tooth decay as we age

Recently a patient asked me why people seem to get tooth decay as they get older after years of being decay free.  The answer is that as we age we lose some gum tissue around our teeth and then areas of the root becomes exposed.  This part of the tooth is less resistant to bacteria and more likely to become decayed.  There are some easy ways to reduce the chances of getting decay.  Rinse with a fluoride containing mouth rinse and brush with a prescription strength tooth paste.  If your mouth is dry you also need to be sure to use artificial saliva to make sure your mouth stays moist.

 

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Periodontal disease and Heart disease

There has been lots of discussion in the news in the last few years about the relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease.  The latest studies show that there is no cause and effect between having periodontal disease and heart disease.  But I believe there is an association.  There is a big difference between a cause and effect and an association.  In the first case if periodontal disease is not treated that will lead to heart disease in the second if a person has periodontal disease he/she might be more likely to have heart disease.  While there have not been any long term studies looking at this relationship I believe that in the future those studies will be done and that will prove to be the case.  The association between periodontal disease and heart disease was the reason that researchers got it wrong in the first place.  Bacteria do not directly cause the loss of bone in periodontal disease.  And bacteria do not cause arthrosclerosis.  The cause of both diseases is a defect in healing and a response to injury.  In the mouth the bacteria cause inflammation and the body’s response to that inflammation is to lose bone, thus causing the loss of attachment and ultimately the loss of teeth.  In the heart small injuries to the blood vessels of the heart do not heal properly and there is scaring.  This scaring causes the vessel to fill with plaques and thus causes them to narrow.  I believe that the same response to inflammation is in operation in both cases with different results.  Patients who have periodontal disease should take care to see their physician to be monitored for heart disease.