periodontal disease

Are Your Gums Going To Pot?

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

A new study published in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that long term marijuana use may increase the risk of gum disease. The study did not find a link between long term use of pot and increased risk of other health problems.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal (in most places) drug used in the United States. A 2014 survey found that 22.2 million Americans reported using the drug in the past month.

The study analyzed the data of 1,037 adults who were part of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study of New Zealand.Lead researcher Dr. Madeline Meier of Arizona State University  and her team looked at the frequency of marijuana use among participants between the ages of 1-38 and evaluated whether this usage had impacted their physical health at age 38. The researchers looked at whether the marijuana use affected periodontal health, inflammation, metabolism and lung function. Study participants who were heavy marijuana users for up to 20 years showed a greater risk of gum disease at the age of 38.

The research team points out study limitations, such as the drug use was self-reported. Some may not have disclosed their marijuana use.

The study authors reported, “In general, our finding showed that cannabis use over 20 years was unrelated to health problems in early midlife.” The researchers also noted that previous studies have shown that pot smokers tend to brush their teeth and floss less frequently and they are more likely to abuse alcohol, which is also a risk factor for gum disease. Smoking cigarettes is another huge risk factor for gum disease.

Good oral hygiene habits including brushing, flossing and visiting the dental hygienist regularly can help keep your gums and your smile healthy and beautiful.

To schedule your next visit please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777.


Insurance Companies Connect Oral Health With Overall Health

Friday, April 29th, 2016

Dentists have known for a long time that oral health affects overall health. In the past decade the general public has acknowledged the link as well. We are now beginning to see that insurance companies are connecting good oral health with good overall health as well.

The bacteria that are responsible for oral health problems including gum disease, infections and tooth decay, have the ability to travel throughout the body. Oral bacteria has been linked with heart disease, diabetes, pre-term birth and has even been found to link to certain cancers. Keeping the gums and teeth as healthy as possible and reducing the number of “bad” bacteria in the mouth can have a positive affect on overall well-being.

Some insurance companies are now adding links between their health insurance and their dental insurance. For instance,  Cigna has the Oral Health Integration Program, where patients who are pregnant or have with certain medical conditions like diabetes, chronic kidney disease, side effects from head and neck cancer radiation, among others, may quality for 100 percent reimbursement for copays or coinsurance for specific dental procedures for periodontal treatment or caries protection. Another insurance company, Aetna insurance started their medical/dental integration program back in 2007 after a study they did with Columbia University found that people with diabetes, heart disease and atherosclerosis  who were receiving dental care had risk scores that averaged 27 percent lower from those who did not. The study also showed that the medical costs for patients with those conditions who had been treated for periodontal disease averaged 12 percent lower medical costs.

“We’re starting to see this more and more as insurance companies begin to realize how closely oral health is connected to a patient’s overall health,” Dr. Ronald Riggins of the American Dental Association  said. “We want dentists to be aware of these benefits so they can alert their patients, who may not be aware these are available to them.”

Most dental insurance plans don’t cover much so it is nice to see that there are some small improvements. People that have dental insurance usually receive it as a benefit from their workplace. If you do purchase this type of coverage make sure that you are looking at a plan that allows you to see any dentist you wish. Most highly qualified dentists do not participate in insurance plans but will be happy to submit your claim so you can receive reimbursement from the company.

If you are experiencing oral health problems such as bleeding gums, infections, tooth decay or bad breath (a sign of gum disease), please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today. We can help you achieve a healthy mouth which can lead to better overall health and save you healthcare dollars.

Can Mouth Bacteria Increase Risk For Pancreatic Cancer

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

All cancers are scary, but pancreatic cancer is especially so. A new study suggests that certain mouth bacteria may increase the risk for pancreatic cancer.

Previous research has linked a history of gum disease and oral health problems with and increased risk of pancreatic cancer. Some studies have also suggested that certain types of oral bacteria may be involved. Groundbreaking research from the NYU School of Medicine is the first to directly evaluate the oral microbiome.

in 2014 over 46,000 Americans were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and almost 40,000 died. The researchers are hoping that their findings may lead to earlier, and improved treatments for pancreatic cancer. Said Dr. Jiyoung Ahn, “Our study offers the first direct evidence that specific changes in the microbial mix in the mouth – the oral microbiome – represent a likely risk factor for pancreatic cancer along with older age, male gender, smoking, African-American race, and a family history of the disease.” Cigarette smoking is the most important risk factor for the disease and it is the 12th most common cancer in the United States.

