The Risks that Poor Oral Health Might Share with Open Angle Glaucoma

by MikeMeehan 1/26/2017 2:21 PM

Poor oral health reaches far beyond the mouth. We’ve written about how it can make it harder for a person with diabetes to control their blood sugar. It can also cause respiratory infections and contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease. It might also be bad on the eyes. Guilty by Association: The Link between Poor Oral Health and Open Angle Glaucoma A recent study suggests poor oral health could signify an increased risk of open angle glaucoma. Open angle glaucoma—sometimes referred to as primary open angle glaucoma or POAG — is the most common type. It is caused when aqueous fluid drains too slowly from a part of the eye called the trabecular meshwork. As a result, pressure builds up in the eye. Left untreated for too long, it can lead to blindness. The Ophthalmology Times, an eye care section of The Modern Medicine Network, recently reported a link between periodontal disease and open angle glaucoma. According to the article, researchers analyzed 26 years’ worth of data, categorizing participants as either having good or poor oral health. Then they compared the rates of open angle glaucoma in the two groups. Their findings: Participants who had lost one tooth or more had a 45 percent higher chance of open angle glaucoma than those who had not lost a tooth. Likewise, participants who had presented with periodontal disease and had lost one tooth or more in the past two years had an 85 percent higher chance of open angle glaucoma. The Research Is In: The Problems the Two Might Have in Common The association, according to the researchers, could be due to impaired blood flow and endothelial dysfunction. Impaired blood flow. Blood flow supplies your gums and eyes with nutrients and oxygen, which your gums and eyes need. Impaired blood flow makes it harder for the gums to fight infection. It can also affect the cornea, the part of your eye that refracts light and thus helps you see. Endothelial dysfunction. Aside from being a 10-dollar word, the word endothelial refers to your blood and lymphatic vessels. These vessels constrict or dilate. When they constrict, blood pressure increases, and when they dilate, blood pressure decreases. Endothelial dysfunction refers to an imbalance between constriction and dilation. Gum inflammation has been linked to this imbalance, and an imbalance of blood flow can put more pressure on the eyes. Four Habits that Will Help You Effectively Prevent Gum Disease According to the poor oral health/open angle glaucoma study, more work needs to be done to verify whether an association exists. Still, it’s always a good idea to maintain good oral health. To prevent gum disease, build these four habits into your routine: 1.     Drink lots of water. Staying hydrated can rinse away food particles that have stuck around, and can ensure proper saliva production. If you’re on several types of medication, you’ll want to keep the latter in mind, as the medications might dry out your mouth. Pro-tip: Drink tap water. Tap water contains fluoride, which strengthens enamel and can protect your teeth against plaque and other malignant bacteria. 2.     Eat healthy. Cut out sugar and white flour from your diet. Replace these with fruits and vegetables like pears, apples, carrots and celery, which can stimulate the gums or at least prevent them from receding. Foods rich in protein like cheese and nuts can restore proper pH levels in your mouth. 3.     Brush twice a day and floss daily. This is, of course, a routine everyone should have. We’ve written about best practices for brushing and flossing. 4.     Visit your dentist. Schedule at least two checkups a year with your dentist. Communicate the kinds of medication you’re taking, and any issues with your gums and teeth. Three Useful Steps to Treat Glaucoma If you have glaucoma, you can follow these steps: 1.     Get organized. If you’ve been diagnosed with glaucoma, chances are you’ll be taking a few medications. Learn what those medications are, what time you need to take them and how many times a day you need to take them. The more you can build this into your routine, the better your chances of preventing further vision loss. 2.     Monitor the disease. The easiest way to prevent further vision loss is to monitor the disease. Schedule an appointment for a dilated eye exam if you’re 40 or older. If you’ve already been diagnosed, keep in regular contact with your eye doctor. Check in with your eye doctor at least once a year. 3.     Let your doctor know about your medications. Regular checkups are important, not only with your eye doctor, but with all doctors. Make sure to communicate the types of medications you’ve been prescribed, as well as how they make you feel. For example, some medications can leave you fatigued. Let your doctors know, so the medications can help you rather than hurt. Open angle glaucoma is dangerous. It doesn’t come with any symptoms, except for slow vision loss, and it doesn’t have a cure. But if you catch it early enough, treatments can help. That’s why organizations like Prevent Blindness have worked to raise awareness by declaring January National Glaucoma Awareness Month. Practicing good oral health could be one easy way to start preventing the disease.  

