The Importance Of Healthy Teeth

This week I saw a patient, Caroline, for a general physical.  She has some chronic health problems and only rates her health as “fair.”  As part of a routine physical I always ask about dental care.  Because she is on a limited income, she does not see the dentist regularly.

Is that important?  If you don’t have dental insurance, is it OK to skip your cleanings?  What is the importance of healthy teeth and gums?

Because I’m writing about this, I think you can guess my opinion!  It’s very important to keep your teeth and gums healthy.  I’d like to review what happens when you don’t take good care of your teeth.  What are the risks to your health?

When you don’t brush and floss regularly, plaque builds up on the teeth.  What’s plaque?  It is actually a biofilm of sticky bacteria on the surface of the teeth which extends under the edge of the gum.  It is removed when you brush with toothpaste, but builds up again over 12-24 hours.

If you look at the cuticle of your fingernail and push on it a little, you can see that there is a little space under the cuticle above the nail.  There is a similar space between your tooth and the gum.  Normally the space is very small and your toothbrush gets in there and cleans it out when you brush.

If you don’t brush regularly and the plaque builds up, your body mounts a local inflammatory reaction to protect your gum tissues from the bacteria in the biofilm.  The inflammation, over time, weakens the connection between the tooth and the gum.  The attachment point gets weaker and the gum gradually separates away from the tooth surface, causing formation of a pocket.  Food particles can get trapped and it is difficult for toothbrush bristles to get down in there and clear everything out.

Regular dental cleanings and exams to look for gum redness, swelling, easy bleeding and pocket formation are needed to identify problems early and get your gums back in good shape.  If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to periodontitis.  Severe cases can require surgery, tissue grafts and sometimes lead to tooth loss, bone loss, and abscesses.

Okay, Dr. Jen, but so what?  So I don’t have healthy teeth.  Why is that so important for the rest of me?

It turns out that the inflammation of chronic gum disease has a big impact on the health of the rest of your body.  I did a quick PubMed search and there have been an absolute wealth of studies published exploring the link between periodontal disease and various medical illnesses including diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Without fail, it has been shown that better dental and gum/periodontal health results in better overall health.  Period.

So if you are one of those people who hates the dental chair, please explore the options to get more comfortable with regular cleanings.  Shop around and find a dentist and hygienist that you really like.  Some dentists will provide mild sedation for those who are really super anxious.

My hygienist, Barb, knows I don’t like getting scraped.  She cheerfully carries on a one-sided conversation while I’ve got a handful of instruments stuffed in my mouth and can only grunt in response, LOL!  While I don’t necessarily love the process, I do love having healthy teeth and gums and I know it’s a necessary thing.  Sort of like getting Pap tests, mammograms and colonoscopies to check for problems.  Uncomfortable but necessary for routine maintenance of your body.

It is very important for you to brush and floss regularly and see the dentist every 6 months for cleanings and checkups.  The health of your whole body depends on you having healthy teeth and gums!

PS – If you don’t have dental insurance I would recommend you check out the CWRU School of Dental Medicine’s student clinic.  They see both adults and children and provide extremely thorough care at reasonable rates.  When I was a student I used that clinic as I didn’t have dental insurance, and I can personally vouch for their excellent care!

QUESTION: Do you see the dentist twice a year?  If not, why not?

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Summer Is A Great Time To Lose Weight

Hello from Cincinnati!  We are traveling this week, on our way home from a great week away.  We spent several days in Gatlinburg, TN and are moseying home, refreshed and ready to get back to work.

This afternoon we went to church at a positively ancient and very well-known church in Mt. Adams, Holy Cross – Immaculata.  I can’t believe I grew up in Cincinnati and had never visited this beautiful old church on the top of Mt. Adams.  If you’re Catholic and visit Cincinnati, please go see it!

The pastor, Father Leonard, gave a lovely homily in which he very humbly reviewed his first year as pastor and numbered some of his goals for the next year.  I had to laugh a little when he mentioned a personal goal – to lose weight!  I know lots of people who would put that one on the list of their own goals to tackle 🙂

That ties in very well to my topic for this week.  I know a lot of my patients and Shaklee family members who make a huge push for weight loss after the New Year.  That goal gets legs and becomes almost desperate as the summer gets closer.  People want to get that “swimsuit body.”  If they are not where they want to be weight-wise by the time their kids get out of school, they are prone to giving up.

This week I want to give you 3 good reasons why summertime is a great time to keep working towards that weight loss goal!  Summer is a great time to lose weight!

Fresh Seasonal Produce

There is so much healthy fresh seasonal fruit and vegetables that are available this time of year!  Those of us who are focusing on eating healthy can positively gorge ourselves on healthy foods that are bursting with summertime goodness.  Curious about what is in season?  Find a local farmer’s market, feast your eyes and satisfy your tastebuds with just-picked produce that taste like heaven.