The study involved comparing mouth bacteria sampled from men and women before they developed pancreatic cancer with those sampled from similar individuals who did not have the disease. The study participants had been taking part in a larger study of cancer risk and had been followed for nearly 10 years. When the results were analyzed, the researchers discovered that patients who had Porphyromonas gingivalis bacteria present had a 59% overall higher risk of developing this cancer. Another bacteria, Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans was linked to a 50% higher risk. Both types of bacteria are known to cause gum disease.

Another recently published study showed that smoking is tied to changes in mouth bacteria. The good news is that once smoking is stopped, the bacterial changes can be reversed. Professor Ahn stated, “These bacterial changes in the mouth could potentially show us who is at most risk of developing pancreatic cancer.”

Gum disease, and the oral bacteria that cause gum disease and tooth decay, have been linked to many serious health problems ranging from heart disease, premature birth and even cancers. Protect your overall health by keeping your smile as healthy as possible.

Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule your next visit.

All Ages Need Dental Care

Thursday, March 10th, 2016

People of all ages need regular dental care. Regular dental care saves health care dollars in the long run by preventing gum disease and managing dental decay.

The National Center for Health Statistics completed a survey of the percentage of patients who had at least one dental visit in 2013.

The good news — over 80% of children aged 2 to 17 visited the dentist. The bad news — only about 60% of adults over age 65 visited the dentist. The survey also confirmed that women were more likely to visit the dentist than men.

Men, in general, tend to visit any type of health care practitioner less than women. In dentistry, this is reflected in more gum disease and eventually possible  tooth loss. The good news among the sexes is that men have slightly increased their dental visits between the 2010 survey and the 2013 numbers. Come on guys, make and appointment and reap all the benefits of a healthy smile!

Among adults aged 18 to 64, almost 2/3 of women visited the dentist every year but those numbers drop off after age 65. The survey did not cite reasons for the decline in dental visits. Perhaps it is because Medicare does not include dental coverage or perhaps it is because homebound seniors do not have easy access to dental care. Because oral bacteria and the inflammation from gum disease has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers and Alzheimer’s disease it is vitally important for those over 65 to continue regular dental visits and maintain good oral health. A healthy smile can impact both quality of life and longevity.

As we age it is important to remember that those old fillings and dental crowns don’t last forever. They last a really long time considering they are used many times a day, every single day, but eventually they will need to be replaced. If it has been a while since your last dental visit please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule your appointment.


Smokers Risk Losing Teeth

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Dentists have known for a long time that smoking is bad for your oral health, as well as your overall health.

New research confirms that regular smokers have a significantly higher risk of losing teeth than non smokers. How much higher? Try over three times higher for men and 2 1/2 times higher for women. The study, published in the Journal of Dental Research, was completed by researchers at the University of Birmingham (UK) and the German Institute of Human Nutrition. Worldwide about 30% of people aged 65-74 have lost all of their natural teeth.

Lead researcher, Dr. Thomas Dietrich explained, “Most teeth are lost as a result of either caries (tooth decay) or chronic periodontitis (gum disease). We know that smoking is a strong risk factor for periodontitis, so that may go a long way towards explaining the higher rate of tooth loss in smokers.” Smoking can actually hide the effects of gum disease like bleeding gums — people think their gums are healthier than they actually are. “The goog news is that quitting smoking can reduce the risk fairly quickly. Eventually, an ex-smoker would have the same risk for tooth loss as someone who had never smoked, although this can take more than ten years.”

Because gum disease and tooth loss might be the first noticeable effect on the health of someone who smokes, hopefully people will use this as a wakeup call and quit smoking before life threatening conditions such as COPD or lung cancer occur. Smokeless forms of tobacco have also been linked to gum disease and tooth loss, but with the added increase in oral cancer rates.

If you use tobacco products talk to your doctor about quitting. If you haven’t quit yet, remember to schedule more frequent dental hygiene visits at 3 month intervals to monitor and maintain gum health.

Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule your next visit.

Gum Disease and Prostate Problems

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Everything in our body is linked. A new report from Caste Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine found that treating gum disease reduced symptoms of prostate inflammation. Previous studies had found links between gum disease and prostatitis which is a disease that inflames the prostate gland.

