Posts for category: Oral Health
During the time it might take you to eat a meal, meet someone for coffee or watch your favorite television show, someone in the U.S. will die from oral cancer. Nearly 10,000 people in the U.S. succumb annually to the disease—about one every hour, every day of the year.
While other cancers may have higher occurrence rates, few have oral cancer's dismal 5-year survival rate of 57%. To put it into perspective, only a bit more than half of the 54,000 Americans diagnosed this year will still be alive in five years. That's why we're recognizing April as Oral Cancer Awareness Month—to put a spotlight on this dangerous and deadly disease.
So, why is the disease's fatality rate so high? For one thing, it's been perennially difficult to diagnose oral cancer early, which could increase a patient's survival odds. This is because the lesions produced by various forms of oral cancer can mimic other types of benign sores. It's easy to dismiss what might be pre-cancerous or cancerous tissue as a simple mouth sore.
A biopsy, removing some of the questionable tissue and viewing it under a microscope, is the best way to confirm whether the area is cancerous. But although biopsies are the diagnostic "gold standard" for oral cancer, they're costly and not particularly pleasant for patients to undergo. Usually reserved for the most suspicious cases, biopsies would increase exponentially if we scrutinized more general mouth sores for cancer.
But not all is gloom and doom regarding over oral cancer: Recent years' survival statistics have shown some modest improvement. That's due not only to greater awareness and efforts to improve early detection, but better success in preventing oral cancer development in the first place.
Dedicated oral hygiene, a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle all help lower your risk of oral cancer. Concerning the latter, you can drastically reduce your risk by avoiding tobacco and lowering your alcohol consumption.
Although taking care of both your oral and general health are your best means for preventing oral cancer, it won't eliminate your risk entirely. You may need to add oral cancer screenings to your regular dental visits as you get older or if you have a family history of the disease.
Pay attention as well to any suspicious mouth sores, especially any that don't seem to clear up within a few weeks—sufficient reason to have your dentist examine it. Taking this proactive approach to your oral health can help you get out ahead of this dangerous disease—or avoid it altogether.
What's a habit? Basically, it's a behavior you consistently perform without much forethought—you seemingly do it automatically. They can be good (taking a bath every day); or, they can be bad (devouring an entire bag of chocolate chip cookies every day). Our goal, therefore, should be to develop more good habits than bad.
One other thing about habits: we start forming them early. You might even have habits as an adult that began before you could walk. Which is why helping children develop good habits and avoid bad ones remains a top priority for parents.
Good habits also play a major role in keeping your teeth and gums healthy. Habits like the following that your kids form—or don't form—could pay oral health dividends throughout their lives.
Daily hygiene. Brushing and flossing is the single best habit for ensuring healthy teeth and gums. Removing disease-causing plaque on a daily basis drastically reduces a person's risk for tooth decay and gum disease. So, start forming this one as early as possible—you can even make a game of it!
Dental-friendly eating. To paraphrase a popular saying, "Your teeth and gums are what you eat." Dairy, vegetables and other whole foods promote good dental health, while processed foods heavy on sugar contribute to dental disease. Steer your child toward a lifetime of good food choices, especially by setting a good example.
Late thumb-sucking. It's a nearly universal habit among infants and toddlers to suck their thumbs or fingers. Early on, it doesn't pose much of a threat—but if it extends into later childhood, it could lead to poor bite formation. It's best to encourage your child to stop sucking their thumbs, fingers or pacifiers by age 3.
Later-developing bad habits. Children often come into their own socially by the time they've entered puberty. But while this is a welcome development on the road to adulthood, the pressure from peers may lead them to develop habits not conducive to good oral health—tobacco, drug or alcohol use, or oral piercings. Exert your influence as a parent to help them avoid these bad oral habits.
If you would like more information on best dental care practices for children, 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 “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
For one out of three Americans, a bite of ice cream or a sip of hot coffee can set off a sudden jolt of pain. Fortunately, there are ways to reduce these painful episodes of tooth sensitivity and their severity.
To understand the primary reasons that people experience tooth sensitivity, we must first consider a little tooth anatomy. Just below a tooth's outer enamel is a layer of tooth structure called dentin, composed of tiny tunnels or tubules that transmit sensations of temperature or pressure to the nerves in the central pulp. These tubules are analogous to conduits through which electrical wires pass.
Enamel on the crown, along with gum tissue and a thin material called cementum covering the roots, help muffle sensations so as to prevent an overload on the nerves. But if either of those protective areas become compromised the nerves could in turn experience the full brunt of these sensations.
