Sleep Apnea Could Raise Cancer Risk

A serious sleep disorder, sleep apnea affects an estimated 22 million Americans, many of whom don’t even realize they have it. What’s more, of those with sleep apnea, nearly 80 percent have what is considered moderate to severe sleep apnea, and most of those cases are considered obstructive sleep apnea.

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the affected person lies down and pressure on their throat causes a blockage that prevents breathing. This can cause the affected person to wake repeatedly, toss and turn, and stop and restart breathing throughout the night. Persons with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea often wake feeling tired and remain sluggish and fatigued throughout the day. But now, a recent study from the May 20 issue of the European Respiratory Journal has presented more bad news for sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea, and doctors are hoping patients pay attention.

The report, which follows a study by Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece, found that women who suffer from severe obstructive sleep apnea are more likely than their male counterparts, and those without severe obstructive sleep apnea, to develop cancer.

“The study did not specify a type of cancer these patients are at an increased risk of developing,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist who treats sleep apnea in her Fort Collins, Colorado, practice. “Just that patients with severe obstructive sleep apnea are at an increased risk of developing any cancer.”

That’s because researchers theorize that low blood oxygen levels caused by the obstructive breathing may encourage the growth of certain types of cancers.
But don’t panic just yet, says Lesko. There is help.

“If you have sleep apnea, or you or a partner thinks you may have sleep apnea, you owe it to yourself to get evaluated by a dentist or doctor who specializes in sleep apnea treatment,” Lesko says.

Lesko says treatment is easier than many people realize.

“There are many different types of sleep apnea therapy,” she says. “You may have already heard of continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, therapy, which constantly ventilates air into your airways as you sleep. But there are also other options such as sleep orthotics your dentist can customize for you that reposition the jaw and essentially prop the airway open.”

According to Lesko, these treatments can help keep your oxygen levels high and hopefully reduce your risk of developing those cancers identified in the study.

“The researchers were not able to definitively say whether or not sleep apnea was responsible for the cancer, but just knowing the risk could be there will hopefully be motivation enough to seek treatment,” she says.

Vaping Benefits Still Not Enough

There may be some good news for people who use e-cigarettes, or “vape,” their tobacco products. For the estimated 34.3 million smokers in the United States, quitting smoking may prove to be difficult. That’s why many smokers have switched from traditional paper cigarettes to smokeless tobacco products such as e-cigarettes. Touted as a healthier alternative to smoking, a new study by British American Tobacco has a new reason why vaping may be better than smoking: less staining.

The studies findings, which were presented at the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw, Poland, found that the vapor generated by e-cigarettes caused less staining to everything from the teeth to common household objects such as wallpaper and furniture.

Study researchers measured the aerosol levels from vaping in cell culture chambers on wallpaper and on bovine teeth to simulate the results on human teeth.

Dr. Allison Lesko is a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado. She says that though this is good news for any item that might be otherwise stained by tobacco, it’s not quite enough to earn a dentist’s seal of approval for the teeth.

“Vaping may stain the walls and your teeth less, but it’s still not good for your lungs or your teeth,” says Lesko. “The chemicals in vaping fluid are still addictive, and their long-term effects are still not known.”

Furthermore, Lesko says that while the staining from liquid tobacco products stain less than traditional cigarettes, they do still cause some staining. Worse yet, they still produce a film on furniture and floors.

“If you have family or friends sitting on your sofa, or children or pets playing on your floor, you are exposing them to the vape version of secondhand smoke,” Lesko says. “Stains should be the least of your worries.”

Another issue dentists have with e-cigarettes? Those lithium ion batteries.

“There have been numerous cases where an e-cigarette has exploded in the mouth of the user while in use,” says Lesko. “This has caused serious injury to the face and jaw and has resulted in lost teeth. Many victims have required numerous surgeries.”

So, if vaping really isn’t a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, what is the safer alternative?

