Category: Overall Health

Vaping to Quit? OK, just not for too long…

vaping
Vaping eliminates many of the dangers of traditional tobacco, but it’s not without risk. 

November 21 was the Great American Smoke-Out! If you took the pledge and have successfully avoided smoking since then, you have made it two whole weeks! A BIG CONGRATULATIONS from all of us here at Meyer & Johns!

 

Follow the Vaper Trail? 

Many people attempt to quit smoking with the help of nicotine replacement therapy, namely patches, gum, or lozenges. But these days many people turn to vaping or using e-cigarettes to wean themselves off nicotine. And there’s evidence to suggest that these new options are effective. A recent study reviewed by Harvard Health Publishing cited an 80% higher 1-year quit rate for people using vape products instead of nicotine gum or patches. However, 4 out of 5 of those successful quitters were still vaping, as opposed to less than 10 percent of people who were still using the other products. 

And it stands to reason that vaping is a somewhat healthier option than traditional smoking. Aerosol-generated water vapor delivers the nicotine without the harmful tobacco tar and other chemicals that cause cancer, strokes, and cardiovascular disease in the majority of smokers. 

 

A Viable Alternative?

vaping

But as we’ve all learned recently, vaping brings with it a host of other lung dangers. So it’s not a perfect substitute for your body, but is vaping better for your mouth? The short answer is “Not really.” Studies have shown that many of smoking’s cancer-related risks are associated with the nicotine itself, rather than the tobacco. And since we last explored vaping, the body of research has continued to grow. Besides promoting gum disease by reducing blood flow, it causes dry mouth and kills bacteria in your mouth, promoting faster tooth decay. 

And we’re finding it leads to a host of other problems. New research now links vaping and Bruxism, as the stimulant nicotine has been shown to promote the jaw-clenching and tooth-grinding that can lead to mouth and jaw issues. 

The take-aways? If you have used or are using vaping products to quit smoking cigarettes, STICK WITH IT! Quitting smoking is the single biggest thing you can do to reduce health risks and improve your quality of life. But make sure you set a “2nd Quit Date” to take the final step to put down the vape pen so you can go totally nicotine-free! 

Threats to Your Dental Health

Tooth enamel is important
Unseen threats may be putting your teeth at risk!

 

As we noted in our last post, Missouri lags behind most states in the U.S. for accessible dental care. But it made us think about other threats to your dental health that have emerged in our modern society. 

 

What We Eat 

Dental health is tied closely to overall health, and most Americans aren’t doing a very good job of managing either one. Most of us consume lots of processed foods with high sugar and chemical content. These food additives are designed for flavor and shelf-life, but are generally bad for your teeth, as they stick around longer and can upset your mouth’s natural balance

What We Drink

In an effort to combat the obesity epidemic, communities around the country are considering the restriction of super-sized sodas. For teeth, this is great news! With a combination of acidity and sticky chemicals, soda and other carbonated sweetened beverages wreak havoc on teeth. The American Dental Association recommends at least a 1:1 ratio of soda to water consumption. Plus, there are numerous benefits for both your mouth and your body when you replace soft drinks with water. 

How Much Stress

As we’ve said, Anxiety Bites. But in modern life pulls everyone in more different directions than ever before. Stress-related bruxism presents a significant threat to your overall dental health. If tension and anxiety have you gritting and grinding your teeth, find ways to counteract the chaos of modern life — Unplug, go outside, exercise, meditate, develop a hobby. All of these activities can help bring balance in a world dominated by ugly headlines, looming deadlines, pinging email reminders and text alerts stacking up like a Tetris game. 

 

If you have other concerns or questions about how you can improve your dental or overall health, ask us at your next appointment

 

MO Bad Grades for the Show-Me State

Missouri Dental Health rankings
Missouri scored poorly in both physical and dental health categories.

A few years ago we told you about our Missouri dental health rankings, which were not great. Unfortunately, our streak of unfavorable ratings has continued.