You might consider joining a CSA, a popular program with a number of local farms where you pay ahead of time for a share of the season’s crop.  Most CSA shares are sized to provide a weekly supply of produce to feed a family of four.  Every year I keep eyeing Greenfield Berry Farm’s CSA, but I’m worried I won’t use it all and haven’t found anyone to share it with.

Beautiful Weather

Go walk!  Run!  Chase your kids around the yard!  Dust off and oil up your bikes and go for a ride.

Summer weather means you can be active outside and aren’t limited to the things you can do in the confines of a gym or field house.  From frisbee to pick-up softball, there are so many things you can do outside to get some exercise.

Take your kids to the park and make it a family adventure.  Go hiking in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, or take the Bike-and-Ride for a longer excursion on the Towpath.

Less Clothes

Now be honest.  Why do you want to lose weight?  I’m going to encourage you to think of your body’s HEALTH rather than how it LOOKS, but I’m aware that most people (women in particular) also want to look better.

In the summertime, you’ve shed the bulky sweatshirts and jeans for more form-fitting clothes, so that means you may have more incentive to say no to the ice cream truck.  Eating healthy and keeping your body lean is a year-round goal, so why not use the fact that you’re seeing more skin in the mirror right now as a reason to double down on your commitment to treat your body right?  Why NOT avoid the treats and junk that are going to sabotage your ability to meet your goal of a leaner, healthier you?

You CAN do it.  And because this weekend is Father’s Day, I’ve got a special offer to help all you dads (and moms too!) get recommitted to your weight loss goals.

Shaklee is offering a special price on the Shaklee 180 Starter Kit, $150 for all you need for your first 2 weeks on the Shaklee 180 weight loss program.  And because we know that 2 weeks is not long enough to meet your goals (although it’s definitely long enough to start to see real results) Shaklee is offering up to $20 in free shipping for any order over $150 in July when you purchase the Shaklee 180 starter kit by June 30.

Summer is a great time to make real progress on your goal of a leaner, healthier you.  I’m excited to offer THE best weight loss program I’ve ever seen at a discounted price to help give you the tools to make it happen.  Order your Shaklee 180 Starter Kit today!

QUESTION: Do you put your weight loss goals on hold over the summer?

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What Is Lyme Disease?

It’s summertime!  Everyone is outside walking, hiking, camping and doing yardwork.  Every year at this time we start getting calls and appointments because people find ticks on themselves, their children, their family/friends/acquaintances/perfect strangers and their pets.  Finding a tick immediately makes people think of Lyme disease.  What is Lyme disease?

Lyme disease is an infection that causes pretty significant symptoms.  There has been a lot of buzz lately about so-called Chronic Lyme Disease and many people with chronic joint pain and fatigue (VERY common symptoms) are concerned they may have Chronic Lyme Disease.

Transmission

Lyme disease is caused by infection with a bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi.  The deer tick, Ixodes scapularis, transmits the infection when it bites a human and takes a blood meal.  Most of the time the tick must be attached to the host for 36-48 hours in order to spread the infection.

Credit: www.co.ontario.ny.us

Lyme disease can also be transmitted by the bites of immature ticks called nymphs.  Nymphs are less than 2 mm in size, much smaller than the adult tick pictured above, and difficult to see.  Just because you haven’t found a tick attached to your body doesn’t mean you can’t have Lyme disease!

Symptoms

Lyme disease causes flulike symptoms and a rash.  Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes.  70-80% of patients will have the typical bulls-eye rash.  A small percentage of patients may have brain or nerve symptoms, like weakness of the face, burning nerve pain, severe headaches, stiff neck and problems with short-term memory.  Lyme disease can also affect the heart and cause irregular heartbeat, palpitations, shortness of breath and dizziness.

Credit: www.webmd.com

Treatment

Lyme disease is treated with antibiotics like doxycycline, amoxicillin and cefuroxime.  If caught and treated early, most patients will have a prompt and complete recovery.  Those who have brain or heart involvement may need to be hospitalized for IV antibiotics.  A small percentage of patients do not respond and develop long-term symptoms.  Also, those who are not diagnosed early may go on to have persistent symptoms.

Chronic Lyme Disease

Some patients who are treated appropriately with antibiotics for Lyme disease have symptoms that persist for more than 6 months.  This is commonly called chronic Lyme disease but it is more properly called “Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome” (PTLDS).

The cause of PTLDS is not known.  There is some evidence that it may be a post-infectious autoimmune reaction similar to Guillain-Barrre after a viral or gastrointestinal infection, Reiter’s syndrome after Chlamydia infection, or rheumatic heart disease after strep throat.

PTLDS may also be due to persistent infection with Borrelia bacteria.  The research is ongoing to determine the cause and the best treatment.  Studies have NOT shown that long-term treatment with antibiotics results in better results than placebo, and long-term antibiotic therapy can have very serious adverse effects.