“Quitting entirely,” says Lesko. “No staining, no secondhand chemicals to worry about, and no exploding devices, not to mention the numerous benefits to your health, like improved lung capacity and reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”

Childhood Oral Health Matters

A recent study from the University of Helsinki in Finland has revealed some startling data that may make parents think twice about their children’s oral health routines. The study followed children from age 8 to around age 35, monitoring their oral health as well as overall health for the duration of the study. What the results revealed was nothing short of ominous.

It began in 1980, when University of Helsinki researchers examined the overall oral health of 755 8-year-olds. Of those 755 children, only 33 (less than 5 percent) had no signs of oral health problems, including cavities, bleeding gums, periodontal pockets and pre-existing fillings. The rest of the children in the study had at least one of these oral health issues present, some with two, three and even four present at once. In fact, the largest percent of children – 37 percent – had all four issues present.

Fast forward to 2007, and the 8-year-olds are now about 35 years old. The university researchers looked at the overall health of the participants of the original study and found that the children who had some kind of dental problem present at age 8 were a staggering 87 percent more likely to develop a condition called subclinical atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries, and the precursor to serious heart conditions such as high blood pressure.

Furthermore, the 37 percent of participants who exhibited all four of the dental maladies measured in the initial 1980 study were 95 percent more likely to have subclinical atherosclerosis.

Dr. Allison Lesko is a dentist in Fort Collins, Colorado. She says the study once again proves how vital excellent oral health is in relation to overall health and wellness.

“We see study after study, time and time again, that shows oral health contributes to total body health,” says Lesko. “Poor oral health can contribute to diabetes, cancer, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, periodontal disease – and this is just based on adult teeth. This new study shows that it doesn’t just start with the adult teeth. It goes much farther back.”

Lesko says problems arise when parents think that baby teeth are “just baby teeth” and are therefore disposable.

“It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that baby teeth don’t matter because they fall out,” says Lesko. “But this study proves that baby teeth are vitally important and their care or lack thereof can affect your overall health in the future.”

Athletes at Higher Risk for Poor Oral Health

If you or your child are an athlete, you’re probably already in excellent physical health. But what about your oral health? You might think that because you take care of your body and your teeth, your oral health is in great shape. But a new study by the University College of London and published in the British Dental Journal says you could be dangerously mistaken.

The study followed 352 athletes of both genders, examining their teeth for decay, acid erosion and the health of their gums – all things that are checked at a regular oral health checkup, according to Fort Collins, Colorado, dentist Dr. Allison Lesko.

Lesko says what they found was quite startling.

“The athletes did take better-than-average care of their teeth, meaning they were more likely to brush twice a day for two minutes per brushing, and floss at least once a day,” Lesko says. “But somehow, these athletes had a higher rate of cavities.”

In fact, almost 50 percent of the athletes in the study had untreated tooth decay and early-stage gum disease. Nearly a third even claimed that these oral health problems hurt their athletic training and performance.

Researchers were baffled. How could people who take such excellent care of their teeth and overall health have such a higher instance of dental problems than the rest of us? The answer lies in something athletes use that the rest of us don’t.

“Sports-performance products,” says Lesko. “Things like sports drinks, energy gels and energy bars are the likely culprits here.”

That’s because sports and energy products are packed with something that may be good for athletic performance, but isn’t so great for the teeth: sugar.

“The sugar in some of these energy products sits on the teeth, feeding that bacteria that cause the plaque acid, which creates cavities,” says Lesko. “And if you’re training, you may not have time to run to the bathroom and brush after each time you use these products.”

Lesko says while the sugar and acids from sports drinks can stick to the teeth, busy athletes should rinse with water after drinking.

“And try not to drink the same drink all day,” she says. “Try to finish the drink quickly and drink some water.”

As for the gels and bars, these products are arguably more dangerous because they can stick to and between the teeth, so dentists like Lesko recommend brushing after eating.

“We know it’s not always easy to stop playing or practicing to brush your teeth, but try to get to a toothbrush as soon as you can,” she says. “It can go a long way toward keeping the teeth – and your game – healthy.”