As such, softened and eroded enamel from tooth decay could expose the dentin. Receding gums, commonly caused by gum disease, can also expose dentin near the roots since the remaining cementum offers little protection. In either case, nerves in the pulp may become subject to extreme sensations caused by temperature or while biting down, which then causes them to fire off pain signals to the brain.
Thus, to treat sensitive teeth we must first determine whether it's the result of tooth decay, gum disease or some other condition, and then treat any underlying disease. If it's decay-related, we'll want to repair any cavities with a filling, or perform a root canal if the infection has spread deeper into the tooth.
For receded gums, we'll first want to treat any lingering gum disease. Once we've brought the infection under control, it's possible then for the gums to heal and regenerate, eventually treating the roots with desensitizing products. In some cases, though, we may have to surgically graft new tissue to the receded area to cover the roots.
The good news is that you can lower your chances of tooth sensitivity by preventing these dental diseases. To do that, be sure you're brushing and flossing daily to remove disease-causing plaque, and visiting your dentist at least twice a year for professional cleanings and checkups.
If you would like more information on tooth sensitivity, 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 “Treatment of Tooth Sensitivity.”
Know how to get the better of an age-guesser at the carnival? Smile! A recent study found that people tend to underestimate a person's age if they're smiling.
If true, smiling—naturally associated with youthfulness—might help you look younger than you are. Unfortunately, many older people smile less, self-conscious about the effects of aging on their teeth and gums. Their smile doesn't have the same zing as when they were younger.
If that's how you feel about your smile, a cosmetic dentist can help. Here are 3 common age-related problems a skilled dentist can help you improve.
Discoloration. After decades of eating, drinking and possibly smoking, teeth enamel can yellow and dull. But there are ways to brighten discolored teeth. One simple measure is to undergo teeth whitening with a bleaching solution. On a more permanent note, bonding tooth-colored materials, porcelain veneers or life-like dental crowns to teeth can mask stains and other imperfections.
Wearing. Speaking of all those meals, you can expect some teeth wearing later in life that makes them look shorter, and their shape and edges sharper rather than softer and rounded like a youthful smile. Dentists can improve the appearance of worn teeth by reshaping and contouring them to soften harsh edges. A procedure called crown lengthening can reposition the gums to display more of the teeth. Veneers or crowns can also transform the appearance of severely worn teeth.
Receding gums. There's also a contrasting gum problem. What some call "getting long in the tooth," The teeth look longer because the gums have receded from their normal coverage. This is often caused by gum disease, which older people encounter more than other age groups. After treating the infection, the gums may need help regaining their former position by grafting donor tissue to the area to encourage regrowth.
The effects of aging on teeth and gums are quite common, but you don't have to live with them. With a few appropriate techniques and procedures, your dentist can bring back the smile you once had—or one even better.
If you would like more information on maintaining a youthful smile, 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 “How Your Dentist Can Help You Look Younger.”
Good oral health doesn't just happen. It is often the byproduct of a long-term care plan developed by a patient with their dentist. The plan's strategy is simple—stay well ahead of any potential threats to teeth and gum health through prevention and early treatment.
We can categorize these potential threats into 4 different areas of risk. By first assessing the state of your current oral health in relation to these areas, we find out where the greatest risks to your oral health lie. From there, we can put together the specifics of your plan to minimize that risk.
Here, then, is an overview of these 4 risk areas, and how to mitigate their effect on your oral health.
Teeth. Healthy teeth can endure for a lifetime. But tooth decay, a bacterial disease that erodes enamel and other dental tissues, can destroy a tooth's health and longevity. Our first priority is to prevent decay through daily brushing and flossing and regular dental cleanings. We also want to promptly treat any diagnosed decay with fillings or root canal therapy to limit any structural damage to an affected tooth.
Gums and bone. Teeth depend on the gums and bone for support and stability. But periodontal (gum) disease weakens and damages both of these supporting structures, and may lead to possible tooth loss. As with tooth decay, our highest priority is to prevent gum disease through daily hygiene and regular dental care. When it does occur, we want to aggressively treat it to stop the infection and minimize damage.
Bite function. Misaligned teeth and other bite problems can diminish oral health over time. A poor bite can impair oral function, leading to structural dental damage. Misaligned teeth are also harder to clean and maintain, which increases their risk for dental disease. Correcting these problems through orthodontics or bite adjustment measures can help alleviate these risks.
Appearance. How your smile looks may or may not be related to your mouth's health and function, but an unattractive smile can affect your emotional health, and thus worthy of consideration in your overall care plan. Improving appearance is often a mix of both cosmetic and therapeutic treatments, so treating a tooth or gum problem could also have a positive impact on your smile.
If you would like more information on long-term dental care strategies, 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 “Successful Dental Treatment.”