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Happy Gums, Happy Heart!

July 18th, 2018

Medical doctors and dental health professionals, like Drs. Ryan Foote and Nathan Luehrs, have debated over the connection (or lack thereof) between gum disease and heart disease. While there still is no unanimous consensus on whether there is a link – or the extent to any link there may be – several studies offer some interesting insight into possible correlations that may prove that there are some common factors that point to a likely correlation between the two.

Could there be a link between gum disease and heart disease?

Dr. Simone Ricketts reported on the findings of an Australian study of 80 patients in Profile Magazine. That study showed that 70% of the patients who participated in the study and needed heart transplants also had gum disease. She noted that other studies show a similar pattern, indicating that patients who needed heart transplants or other cardiac surgery procedures, were more likely to have dental problems.

Not Just Heart Disease Linked to Gum Disease

It isn’t just heart disease that experts are linking to periodontal disease, however. More and more evidence is showing that many chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes can be linked to periodontal disease. Poor oral hygiene resulting in gum disease was evident in blood tests that showed positive markers for inflammation.

Experts looked at a combination of over 120 medical studies focusing on a link between dental health and heart health. The findings of that research were published in the Journal of Periodontology and the American Journal of Cardiology. While there was no agreement on a definitive link, the research showed some promising results, and offer information that may be helpful to both dental health professionals and their patients.

On its own, gum disease increases the risk of developing coronary artery disease. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed that gum disease increases the risk factor for blood vessel and artery diseases when those arteries supply blood to the brain.

This is especially important for strokes because they are a common cause of inadequate blood flow to the brain. Data from another study of 50,000+ people found a higher risk of stroke among people with gum disease and tooth loss.

The study did, however, show two very important connections between gum and heart disease:

  • Both the gums of people with gum disease and the blood vessels of people who had atherosclerosis tested positive for similar types of bacteria.
  • Both patients with atherosclerosis and those with gum disease showed the presence of inflammation in their bodies.

Patients need to understand the importance of taking care of their mouths and doing whatever is necessary to ensure or support heart health – even if there is no guarantee that doing so will prevent either disease.

How Smoking Increases the Risk of Oral Cancer

July 11th, 2018

Cigarette smoke contains more than 6,000 chemicals, and at least 200 of those chemicals are known to be harmful to your health. When smoke is inhaled, moist oral tissues are saturated with excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and a host of other known carcinogens. Most oral cancers originate in abnormal squamous cell activity, which are cells found on the lips, inside the mouth, and in the throat.

How Oral Cancer Begins

Cells exposed to consistently high levels of cigarette smoke may eventually suffer abnormal mutations within their DNA. Since deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is responsible for providing cells with instructions about growth, reproduction, and death, these instructions become distorted, which causes the cells to reproduce uncontrollably.

Essentially, that is what cancer is: rapid, unchecked growth of genetically mutated cells that encourages the development of malignant tumors. Unfortunately, the chemicals in cigarette smoke are strongly associated with oral cancer.

Signs of Oral Cancer

Early-stage oral cancer is often asymptomatic, which means symptoms appear only after the cancer intensifies and spreads. Possible signs of oral cancer include:

  • Ulcers inside the mouth or on the lips that do not heal
  • White or dark red patches inside the mouth
  • Lumps inside or around the mouth (a lump could appear on your neck)
  • Bleeding, numbness, and soreness in the mouth
  • Chronic halitosis
  • Loose teeth in the absence of tooth decay

Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Cancer

Squamous cell oral cancer is the most common type diagnosed in smokers. Drs. Ryan Foote and Nathan Luehrs and our staff often discover squamous cell carcinoma lesions during dental examinations or cancer screenings. Depending on the stage of the oral cancer, treatment may begin with a biopsy or an exfoliative cytology procedure that involves collecting cells from the oral cavity using a scraper.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer patients may need surgery, radiation therapy, a combination of surgery and radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to eradicate oral cancer.

Smoking, Cancer, and Tooth Decay

Not only is smoking the number-one cause of cancer but it is also detrimental to the overall health of your teeth and gums. Yellow teeth, bad breath, dry mouth, and expedited tooth decay are all caused by smoking, not to mention the damage smoke does to the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

In other words, don’t smoke!