Older Chinese Patients at Higher Risk for Poor Oral Health

For older people, the problems caused by poor oral health can be multifold. Recent studies have linked poor oral health in seniors to fatal diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, not to mention diabetes, cancer and heart disease. But two new studies have revealed more troubling evidence that poor oral health in seniors – especially those in vulnerable populations such as lower-socioeconomic and immigrant populations – can have dangerous consequences.

The two new studies found that older Chinese patients living in the United States with poor oral health have higher rates of conditions like hypertension (high blood pressure), cognitive decline (a precursor to dementia) and depression.

The two studies were conducted at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, by Darina Petrovsky, Bei Wu and Weiyu Mao. They examined data from more than 2,700 Chinese American participants over the age of 60. What they found was that almost half of the participants had some kind of problem with their teeth, and those with oral health problems reported having problems with memory decline and cognition.

The study also found that nearly 19 percent of participants had gum issues, over 15 percent had both teeth and gum issues, and a quarter of participants had dry mouth. Those patients with dry mouth also had poor overall oral health and experienced higher rates of stress.

Dr. Allison Lesko of Fort Collins, Colorado, says the study is very telling when it comes to highlighting the importance of oral health in seniors.

“Though this study was done on a very specific population – Chinese senior citizens living in America – it can be universally applied to other senior immigrant populations,” Lesko says.

Though researchers said part of the problem faced by seniors in this demographic is both a lack of dental insurance coverage and a language barrier between patients and American dentists, the problem is universal in that many seniors are unable to visit the dentist regularly.

The other element to the study, the discovery that stress may play a dangerous role in dry mouth, may have other solutions, as well as causes.

“Researchers recommend older people reach out to family and friends in times of stress to help reduce the stress and hopefully some of the dry mouth symptoms, but stress isn’t the only cause of dry mouth,” Lesko says. “Things like medication can cause dry mouth, and many seniors take medication each day, which is why it’s imperative we are working to get seniors to the dentist. A dentist can identify the medications that could be causing dry mouth and offer solutions to remedy it.”

Ancient Teeth Reveal Truths About Diet Versus Oral Health

Many of us have probably already heard that foods containing sugar can wreak havoc on our oral health, but have you ever wondered how much of a role your diet really plays in your oral health? Well, a team of researchers at the University of Arkansas wondered the same thing and set out to determine how dietary changes have affected humanoid teeth over time.

The research used teeth dating back millions of years to a species of an early human ancestor called Hominin Paranthropus, led by Dr. Peter Ungar, an anthropology professor at University of Arkansas. At Ungar’s lab, he and his team studied both the Hominin Paranthropus and a tribe of people from Tanzania called the Hazda who still live as hunter-gatherers to this day.

The research team noticed that as the Hazda and Paranthropus societies advanced from hunter-gathers to more agriculturally based societies, their teeth began to develop more cavities.

“What the researchers found was that the more meat-based the diet was, the fewer cavities the species had,” says Dr. Allison Lesko, a dentist from Fort Collins, Colorado, who was not involved in the study.

So, what was behind the increase in cavities? After all, agricultural products like fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be responsible for that many cavities.

“They found that, for starters, the male citizens of the Hazda and Paranthropus societies had worse teeth than the women,” Lesko says. “In fact, some of the female teeth are perfect, while the male teeth were riddled with dental caries.”

The answer is honeycomb, something that, according to Ungar and his team, is a common snack for hunter-gatherer males to consume while on hunts. The honeycomb provided a much-needed source of energy, but the comb itself is made of a waxy material that adheres to and between the teeth.

“Without a toothbrush, that wax could stay stuck to the teeth for a long time, causing cavities,” Lesko says.

But Ungar’s study doesn’t just aim to examine the anthropological history of teeth and cavities. He and his team hope to someday develop a device that could measure and treat dental erosion. As for what researchers like Ungar want people to take away from the study?

“The study highlights how important our diet is to our oral health,” Lesko says. “It’s not just about how well we care for our oral hygiene. What we eat makes a huge impact on our oral health, too.”

Celebrate ADHA Oral Hygiene Month

Even though our oral hygiene is important every day of the year, the month of October has been designated Dental Hygiene Month by the American Association of Dental Hygienists, or ADHA. Each October since 2009, the ADHA and its members have celebrated all things oral hygiene and dental hygienist, usually with a different theme each year.

