Posts for tag: oral health
According to a recent study from the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, the incidence of cancer is dropping and the survival rate is increasing. In general, the outlook for patients undergoing treatment for the disease is getting better and better. Unfortunately, it's possible that some essential lifesaving treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, can adversely affect your oral health. If you (or a loved one) need cancer treatment, however, there are some things you should know that can help minimize the possible complications and side effects.
- Chemotherapy and radiation are effective cancer treatments, but they may cause oral health problems. These therapies work by attacking cancer cells, but they can also damage healthy cells, including those in the salivary glands and the lining of the mouth. Common symptoms may include a dry mouth or uncomfortable mouth sores. Cancer patients may also be at higher risk for dental disease, especially tooth decay.
- Prevention is the best way to minimize these problems. It's important to have a complete dental evaluation before cancer treatment begins. Side effects often result when the mouth isn't healthy prior to the start of therapy — so if there's time for necessary dental treatment beforehand, it can be beneficial in the long run.
- Taking good care of the mouth is crucial at this time. During cancer treatment, proper brushing is more important than ever. A fluoride gel or antibacterial rinse may be prescribed to help prevent tooth decay. Prescription medications are sometimes recommended to alleviate dry mouth, but drinking plenty of water, chewing xylitol-containing gum, or using a soothing rinse of salt, water and baking soda can help too.
- A team approach is essential for the best care. This includes coordination between dentists and oncologists (cancer specialists), and sharing information about prescription and non-prescription drugs, medical histories and treatment plans.
- It's vital to understand and follow medical recommendations. This means not only getting the necessary treatments and taking prescribed medications, but also learning to recognize the warning signs of potential problems. With the support of our office, your oncologist, and caring family and friends, we can make cancer treatment as comfortable as possible and help obtain the best outcome.
If you would like more information about cancer treatment and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”
No one wants to hear the word “cancer.” But thanks to advances in detection and treatment, the disease increasingly can be stopped in its earliest stages when it's most treatable and outcomes are most favorable. Oral cancer accounts for a relatively small 3% of cancers in men and 2% in women, but early detection rates are lagging. Our office screens for oral cancer as part of your regular checkups. Knowing some of the signs and symptoms can help you monitor as well.
The main areas where oral carcinomas (cancers) occur are:
- the tongue (most common location, particularly the sides and on the floor of the mouth),
- the lip (especially the lower one),
- the oral cavity (the mouth), and
- the pharynx (back of mouth and throat).
Most oral cancers are preceded by surface changes (lesions) of the oral membranes. In the “precancerous” stage, white or red patches start forming and a non-healing ulcer may appear. The most common locations on the tongue for this to occur are on the sides and underneath on the floor of the mouth. Lip cancers typically develop on the lower lip, usually in people with a history of sun exposure. There has often been prior damage at the site such as scaling and crusting.
Be aware that oral cancers can be mistaken for cold and canker sores, ulcers, minor infections, and even irritations caused by biting or certain types of food. If lesions don't heal within two or three weeks, there's a higher likelihood that they are cancerous.
An in-office examination includes the following:
- visual inspection of face, lips, neck and mouth;
- inspection of sides and underneath of tongue and floor of mouth using gauze to gently manipulate the tongue;
- palpation of the floor of the mouth, sides of neck and glands to detect unusual lumps; and
- an “open wide and say ‘Aah’” examination of the back of your throat.
There are some risk factors for oral cancer that can't be controlled, such as a family history, age and race. But awareness, monitoring for potential signs and seeking prompt attention are always key ingredients in protecting your oral health!
If you would like more information about oral cancer detection, 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.”
What do burnt eggshells, crushed bones, brick dust and ox-hoof ashes have in common? Are they things you discovered in your kid's pocket? Ingredients in a witches brew? Funky organic compost materials?
It may be hard to believe — but they're all substances that were once used to make toothpaste, from ancient Egyptian concoctions through 18th century British blends. But don't worry: You won't find any broken crockery or ashes inside a modern tube! Today's toothpastes are scientifically formulated to be effective in removing plaque, which helps prevent tooth decay and gum disease (not to mention bad breath.) So what makes them work so well?
