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Heart Disease and Oral Health

May 5th, 2021

Is there a link between oral health and heart health? This is a question that has been receiving a lot of attention in recent studies. While as yet there is no definitive study that proves oral health has an effect on overall heart health, there is also no definitive proof that oral health doesn’t affect heart health. So, what do we know, and, just as important, what should we do?

What do we know? One clear connection exists between gum disease and endocarditis, a rare, but potentially very serious, infection. When we neglect our gums, they bleed more easily. When gum disease advances, the gums pull away from the teeth. This creates pockets which can harbor more bacteria and plaque, leading to infection and even tooth and bone loss. And this bleeding and infection can be serious not only as a matter of dental health, but for your heart as well.

Endocarditis is an infection of the inner lining of the heart and the heart valves. When bacteria from other parts of the body, including your mouth, make their way into the blood stream, they can attach themselves to damaged areas of the heart. The resulting infection can become very serious, very quickly. If you have damaged heart valves or artificial valves, have an artificial heart, or have any type of heart defect, it is especially important to prevent gum disease from developing. Regular dental care will help prevent bleeding gums and infections, and reduce the danger of oral bacteria entering the bloodstream. Always let us know if you have any issues with heart health, and we will tailor our treatment for all of your procedures accordingly.

What else might link oral health and heart disease? Because an increased risk of heart disease has been found in patients with moderate or severe gum disease, there has been much speculation as to a possible cause-and-effect connection. For example, the plaque inside arteries which leads to heart attacks has been found to contain certain strains of periodontal bacteria. Other studies have searched for a causal relationship between inflammation resulting from gum disease and inflammation leading to heart disease.  The body’s immune response to periodontitis and its potential consequences for heart health have also been examined. So far, there has been no clear evidence that treating gum disease prevents the occurrence or recurrence of heart disease.

So what should we do? This is the easy part. Keeping your gums and teeth healthy will increase your quality of life in immeasurable ways. And it’s not difficult! Regular brushing, flossing, and dental exams and cleanings at our Jacksonville, FL office are the key to lasting oral health. If this also keeps your heart healthy, that’s the best possible side effect.

Is sleep apnea linked to cancer? Studies say, ‘Yes’.

April 28th, 2021

Recently, multiple studies have concluded that people with sleep apnea, a disorder that causes snoring, fatigue, and dangerous gaps in breathing at night due to throat muscles collapsing, are five times more likely to develop cancer. In fact, one of the studies found that people with the most severe forms of sleep apnea had a 65 percent greater risk of developing cancer of any kind.

Researchers believe this could be due to the body lacking enough oxygen, a condition known as hypoxemia. When people are deprived of oxygen, their bodies react by producing more blood vessels, which can feed cancer cells, and as a result cause tumors to grow and spread.

Approximately 28 million North Americans suffer from sleep apnea, with many cases going undiagnosed. This is due to most cancer patients not mentioning any sleep problems they experience unless their physician asks them.

Patients at Mullens & Nguyen Distinctive Dentistry who suffer from sleep apnea can be treated using continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which produces a stream of air to keep the upper airways open while you sleep. An oral appliance may be another option if CPAP therapy isn’t an option. If you have sleep apnea, Dr. Richard Mullens and Dr. James Nguyen and our team will help you understand all of your treatment options, finding one that suits your needs.

If you think you may have sleep apnea, please give us a call at our Jacksonville, FL office to schedule an appointment.

Playing “Tooth or Dare”

April 21st, 2021

Our teeth perform several vital roles for us. We use them to bite and chew, to help form words, to support our facial structure. And never underestimate the power of a smile!

But once you try to expand that job description, you are asking for trouble. Using your teeth for tasks they were not designed for is a game no one wins. What are some of the worst moves you can make? Putting your teeth into play as:

  • Ice Crushers

Crunching hard objects like teeth and ice cubes together can have one of two results—the ice will give, or your tooth will. If your tooth is the loser, you can expect cracks, fractures, worn enamel, and even dislodged crowns and fillings. If you’re tempted to chew on the ice in your drinks, try asking for a straw or using slushy ice instead. (The craving for ice can also be a symptom of other medical conditions—check with your doctor for more on that subject.)

