Are your gums tender and inflamed? Do they bleed when you brush?

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a common problem that affects nearly half of adults over the age of 30. It is a bacterial infection that attacks gum tissue and supporting structures of your teeth.

Severe gum disease is the primary cause of tooth loss. As serious as that is, patients of our Chapel Hill, NC general dentist are surprised to learn that there are other serious physical complications associated with the disease.

While periodontal disease, heart disease, and stroke may seem to be completely unrelated, numerous studies show that people suffering from gum disease are at twice the risk for coronary heart disease. Researchers have also found that oral infection is a risk factor for stroke.

Heart Disease and Stroke

We know now that the presence of periodontal disease can aggravate existing heart conditions. Several theories explain the link between heart disease, stroke, and periodontal disease:

Oral bacteria affect the heart– There are many strains of periodontal bacteria. Some of these enter the bloodstream and attach to the fatty plaques in the coronary arteries. This buildup contributes to clot formation, putting you at higher risk for gum disease.

Immune System– Individuals who have high levels of oral bacteria may also have weaker immune systems. This may set off a chain of events that have been shown to contribute to the onset of specific forms of heart disease.

Seeking Treatment for Gum Disease

Since periodontal disease appears to be a risk factor for both heart attack and stroke, it is essential to seek immediate treatment.

The good news is that with semi-annual exams and cleanings Chapel Hill, NC general dentist Dr. Diane Hourigan and conscientious oral hygiene, you may never have to worry about developing gum disease. If it’s time for your routine appointment, please call our office


Wide research and studies today are devoted to the connection between your oral health and your general health. This helpful article explores the relationship.


According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, three million people in the United States currently have dental implants, and approximately 500,000 dental patients opt for this particular brand of dental replacement every year. Clearly, the number of people that prefer dental implants to dentures is growing exponentially, but since this still is a fairly new alternative, not all Chapel Hill dentistry patients of Dr. Diane Hourigan are cleaning them in a way that will protect their longevity and keep their gums clean.

Knowing this, we have put together this daily checklist for keeping your dental implants cared for properly:

#1 Clean Twice a Day

If you are brushing your teeth correctly, you are doing it twice a day to clear away food particles and plaque to prevent cavities. While dental implants can’t get cavities, it still is important to clean them twice a day, just like normal teeth. This keeps food and bacteria away from your gums and preserves the durability of the implant.

#2 Use a Soft-Bristle Brush

You don’t want to use a hard brush when caring for implants because they are prosthetic and can wear down over time under duress. A high-quality, soft-bristle toothbrush is the best way to ensure that you’re cleaning your implants without causing them damage at the same time.

#3 Use the Same Techniques as Your Real Teeth

As is the case with natural teeth, dental patients with implants should use the same basic brushing techniques. However, proper care does require special attention under and around the implant to make sure it’s staying clean and the gums aren’t being introduced to extra bacteria.

#4 Use Nylon-Coated Interdental Brush for Tough Spots

These funky-looking little brushes do a great job getting those hard-to-reach spaces between teeth, especially the extra gaps and crevices that come with dental implants. Use these smaller brushes to clear any areas where food could get trapped, yet may not be reachable by brushes.

#5 Floss Daily (with the Correct Floss)

Floss does a similar job, but for even tighter spaces. Just because the tooth isn’t “real” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t floss. Adjacent teeth may be natural, and keeping food and bacteria away from those will be imperative in driving away potential cavities and periodontitis.

#6 Consider an Oral Irrigator

It’s amazing what a little splash of water can do for the health of your teeth, and an approved oral irrigator is precisely the tool to keep your teeth (real and implants) at their cleanest. They typically run $20-60, but they go a long way toward washing away the last remnants of food particles from your dental implant.

If you do all of these things on a daily basis, you will give your dental implants a better shot at longevity while also helping to avoid gum disease and bad breath. It is every bit as important to take care of your dental implants as it is to take care of your regular teeth, but if anything does go wrong and you find yourself in need of a dental implant repair dentist, Dr. Hourigan is a terrific option to help you get everything else back in working order.



Oral Cancer Awareness Month is meant to make people take note of the seriousness of the disease and the need for routine screenings by the Chapel Hill general dentist.

While oral cancer makes up only a small portion of annual cancer cases, it is still a serious problem. Oral cancer cases that are diagnosed in the early stages of development have a significantly improved survival rate — up to 80% after five years.

Risk Factors for Oral Cancer

The following risk factors can’t be changed, but the Chapel Hill general dentist knows that awareness raises your vigilance so potential problems can be addressed early when treatment options and positive outcomes are greatest.

  • Heredity – There’s sufficient evidence to suggest that the probability of oral cancer can run in families even if no other risk factors like smoking or alcohol use are present.
  • Age– More than 90% of all oral cancers occur in individuals over 40. However, the incidence among younger people has been on the uptick recently, perhaps related to lifestyle behaviors.
  • Race – African Americans have a higher incidence of oral cancer than Caucasians.

The following are risk factors that can and should be addressed:

  • Smoking tobacco use – Smokers are at five to nine times greater risk for developing oral cancer
  • Alcohol– Moderate to heavy drinkers are at three to nine times greater risk; the higher the alcohol content, the greater the risk
  • Diet– A high intake of fruits/vegetables, which are high in antioxidants, has been found to have a protective effect against a variety of cancers, including oral.
  • Chronic sun exposure– Often connected with lip cancers.

As part of your routine oral hygiene, you should closely monitor any changes in your mouth that don’t diminish in a few days, e.g., ulcers, sores, or white or red patches on the tongue. We care about your overall wellness, so our dentist always performs an oral cancer screening as part of your regular check-ups.

Please Contact Us for More Information

We want to do everything possible to keep your oral health and your general health on track. Please contact our office to arrange your next exam, including oral cancer screening by our general dentist.