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Genetic Inheritance Matters in Oral Health

You might have heard someone say that their oral health problems are genetically inherited -- “it runs in the family.” You might not politely and move the conversation to another subject. Or you might challenge the statement and respond that the belief is not true. You have been told frequently that cavities and gum disease are determined by diet and dental hygiene habits. dna-pixabay cco free - 5297378 640

 

Which answer is right?

 

In a great many cases, there is not a single cause of chronic oral health problems. Both genetic inheritance and oral hygiene are factors in your oral health, as well as diet, other illnesses, and more.

 

How Does Genetic Inheritance Cause Oral Health Problems?

  1. A recent study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine discovered that a “polymorphic variation in a gene called beta-defensin1 (DEFB1)” increases your predisposition to develop caries (cavities) and periodontal (gum) disease. 

  2. Two types of proteins (amelogenins and nonamelogenins) determine the formation of dental hard tissues (like enamel). This determines key characteristics of the enamel -- size, shape, and shade) and your propensity to cavity (caries) development. 

  3. A compromised immune system -- whether genetic, medication or illness -- creates an environment that facilitates the effects of the oral bacterium Streptococcus mutans, a common cause of cavity development.

  4. People who are genetically intolerant of fructose have a deficiency in the enzyme fructose-1-phosphatase aldolase. This enzyme affects the metabolism of glucose and causes a drop in blood glucose levels after ingesting fructose. This affects the number of sugars in your mouth and their effects on your teeth. 

  5. Some people are genetically insensitive to bitter tastes. These people are unable to perceive bitter or sweet tastes. In order to taste sweetness, a high amount of sugar is needed. Sugar, of course, is a leading cause of cavities.

  6. Saliva is important in protecting your mouth from bacteria. It contains antimicrobial peptides (AMPS), which has antibiotic properties. Individual differences in salivary AMP concentration combined with a genetic predisposition to a reduced concentration defines the rate of cavity development.

Genetics and Periodontitis

Periodontitis is now understood to be an inflammatory disease that attacks the gums and bones around your teeth. Studies have found that people with aggressive periodontitis (AgP) are affected by a genetic factor that contributed to more than 50% of all cavities in these children and 25% in adults. 

 

To date, 38 genes have been demonstrated to be related to periodontitis. Research studies have found more genetic activity in causing aggressive periodontitis compared to chronic periodontitis. A DNA alteration has been isolated in people with chronic periodontitis.

 

Many factors, including genetic factors, contribute to dental health. This makes it more important to be diligent in our oral hygiene regimen. 

 
 
Salt Water Rinses and Gargles

A salt water rinse or gargle can help you maintain good dental health. The rinse can also be helpful in reducing pain and alleviating other symptoms of colds, flu and more. 

 

When to Use a Salt Water Rinse

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A salt water rinse might be the perfect treatment for some oral issues. These include:

  • After a dental procedure

  • To assist in removing bacteria from the mouth 

  • For a sore throat, to ease pain and prevent infection

  • To ease the pain and assist in healing of Canker Sores

  • To reduce the pain and swelling associated with some allergies

  • To treat symptoms of upper respiratory infections (colds, flu, mono, sinus infection)

  • To prevent upper respiratory infections: one study found that those using a salt water gargle were less likely to have respiratory infections.

 

How to Make a Salt Water Rinse

Salt water rinses and gargles are inexpensive and easy to make at home. 

 

American Dental Association Recipe: 

 ½ teaspoon of table salt

 8 ounces of warm water

 Mix until they are combined. 

 

Alternative Recipe:

  1 quart water

  1 teaspoon of salt

  1 te aspoon of baking soda

  Mix until they are combined.

 

Best Gargling Techniques

Typically, it is best to gargle once or twice each day. Gargle as long as possible to ensure effectiveness. Spitting out the solution when finished is recommended, but it is generally safe to swallow the solution. 

  1. Take as much of the solution into your mouth as you can do comfortably.

  2. Gargle around the back of your throat.

  3. Rinse around your mouth, teeth and gums

  4. Spit out the solution.

 

Other Tips and Insights

  • People who have difficulty gargling should not use a salt water rinse. 

  • Gargling with a salt water rinse is considered to be safe for children and adults.  

  • Some children may not be able to gargle. Ask your dentist or pediatrician when children are old enough to gargle.

  • People with high blood pressure or some other conditions that require limited sodium intake should discuss this with their dentist or doctor before beginning.

  • Those who cannot tolerate the taste of the salt water or salt water and baking soda solutions might add honey or garlic for flavoring.

 

Rinsing or gargling with a salt water solution might be recommended for many oral hygiene purposes and to soothe gums and throat when fighting an infection. The solution is easy to make with items you likely have on hand. 

 
Self-check for Oral Cancer

A new report from the Oral Health Foundation this week says that throughout the UK oral cancer referrals have dived by 33% since the beginning of the Coronavirus Pandemic. This did not happen because fewer people have symptoms of oral cancer; it happened because referrals and exams are not happening. I have not yet seen figures for the US.oral cancer common site - paid - shutterstock 1092560240

I understand that many people are afraid to visit their dentist during the Pandemic, despite statistics arguing otherwise. In fact, I saw a note in one recent article that visiting your dentist is safer than the pharmacies and grocery stores.

