing. In women estrogens are in balance with progesterone, but when parabens or other xenoestrogens are introduced, the estrogens get the upper hand, which can cause breast cancer and uterine cancer. In men where traces of estrogen and progesterone are also present, balanced with the more dominant testosterone, this hormone balance gets disturbed by parabens, and prostate cancer can develop. Why don’t we hear about this more often? Because it is a slow process that may take 20 to 30 years. By that time nobody thinks that breast cancer or prostate cancer could be the result of long-term exposure to parabens. For years the cosmetic industry argued that parabens would be just applied to the skin, not taken internally and for this reason they should be safe. The problem in this sentence is the word “should”. Parabens are absorbed through the skin and enter the bloodstream directly exerting the xenoestrogenic effect. Some  parabens occur naturally in very small amounts such as in barley, strawberries, currants, vanilla, carrots, and onions, but they are absorbed by the gut and get  destroyed by the liver in the so-called “first pass effect”. I went to the health food store and studied labels. I was able to get clean products (shampoo, conditioner, body wash), which do not contain parabens.

Toxins In The Bathroom

Toxins In The Bathroom

Tooth paste

This is a topic, which may get your dentist annoyed. Here are the ingredients to watch for:

1. What most people expect to be in a toothpaste is fluoride. The dentist was told by the representative of the toothpaste company that fluoride would make the enamel of teeth more resistant against tooth decay. This is passed on to the consumer. What is not passed on to you is that fact of fluoride toxicity, which occurs when fluoride gets absorbed into the body. This is called “skeletal fluorosis”.  Stomach and bowel irritation including irritable bowel syndrome and joint pains are part of this syndrome. In growing children the enamel of teeth can get discolored, the bone of adults can get brittle causing wrist fractures. Fluoride displaces magnesium on a cellular level and this causes metabolic problems in the kidneys and brain as many enzymatic reaction need magnesium as a co-factor. The thyroid can also become hypothyroid, particularly, if iodine was low to start with (fluoride can replace iodine in the body). If you feel you need to brush your teeth once per day with a fluoridated toothpaste, use regular, non-fluoridated toothpaste in between. You can also protect your body by taking iodine capsules twice per day to saturate your system with healthy iodine, which makes you more resistant to bromide, chlorine and fluoride toxicity.

2. Another ingredient on the label is often Sodium lauryl sulfate: this chemical is used to improve the texture of the toothpaste and make it foam up when you brush your teeth. The side effects are irritation of the mucous membranes, may cause canker sores, redness and irritation of the skin around the mouth. It is interesting to note that it also causes fish to die when the wastewater enters the ocean or water streams.

3.  Triclosan: This substance has antibacterial and antifungal properties and as such lends itself to prolong the shelf life of bodycare products (see this review). It is frequently used in deodorants,toothpaste and mouth washes. It is being investigated for safety by the FDA because it is an endocrine disruptor in animals and in humans, can cause hay fever, antibiotic resistance and can combine with chlorine from chlorinated water to cause release of chloroform, which is a known cancer causing substance. Many manufacturers have voluntarily abandoned the use of it.

4. Saccharin and aspartame: These artificial sweeteners are often used in toothpaste to add sweetness. Although originally thought to cause bladder cancer, saccharine has been cleared of this around 2000 when it was shown that although causing bladder cancer in rats, it was safe in humans. Diabetics have used saccharine safely for over 50 years. Aspartame, however, is more problematical:  there was an intensive investigation by the FDA whether or not aspartame would cause cancer in humans. As this review shows there were methodological flaws in some of the cancer studies so that the FDA finally decided to keep the previous recommendations that is was safe to use in diet drinks etc. the same. Other researchers disagreed and came to the conclusion that there were interest groups that interfered with the science of investigating safety of aspartame. Aspartame belongs into the group of excitotoxins, substances that can excite the brain and can also cause an existing cancer to metastasize. At this point in time it is much safer to cut out all aspartame from your diet including your toothpaste.

5. FD&C blue dye No. 2. This blue food coloring agent has been around as food additive since 1906. It was FDA approved back then. However, because of renewed health concerns this food coloring was re-reviewed. According to this reference the time exposure in animal experiments was not long enough (page 13 to 19 of this link), but serious complications such as significant brain tumors in rats and borderline higher frequency of bladder tumors and breast cancer were noted. The FDA elected to keep it listed as a safe food coloring agent. Hyperactivity in children is another observation that is of concern to parents. It simply is not worth to use blue, number 2 in toothpaste. Read your labels and leave it out!

Hair dyes

With the baby boomers turning grey as they get older, there is an interest in hair coloring. But of course people of any age group may like to change hair color and experiment!  Study labels of different products. You will notice in quite a few of them the familiar parabens as a disinfectant. Other toxins are ammonia, benzene, PPD (p-Phenylenediamine), toluene, coal tar. You find details of these ingredients and their side effects in this link (note a lot have been shown to be cancer producing). The bottom line is: avoid cancer-producing chemicals like the ones just listed. Instead buy your permanent herbal hair color in the health food store or health food section.