Study author Nabil Bissada said “This study shows that if we treat the gum disease, it can improve the symptoms of prostatitis and the quality of life for those who have the disease.” Bissada explained that gum disease is a system-wide condition that causes inflammation, not only in the mouth, but throughout other parts of the body.

Study participants had a needle biopsy that confirmed inflammation of the prostate and a blood test that showed elevated PSA levels, an indicator of inflammation and possible cancer. The men also had moderate to severe gum disease which was treated. After 1 to 2 months the men were tested again and showed improvement. During the treatment for the gum disease the men received no treatment for their prostate problems, but even without treatment, 21 of 27 men showed decreased PSA levels. The researchers are continuing their study and hope to make periodontal treatment a standard part of treating prostate disease.

Men are not the only ones to benefit from healthy gums. The inflammation from gum disease has been shown to affect rheumatoid arthritis, heart disease and even fetal health.

Keep your gums (and your body) free from inflammation by brushing, flossing and visiting your dental hygienist regularly. If you have been told you have gum disease it needs to be treated. We used to think that gum disease led to tooth loss and that was pretty much it – now we know that untreated gum disease can have terrible consequences for overall health.

Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule your next visit.

Fix Receding Gums Without Invasive Surgery

Wednesday, April 29th, 2015

Many things recede as we age. This list includes our hairlines, our memories and, our gums. Receding gums lead to that “long in the tooth” look and are caused by many reasons. Here at Wilbanks Smile Center we have a way to repair receding gums without resorting to invasive surgery using the Pinhole Surgical Technique.

Loss of gum tissue around the tooth can be caused by the following:

  • Gum disease
  • Genetics
  • Aggressive toothbrushing
  • Hormonal changes due to menopause or pregnancy
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Grinding or clenching teeth (bruxism)

When gum tissue around the base of the tooth is lost it is easier for bacteria to build up and cause even more damage. Over time, the underlying tissue and bone structure can be damaged which will result in loss of teeth.

The Pinhole Surgical Technique (PST™) is an innovative  treatment option for restoring the gum line for a more attractive, healthier smile. To begin the procedure, Dr. Wilbanks will create a small opening in the gum tissue near the area of recession. He then introduces specialized instruments that are designed to gently move the gum tissue as needed to cover exposed root surfaces. Collagen is applied to hold the tissues in place while healing occurs. The results are instant and healing and recovery time is minimal. This is in contrast to older style gum surgery to repair receding gums.

Find out more about the Pinhole Surgical Technique at Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today by contacting us at 706-391-8777 to schedule your next visit.

Second Hand Smoke and Gum Disease

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

The link between smoking and gum disease has been known for many years, but new research appears to show that even second hand smoke can greatly increase the risk for periodontitis.

Almost half of US adults have some form of gum disease. Untreated gum disease has been linked to health issues throughout the body including heart disease, poor blood sugar control, premature birth and even some types of cancers.

The risk factors for gum disease include smoking, diabetes, using certain medications, hormonal changes in women and having a genetic predisposition to the disease. Most cases of gum disease can be prevented by proper oral hygiene (brushing and flossing), and regular dental hygiene visits. Our patients with diabetes and those who smoke are warned of their higher risk and advised on preventative measures – now it appears that we will need to add the family members of smokers to this group.

Using tobacco in any form, either smoked or orally, has serious effects upon oral health. Oral problems linked to tobacco use include:

  • Bad breath
  • Yellow teeth
  • Increase risk of Gum Disease
  • Risk of developing white patches or leukoplakia in the mouth
  • Delayed healing following dental surgery
  • Increased risk of oral cancer
  • Increased risk of dental implant failure
  • Increased loss of bone in the jaw

Quitting is hard. Talk to your doctor about your support options when you make the decision to quit using tobacco products. Sweeter smelling breath and a healthy white smile (along with reduced risks of heart disease and cancer) are at the end of the journey.

Find out more about keeping your smile healthy by contacting Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule your next visit.

Do You Have Bad Breath?

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

Do you have bad breath? How would you even know if someone didn’t tell you and, most importantly, what is the best way to avoid bad breath?

