Posts for: October, 2012
Let's talk about oral cancer. Yes, it's a scary subject — but the truth is, the more you know about it, the better able you are to protect yourself.
- Who is more likely to get oral cancer? Because of your genetic disposition — heredity — men are twice as likely to develop oral cancer as women. African-Americans have a higher incidence than Caucasians. The disease is also related to aging, although in recent years many young people have been diagnosed with this disease.
- Are some habits related to development of oral cancer? Risk factors include use of tobacco in any form, both smoking and chewing, chronic exposure to sun, and consumption of alcohol. Moderate to heavy drinkers have a three to nine times greater risk than non-drinkers. Tobacco smokers are at five to nine times greater risk than non-users, and users of snuff or chewing tobacco are at four times greater risk than non-users.
- Where do most oral cancers occur? The most common areas are in the mouth itself, the lips, the tongue, and the pharynx (back of the mouth and throat).
- What are the statistics for survival after treatment for oral cancer? Conquering cancer depends most on early detection. Since most cases of oral cancer are discovered at a late stage, survival is poor, with less than 60% surviving five years after treatment. When oral cancers are detected early, the survival rate is more than 80%.
- What are some of the symptoms of oral cancer? Most oral cancers are “squamous” (small scale-shaped) cell carcinomas in the lining of the mouth. Signs of these cancers can be seen as white or red patches in the early pre-cancerous stage. These develop into an ulcer that does not heal.
- When should you seek medical help? If you notice color changes (white or red patches) or sores or ulcers anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two or three weeks, go to your dentist for a checkup right away. Sometimes the sores resemble cold sores. A definitive diagnosis requires a tissue biopsy, in which a small piece of tissue is removed under anesthesia and taken to a lab for microscopic examination.
- What about regular routine examinations? An oral cancer examination should be part of your visit to our office. We will inspect your face, neck, lips and mouth for signs of cancer, feel the floor of the mouth and sides of the neck for any lumps, examine your tongue and the back of your throat. The American Cancer Society recommends a cancer related check-up annually for all individuals aged 40 and older and every three years for those between 20 and 29.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), community water fluoridation has been a safe and healthy way to prevent tooth decay effectively for over 65 years now. In fact, the CDC has recognized water fluoridation as one of the 10 great public health achievements of the 20th century.
It all began back in the 1930's when it was discovered that fluoride had oral health benefits. However, community water fluoridation did not begin until January 25, 1945, when Grand Rapids, Michigan became the first city to add fluoride to its municipal water system. Before it was officially rolled out in other cities, Grand Rapids was compared to other cities or “controlled groups” that had not added fluoride to their water so that scientific research could assess the relationship between tooth decay and fluoride. Well, you can guess the results — it was proven that fluoride helped reduce tooth decay when added to ordinary tap water. On November 29, 1951, the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC) declared water fluoridation safe, effective, and beneficial based upon the results of their findings and the fact that there was a dramatic decline in tooth decay in the children of Grand Rapids.
Ever since, fluoride has continued to play a critical role as a simple, safe, effective way to provide improved oral health by helping reduce tooth decay in the United States. This reality is still being demonstrated with each new generation benefiting from better oral health than the previous generation.
As for identifying when the time is right to introduce fluoride to your children's oral health program, ask us. Most children get the right amount of fluoride to help prevent cavities if they drink water that contains fluoride. And if by chance you live in an area where your tap water is not fluoridated, brush your children's teeth with no more than a pea-sized amount of fluoride toothpaste twice a day and ask your dentist about fluoride supplements and treatment.
Learn more on this topic by reading the Dear Doctor article, “Fluoride And Fluoridation In Dentistry.”
Periodontal (gum) diseases are sometimes called “silent” because those who have them may not experience painful symptoms. But certain signs point to the existence of these common diseases. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, it is time to visit our office so these problems can be treated before they lead to serious infection and loss of teeth.
Gums that bleed during the brushing of teeth. Some people think that gums bleed from brushing too hard. In fact, healthy gum tissues will not bleed with normal brushing. The usual cause of bleeding gums is an accumulation of dental plaque in the areas where your teeth meet your gums. Plaque is a film of bacteria, called a biofilm, which accumulates on your teeth. If you are not brushing and flossing effectively, plaque irritates your gum tissues and causes an inflammation and swelling called gingivitis. This causes your gums to bleed easily on contact with a toothbrush or floss.
Gum tissues that appear red and swollen. If plaque is allowed to accumulate for 24 hours or more, the inflammation in your gum tissues becomes chronic. The continuous presence of bacteria makes it impossible for your body's natural defenses to fight the infection. Chronic inflammation leads to a breakdown of the normal attachment between the teeth and the gums, causing the formation of “pockets.” Inside these pockets the infection continues to attack the tissues that support your teeth. Eventually this can lead to a breakdown of the bone that surrounds your teeth.
Bad breath. Bad breath is another sign of accumulated plaque. The bacteria in plaque may emit gases that have an unpleasant odor.
Gums that are sensitive to hot or cold. Chronic inflammation can also cause the gums to recede, exposing the roots of the teeth in which nerves may be close to the surface, leading to sensitivity to heat and cold.
Teeth that are getting loose, or a painful area in the gums. If you experience these symptoms, the infection has progressed a long way from the “silent” stage. It is time to seek immediate professional help.
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, a professional dental examination is in order. With daily removal of plaque by effective brushing and flossing, along with frequent professional cleanings to remove any plaque that you were unable to catch, you will go a long way to preventing periodontal disease. Also, be aware that smoking tends to mask the effects of gum disease. Generally, if you smoke your gums will not bleed when brushing or flossing, nor will they show signs of swelling.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about gum disease. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Bleeding Gums” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
Unfortunately, going to the dentist may still be a fear and anxiety provoking experience for some people even with modern dental techniques — an interesting phenomenon given the fact that no one is born with fear. It is either a learned response based on personal experience or one that is literally imagined based upon hearing of another's treatment. However, regardless of how it develops, a person's perception is their reality. The good news is that we are here to both listen and to offer our patients the benefits of oral sedation (sedation dentistry) that allows relaxation of mind and body. Thus you can focus on feeling peaceful rather than anxious.
While research has shown that 75% of all people surveyed have at least a little fear about going to the dentist, 10-15% have a great deal of fear. In fact, some of these people experience so much fear that they will cancel dental appointments or never schedule in the first place. If the latter describes your feelings, we encourage you to ask us about sedation or comfortable dentistry so that you can receive the oral healthcare you need and deserve to maintain optimal dental health.
And this good news gets even better when you understand that oral sedation does not even involve injections (shots)! We typically administer oral sedation in one of two methods: by giving you a pill to swallow whole or by giving you a tablet to place under your tongue (sub-lingually) where it dissolves. Once the prescription medication takes effect, you will remain awake and aware of your surroundings; however, the medication will help you transition from feeling nervous to a more comfortable state of being. Most of our patients describe their experience as “comfortable” or “relaxation” dentistry due to how they feel during their treatment. Simply put, the anti-anxiety (anxiolytic) medication almost literally dissolves away your fears.