Dentists have been concerned since the beginning of the pandemic that oral health issues are proceeding without diagnosis and without intervention. I’d like to suggest a compromise. If you are afraid to visit your dentist’s office you can spend less than one minute checking yourself for mouth cancer. A self-check is not a substitute for a dental exam, but it may be enough to advise you if you need to overcome your fear and visit your dentist right away.

This is how to do a self-check for mouth cancer.

  1. Use your hands to check your head and neck for unusual bumps, lumps or sores.
  2. Examine the inside of your mouth next. Check for any strange patches of white, or for a lump or an ulcer that has persisted for more than 3 weeks. Be sure to examine both sides of your mouth and the tissue under your tongue.
  3. Check the inside of your cheeks for bumps or lumps and for patches of red or white tissue.
  4. Check the roof of your mouth visually and by using your fingers for swelling or bumps.
  5. Check your lips. Pull out each lip and look for any red or white tissue.

If you find nothing unusual, you may be safe to delay your next visit to your dentist. If, however, you identify something unusual, you need to see your dentist as soon as possible. Oral cancer, when found early, is treatable and curable in many cases. If the cancer is advanced, the chances of curing it, are far less. Delaying treatment by as little as 3 to 6 months can mean the difference between a complete cure and a bad outcome.

If you have trusted your dentist in the past to protect you from infection and illness, you should be able to trust your dentist today.

 
Protect Your Teeth and Gums During the Holidays

The foods, desserts, and treats of the holiday season are an ongoing temptation for most of us. Whether or not you are inclined to give in to these temptations, it is important to protect your teeth and gums during the holidays. Here are a few quick reminders to help you stay on track. Christmas Cake - pixabay cco free - -1390424 640

ü  Don’t crack nuts with your teeth

ü  Don’t open packages or bottles with your teeth

ü  Don’t bite your nails

ü  Don’t chew ice cubes

ü  Avoid chewy treats (they tend to stick to your teeth and leave sugar behind)

ü  Avoid chewing hard candy (prevent chipped or broken teeth) – including candy canes

ü  Limit your holiday treats

ü  Maintain your dental hygiene

ü  Keep dental appointments

ü  Limit alcohol intake

ü  Limit starchy foods (they stick to and between teeth)

ü  Try to eat sweets either with or immediately after a meal (eating produces saliva, which moderates acid and bacteria)

ü  Drink plenty of water

ü  Eat cheese (contains cavity-fighting agents that preserve tooth enamel and kill bacteria)

ü  Avoid soda

ü  Eat fruits like apples, strawberries, and kiwi, which wash away food particles and bacteria

ü  Eat vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and cucumbers (removes food particles that can become plaque)

ü  If your breath needs sweetening, try chewing fresh herbs like parsley, mint, and cilantro

ü  Turkey is good for your teeth

ü  COVID-19 and the Holidays create stress. Many people grind their teeth when under stress

ü  Try to protect your mouth when playing games or sports. If it is convenient, use your mouthguard

 

Also remember that toothbrushes, toothbrush heads, toothpaste, dental floss, and picks make great stocking stuffers.

 

You can protect your teeth and gums while enjoying the flavors of the season. Happy holidays.

 
Bad Dental Advice on TikTok

There is a lot of really bad dental advice on TikTok (the social media site). The holiday season is typically a time when we all want to look our best. This year, the emphasis may shift to being photogenic. With the continual explosion of new cases of Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), many states are on the verge of new quarantine requirements. This is girl pulling own tooth SM - paid - shutterstock 138351179the perfect atmosphere for a storm of disastrous outcomes of some really bad decisions about dental self-care.

TikTok seems to be the primary site for dental self-treatment videos. Teens and young adults are making videos of themselves engaging in DIY dental care. The care ranges from using a nail file to make teeth even to using potentially dangerous concentrations of hydrogen peroxide to whiten teeth, to extracting one’s own tooth, to trying to do orthodontic work on one’s own teeth. Unfortunately, the demonstration videos are easier to find on TikTok than the videos made after people deal with the aftermath of their self-care.

If they are extremely lucky, some of those who try these DIY dental procedures will only be left with some tooth sensitivity. Those who are not so lucky (or those who do more than minimal self-care) can look forward to fillings, root canals, crowns, extractions, infections, implants, or more extensive surgery.

This might be a good time for a family discussion about trying everything one sees on social media. Knowing the possible harm that could result from self-care, many of those who made videos of their experiments made new videos saying they would not have tried DIY dentistry.


To learn more about the self-treatments, their dangers, and likely outcomes, we recommend these recent articles:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/wellness/tik-tok-teeth-filing-dentist/2020/09/24/cddc7de0-fcf4-11ea-8d05-9beaaa91c71f_story.html

https://www.medicaldaily.com/dont-diy-your-dental-health-dentists-say-456327

https://www.health.com/condition/oral-health/tiktok-teeth-bleaching

 
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