The most common causes for bad breath and the ways to avoid having them cause you problems are:

  1. Oral bacteria – lots of bacteria live in our mouths and the by-products of these bacteria produce a stinky odor. Keeping the number of oral bacteria in check will help keep breath smelling fresh. Brushing teeth thoroughly twice each day and flossing once per day removes oral bacteria. Chewing sugarless gum containing xylitol following meals helps clean teeth and the xylitol has been shown to reduce bacterial activity.
  2. Tonsil stones – tonsils often have creases or grooves that collect bacteria and food debris. This collection of gunk leads to smelly accumulations known as tonsil stones. If you are prone to tonsil stones you may also be prone to tonsil infections. Speak to your physician if tonsil stones are a recurring problem.
  3. Dry mouth or xerostomia – Many older adults suffer from dry mouth, or reduced saliva flow. Saliva is important because the constant flow helps keep your teeth and gums clean and neutralizes the acids produced by oral bacteria. Dry mouth is a side effect of many medications and can lead to more frequent tooth decay or gum disease, as well as bad breath. Fight dry mouth by drinking lots of water and using saliva replacements available at most drug stores.
  4. Gum disease – Periodontal infections (gum disease) are responsible for really terrible breath. Gum disease is an infection caused by the buildup of plaque on the teeth. Plaque is formed on teeth when oral bacteria attempt to attach themselves to the teeth. Dental plaque is soft and easily removed by brushing and flossing. Over time dental plaque hardens and becomes calculus which can only be removed by a professional dental cleaning. This is why brushing and flossing are so important in maintaining a healthy mouth.
  5. Smoking – Use of tobacco products orally or by smoking them have much higher rates of gum disease than non-smokers. Tobacco users with gum disease are also much more likely to experience more serious gum disease and have an increased risk of tooth loss. Talk to your doctor about a strategy for stopping your tobacco use.
  6. Onions, garlic, coffee, etc. – Many foods cause bad breath, even hours after you have eaten them and brushed your teeth. Try eating some yogurt to help replenish the “good” bacteria in your mouth and be patient because the garlic breath will go away eventually!

There are some cases of bad breath that are caused by serious health issues so if a visit to the dentist doesn’t solve your bad breath problem your next step should be to schedule an appointment with your physician.

Please contact Wilbanks Smile Center in Toccoa, GA today at 706-391-8777 to schedule your next visit. We’ll help you keep your smile healthy and your breath fresh!


Gum Disease FAQs

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a widespread condition that affects many adults. To learn more about this disease and how to prevent and treat it, here are the answers to some common questions asked by patients.

  • What is gum disease? Periodontal  disease is an infection of the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth. Plaque is the sticky film of bacteria that is brushed and flossed away with proper oral care. When left on the teeth, plaque produces bacteria that attack below the gum line. This causes the bond between teeth and gums to break down. If left untreated, periodontal disease may also cause tooth loss.
  • Are there different kinds of gum disease? Yes. In the early stage of gum disease, also known as gingivitis, gums may become red and swollen, and bleed easily. In the more advanced stage, referred to as periodontal disease or periodontitis, teeth can loosen and even fall out. Proper oral hygiene and regular dental examinations are essential in prevention and early detection of gum disease.
  • What are the signs of gum disease? Signs of periodontal disease include: red, swollen and/or bleeding gums, persistent bad breathe or bad taste and loose teeth. However, sometimes there are no warning signs, making proper dental hygiene and regular visits to the dentist very important.
  • What increases the risk for periodontal disease? The risk of developing periodontal disease may be related to the following habits and conditions: Tobacco smoking or chewing, systemic diseases such as diabetes, certain medications such as steroids, cancer therapy drugs and calcium channel blockers, pregnancy or use of oral contraceptives, crooked teeth, worn bridges or fillings, or ill-fitting dentures.
  • What is the treatment? A patient is normally referred to a periodontist, who treats periodontal disease. Periodontitis is treated based on its severity and progression. Treatments may include: Scaling and Root Planing, a deep-cleaning method that removes bacteria from below the gum line and the tooth root, medication, or in severe cases, surgery. If other methods of treatment are ineffective, flap surgery may be performed to lift away gum tissue so that it can be cleaned underneath. Gum or bone grafts may also be performed to help regenerate any bone or gum tissue that has been damaged or lost due to periodontitis.
  • Is gum disease preventable? Yes, in most cases. Plaque is the most common cause of periodontal disease that can be prevented with proper dental hygiene. Patients should also follow a healthy diet, refrain from smoking, and visit a dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings.

Dentistry in Toccoa

If you’re ready to learn more about preventing and treating gum disease, contact Wilbanks Smile Center today and schedule a consultation.  Our offices are located in Toccoa, GA, and we can be reached at 706-886-9439.  We look forward to serving you.

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