Posts for: May, 2014
Oral cancer is a serious health problem, responsible for the death of about one person every hour, every day in the United States. It was once thought that folks over 40 were chiefly at risk for the disease. If present trends continue, however, younger people may soon form the majority of oral cancer patients. So, no matter who you are, it makes sense to recognize the risk factors, and find out what you can do to reduce your chances of getting the disease.
As in many other diseases, genetic factors play a role in determining whether an individual will develop oral cancer. At present, there's nothing we can do about these inborn traits. But there are several choices we can make that will lessen our risk of oral cancer. Most of these risky behaviors are associated with other types of cancer as well.
Moderate to heavy drinkers, and users of tobacco products of all types, are as much as 9 times more likely to develop the disease than non-users. Chronic exposure to the sun has long been associated with the development of cancers of the lip. And, because the sexually-transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can lead to oral cancer, unsafe sexual behavior is a factor that's fast becoming a primary cause of the disease.
So if you need another reason to quit smoking, stop drinking excessively, wear sunscreen and practice safe sex — consider this your warning. But there's still more you can do to reduce your risk for oral cancer, and improve your general health as well.
Eating a plant-based, whole food diet doesn't just reduce your risk of getting oral cancer — it also makes you less likely to develop many other cancers, and various chronic conditions like heart disease. The exact mechanisms by which this happens aren't completely understood, but its effects have been documented in numerous studies.
Avoiding certain chemicals, like the nitrites often found in preserved foods, can reduce cancer risk. And the antioxidants you get by eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help protect your body from cancer-causing substances.
Finally, don't ignore regular cancer screenings. The early signs of oral cancer are difficult for many people to distinguish from common mouth sores — but we are trained to identify possible problem areas, and can schedule further tests if needed. You can get an oral cancer screening (a fast and painless procedure) at your regular dental checkup. And you always get your checkups on time — don't you?
If you have concerns about oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Oral Cancer” and “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”
Like many who have risen to the top tier in show business, singer Taylor Hicks found that he needed a few things (besides talent, of course) to really succeed: a willingness to seek out opportunities and work hard; a unique and energetic stage presence; and a bright, appealing smile.
“Everyone wants to have a great smile,” Hicks recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “In my business, it’s one of the most important things. A lot of what I do is smiling and having fun, being in front of the camera and taking pictures.”
To help him keep his smile sparkling, Hicks opts for in-office whitening treatments from his dentist. These treatments are a safe, quick and effective way to lighten teeth by 3 to 8 shades in a single one-hour visit. Best of all, you don’t have to be an American Idol winner or a Las Vegas headliner to take advantage of them — in fact, we offer them right here in our own office.
Why choose in-office treatments instead of take-home trays (or over-the-counter products)? While each system can be effective at lightening teeth to some degree, the in-office method offers several distinct advantages. For one, it’s the fastest way to get your teeth as bright as they can be; the same lightening that can be achieved in one office visit could take a week when done at home, using custom-made trays and dentist-supplied bleaching solutions — and several weeks with over-the-counter products! So if your time is limited, in-office treatment is the way to go.
Plus, in-office treatments are performed under our direct supervision. That means we can safely use the most powerful whitening gels, and achieve the maximum control over the result. This can be important when you have crowns or replacement teeth such as implants, which Hicks has. Artificial crowns don’t whiten like natural teeth, so it’s important to get just the right degree of lightening to produce an evenly bright smile.
The bottom line, of course, is the result: a dazzling white smile. “In entertainment, a big, pearly white smile makes a difference,” Hicks said. But you don’t have to be an entertainer to enjoy the benefits of a brilliant smile — we do it for plenty of “regular folks” too.
So if your smile could use a little brightening, why not call us and schedule an appointment for whitening treatment? You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Teeth Whitening” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
Tooth wear, especially on biting surfaces, is a normal part of aging — we all lose some of our tooth enamel as we grow older. Even primary (“baby”) teeth may show some wear before they’re lost. But there’s also excessive, premature tooth wear caused by disease or abnormal biting habits. This type of wear is cause for concern and action before it leads to tooth loss.
Normal tooth wear occurs because of what teeth naturally do — bite and chew. When teeth come together as we eat they generate a modest amount of force: between 13 and 23 pounds. Our teeth also make brief contacts hundreds to thousands times a day. Again, this produces force, though not to the extent we see with biting and chewing: somewhere between 0.75 and 7.5 pounds. These glancing contacts are actually good for dental health because they provide needed stimulation to the teeth and jaws that help the body maintain healthy bone and tooth attachments.
But parafunctional (outside the normal function) habits like teeth grinding or foreign object chewing can greatly increase the generated force, up to 230 pounds. These may result in noticeable symptoms like fractures or loose teeth, but not always — the damage may not be noticeable until much later in the form of excessive tooth wear.
These parafunctional habits aren’t the only cause for excessive tooth wear; tooth decay can weaken the tooth structure, making it more susceptible to wear. And, some restorative materials used for fillings may also affect the rate of wear.
Because excessive tooth wear may or may not present with immediate symptoms, it’s important to maintain regular dental checkups to monitor the condition of your teeth. Our training and experience helps us identify signs of excessive tooth wear and, depending on the extent of damage, work with you on a treatment plan. You should also keep us informed about oral habits, especially teeth grinding, thumb sucking or foreign object chewing (toys, nails, pencils, etc.).
Your teeth will wear as you grow older. By keeping a close eye on your teeth, we’ll help you keep that wear at a normal rate.
If you would like more information on preventing excessive tooth wear, 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 “When Children Grind Their Teeth.”