Posts for: August, 2014
Baseball legend Babe Ruth, President Ulysses S. Grant and George Harrison of the Beatles — these three notable people from different backgrounds and historical eras have a sad commonality — they all died from oral cancer. They are a reminder that regardless of one’s wealth or fame, no one is immune from oral cancer and its deadly effects.
Like other cancers, oral cancer is characterized by abnormal cell growth capable of spreading into nearby tissue or other parts of the body. Although oral cancer accounts for less than 3% of all occurring cancers, it’s among the most deadly: only 58% of oral cancer patients survive five years after treatment. This is mostly due to the difficulty of detecting oral cancer in its early stages; in fact, 30% of oral cancers have already spread (metastasized) when they’re finally diagnosed.
Early detection through careful monitoring is the best strategy for defeating oral cancer. If you have a predisposing factor like a family history of oral cancer, then regular screenings during dental checkups are a must. During an exam we may be able to detect abnormalities (like unusual white spots on the gums or jaws) that may signal a cancer in a pre-cancerous or early stage. You also should be on the lookout for a persistent sore throat or hoarseness, lingering mouth pain, a painless lump in the mouth or on the neck, or ear pain on only one side.
There are also conditions or behaviors that may increase your risk for oral cancer, like using tobacco (both smoke and smokeless) or consuming alcohol. If you use tobacco you should consider quitting it altogether; you should consider cutting back on alcohol consumption if you’re a moderate to heavy drinker. You should also avoid sexual behaviors that increase your chances of viral infection — research has found a link between oral cancer and the viral infection caused by the sexually-transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV 16).
Improving your nutrition can also reduce your cancer risk. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables supplies the body with cancer-fighting nutrients, including antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by carcinogens. Studies have shown this kind of diet consistently lowers the risk of oral and throat cancer, as well as cancers of the esophagus, breast, prostate, lung and colon.
If you would like more information on oral cancer, 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 “Oral Cancer.”
Junk food and between-meal sweets are a habit for many of us, even though we know it is bad for our bodies and our teeth. As adults, we are responsible for our own choices. As parents, we are also responsible for our children's choices, and for teaching them to choose wisely.
Celebrity Chef Cat Cora offers the following six suggestions for leading children to a healthy lifestyle. Cora is a star of Iron Chef America and author of Cat Cora's Classics with a Twist: Fresh Takes on Favorite Dishes, in which she reveals healthier versions of classic recipes. In her remakes she shows how to cook with a lot of flavor while reducing fat and sugar. Cora has four young sons, so her methods are not just theories — they have been practiced in real life.
1. Remember who's the boss.
“My kids have never had fast food,” Cora said in a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine. “The parents have a choice to do that or not,” she said. “The kids are not going to the grocery store to shop; the kids are not driving themselves through fast food chains.”
2. Make your rules clear and stick to them.
“Right now my 7-year-old tries to be picky, but it's really about us being consistent as parents,” Cat said. For example, in her household pizza is served only at the weekly pizza and movie night. The kids get a healthier version of what they want, so they don't feel deprived. The evening includes air-popped popcorn without butter — and no soda, which is bad for teeth because of its sugar and other chemical ingredients.
3. Offer your children a variety of foods and tastes.
Cora made sure her children tried different foods and spices from infancy, so they are open to trying new things. It's easier to get all the nutrition you need if you eat a wide variety of foods.
4. Learn to make tasty substitutions for sugar.
When her children were babies, Cora stopped relying on bottles and sippy cups as soon as possible, reducing her children's likelihood of developing tooth decay due to sugary residues remaining in their mouths. Now that they are older, she uses tasty substitutes for sugar such as fruit purees and the natural sugar substitute Stevia.
5. Include the children in meal planning.
Kids are more likely to eat a meal they are involved in planning and cooking. For example, ask them which vegetable they would like to have (not whether they want to have a vegetable).
6. Model healthy behavior for your kids.
Parents are the best role models. This is true not only for food choices, but also for exercise and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
A crown is an effective way to save a tooth and restore its form and function. These life-like “caps” that fit over and are permanently attached to teeth have been used for decades with good results.
For this type of restoration to be effective, though, there must be enough of the natural tooth remaining above the gum line for the crown to “grab on to.” This poses a problem if the tooth has broken or decayed too close to the gum tissue.
Fortunately, there is a way to expose more of the remaining tooth for applying a crown. Known as crown lengthening, this surgical procedure is also used for “gummy” smiles, where normal tooth length is obscured by excess gum tissue that makes the teeth appear shorter.
