Preventive Dentistry

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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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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.