This October, Dental Hygiene Month is once again celebrating hygienists and all they do for our teeth – and reminding us of the healthy steps we can take to ensure we have the best dental hygiene possible. Dr. Allison Lesko of Fort Collins, Colorado, shares these steps with us.

“First and foremost, the No. 1 tip from the ADHA and any dentist is to brush your teeth regularly,” says Lesko. “This means brushing your teeth not once but twice per day, for at least two minutes each time.”

According to Lesko, nearly half of all people around the world only brush their teeth once a day, and that’s not nearly enough to prevent dental caries (also known as cavities) from forming.

The next tip? Flossing.

“Flossing may not seem that important unless you have something stuck between your teeth, but it should be a part of your regular dental hygiene routine,” Lesko says.

Lesko and the ADHA recommend flossing at least once a day, preferably at the end of the day so plaque and food particles don’t stay stuck between your teeth overnight.

“Flossing removes about 30 percent of the plaque and food particles that brushing can’t get to,” says Lesko.

Finally, the ADHA recommends you rinse with mouthwash after brushing and flossing.

“Mouthwash will remove and rinse away any bits of plaque and food that you missed brushing and flossing,” Lesko says. “And it makes your breath fresh, too.”

Though there has been some debate about whether mouthwash should be used prior to brushing to loosen plaque and debris or after brushing and flossing, Lesko says rinsing with water first should suffice.

“Save the mouthwash for when you’re done so you get the full effect and benefits of the mouthwash.”

For those who have tried mouthwash in the past and aren’t a fan of the taste or feeling, Lesko says the mouthwashes of years past have evolved. There are now alcohol-free varieties and different flavors that may be tolerated easier than the old minty standbys.

Oh, and one last tip: Be sure to thank your dental hygienist this Dental Hygiene Month!

The Benefits of Dental Implants

It’s not uncommon for adults who are missing any number of adult teeth to feel embarrassed or insecure about their appearance. Unfortunately, though teeth are part of our bodies, unlike bone they cannot heal themselves or grow back when lost or extracted. For those missing adult teeth, this often means either going without a tooth or wearing a prosthetic bridge or denture to fill in the gap. But for a more permanent solution to replace missing adult teeth, there is a more permanent solution: dental implants.

Dental implants are prosthetic teeth that attach to the gums via a metal screw that is implanted into the jawbone. Once the screw has healed securely into place, a prosthetic crown is screwed on to the exposed metal screw, creating the look of a natural tooth. Considered the gold standard in replacing teeth, dental implants do more than just improve patient self-esteem and the look of the mouth. Here are some other benefits to installing dental implants.


Though not true for everyone, when you are missing teeth it can sometimes affect your speech. Missing teeth can make it sound like you have a lisp or speech impediment, something that can make you feel self-conscious. This can cause problems in a person’s work and personal life and cause them to withdraw from engaging in conversations or speaking up about important matters.

When you replace missing teeth with dental implants, your speech should return to normal, giving you the confidence to speak up again.


When you are missing a tooth or teeth, chewing may become difficult or even painful. The good news is that with dental implants, your crown acts as a natural tooth, enabling you to chew regularly without any pain or discomfort, as if your natural tooth or teeth were never missing in the first place.

Protection of Other Teeth and Gums

Another benefit to replacing lost teeth with dental implants is the effect dental implants will have on your other teeth. When you are missing adult teeth, it can cause a lot of trouble for your existing teeth, bones and gums. First of all, there’s a risk of bone degradation in the space where the tooth was removed. The longer a bone goes without a tooth, the higher the risk of bone degradation. Bone degradation can cause the loss of other teeth as well as a sagging face and jaw.

Closing the gap with dental implants can also protect your gums from gum disease, because plaque and bacteria have a harder time getting into the gums.

Easier to Care For

Cleaning dental implants is easier than cleaning dentures, because you can brush them and floss between them just like you would your natural teeth. With dentures, you must remove them to clean them very carefully. Because dental implants mimic natural teeth removing them is not necessary for most cleanings.

