Should I be worried that my gums bleed when I brush my teeth?

Bleeding gums are never a good sign. “If your gums bleed when you brush, that’s your body’s way of telling you that you have plaque trapped under the gum line,” says Dr. Cohen. And that means that it’s time for a trip to our office for a professional cleaning—the only way to eradicate plaque that has already crystalized on teeth.

At home, you can help keep plaque (and bleeding) at bay by stepping up your brushing routine. Dr. Cohen recommends an electric brush that uses a gentle, side-to-side vibrating motion, such as the Sonicare.  Flossing at least once a day will also help with plaque build-up.

Gum Disease linked to Rheumatoid Arthritis

An article published recently in PLoS Pathogens, University of Louisville School of Dentistry Oral Health and Systemic Diseases group researcher Jan Potempa, PhD, DSc, and an international team of scientists from the European Union’s Gums and Joints project have uncovered how the bacterium responsible for periodontal disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis, worsens Rheumatoid Arthritis by leading to earlier onset, faster progression and greater severity of the disease, including increased bone and cartilage destruction.

The scientists found that P. gingivalis produces a unique enzyme, peptidylarginine deiminanse (PAD), which then enhances collagen-induced arthritis (CIA), a form of arthritis similar to Rheumatoid Arthritis produced in the lab. PAD changes residues of certain proteins into citrulline, and the body recognizes citullinated proteins as intruders, leading to an immune attack. In patients, the subsequent result is chronic inflammation responsible for bone and cartilage destruction within the joints.

Potempa and his team studied another oral bacterium, Prevotella Intermedia for the same affect, but learned it did not produce PAD, and did not affect CIA.

“Taken together, our results suggest that bacterial PAD may constitute the mechanistic link between P. gingivalis periodontal infection and rheumatoid arthritis, but this ground-breaking conclusion will need to be verified with further research,” he said.

Potempa said he is hopeful these findings will shed new light on the treatment and prevention of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Studies indicate that compared to the general population, people with periodontal disease have an increased prevalence of Rheumatoid Arthritis and, periodontal disease is at least two times more prevalent in Rheumatoid Arthritis patients. Other research has shown that a P. gingivalis infection in the mouth will precede Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the bacterium is the likely culprit for onset and continuation of the autoimmune inflammatory responses that occur in the disease.

(Source: University of Louisville School of Dentistry)

Oral Health and HPV Virus Link

Good oral health may reduce the risk of HPV related cancers, said a study published August 23 in the American Association for Cancer Research Journal.

The University of Texas Health Science Center research team believes theirs is the first published study to examine the role of oral health in oral HPV infection.  “Overall, this study indicates that poor oral health is an independent risk factor for oral HPV infections. Given that oral hygiene is fundamental for oral health and that it is modifiable, public health interventions may aim to promote good oral hygiene as additional preventive measures for HVP related oral cancers.”

The data included four oral health measures:  self rating of overall oral health; presence of gum disease; use of mouth wash to treat dental problems within the past seven days of the survey and number of teeth lost.  They examined data on age, gender, marital status, marijuana use, smoking cigarettes and oral sex habits, among others that influence HPV infection.

The good news is, by maintaining oral hygiene and good oral health you can prevent HPV infection and subsequaent HPV related cancers.

At your periodic cleaning and check-up, Dr. Cohen always does an oral cancer screening as part of his exam.  For more information, please talk to Dr. Cohen at your next hygiene visit.