Posts for: November, 2013
Cancer is never a pleasant topic. Yet, rather than wish it away, many people have chosen to take an active and positive role in the prevention and early detection of the disease. Did you know that you and your dentist, working together, can help identify a major class of cancers in the early stages? Let's spend a few moments discussing oral cancer.
Oral cancer is dangerous. Although it accounts for a relatively small percentage of all cancers, it isn't usually detected until it has reached a late stage. And at that point, the odds aren't great: only 58% survive 5 years after treatment, a rate far less than that of many better-known cancers. It is estimated that in the United States, this disease kills one person every hour, every day.
Oral cancer used to be thought of as an older person's disease — and it still primarily strikes those over 40 years of age. But a disturbing number of young people have been diagnosed with the illness in recent years, making them the fastest-growing segment among oral cancer patients. This is due to the sexually-transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16). So, while long-time tobacco users and heavy drinkers still need screenings, most young people do too.
What's the good news? When it's detected early, the survival rate of oral cancer goes up to 80% or better. And having an oral cancer screening is part of doing something you should be doing anyway — getting regular dental checkups. That's one more reason why coming in to our office regularly for your routine examination is so important.
Of course, if you notice any abnormal sores or color changes in the tissue around your mouth, lips, tongue or throat — especially if they don't go away in 2-3 weeks — come in and see us right away. They could be just cold sores — or not.
An oral cancer exam is fast and painless. It involves a visual inspection of the mouth and surrounding area (face, lips, throat, etc.), during which we may also feel for lumps. We'll also gently pull your tongue from side to side, and check underneath it for early signs of a problem. If needed, we can schedule a biopsy for any suspicious areas. Sound easy? It is! So don't ignore it — remember that early detection could save your life.
If Kristi Yamaguchi's kids inherit her figure skating ability, they might just be headed for the Olympics — after all, their mom won the gold medal for figure skating in the 1992 games. When it comes to teeth, however, she wouldn't mind if they inherited her spouse's instead. “My husband [fellow Olympian turned pro hockey player Bret Hedican] never had braces,” she recently told an interviewer. “I'm hoping they get his teeth.”
When you look at the elegant skating star's pearly smile, you'd never suspect she had dental problems. In fact, Kristi had four permanent teeth extracted to relieve the crowding in her mouth. She also wore braces to correct irregularities in both upper and lower teeth. Could orthodontics work the same “magic” for your kids — or yourself?
It just might. The first step toward finding out is having an orthodontic evaluation. For kids, the right time for an initial evaluation is no later than age 7. By then, the first molars are usually present and your child's bite pattern is establishing. Even though treatment may not begin for several more years, it's helpful to know what problems may arise in your child's individual situation — and to start treating them at just the right time.
Orthodontics has progressed a great deal in the two decades since Yamaguchi's braces came off. Today, small devices called palatal expanders are often used to create more space in the mouth, as an alternative to tooth extraction. There are also many new options for orthodontic appliances, in addition to standard metal braces. These include unobtrusive tooth-colored braces and lingual braces, which are applied to the tongue side of the teeth and can't be seen. In some cases, clear plastic aligners can be used instead of braces, for a look that's almost invisible.
Adolescence is often the preferred time to do orthodontic treatment. By then, the permanent teeth have mostly come in, but there's still some growing left to do. But age isn't a factor that should stop you from getting the smile you've always wanted. About one in five orthodontic patients today is an adult — and those less-visible appliances can fit in well with the more “professional” image of an older person.
Orthodontics can't help make someone an Olympic athlete — only lots of talent and practice can do that. But it can make a big difference in a person's appearance. “Once my braces came off, it was like — Wow! That looks so much nicer,” Yamaguchi recollected. And today, the mother of two, author, and philanthropist sports the same appealing smile she had on the podium at the Albertville Olympic Games.
If you would like more information on how orthodontics could help you get the smile you've dreamed about, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Early Orthodontic Evaluation” and “The Magic of Orthodontics.”
Did you know that roughly 75% of Americans suffer from some sort of gum disease? Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) refers to the progressive loss of attachment between the fibers that connect the bone and gum tissues to the teeth, and the consequential loss of the tooth-supporting bone itself.
As you get older, your chances for developing gum disease increase significantly. Here are a few other factors that might put you at a higher risk for developing gum disease:
- Family History. 30% of the population may be genetically susceptible to gum disease. Luckily, there are new tests that can assess if you are at risk. However, even with good oral hygiene, studies have shown that genetically susceptible individuals may be 6 times more likely to develop gum disease.
- Tobacco. Smokers are four times more likely to develop periodontal disease. Smokers have more disease-causing biofilm bacteria and collect it more quickly. They also lose more attachment between the teeth and gums, which leads to more loss of bone that supports the teeth.
- Bleeding Gums. Some people mistakenly think that it is normal for their gums to bleed when they brush. In fact, this is an indication that you are not brushing and flossing effectively and a common symptom of gum disease. Pregnant women are also more likely to have bleeding gums, because elevated hormone levels may cause gum tissues to be more responsive to bacterial biofilm, thus bleeding more easily. That is why we recommend that pregnant women have regular cleanings at three to four month intervals.
We often refer to gum disease as silent, because symptoms may not appear until the disease has advanced. For this reason, you should conduct a self-assessment to identify if you are at risk.
- Have your gums receded and/or do your teeth appear longer?
- Are any of your teeth feeling or getting loose?
- Do your gums appear red or swollen?
- Have you recently had a tooth or teeth extracted because they were loose?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you may be at risk for gum disease. You should make an appointment with our office so that we can conduct a thorough examination and prescribe treatment, if necessary.
If you would like more information about gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Assessing Risk for Gum Disease.”
If you have certain health conditions, your medical doctor may prescribe an antibiotic for you to take prior to a dental visit. The reason why is a story that dates back to the mid-20th Century.
In the early part of the last century, a theory became popular that bacteria in the mouth could migrate to other parts of the body and cause systemic illness or disease. During the 1930s and 1940s evidence arose that indicated a connection between dental procedures that caused bleeding and two serious health conditions: bacteremia (the presence of bacteria in the bloodstream) and infective endocartitis. The latter is the inflammation of inner tissues of the heart (including the valves) caused by infectious agents, most notably bacteria. It became common then to prescribe antibiotics to patients susceptible to these conditions as a preventive measure. Later, patients with prosthetic joints or poor immune systems were added for this kind of treatment.
For many years, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommended pre-visit antibiotic treatment for a wide array of heart patients. After several years of research that indicated the treatment wasn't necessary for most people and might even be detrimental, they updated their guidelines in 2007 and reduced their recommendation list to just a few conditions. They now recommend the antibiotic treatment for patients with artificial heart valves, a history of infective endocartitis, heart transplant recipients with valve problems, and certain congenital (inherited) heart conditions.
If you have a condition that calls for a pre-visit antibiotic treatment, all the providers involved with your care will need to communicate. Your medical doctor will most likely prescribe two grams of amoxicillin (or a similar antibiotic if you are allergic to amoxicillin) that you would take an hour before the dental procedure. We in turn would communicate with your medical doctor concerning the dental procedures you're scheduled to undergo (including regular cleanings), in case your doctor would like to make adjustments in your medication.
Your health and well-being is of utmost importance to all your healthcare providers, medical and dental. Working together, we can ensure the dental procedures you need for oral health won't have an adverse impact your general health.
If you would like more information on antibiotic treatment before a dental visit, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Antibiotics for Dental Visits.”