  • Bottle Openers

If ice vs. teeth is a bad idea, metal vs. teeth must be a really bad idea. Those sharp hard metal caps can be difficult to remove even with a bottle opener. Don’t take a chance on chipped, fractured teeth and lacerated gums to get to that beverage faster/work around a lost opener/impress your friends.

  • Nut Crackers

Just because nuts offer more protein than ice doesn’t make their shells any safer to crack with your teeth. Besides the danger of fractured teeth and eroded enamel, biting on whole nuts can produce sharp splinters of shell that can damage delicate gum tissue. By all means, enjoy nuts—they pack a lot of nutrition in a small package. But buy them already shelled, or invest in a nutcracker.

  • Cutting Tools

Teeth aren’t meant to be scissors or utility knives. Even if you are trying to bite through the top of a relatively soft bag of chips, or a piece of duct tape, or a tag that just won’t come off your new clothes, you are putting pressure on your teeth in ways that they are not meant to handle. Don’t take a chance on chips and fractures.

  • A Helping Hand

Using your teeth to hold the straps of your heavy bag, or the leash of your well-trained pet—what could go wrong? How about an awkward fall? Or a squirrel? Or something that might possibly be a squirrel? Any fall or force that applies violent pressure to your teeth and jaw is a potential for dental disaster.

  • Stress Relief

You might grind your teeth or bite your nails whenever you feel nervous. Please find another form of stress relief! Grinding and clenching the teeth can lead to worn enamel, jaw pain, broken teeth and restorations, and a host of other problems. Biting fingernails is not only hard on your nails, but also introduces bacteria into your mouth and can cause damage to your tooth enamel.

If you grind your teeth at night, ask Dr. Richard Mullens and Dr. James Nguyen about a nightguard during your next visit to our Jacksonville, FL office.

This is real life, and you really don’t want to be playing “Tooth or Dare” with your dental health. Use your teeth for what they were designed for, and you’ll take home the grand prize—a lifetime supply of beautiful, healthy smiles.

Gum Disease Prevention

April 14th, 2021

What to do to prevent gum disease? If left untreated, gum disease can lead to discomfort, infection, and even tooth loss. Bacteria in our mouths form a film called plaque. Plaque sticks to our teeth and can lead to gum inflammation. This inflammation can cause our gums to pull away from the teeth creating “pockets” which are home to infection and result in tooth and bone loss. Since the early stages of gum disease are often invisible, what is the secret to keeping our gums healthy?

Luckily, there is no secret to it at all! Preventing most gum disease is a simply a matter of following well-known guidelines, at home and in our Jacksonville, FL office.

 Healthy Habits at Home

  • Regular brushing and flossing

At least two minutes of careful brushing twice a day will help reduce bacteria and plaque. Use floss, picks, and other interdental tools to remove plaque from tight areas between the teeth that your brush might miss.

  • If you smoke, now is the time to quit!

Smoking weakens your immune system, making it harder to fight infections and to heal. If you need another reason to quit, improving your oral health is a great one. Talk to us about ways to stop.

  • Eating well

We all know sugar is no friend to dental health, and encourages bacterial growth. But eating apples, carrots and other crunchy vegetables can help remove food particles and stimulate the production of saliva, which fights bacteria production. Vitamins and minerals help strengthen bones and build healthy gum tissue. And a balanced diet supports not just your oral health, but the health and well-being of your entire body. Ask us for suggestions for a dental-healthy diet.

Regular Checkups and Cleanings

  • We recommend a visit to our Jacksonville, FL office every six months for a checkup. Dr. Richard Mullens and Dr. James Nguyen can discover and treat gingivitis (early periodontal disease) and recommend a periodontal exam if there are signs of more severe gum disease. There are some individuals who develop gum disease even with great brushing and flossing habits, so it’s important to have a dentist’s evaluation.
  • Having your teeth cleaned every six months will remove plaque that brushing alone can’t handle. If there are signs of more serious gum disease, a periodontal cleaning will remove plaque and tartar from both above and below the gumline.

Brushing, flossing, avoiding smoking, eating well, seeing Dr. Richard Mullens and Dr. James Nguyen regularly—there’s no secret here! Talk to us about what you can do and what we can do to keep your gums healthy for a lifetime of beautiful smiles.