A recent report published by the United Health Foundation took a look at America’s Health Rankings. Missouri – the 18th-largest state – ranked 43rd out of 52. The study’s main focus was on overall health, including access to physicians, affordability of care, and the prevalence of chronic and/or preventable conditions. We rank in the bottom 20% of states in deaths caused by both cancer and cardiovascular disease. But there were numerous categories that Missouri scored poorly on that were specific to oral care. 

The Show-Me State has the 9th-lowest number of dentists per capita, with just 48.5 per 100,000 residents. And despite our cautionary tales, Missouri has more active smokers –21%– than 40 other states. This last statistic can clearly be linked to our high cancer death rate, but what does the other data say about dental care? 

Behind the Numbers

Some of the individual metrics point to more disturbing trends. There is an increasing lack of access to dental care for Missourians, mirroring statistics in the medical area healthcare industry. Another study by the Commonwealth Fund highlighted the number of Missouri adults who have gone without a dental visit in the past year. That number has increased steadily, outpacing the national average since 2014. The number of adults missing six or more teeth due to decay, infection, or gum disease also increased. Other studies have also shown our state lagging behind nearly all others in adequate dental care for adolescents.   

Not Just About Mouth Health

We will point out (again!) how closely dental health is tied to overall health. Research proves that oral infections and periodontal (gum) disease are more closely associated with:

  • Cardiovascular diseases, including stroke and congestive heart failure 
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Low birth weight 

Not coincidentally, Missouri scored poor ratings for all these conditions. Maybe it’s time we took a closer look at how overall health may be affecting your dental health and vice versa. If you have questions, just ask us at your next appointment. We can offer tips for making sure you (and your mouth) stay healthy!

Oral Cancer: What should you watch for?

 

oral cancer
Many warning signs of oral cancer can appear as other conditions.
Do you know what to watch out for?

Did you know? Each year in the U.S., there are 50,000 new cases of oropharyngeal (mouth & throat) cancer, broadly known as oral cancer. Of those, 10,000 patients will eventually die from it. April is National Oral Cancer Awareness Month, and Drs. Meyer and Johns want to make sure you know what to watch out for.

Cancer Types

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are three main types of precancerous lesions; leukoplakia, erythroplakia, and mixed erythroleukoplakia. The first is the most common, and is visible as a white patch or plaque that does not go away. In the U.S., the incidence of leukoplakia has been declining, mainly due to decreased tobacco consumption. In fact, stopping all forms of tobacco use is the easiest way to cut your risk of oral and other cancers, as well as a host of other health problems.

 

Warning signs

The earliest symptoms of oral cancer may appear as a white or red patch of tissue in the mouth, or a small indurated ulcer which looks like a common canker sore. The easiest advice for evaluating skin or tissue irregularities is the 2-Week Rule: Any sore or discolored area that does not heal within 14 days should be checked by a professional.

Other than lesions on the mouth tissue, oral cancer symptoms may include;

    •   lumps or masses that you can feel in your mouth or neck,
    •   discomfort or troubleswallowing, speaking, or chewing,
    •   any wart-like masses,
    •   persistent hoarseness, or
    •   any prolonged oral or facial numbness.

 

We’ve Got Our Eyes on You!

Like other cancers of the skin, oral cancer warning signs are visible long before other symptoms occur, making early detection very important. Early identification of  lip, tongue, or other oral cancers improves control and cure rates to more than 90% and overall survival rates to nearly 100%, according to a study published on the website of the National Cancer Institute.

However, many instances of these cancers are diagnosed in their latter stages, only after metastasizing and causing secondary symptoms elsewhere in the body. In these cases, the 5-year survival rates are only slightly above 50%, according to the National Oral Cancer Foundation.

So if you’ve ever wondered why we look under your tongue during exams, this is the reason. Since early detection is key, we want to make sure we don’t miss a warning sign. Current or former smokers and users of smokeless tobacco should let us know at your next appointment so that we can be on the lookout for early symptoms.