Cosmetics

Women probably apply too many creams and lotions on their skin. Cleansers, moisturizers, foundation, powder, eye shadow, lip stick, eye shadow, eye liner, nail polish are all substances that will be in part absorbed by your system. The body has to be detoxified in the liver, and the kidneys remove the metabolic end products in the urine. As many of the chemical ingredients in these cosmetics are cancer-producing substances, it is no wonder that the liver, the kidneys and the bladder are the target organs. Read more about the dirty dozen, the chemicals in cosmetics, in this link. Phthalates in the form of diethyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate are commonly found in cosmetics and personal care products. They help nail polish to last longer and are industrial solvents.

In 2010 this Mexican study showed malformations in rodents after exposure of the mother to phthalates. Asthmatic children were also found in another study to have absorbed higher levels of phthalates than children that had no asthma. As a result phthalates have been illegal in many European countries, but not yet in Canada and the US. What should you do about this? For wrinkles use a product that consists of hyaluronic acid. (I found “Pure Hyaluronic Acid Facial Serum” from Complementary Prescriptions (Carson City, NV) and Yu InfiniSerum, a cream manufactured by Nutrazyne Research LLC, Highland, UT). Between both of those non-toxic skin applications you likely will not need any other cosmetics on your skin. If you feel you do, insist on natural ingredients that do not irritate your skin. Do you really need a lipstick? If you do, do not take one that contains lead or other cancer producing metals as was discussed recently on the news.

Mouth wash

Many people feel they have “bad breath” and they need a mouthwash. This is good marketing for companies that produce mouthwash. However, the truth is you need to have your gums looked at, brush your teeth regularly and floss your teeth. If you are constipated, increase your fiber intake and consider colonics. If you still think you have bad breath, use a natural mint product (read the ingredients). Why do I not like mouthwashes? They kill your mouth bacteria that are naturally there; this can disbalance the rest of your gut bacteria as you swallow part of the mouth flora when you eat or drink fluids. If you still want to use a mouthwash, use one without alcohol and without any carcinogens or parabens. Also read this 2009 news item. It is as valid as it was then.

Underarm deodorant

Here is an article that points out the danger of antiperspirants and breast cancer. The lesson to be learnt from this is that the propellants of sprays can be deadly when overused. So, use deodorants that are sticks to put or roll on. Next there is the aluminum content, which needs to be “0”. Aluminum is one of the substances responsible for Alzheimer’s disease when exposure to it occurs over longer periods of time. Parabens are often smuggled in as antifungals/antibacterials. They are hormone disruptors and xenoestrogens causing breast and prostate cancer. So, no propellants, not parabens, no aluminum! Triclosan is another substance that is added to the ingredients. As discussed before it is already is being recognized as hazardous! To choose the right deodorant it is important to read labels carefully, so you can make informed choices. Look for “aluminum free deodorant”. Next make sure that none of the bad chemicals described above are in the ingredient list. Read this info to educate yourself. Your best bet to find the right product is to go to the health food store or health food section of a store, as they usually carry a selection of natural, non-toxic products.

Conclusion

We owe it to our bodies to protect them from the chemicals that manufacturers produce with no concern about their customers’ health. You may ask yourself why cosmetics, toothpaste or other personal care products are even manufactured with cancer producing substances in them! It is up to the consumer to make the right choices and we do have many health-oriented choices available to us now. My hope is that through education we will influence the market to become more health-oriented.

Last edited June 1, 2013

Mar
01
2008

The Culprits For Periodontal Disease

When people think of hazards to dental health, the first thought will be about tooth decay, lack of brushing and flossing and eating candies and other sugar-laden foods. Periodontal disease is often neglected, and yet it is just as threatening to teeth and gums. Destructive periodontal disease will lead to loss of the supporting tissues of the teeth and as a result, there will be loose or shifting teeth and ultimately tooth loss. Generally these findings were seen in older population groups. It was thought that the disease would rarely occur in patients younger than 35 years of age and the theory was that dental plaque was the likely cause. Lifestyle choices were not thought to play a large role. Recent findings told a different story. A cohort study consisting of 903 participants examined self-reported tobacco and marijuana smoking and dental examinations were also done. The authors of the study found that tobacco smoking as well as cannabis (marijuana) smoking was linked with a higher incidence of destructive periodontal disease before the age of 32 years.

The Culprits For Periodontal Disease

The Culprits For Periodontal Disease

In comparison to this dental plaque was not contributing to a higher incidence of periodontal disease in this younger age group. Another risk for destructive periodontal disease in the youngest age group (as young as 12 to 18 years of age) was impaired glucose intolerance (a condition leading to diabetes). Due to those findings it is obvious that brushing and flossing are not the only weapons against periodontal disease. Healthy eating habits and cessation of smoking are equally important for dental health. This is particularly important as heart disease, which is also an inflammatory condition is closely linked to inflammatory disease of the gums and you likely have heard that heart attacks can be prevented by brushing and flossing teeth.

More information about periodontal disease: http://nethealthbook.com/dentistry/periodontitis/

Reference: Journal of American Medical Association 2008; 299(5): pages 574-575

Last edited November 3, 2014