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April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Oral and oralpharyngeal cancer is an aggressive form of cancer and must be identified and treated early for the best chances of survival.

While most forms of cancer have decreased in incidents over the past eight years, oral cancer has experienced an increase. Because it is often diagnosed late, the mortality rate for oral cancer is high. Of 53,000 newly diagnosed individuals, only slightly more than 50% will be alive in five years.

Oral Cancer Screenings

At each visit dentists perform oral cancer screenings to identify any unusual or abnormal oral tissue. If abnormal tissue is found during an oral cancer exam, your dentist may recommend a biopsy. Catching oral cancer in its earliest stages is key to reducing the risk of mortality.

Between dental visits you can also screen for oral cancer by being aware of the signs and symptoms. The American Academy of Oral Medicine discusses the common symptoms listed below that may indicate oral cancer. If you have these symptoms you should consult your dentist.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

  • A sore, or soreness or irritation that doesn’t go away
  • Red or white patches, or pain, tenderness or numbness in the mouth or lips
  • Lumps, thickening tissues, rough spots, crusty or eroded areas
  • Difficult chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A chance in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

Oral Cancer Facts

  • Oral and oropharyngeal cancer (cancer of the mouth and upper throat) collectively kill nearly one person every hour
  • Of the people newly diagnosed with these cancers, 40 percent will not survive longer than five years
  • Alcohol and tobacco use are among the most common risk factors for oral and oralpharyngeal cancers
  • Oral and oralpharyngeal cancers are found most in people over 45 years old
  • While incidents of oral cancer caused by UV rays has decreased in recent years, spending too much time in the sun without protecting your lips is a risk factor
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Women and their Oral Health

Women have different oral health concerns than men. Most of these differences are due to changes in hormones throughout the month and throughout our lives. But don’t worry, good home care, regular dental visits and a healthy diet can combat most of these problems, leaving us with healthy mouths and bodies.

Menstrual Cycle

During ovulation and leading up to menstruation, there is an increase of the hormone progesterone. This can lead to swelling and bleeding of the gums. Also many women get canker sores during their periods. These are white, painful sores inside your mouth.

What can I do?

We use a diode laser, in our office, to treat canker sores. This usually eliminates the associated pain and also reduces the chances of recurrence of the sore. Excellent home care will reduce the amount of inflammation during your cycle.

Birth control

Birth control raises your levels of estrogen and progesterone. This can inhibit clot formation, so if you are getting a tooth extracted, you have a higher chance of a dry socket (which hurts a lot). Some medications and natural remedies can reduce the effectiveness of your birth control. Common dental antibiotics do not do this.

What can I do?

If possible, wait until you are on your inactive pills to have your extraction. Consult with your physician to see if your medications or supplements interfere with your birth control.

Pregnancy

There is an old wives tale, “one baby, one tooth.” There are several factors that contribute to decline in oral health while pregnant, but there are solutions.

Vomiting, reflux and cravings

Some women have vomiting and reflux during pregnancy. The acids erode your enamel (the hard, protective layer on the outside of your teeth). Others have cravings for sugary foods, which cause cavities.

What can I do?

If you vomit or have reflux, do not brush right away, as your enamel is soft and susceptible to erosion. Instead, rinse with water with a teaspoon of baking soda. Then wait 30 minutes before brushing your teeth. This will neutralize the acidic environment in your mouth and give your enamel time to harden. Avoid sugary or acidic foods.

Periodontal disease

Sensitive gums from hormonal changes and nausea caused by flavored toothpastes can lead to gum disease (periodontal disease). Pregnant women have 40% higher blood volume, which can cause bleeding gums. Severe periodontal disease can lead to low birth weights. Severe infections can cause miscarriage.

What can I do?

Good home care and regular visits for dental cleanings will help you maintain healthy gums. Antibacterial mouthwash will also improve gum health. Elective dental care should be avoided during the 1st trimester, while the fetal organs are developing, but can be performed in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters.

Menopause

Postmenopausal women have a decrease in estrogen. This can lead to dry mouth, which can lead to cavities. This is because you do not have as much saliva, which naturally rinses and buffers your teeth. Osteoporosis can lead to bone loss and acceleration of periodontal disease.

What can I do?

If you have dry mouth, drink a lot of water and suck on sugar-free candies to stimulate salivary flow. Avoid sugary and acidic foods. Patients with osteoporosis should take extra care to maintain their gingival health, to avoid infection.