One class of ingredients found in all toothpastes is abrasives — also called cleaning and polishing agents. These slightly grainy substances make the mechanical action of brushing more effective. But unlike crushed bones, or the harsh, gritty particles of yore, today's abrasives are designed to remove stains and bacterial films without damaging tooth structure.
Next come detergents, which account for the foam you see when you brush vigorously. Detergents (sometimes called “surfactants”) help to break up and wash away materials that would otherwise be difficult to dissolve. An ingredient called sodium lauryl sulfate, which is also found in many shampoos, is probably the most common detergent used in toothpastes.
Fluoride, first included in toothpaste in 1914, is another common ingredient. In fact, all toothpastes that carry the seal of the American Dental Association contain it, typically in the form of sodium fluoride, stannous fluoride or sodium monofluorophosphate. It has been proven to make tooth enamel stronger and more resistant to decay.
In addition to these primary components, toothpastes generally contain flavorings to make them more palatable, and binders and preservatives to hold them together and keep them from drying out. Special-purpose toothpastes — like those designed to whiten teeth, prevent tartar, or help reduce sensitivity — have added ingredients.
But regardless of what's in your toothpaste, there's one thing you should remember: It's not the paste (or the brush) that keeps your teeth and gums healthy — it's the hand that holds it! Brushing once or twice a day, using a soft brush with the proper technique (and your favorite toothpaste!) is probably the most important thing you can do at home to enhance your overall oral health.
If you have questions about toothpastes or oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Toothpaste — What's In It?”
It was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe it was years ago, or maybe it was yesterday — at some point in your past life you had your tongue pierced and a metal bolt inserted. But now you are wondering whether you made a bad decision. If you have the bolt removed from your tongue, will your mouth go back to being the way it was before the piercing?
The answer is yes, your oral health will improve when you remove a tongue bolt. There are many reasons for this. Your tongue has a rich blood vessel supply to fuel its energy needs and heals quickly.
Some people suffer from chronic pain as long as the bolt is in place. In addition to pain, tongue piercing is associated with other risks. The bolt can chip your teeth or cause tooth sensitivity. It can also cause your gums to recede from your teeth. You may also suffer from inflammation and infection in your gums. This can lead to bone loss and ultimately to loss of teeth.
A piercing and tongue bolt can also cause damage to the nerves in your tongue. This causes pain for some people until the bolt is removed. Your tongue is well supplied with nerves as well as blood vessels. That is why biting your tongue hurts and bleeds a lot, another good reason for not having a piercing.
So what happens if you have the bolt removed? In most cases conditions in your mouth will return to normal. We will want to monitor your condition after removing the bolt to make sure it has not caused collateral damage to your gums and teeth and other oral structures.
Removing the bolt will leave your tongue with a hole that is likely to close spontaneously. If it does not close, a small surgical procedure can remove the skin that lines the holes, which are then stitched closed. This procedure is done with local anesthesia so you don't feel anything, and healing is usually quick and without complications.
During pregnancy, a mother has many health concerns for both her baby and herself. Though it may not seem as important, dental health and development should be on that list of concerns, for both you and your baby. In fact, your baby's tooth development is already well underway just a few weeks after conception. Pregnancy can also present challenges to your own dental health that definitely deserves your attention and care.
Taking care of your own dietary needs and dental health is also the best thing you can do for your baby. The baby growing within you needs calcium, phosphorus, vitamins and other minerals for the healthy development of teeth and bones. That can only come from you eating a balanced diet rich in these nutrients.
During pregnancy, you are also more susceptible to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) or other gum diseases because of the normal increase in the level of the hormone progesterone. In fact, some studies seem to indicate that severe gum disease might even raise the risk for premature birth and a low birth weight. It's important then to practice good dental hygiene during your pregnancy: brushing your teeth at least twice a day with an American Dental Association (ADA) approved fluoridated toothpaste, flossing and using an ADA approved mouth rinse that deters the buildup of plaque and the occurrence of gingivitis. Our office is also happy to provide you instruction on proper brushing and flossing technique to help you gain the most benefit from your daily hygiene.
By paying close attention to your own dental health and diet, you are actually doing the very best you can to provide your baby a solid foundation for a lifetime of good oral health.
If you would like more information on protecting your and your baby's oral 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 “Expectant Mothers: Dental facts you need to know.”