We begin the procedure by first numbing the tooth and gum area with a local anesthetic. We then make tiny incisions inside the gum line on both the tongue and cheek side of the tooth to create a small flap. With this area below the gum line now open to view, we then determine whether we need to remove excess gum tissue or a small amount of bone around the tooth to expose more of the tooth itself. We then position the opened gum tissue against the bone and tooth at the appropriate height to create an aesthetic result.
You shouldn’t experience any discomfort during the procedure, which usually takes about sixty minutes for a single tooth area (which needs to involve at least three teeth for proper blending of the tissues). The pressures and vibrations from equipment, as well as any post-procedure discomfort, are similar to what you would encounter with a tooth filling. After the gum tissue has healed (about six to eight weeks), we are then able to fit and attach a crown onto the extended area.
Crown lengthening a small area may result in an uneven appearance if you’re dealing within the aesthetic zone. One option in this case is to consider undergoing orthodontic treatment first to correct the potential discrepancy that may result from surgery. After orthodontics, we can perform crown lengthening on just the affected tooth and still achieve an even smile.
Crown lengthening is just one of many tools we have to achieve tooth restorations for difficult situations. Using this technique, we can increase your chances of achieving both renewed tooth function and a more beautiful smile.
If you would like more information on crown lengthening, 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 “Saving Broken Teeth.”
Keeping up your dental hygiene with daily brushing and flossing is essential to preventing disease and maintaining good oral health. But that doesn’t mean it’s all on your shoulders — the fact is, you have a strong partner in your dental hygienist. This valuable member of our staff provides a number of different functions that add a boost to your hygiene habits.
Perhaps the most important of those functions is semi-annual teeth cleanings. While daily brushing and flossing removes most of the bacterial plaque that causes dental disease and decay, harder deposits (tartar) will still form over time, especially in places your brush or floss can’t reach. To remove it requires advanced skills and specially designed hand instruments or ultrasonic equipment. In the case of advancing gum disease, your hygienist may also assist with a procedure known as root planing to reach plaque and tartar adhering to tooth root surfaces below the gum line.
Dental hygienists are also on the lookout for abnormalities that may be a sign of disease. During teeth-cleaning sessions, your hygienist looks for gum inflammation or bleeding that may indicate the presence of periodontal gum disease, a progressive condition that, left untreated, could lead to tooth loss. We will be able to assess the extent of the disease by gently probing and measuring any detachment of the gum tissue that has formed voids known as pockets. They also look for signs of oral cancer — bumps, sores or areas of swelling or tenderness.
There’s one other function your hygienist provides to enhance your oral health — educating and training you on dental care. They can provide you helpful information on risk factors for tooth decay or other dental diseases, along with helpful ways to reduce that risk. They can also help you improve your brushing and flossing techniques by demonstrating proper form.
Cleaning, monitoring and educating — these different “hats” your hygienist wears form a beneficial part of your overall dental care. Working together, you’ll be able to keep your teeth and gums in good form and function.
If you would like more information on the benefits of a dental hygienist, 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 “Dental Hygiene Visit.”
As we continue to learn about the delicate balance between the body’s various organ systems, we’re discovering what affects one part of the body may affect other parts. This is particularly true for patients with periodontal (gum) disease and one or more other systemic diseases — researchers have identified a number of possible links between them.
Here’s a snapshot of three such diseases and how patients who suffer from them and gum disease may be affected.
Diabetes. Both diabetes (caused by the body’s inability to produce insulin that regulates blood sugar levels) and gum disease can trigger chronic tissue inflammation. Because of inflammation, diabetics are more prone to infectious diseases like gum disease. From the other perspective, uncontrolled gum disease and its resultant inflammation can worsen blood sugar levels. Some research has shown treatments that reduce oral tissue inflammation in diabetics with gum disease may also help bring their blood sugar levels into normal range.
Cardiovascular Disease. Diseases of the heart and blood vessels can eventually lead to heart attacks and strokes, the world’s leading causes of death. There’s evidence that some types of bacteria that cause gum disease may also contribute to higher risks for cardiovascular disease. Reducing the levels of these bacteria in the mouth through periodontal treatment can help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Osteoporosis. Like gum disease, osteoporosis causes acute bone loss, although from a hormonal imbalance rather than as the result of bacterial infection. The major link between the two conditions, though, relates to their treatments. On the positive side, the antibiotic doxycycline has displayed positive effects on both conditions when administered in low doses. On the other hand, a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates used to treat osteoporosis may limit bone regeneration after tooth extraction and could have implications for using dental implants to replace extracted teeth.
There’s still more research needed on the relationship between gum disease and these and other systemic conditions. There’s widespread optimism, though, that such research could yield new treatment approaches and procedures that bring better healing to the mouth as well as the rest of the body.
If you would like more information on the connection between oral and general health, 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 “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”