Most patients with PTLDS have gradual improvement of their symptoms over time.  It can take a VERY long time for symptoms to resolve completely, and sometimes they don’t go away altogether.  If this is the case, patients often get relief with treatments designed for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.

If you see the rash shown above at ANY time of year, not just in the summer, see the doctor right away.  If you develop a flu-like illness with fever, headache, body aches and joint pain and swelling, ask your doctor to test you for Lyme disease.  If you had Lyme disease and were treated, but your symptoms seem to be hanging around for longer than they should, talk to your doctor about it.  He or she may be able to help, or to refer you to a rheumatologist or infectious disease specialist who can help you feel better.

QUESTION: Do you know anyone who has had Lyme disease?

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Managing Seasonal Allergies

Happy spring everybody!  The trees are green, lawnmowers are running, flowers are blooming.  People are sneezing.  Yep, allergy season is here!

Now there are plenty of medications available for seasonal allergies over-the-counter that used to require a prescription.  Antihistamines like Allegra, Zyrtec and Claritin, and nasal sprays like Flonase and Nasonex can be purchased at the pharmacy.  Fewer people need to come see me to handle mild symptoms.

I’m still seeing people who are really suffering though.  Either the over-the-counter medications aren’t helping or they’re not reducing the symptoms enough to keep people comfortable.  I’ve got big-gun treatments like cortisone shots and higher-priced prescriptions, but is there anything else you can do to get your symptoms under control before seeing the doctor?

Of course there is!  (I probably wouldn’t be writing this if there weren’t, LOL!)  There are 3 more measures you can take to reduce your symptoms on your own.

1.  Ditch the fumes

Spring means spring cleaning, so many people are moving furniture, vacuuming carpet that hasn’t seen daylight in months, washing baseboards and the insides of cabinets.  What chemicals are you releasing in your house when you clean?

Pull out your cleaning supplies and read the labels.  If it says “use in a well-ventilated area” or contains bleach or ammonia, please don’t use it in your house!  Indoor air pollution from fume-forming cleaning products is a BIG problem.  Houses nowadays are much more airtight to stop energy leaks around windows and doors.  Chronic exposure to chemical fumes and scents can lead to chronic nasal and sinus congestion from the irritation.

I know this works from personal experience.  In medical training I developed what I was told was indoor allergies.  All winter I suffered with sinus congestion and occasional sinus infections.  It was worse when I spent nights in the hospital on call, and I figured that call rooms were just dusty places.  It got better in the warmer weather and I thought since the windows were open I was just not being exposed to as many indoor allergens.

When I joined Shaklee and switched my cleaning products, my indoor allergies went away!  Turns out I wasn’t allergic to dust and mold (I’m not any better at housekeeping now than I was as a medical student, LOL!) but I was reacting to the cleaning products I used.

If you’re suffering with allergy symptoms, I strongly suggest you change to nontoxic cleaning supplies.  Get rid of everything that has a scent or makes fumes.  Those of you who love scented candles and perfume and lotions, I recommend you pack them ALL up for 2 weeks and switch to unscented personal products to see if it makes a difference to your symptoms.

Shaklee has cleaning products that clean like crazy but won’t hurt you, your family, your pets, or the environment.  I encourage you to check out the Get Clean lineAll-purpose cleaning solution, disinfectant, laundry products, kitchen products, and personal care items are all available.  As always, if you don’t love them they have a money-back guarantee.

2.  Alfalfa

If switching cleaners doesn’t work, one supplement that really helps allergy symptoms is alfalfa.  Before you get really confused (thinking alfalfa is for horses and rabbits), yes, alfalfa is a very nutritious and perfectly edible salad green.  It also seems to tell the immune system that grasses and plants are safe for you!

Taking alfalfa by mouth seems to down-regulate the immune reaction to grasses and pollens (this is called oral immunotherapy).  Since 2/3 of the immune system lives in your intestines, and in THAT location it seems to be primed to ignore allergens, this response makes sense.

If you don’t want to eat a big alfalfa salad every day, Shaklee has alfalfa tablets which are produced organically.  I have customers with allergies who have been happily taking alfalfa tablets for years to control their symptoms.

3.  Food allergies

Yes, I see food allergies EVERYWHERE!  However, that’s because the symptoms that food allergies cause are everywhere too.  One of the many symptoms related to food allergies is chronic sinus congestion.

If you have switched your cleaning products and ditched scented, fume-forming products and added alfalfa and STILL have allergy congestion, you should consider a 3-week food allergen elimination diet.  The one I give my patients is found here.

Got allergies?  You’re not alone.  If nonprescription meds are not working or you’d prefer a non-pharmaceutical approach, there’s a lot you can do to reduce your symptoms before calling in the professionals 🙂

QUESTION:  Are you suffering with allergy symptoms this spring?  What are you doing about it?

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