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February is Heart Health Month

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among both men and women in the United States. February Heart Health Month, and is dedicated to raising awareness about heart disease and increasing knowledge about prevention.

Did you know that heart disease and oral health are linked?

Studies have shown that people with moderate or advanced periodontal disease are more likely to have cardiovascular disease than those with healthy gums. A recent study suggested that gum disease may increase a person’s risk of heart disease by about 20 percent. Other research released shows that people with gum disease may have two to three times the risk of having a heart attack or stroke. The American Dental Association and the American Heart Association have both acknowledged that a relationship exists between gum disease and heart disease

Research has focused on chronic inflammation as the culprit linking gum disease and heart disease. Diseased gums are chronically inflamed. Inflammation, along with the high concentrations of bacteria found in infected gums, can be damaging to arteries and cause atherosclerosis, or build up of plaque inside blood vessels. The plaque can occlude the vessels partially or completely, resulting in a heart attack or stroke.

Regular dental exams are the best way to prevent and detect gum disease in its earliest phases. If diagnosed, gum disease can be treated by your dentist, and your gums and underlying bone tissue can be restored to health.

Signs of gum disease

  • Bleeding gums while brushing or flossing
  • Gums that seem to be pulling away from your teeth
  • Chronic bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth
  • Teeth that are loose or separating from each other

If you have any of these signs, visit your dentist for proper diagnosis and treatment.

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Presidential Smile Secrets!

In honor of Presidents Day on Monday February 18th, we’re revealing smile secrets of just a few of our Command-in-Chief’s:

George Washington

At the time of inauguration, Washington has one natural tooth. Throughout his life, Washington wore various dentures, some even made from human teeth, which was common at the time. Until Washington died, it was said that he spent money on various toothbrushes and cleaning solutions for his teeth. If Washington were still alive today, he would benefit greatly from smile restoration with dental implants!

John Adams

Though he was missing most of his teeth, John Adams found dentures uncomfortable. He refused to wear dentures, and as a result, spoke with a lisp. We imagine that had John Adams had the option of having an implant retained denture, that look and feel like natural teeth, he gladly would have worn one.

Abraham Lincoln

It was said that Abraham Lincoln hated going to the dentist. His dental anxiety prevented him from regularly seeing the dentist, and he only visited the dentist four times in his life! With over 200 years of advancements in technology, anesthetics, and dental procedures, patients no longer have to fear going to the dentist.

Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland had surgery to remove oral cancer while on his yacht. The surgery was kept secret and performed after he boarded his yacht in New York. He subsequently disembarked in Cape Cod, where he then recovered at his summer home. Doctors fabricated a prosthesis for Cleveland, so he could speak normally after the surgery.

Donald Trump

Media and others speculate on whether President Trump wears false teeth. During a publicized event in 2017, Trump’s speech became slightly slurred and irregular. Experts believe that his partial denture may have been loose, and he was trying keep the prosthesis in place during the speech. This theory has not been confirmed, and we may not know the real verdict on whether President Trump wears dentures for some time.

Dentistry at the White House

During the Hoover administration in the 1930’s, a dental clinic was installed in the White House basement. At the time, the clinic only contained a single dental chair and dentists brought their own equipment. However, the clinic was updated, and today it houses a fully functioning operatory. There is also a full clinic at Camp David.

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Winter Oral Health Tips

We all know winter is cold and flu season. However, winter can also negatively impact your oral health. We’ve listed some tips for maintaining a healthy smile this winter.

Stay Hydrated

Less humidity combined with indoor heating systems that blow dry air can dehydrate your body. While the cold weather may not make you particularly thirsty, always remember to drink water. In addition to keeping your gums, lips and teeth moist, drinking water will maintain your saliva production, which is important in washing away food debris and bacteria, as well as neutralizing harmful acids that bacteria produce.

Keeping hydrated will also prevent your lips from becoming cracked and chapped. If your lips do become chapped in the winter, you can use petroleum jelly or lip balm. Using lip balm with SPF will protect your lips from harmful UV radiation.

Cold Sores and Canker Sores

Both cold sores and canker sores may be triggered and aggravated by colder weather. To help prevent outbreaks use lip balm or moisturizer. Also minimize touching your lips and mouth.

Tooth Sensitivity

If you have sensitive teeth, they may become more sensitive in cold weather. Sensitivity to cold can occur when breathing in cold air, and sensitivity to heat can be triggered when drinking hot beverages – like tea and coffee – to warm up. If your teeth become more sensitive in the winter, you can brush with toothpaste specifically designed to reduce sensitivity, like Sensodyne.

