Posts for: November, 2013
While she was pregnant with her son Camden Jack Cutler, 25-year-old Kristin Cavallari noticed an odd occurrence in her bathroom sink: “Every time I floss, my sink looks like I murdered somebody!” the actress and reality-TV personality exclaimed. Should we be concerned that something wicked is going on with the star of Laguna Beach and The Hills?
Before you call in the authorities, ask a periodontist: He or she will tell you that there's actually no mystery here. What Cavallari noticed is, in fact, a fairly common symptom of “pregnancy gingivitis,” a condition that affects many expectant moms in the second to eighth month of pregnancy. But why does it occur at this time?
First — just the facts: You may already know that gingivitis is the medical name for an early stage of gum disease. Its symptoms may include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. Fundamentally, gum disease is caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria, or plaque, on the teeth at the gum line — but it's important to remember that, while hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a few are harmful. A change in the environment inside the mouth — like inadequate oral hygiene, to use one example — can cause the harmful types to flourish.
But in this case, the culprit isn't necessarily poor hygiene — instead, blame it on the natural hormonal changes that take place in expectant moms. As levels of some female hormones (estrogen and/or progesterone) rise during pregnancy, changes occur in the blood vessels in the gums, which cause them to be more susceptible to the effects of bacterial toxins. The bacteria produce toxic chemicals, which in turn bring on the symptoms of gingivitis — including painful and inflamed gums that may bleed heavily when flossed.
Is pregnancy gingivits a cause for concern? Perhaps — but the condition is generally quite treatable. If you've noticed symptoms like Kristen's, the first thing you should do it consult our office. We can advise you on a variety of treatments designed to relieve the inflammation in your gums and prevent the harmful bacteria from proliferating. Of course, your oral health (and your overall health) are prime concerns during pregnancy — so don't hesitate to seek medical help if it's needed!
How did things work out with Kristen? She maintained an effective oral hygiene routine, delivered a healthy baby — and recently appeared on the cover of Dear Doctor magazine, as the winner of the “Best Celebrity Smile” contest for 2012. And looking at her smile, it's no mystery why she won.
If you would like more information about pregnancy gingivitis, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Expectant Mothers” and “Kristen Cavallari.”
One of the top concerns in healthcare is the interactions and side effects of medications. Drugs taken for separate conditions can interact with each other or have an effect on some other aspect of health. It's important then that all your health providers know the various medications you are taking, along with other lifestyle habits. That includes your dental team.
Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) are one type of medication that can have an effect on your oral health. CCBs are used primarily to control hypertension (high blood pressure), and to treat other cardiovascular conditions like angina or abnormal heart rhythm. They work by dilating blood vessels, which makes it easier for the heart to pump.
CCBs are now recognized as a contributing factor in the development of a condition known as gingival hyperplasia in which the gum tissues “overgrow,” extending in some cases abnormally over the teeth. This abnormal growth can be painful and uncomfortable, and can make oral hygiene more difficult to perform. The overgrowth of tissue can also be socially embarrassing.
There's also a secondary factor that can increase the risk for tissue overgrowth in patients taking a CCB — poor oral hygiene. In the absence of a good hygiene routine, a layer of bacterial plaque known as biofilm can build up on tooth surfaces and lead to various forms of gum disease, including hyperplasia. The overgrown tissue contributes in turn to this disease process by inhibiting effective oral hygiene.
If you've already developed gingival hyperplasia or some other form of gum disease, it's important for you to receive periodontal treatment for the disease as soon as possible. Once we have the condition under control, it's then a matter of regular dental checkups and cleanings to reduce the risk of disease, including gingival hyperplasia. We can also help you develop effective hygiene practices that inhibit this condition while you are taking a CCB.
If you would like more information on the effects of medication on oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Blood Pressure Medications.”