FEBRUARY 2016 ;e Costco Connection 73
By Beverly Burmeier
SURE, YOU WANT a sparkling smile and
white teeth. But good oral hygiene, which
includes brushing and flossing regularly, is a
step toward ensuring overall health.
When proper dental care is lacking, periodontal disease, a chronic inflammatory disease of the gums and the bones that support
teeth, may develop. Bacteria associated with
periodontal disease, which affects nearly half
of American adults to some degree, can travel
into the bloodstream, creating significant
health risks to other parts of the body.
Where the problems occur
Poor oral health is a factor in several conditions. Here’s a look.
In pregnancy. Periodontal inflammation—gum disease—may play a role in the
development of preeclampsia, a potentially
deadly condition that affects approximately 5
percent of pregnancies in the U.S., reports an
April 2013 study in the Journal of Periodontology. Another study found that women
with periodontal disease were seven times
more likely to deliver low-birth-weight babies
“Women who are pregnant or considering
pregnancy should receive a comprehensive
periodontal evaluation to determine if they
may be at risk,” says Dr. Pamela K. McClain, a
dentist, past president of American Academy
of Periodontology and Costco member.
Heart disease and strokes. Research
shows increased levels of inflammation from
infections like gum disease create a higher
risk for heart disease and strokes, says Costco
member Kimberly Fasula, director of the
Orthodontic Clinic at the University of
Illinois at Chicago College of Dentistry.
For diabetics. For reasons related to
poor blood circulation, diabetics are at high
risk for periodontal disease. Daily brushing
and flossing, regular dental check-ups and
good blood glucose control are the best
defenses against these complications.
Respiratory disease. Bacteria from
the mouth can get into airways of the lungs,
increasing the risk for respiratory diseases
and worsening chronic lung conditions like
emphysema, McClain says.
Tooth loss. Smoking is a leading risk
factor for developing gum disease. Nicotine
constricts blood vessels and diminishes the
body’s ability to heal. Smokers are three times
more likely to lose teeth than nonsmokers.
Keeping a healthy mouth
The American Dental Association recommends brushing teeth for at least two
minutes two times a day. Use a toothbrush
with soft, rounded bristles for less abrasion to
enamel and gums. Toss your toothbrush—
and replace it with a new one—after about
four months of use or after an illness.
Consider using an electric toothbrush,
since they fight plaque and gum disease better
than brushing by hand. Electric brush
heads should be replaced at the same rate as
After brushing, use dental floss to remove
lingering bits of food and plaque. Wrap floss
around each side of the tooth and move it
up and down in a scraping motion. When
you’re dining out or don’t have a toothbrush
handy, at the very least rinse your mouth with
water after eating. Discreetly wipe your teeth
with a napkin. Chewing sugarless gum promotes production of saliva, which acts like a
Twice-yearly cleanings by a dentist or
hygienist are also a good idea. People who have
an aggressive response to bacteria and develop
plaque easily could benefit from a professional
cleaning every two to three months.
To promote good oral health and ward off
inflammation, eat a healthy diet with whole
grains, dairy products for calcium and foods
high in vitamin C and omega-3s. Skip sugary
treats, juices and sodas, and avoid acidic and
sticky foods. C
Beverly Burmeier writes about health for
many national magazines. She flosses at least
once a day.
Put your money
where your mouth is
Oral health is key to one’s overall health
YOU COULD WAKE some morning with
watery and itchy eyes that are very discolored. That’s conjunctivitis, also known as
pink eye, one of the most common and
treatable eye conditions in children and
adults, according to the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. It is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and
the white part of the eyeball. The inflammation makes blood vessels more visible
and gives the eye a pink color. It can affect
one or both eyes.
Conjunctivitis can be caused by viruses,
bacteria, allergens (such as dander or dust
mites) and irritants (such as smog, swimming pool chlorine or foreign bodies). Viral
and bacterial types are highly contagious.
Depending on the cause, symptoms of
conjunctivitis can vary but typically include:
• Redness or swelling of the white of the
eye or inside the eyelids.
• Increased sensitivity to light.
• Eye discharge, greenish-yellow, in the
corner of eye(s) (bacterial).
• Crusting of the eyelids (bacterial).
• Very watery eyes (viral or allergic).
• Itchy, irritated and/or burning eyes
(viral or allergic).
The cause indicates the treatment:
• Viral: Usually runs its course over several days with no medical treatment required.
• Bacterial: Mild cases may get better
without treatment; more severe cases may
require a prescription for antibiotic eye-drops or ointment.
• Allergic: Allergy medications may
help relieve symptoms.
• Irritant: Protect eyes from known irritants when possible; e.g., wear goggles when
swimming if chlorine is a known irritant.
How to stop from spreading
• Wash your hands.
• Avoid touching or rubbing eyes.
• Avoid sharing eye and face makeup,
makeup brushes, contact lenses and containers, and eyeglasses.
Search on these websites to learn more:
• Centers for Disease Control and
• American Optometric Association,
for your health