Keep Healthy

Infections are more prevalent and easily spread in the winter. Infections can irritate your gums, causing inflammation or swelling. Wash your hands frequently, and avoid touching your mouth and face to help prevent catching an infection. Also remember to maintain your oral hygiene routine, brushing and flossing after meals, and using mouth wash.

Winter Sports and Activities

For many, winter is a great time to stay active. We have many patients that enjoy skiing, ice skating, sledding and other activities. Remember to protect your teeth. Using a mouthguard can help prevent injuries that can lead to costly dental care.

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Halloween and Holiday Treats Debunked

Halloween through Thanksgiving typically marks a time to enjoy and indulge in seasonal fare that can cause cavities and tooth decay. We would like to recommend some tips for enjoying your all the delectable treats the season brings while still remaining healthy.

The Real Story on Chocolate

With Halloween, comes chocolate. It’s impossible to avoid, whether sitting in a bucket in the office, or at home in your child’s trick-or-treat stash. Dark chocolates can actually be good for your mouth. Cocoa contains three antioxidants – Tannins, polyphenols and flavonoids – that are beneficial for oral health:

  • Tannins help prevent cavities by inhibiting bacteria from sticking to your teeth
  • Polyphenols limit the effects of bacteria, meaning they work to neutralize the microorganisms that cause bad breath, prevent infections in your gums and battle tooth decay
  • Flavonoids work to slow tooth decay, among other things
  • Dark chocolate typically has the highest cocoa content, and hence is the healthiest chocolate for your teeth and overall health.

With all these benefits one may wonder why not eat more dark chocolate. Like milk chocolate and white chocolate, dark chocolate also contains plenty of fat and sugar. Hence, it should be eaten in moderation.

Pass the Cheese, Please

Cheese plates frequently make cut for hors d’oeuvres served at Holiday parties. Cheese contains several ingredients that are beneficial for your oral health. The calcium and phosphorus in cheese help facilitate teeth remineralization – a process that strengthens teeth. Cheese also contains casein, a protein with protective properties that helps fight cavities.

Winter Squash is Great for Healthy Gums

Squash’s, such as butternut squash are great for health gums. Squash contains large amounts vitamins A and C. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that helps with synthesizing collagen, a process that helps maintain healthy gums. Vitamin A helps keep mucous membranes healthy. It prevents dry mouth and helps your mouth heal quickly.

Cranberry Sauce with the Turkey – Good or Bad?

Like dark chocolate, cranberries also contain antioxidants, including polyphenols. This makes them a great option not only for oral health, but overall health, especially in preventing cardiovascular disease. However, cranberry sauce typically contains significant amounts of sugar. If cranberry sauce is a must at your Thanksgiving table, we recommend a recipe low in sugar, and preferably naturally sweetened, rather than sweetened with refined sugar.

Dried Fruit – A healthy snack?

Many holiday gift baskets come with dried fruit. Dried fruits like raisins and prunes are also found in some holiday stuffing recipes. Though dried fruit isn’t the worst snack for your health, it is terrible for your teeth. Dried fruit tends to stick to your teeth, which can lead to bacteria build up and eventually tooth decay. If you do have a hankering to break into the Holiday food basket, we recommend eating nuts with dried fruit. The nuts will act to scrape off some of the dried fruit residue that sticks to your teeth.

Go Nuts for Nuts!

Nuts also contain phosphorus and calcium that can help with tooth re-mineralization. Not all nuts are created equally though – at least from a health perspective. Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews and pecans are among the healthier varieties. Many fear their teeth may crack or break when eating nuts, and hence try to avoid them. However, However, healthy teeth are definitely strong enough to eat nuts. That said, if you are undergoing orthodontic treatment with braces, nut should be avoided as they may damage the braces.

How about a Drink?

Alcohol may help us relax and endure company or family holiday gatherings. But, to be clear, alcohol provides absolutely no nutrients for your body. That said some studies have shown that certain alcoholic beverages, like red wine, in small amounts (1-2 glasses), may have potential health benefits.

Alcohol has a negative effect on oral health. Red wine may be high in antioxidants, but also will stain your teeth. Most alcohol and mixers contain large amounts of sugar. In addition, mixers may also be acidic. When sipped over time the sugar brings decay-causing bacteria to your teeth, and the acid works to break down tooth enamel. Alcohol also causes dehydration, and therefore decreased saliva flow. Saliva functions to wash the bacteria off the teeth, but with less saliva, bacteria can hang around longer, leading to greater risk for tooth decay.

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