To learn more about the dental implant process from Dr. Lesko, please call 970-812-0355.

Increase Fluoride with These Foods

There are many things we can do at home to improve or maintain the health of our teeth and bones. One thing we can all do to strengthen teeth and bones is to use fluoride. Whether in our toothpaste, drinking water or, yes, even the foods we consume, fluoride or naturally occurring calcium fluoride does our bodies good. If you would like to increase your fluoride intake naturally, you’re not alone. Continue drinking fluoridated water, but also try adding more of these naturally fluoridated foods to your diet.


Black tea, green tea, white tea and oolong tea or any tea in the camellia sinensis family are all high in naturally occurring fluoride. Another trendier tea drink you may have heard of called kombucha is also high in fluoride – however, be careful when ingesting kombucha, as it has also been found to be very acidic and can be dangerous for the teeth.

Grapes and Biproducts

Grapes are another food said to be high in fluoride. Not only are grapes higher in fluoride, but so are the products made with grapes, such as wine. White wine is said to be higher in fluoride than red.

Baked Potatoes

Though the potato has taken a hit in popularity due to keto diets, russet white potatoes are still very good for you and are a good source of naturally occurring fluoride. In fact, one potato contains about 5 percent of your daily recommended fluoride intake.

Canned Crab

Looking for a reason to indulge in some crab meat this summer? Aside from being low in fat and high in omega 3 fatty acid, canned crab contains enough fluoride to cover 7 percent of a woman’s daily recommended fluoride intake and about 5.2 percent of a man’s.

Take a Supplement

If you’re still not sold on these fluoridated superfoods, speak to Dr. Lesko about taking a fluoride supplement. You may be getting enough fluoride from your water supply, but if you’re concerned, Dr. Lesko can review your fluoride intake and make recommendations. Remember, the easiest way to get fluoride into your diet is to drink fluoridated water, but if you aren’t much of a water drinker, drink bottled water or live in a community that does not fluoridate, it is important to go on a fluoride supplement to protect the enamel of your teeth.

Whitening Teeth at Home: Yes or No?

The pursuit of whiter, brighter teeth is a $3.2 billion-a-year global industry. Suffice it to say, many of us are searching for a prettier smile. But walking down the toothpaste aisle of your local store can be almost dizzying with options. How do you know what works and what doesn’t work? How can you tell what’s safe and what isn’t? And if you buy an over-the-counter whitening product or device, are you really saving any money over professional whitening? Here’s what you need to know about bleaching your teeth.

When it comes to whiter, brighter teeth, bleaching with the active ingredient hydrogen peroxide is the gold standard used by dental professionals as well as many over-the-counter bleaching kits. Unfortunately, while at-home kits tend to be less expensive than professional whitening services, they do carry with them a high level of risk.

For starters, many of these kits can contain upwards of 25 percent hydrogen peroxide, a dangerous level if applied incorrectly. To put it into perspective, in the United Kingdom, where products containing hydrogen peroxide are regulated by the government, even dentists can only use products containing 6 percent hydrogen peroxide!

Why? Because hydrogen can damage enamel as well as gums. Unfortunately, because whitening kits are classified as cosmetic and not medical products here in the United States, there are no data on how often this type of injury occurs, as cosmetic manufacturers are not required to submit that data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Another popular ingredient that is widely available here in America, sodium chlorite, was recently investigated in a study published in the British Dental Journal. The study found that sodium chlorite was more likely than any other over-the-counter ingredient to cause permanent damage to the tooth enamel.

So, what can be done for those of us who want whiter teeth? Look no further than your dentist. Yes, in-office whitening treatments are a bigger investment up front, but with better, longer-lasting results and the benefit of being done safely and accurately, it can actually save you money in the long run. Other safe and effective ways to whiten teeth at home include brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a day, not smoking, and avoiding foods that stain the teeth.

To learn more about teeth whitening and oral hygiene, contact Dr. Lesko’s office at 970-812-0355.