Sugar Awareness Week: How to Triumph a Sugar-Free Diet

by MikeMeehan 1/20/2017 2:16 PM

You might have joined us earlier as we participated in Sugar Awareness Week. Our useful posts are still available on Facebook. Eating excessively sugary foods can cause tooth decay. But the right diet can lead to a healthy smile. This journal details what that diet might look like, as well as the challenges that might come along. Day 1 Shopping for groceries, I began weighing what parts of my diet would work in my favor against what would work against me: One favor — I didn’t drink soda regularly. And against me — Well, I still had a box of cookies in my pantry. I was participating in Sugar Awareness Week, which meant I had to give up sugar for an entire work week. The purpose, however, wasn’t to completely eliminate all sugar. I needed it to maintain proper blood sugar levels. The purpose was to eliminate refined sugars. At the store, the fresh foods (meat, fruits and vegetables) were easy. But for the others, I had to eye the nutritional information. Sugar goes by a lot of different names, so I made a list to watch out for. All in all, the first day wasn’t too bad. But I’d read accounts from people who’d accepted the challenge. “Just wait till the second day,” a lot of them had said. Day 2 By the start of Day 2, I’d already started to notice a difference. The night before, I’d gone to bed at 10:30, earlier than usual. Generally, it takes about 20 minutes to fall asleep, but I fell asleep right away. Then, this morning, when the alarm went off, I felt wide awake, whereas it typically takes about 20 minutes for the grogginess to lift. However, as I went through the day, I began to experience withdrawal symptoms. By mid-afternoon, I had a headache. It felt similar to going too long without coffee. Other symptoms, I had read, could include tiredness, lightheadedness, muscle aches and/or cramps. The best place to start, I figured, was to recognize the cause for craving. Was it boredom, stress or something deeper? This was difficult to identify. I’ve always known I had a sweet tooth; I just believed I had it relatively under control. I’d once made a pack of cake squares last for a month, and I still had bags of candy bars left from Halloween. Despite this, I was not exempt from the effects of refined sugars. Day 3 Waking up today, the headache from yesterday had subsided. But by the afternoon, the cravings had returned. Not only did I find myself craving snacks I knew had a lot of sugar — ice cream run, anyone? — I craved simple carbohydrates, like white bread. The reason, I learned, is simple carbohydrates turn into sugar quickly once they’re in the digestive process. That evening, friends came over, and we played board games. This helped distract me from the cravings. Another recommended way to fight cravings is to keep a journal. Lucky for me, I’m writing a blog. Day 4 This morning, I didn’t have time to prepare eggs, so I settled for an apple, a banana and broccoli, which I munched in the office. Yum. Actually, as I bit into the banana, I was surprised. It tasted sweeter than a banana had ever tasted before. I almost felt like I was cheating, as if I were biting into a sugar cube. Even the banana’s body seemed to glisten with what looked like sugar crystals. Maybe four days without refined sugar had made me crazy. Or perhaps my body had officially adapted to a diet of no refined sugar. Years of eating refined sugar, it seemed, had tempered my taste buds’ perception of sweetness in fruit. I expected the cravings to return by afternoon, because they’d struck the past two days around then. Come 3:30 p.m., they still hadn’t. Regardless, I made sure to drink lots of water, as water can help with the cravings. Without enough water in our system, we can start to feel tired. Our tendency, oftentimes, is to waken ourselves with sugar. By 4 p.m., I’d drunk about 105 ounces of water. In the evening, a friend invited me to dinner. When the server approached the table, I asked him if he knew which items contained hidden sugars. He didn’t. What about a list of nutritional information? As it turns out, not too many people ask about hidden sugars in their food. The server offered to do some sleuthing, but I just ordered a burger with provel cheese and no bun, and as a side, mashed potatoes. Biting into the burger, I tasted pepper. A seasoning had been applied, and seasonings are often hidden-sugar culprits. But I was also hungry, so I was willing to risk it. The burger was delicious. Day 5 At the office, somebody dropped off an assortment of sweets: Christmas tree cakes and brownies, lollipops. Normally, I wouldn’t have been able to ignore them. Today, I ate a banana instead. Another friend suggested we do lunch. This time, I had enough advance notice to research online the menus of nearby restaurants. Even some healthy options, like salads, I found, contained sugar — usually thanks to the dressings. Nevertheless, I found a sugar-free option — a sub sandwich wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun — and suggested we go there. By the afternoon, the office sweets began to bother me. I distracted myself with a quick physical activity, strolling the perimeter of the building. As I completed the work week, I had a new respect for sugar awareness. I’d felt the effects of refined sugar in my system, and I hadn’t even realized it was a problem! For the future, I doubt I’ll be as rigorous (like, I’ll probably get a bun on my next hamburger), but I’ll keep an eye open for hidden sugars. Of course, one thing won’t change: I’ll keep brushing twice and flossing daily!

Americans Want to See Their Dentist More, Survey Finds

by MikeMeehan 1/9/2017 1:14 PM

Americans want to see their dentist more. At least that’s according to this recent survey, the Adult Oral Health Survey, which sampled 1,025 Americans 18 years and older. The results found 41 percent of Americans don’t visit the dentist as often as they’d like. Among health practitioners listed, dentists ranked at the top. In fact, the second-place practitioner was 13 percentage points lower: dermatologists, at 28 percent. This might be good news, after a Gallup poll from 2014 indicated one-third of Americans hadn’t visited the dentist in the past year. Likewise, the American Dental Association Health Policy Institute reported most adults planned to visit the dentist in 2017 (77 percent), yet only a limited number had made the trip in 2015 (37 percent). Studies have shown a link between good oral health and overall well-being, as well as boosts in confidence. Both were indicated in The Adult Oral Health Survey. According to the survey, 79 percent of adults believe there is a connection between oral health and overall health. Adults who were extremely satisfied with their oral health rated their overall well-being as very good (48 percent), compared to those who were not satisfied (28 percent). And 63 percent reported good oral health helped them feel confident on a daily basis. This outranked contenders like having clear skin (56 percent) and being in shape (50 percent). Those who gave their oral health an “A” grade were 24 percent less likely to put the dentist at the top of the list of practitioners they wished to see more. Only 28 percent of adults who brush twice a day reported they didn’t see their dentist as much as they’d like, compared to 52 percent who brush less than twice a day. The Adult Oral Health Survey was conducted between December 16, 2015, and January 14, 2016, among a nationally representative sample, with a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent.

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