Happy Fourth of July

July 4th, 2018

Every year, Americans all over the world celebrate the birth of the country and its independence on the Fourth of July. There are countless ways that people celebrate and they range from community parades and large scale gatherings to concerts, fireworks displays, and smaller scale celebrations among family and friends. For some people, July 4th is synonymous with baseball, while for others it is all about the beach of barbecues. However you celebrate, you can be sure that red, white, and blue is visible everywhere throughout the area.

The Beginnings of Fourth of July Celebrations

Although it wasn't officially designated as a federal holiday until 1941, the actual tradition of celebrating Independence Day goes back to the time of the American Revolution (1775 – 1783). At the time of the American Revolution, representatives from the 13 colonies penned the resolution that ultimately declared their independence from Great Britain. The continental congress voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence on July 2nd of 1776. Two days later, Thomas Jefferson's famous document that is now known as the Declaration of Independence, was adopted by delegates representing the 13 colonies.

First States to Recognize the Fourth of July

In 1781, Massachusetts became the first state (or commonwealth) whose legislature resolved to designate July 4th as the date on which to celebrate the country's independence. Two years later, Boston became the first city to make an official designation to honor the country's birth with a holiday on July 4th. In that same year, North Carolina's governor, Alexander Martin, became the first governor to issue an official state order stipulating that July 4th was the day on which North Carolinians would celebrate the country's independence.

Fun Facts About the Fourth of July

  • The reason the stars on the original flag were arranged in a circle is because it was believed that would indicate that all of the colonies were equal.
  • Americans eat over 150 million hot dogs on July 4th.
  • Imports of fireworks each year totals over $211 million.
  • The first “official” Fourth of July party took place at the White House in 1801.
  • Benjamin Franklin didn't want the national bird to be the bald eagle. He believed that the turkey was better suited to the coveted distinction. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson disagreed with him, and he was outvoted, so the bald eagle became the official bird of the United States.

For many, the tradition is something entirely different. Along the coastal areas of the United States, people may haul out huge pots to have lobster or other types of seafood boils. Others may spend the day in the bleachers at a baseball game, or at a park, cooking a great traditional meal over an open fire. No matter how or where you celebrate, one thing is certain: all Americans celebrate July 4th as the birth and independence of our country.

Drs. Ryan Foote and Nathan Luehrs and our team at Platte Valley Dental Group wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Treatment Options for TMD

June 27th, 2018

Temporomandibular dysfunction (TMD) refers to a diverse range of disorders that relate to muscular function in the jaw and face — the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). That could mean difficulty opening your mouth, pain in the jaw or face, or any sort of problem with the jaw joint.

TMD can be difficult to diagnose because of the varied causes. Whatever the case, an accurate diagnosis from Drs. Ryan Foote and Nathan Luehrs helps make treatment as successful as possible.

Most often, jaw problems will resolve themselves within several weeks or months. Surgeries like arthrocentesis, arthroscopy, and open-joint surgery should be a last resort. More conservative and reversible treatments should come first and are in fact the most critical step in the treatment of TMD.

Less invasive treatments like acupuncture and splints can be helpful, but that will depend on your particular case. It’s worth your while to speak with Drs. Ryan Foote and Nathan Luehrs at our Scottsbluff office to learn about solutions that could work for you.

A combination of treatments will most often produce the greatest relief for TMJ patients. It’s a good idea to avoid activities that overuse the jaws, such as chewing gum or clenching your jaws.

You can be proactive in finding relief for TMD by trying the following remedies at home:

  • Eat soft food: When you eat soft and/or blended food, your jaw gets an opportunity to rest. Avoid chewy and crunchy food, and food that requires you to open your mouth wide, like apples or corn on the cob.
  • Apply moist heat: A hot water bottle wrapped in a moist towel can help reduce symptoms.
  • Apply ice: Applying an ice pack wrapped in a cloth or towel for no longer than 15 minutes may also reduce pain and promote healing.
  • Do jaw exercises: A physical therapist can help identify the exercises that will work for you. Jaw exercises have been shown to be an effective treatment method that can be performed at home.
  • Relaxation: Actively try to relax the muscles of the face and lips, and let your teeth come apart. Many find meditation, yoga, and slow, deep breathing to be helpful for reducing stress and tension.
  • Avoid wide yawns: Keep your fist under your jaw when you feel a yawn coming on, to keep your jaw from opening too widely.