Potty Mouth?

potty-mouth-734In need of an extra incentive to brush your teeth this Monday morning?  Well, they don’t come much better than this. According to a new study published in the journal Cell Host & Microbe a common type of mouth bacteria may contribute to colorectal cancer.

Colon cancer is the third most commonly diagnosed cancer and the second leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the US. The American Cancer Society estimates that almost 143,000 people will be diagnosed in 2013 and that more than 50,000 will die of the disease.

fusobacterium_ll_111017_wgThe bacteria  at issue –  Fusobacterium nucleatum is a key component of periodontal plaque and plays a role in periodontal disease.  But, according to the researchers from Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, it can also attach to colon cells and trigger a sequence of changes that lead to colon cancer.  Although they noted that levels of F. nucleatum are much higher in people with gum disease, than in those without, it was not possible to prove a cause and effect relationship.

Nevertheless, the findings emphasize the importance of good oral hygiene.

colon-cancer-600The research team also found a way to prevent the bacteria from attaching to colon cells. “This discovery creates the potential for new diagnostic tools and therapies to treat and prevent colon cancer,” says lead investigator Yiping Han.

Until such time, SRxA’s Word on Health will be focused on flossing.

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When Doctors Don’t Listen

He was the third dentist I saw last week. After 7 days of unrelenting pain, no sleep, and a failed root canal, I was referred to an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. During the long drive to his prestigious offices, I imagined him to be my knight in shining gloves, mask and goggles, the hero who was going to extract the fractured, unsalvageable tooth. Although his introduction was a little brusque, I gave him the benefit of the doubt when he said he’d get me out of pain. Even after he’d roughly forced open my swollen, inflamed jaw I followed him like a lamb to slaughter into his O.R.

Knowing I have a high pain threshold, I opted to have local, rather than general, anesthesia.   Smiling, I braced myself for the needle, almost looking forward to the numbness that would finally take away the discomfort.  One, two, three cartridges of local anesthetic later, I was still waiting.  “Numb?” he asked.  “No, nothing’s happened yet” I replied.   He looked at me with the kind of look normally only seen on the face of a driver who’s just been rear-ended.  “If we are going to do this,” he said, “you’re going to have to be straight with me.

Straight with you? Do you think I’m making this….Oh My God!  It suddenly hit me. This white-coated icon of the medical establishment had branded me a hysterical female. Everything I’d said, every symptom I’d described was being filtered through his base conclusion: This bi**h is crazy.

Whether to prove his point or the invincibility of his drugs he started to prod and poke at the problem tooth.  I almost hit the ceiling, and let out a high decibel scream. Not my finest moment, I admit, but it was to be followed by one that was even worse.

Naively, I guess I expected some sort of apology or maybe a placating hand on my shoulder. What I got was a stream of expletives, the dramatic gesture of him peeling off his surgical gloves and throwing them to  the floor and a parting image of his backside as he stormed out of the O.R.

I could not have known that my pain would call into question my right to treatment.  Was it my fault that he’d failed to provide adequate anesthesia?

His assistant looked acutely embarrassed, his receptionist told me I may want to find another doctor.

I slunk back to my car, in tears, in pain…and angry beyond belief.  If it wasn’t so painful to talk, I’d have called the American Dental Association and reported him.

Instead, I’ve let a week pass and tried to learn a lesson from this encounter. I’ve asked myself again and again: what did I do wrong? The answer is clear. I trusted a doctor who did not trust me.  It’s a common mistake. And it’s one I would urge patients everywhere not to repeat.

Nevertheless, I still believe in the medical profession and I know most clinicians put their patients above their egos.  But, I’m still hurting. Anyone know a good tooth-puller in the Washington DC area?

Love Hurts!

SRxA’s Word on Health team just returned from a memorable trip to Phoenix, Arizona.  In addition to managing a number of highly successful events, meeting many of our wonderful clients and spending some quality time with our Advisors; we were able to catch up with all the latest news from the field of asthma, allergy and immunology.

During one of the more memorable sessions, we learned that kissing and um, er, let’s just say, more intimate contact, can be fraught with danger for those with allergies, while in another we found out that everything from our makeup, to our cell phones might be making us sick.

Over the coming days we’ll be sharing the congress highlights with are readers, but in the meantime, let’s get back to kissing…

According to Dr. Sami Bahna, President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), while allergic reactions from kissing are relatively uncommon, they do occur.

Apparently, allergens from food substances can linger in a partner’s saliva up to a full day following ingestion, irrespective of tooth-brushing, rinsing, flossing  or other interventions such as chewing gum.

And if you’re one of the 7 million Americans who suffer from food allergies we’re not just talking about a passionate kiss. Even a kiss on the cheek or the forehead from a partner who has consumed an identified allergen can cause a severe reaction ranging from lip-swelling, throat-swelling, rash, hives, itching, and/or wheezing immediately after kissing.

And kissing isn’t the only form of romantic activity that can trigger allergic reactions in the highly sensitive. The ACAAI notes that sexual intercourse can pose its own hazards, given that some patients are allergic to chemicals found in spermicides, lubricants and/or latex condoms.  Even sperm can prompt an allergic reaction in some, as can the more general emotional and physical exertion of intercourse itself.

When it comes to semen allergy, Bahna said antihistamines can sometimes help with mild issues, as can immunotherapy treatments offered by allergists. Condoms can also help, as long as a person is not allergic to latex!

Despite these warnings, Bahna stressed, “I do not want this discussion to cause all people with allergies to live in fear. If your girlfriend or your wife is not very allergic to peanuts she won’t be affected by a kiss from a person who ate peanuts.”

Additionally, allergists can help determine what’s causing the allergy and find the right treatment. They have the training and expertise to treat more than just symptoms. They can identify the source of your discomfort and develop a treatment plan to eliminate it.

You can follow the ACCAI annual meeting on Twitter at #ACAAI2010.

Brushing up on Heart Disease

According to a new study published in the British Medical Journal, adults who brush their teeth less than once a day face an increased risk for heart disease.

Nearly 12,000 Scottish adults answered questions about oral hygiene and then were followed for 8 years. During that time, there were 555 cardiovascular disease events, including 170 deaths.

After adjustment for confounders such as concomitant illness, sex, age, weight, smoking and physical exercise, participants who brushed their teeth less than once a day were 70% more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease than those who brushed twice daily. Poor oral hygiene was linked to elevated levels of C-reactive protein and other inflammatory biomarkers.

The authors say their findings suggest “a possible role of poor oral hygiene in the risk of cardiovascular disease via systemic inflammation,” and they stress the importance of counseling patients on the benefits of good oral health.

These results confirm findings from several observational epidemiological studies that showed that poor periodontal health status is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Word on Health wonders, have you brushed today?