Posts for category: Oral Health
Oral cancer is on the rise in the United States, yet few people are familiar with the disease and its risk factors. The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) estimates that 35,000 Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year. The good news is that prevention and early detection can greatly reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer Include:
- Tobacco: Smoking and using chewing tobacco have been shown to increase the risk of developing oral cancer.
- HPV virus: The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the same virus linked to cervical cancer and genital warts. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF), many young people and women are being diagnosed with oral cancer as a result of exposure to the HPV virus.
- Age: Although it occurs more frequently in people over the age of 40, the incidence is increasing in younger people.
- Alcohol Consumption: Oral cancer is six times more common in those who drink alcohol excessively.
- Diet: People who consume lots of red and processed meat and fried foods are at greater risk.
Symptoms: Alert our office if you notice a change in your mouth such as a sore that doesn't heal or bleeds easily; a lump, thickening, crust or erosion; pain or tenderness; or a change in the way your teeth are positioned. Our office can administer an easy, painless test that detects abnormal cells.
Other symptoms may include unexplained bleeding or numbness in the mouth, difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking, hoarseness, chronic sore throat or changes in your voice.
Importance of Dental Screenings: In its early stages, oral cancer can often go unnoticed, but visiting our office regularly can ensure that any cancerous cells are detected and treated early. Our office will check your tongue and the area under your tongue, as well as your lips and palate and the back of your mouth.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss any questions that you may have regarding oral cancer. Read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer: This Article May Save Your Life.”
When treating Temporomandibular (jaw joint) Disorder (formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, TMJ), we feel we have two equally important challenges facing us. First, we must start your treatment by relieving the symptoms of pain and discomfort. We typically accomplish this with heat, mild pain medications, a diet of soft foods, and some simple jaw exercises. Once we have begun to relieve your pain, our second critical objective is to identify and remedy what is causing the pain. It could be the result of an injury or trauma to the jaws and/or teeth or it could be due to a bite issue or a filling or crown that is too high and thus causing a misaligned bite. There are many other reasons, so it is first necessary to obtain a thorough medical history and conduct a comprehensive evaluation so that we can properly diagnose and treat the TMD condition and what is causing it.
Next to stress resulting in clenching and grinding habits, the four most common causes leading to TMD include:
- Underlying dental conditions that are triggering muscle pain
- Internal joint derangement (displaced or improperly positioned jaw joint)
- Osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease)
- Synovitis — the painful inflammation of a synovial joint-lining membrane that is characterized by swelling, due to effusion (fluid collection)
If you or another family member suffer from chronic jaw pain, please let us know so that we can properly address your concerns and conduct a thorough examination. Or if you are in constant or severe pain, contact us as soon as possible to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”
If you are experiencing cracking in the corners of your mouth, you have a common condition called perleche or angular cheilitis. Perleche comes from a French word meaning “to lick,” because people tend to lick the irritated areas of their mouths. Angular cheilitis comes from cheil meaning “lip,” and itis meaning “inflammation.”
Sufferers from perleche are usually young children who drool in their sleep, young adults with braces, and older adults who have developed skin wrinkling with deep lines at the corners of their mouths. Perleche may become worse in the winter, when cold weather and dry air dries out the skin of your lips. You may lick your lips often to keep them moistened. This constant licking of the cracked areas can lead to infection, most commonly from a type of yeast called candida albicans. Sources of infection can also include dentures that are not cleaned frequently enough, missing teeth that cause facial changes and added skin wrinkling, and health conditions such as iron-deficiency anemia, vitamin B deficiency, diabetes and cancer.
Conditions associated with perleche can be treated in a number of ways. Yeast is a type of fungus, so to combat a chronic yeast infection you need antifungal medication. This may be taken orally or applied to the cracking places as an ointment. You may be asked to dissolve a medicated lozenge in your mouth and then swallow it, so that its medicine treats both the mouth surface and the entire body. Antifungal medications may be combined with other medications to lessen inflammation and assist skin repair.
If the skin-cracking is related to serious underlying conditions such as missing teeth, improperly fitting dentures, or systemic health conditions, these must be treated in order to keep the perleche from recurring. We can perform a dental assessment to check the health of your teeth, gums, and lips, and you may also want to visit a dermatologist to see if treatments can improve and rejuvenate the quality and appearance of your facial skin.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about cracks at the corners of your mouth. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Cracked Corners of the Mouth.”
Dental decay is an infectious and very common disease, but it's also very preventable. Today's dentistry has many tools at its disposal to accurately determine your risk for tooth decay, lower it, turn it around, and completely prevent it. What's more, we can even reverse early decay. You might never have to see or hear the drill again.
Striking the right balance between factors that promote oral health and those that cause disease is of the utmost importance. And knowing whether or not you have indicators of disease or risk for tooth decay is a great place to start.
We will scientifically calculate your risk for tooth decay by:
- Recording and monitoring your oral and dental health: Our risk assessment/evaluation form allows us to gather information about critical dental health habits. Oral hygiene habits, use of fluoride toothpaste, tobacco smoking, frequent snacking on sugary foods and beverages, and past experience of decay are all examples of disease indicators that will help gauge your level of risk. For example, using fluoride toothpaste decreases your risk, but smoking and between-meal snacking increases it.
- Testing for decay producing bacteria: You've probably heard of dental bacterial plaque, the biofilm that sticks to your teeth, forming in the tiny little grooves on the biting surfaces of the teeth where decay starts (and along the gum line). Today, acid-producing bacteria responsible for causing decay can be tested by simply sampling your biofilm on a swab, and placing it in a meter to accurately determine acid-producing activity. A high number indicates high risk. You can see it for yourself in less than a minute.
- Saliva testing: A simple history will tell us whether your mouth is dry or moist most of the time. A saliva test will tell us if your saliva is acidic or neutral. A dry acidic mouth promotes decay, while a moist neutral mouth with healthy saliva promotes health. Measuring salivary “pH,” the measure of acidity, is another factor for determining your risk for decay and reversing it. Special rinses can help reduce decay-producing bacteria and reduce acidity.
- Very early decay detection: Modern ultra-low-dosage x-ray equipment allows us to determine the very earliest signs of decay. Decay that is detectable with the naked eye (or feel with a dentist's instrument, an explorer) is already at an advanced stage. Catching the disease very early with the help of this sophisticated equipment can allow us to reverse early decay before it has even turned into cavities. It can actually be reversed with remineralizing fluids, rinses that put calcium back into the tooth surfaces reforming and hardening them.
This is a new and exciting era in the fight against tooth decay and we have all the tools to determine your decay risk and reverse it.
If you would like us to determine your risk for tooth decay, please call the office to schedule an appointment. To read more about disease indicators and risk factors for dental caries, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How To Assess Your Risk.”
Temporomandibular Disorder (TMD), which was formerly known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ), is an interesting condition because it can be hard to diagnose and often mimics many other conditions. It arises when there are problems inside the temporomandibular joint, and the muscles attached to it, causing pain. When treating TMD, we typically start by relieving the symptoms of pain and discomfort with heat, mild pain medications, a diet of soft foods, and some simple jaw exercises. We feel that it is critical to address your pain issues as soon as possible before preceding any further with treatment.
Once we have provided some pain relief and after having completed a thorough history and examination, we can move to the next phase of treatment. This may include the introduction of a bite guard or some form of oral appliance therapy. A bite guard is an unobtrusive yet rigid plastic horseshoe-shaped appliance that fits snuggly over the biting surfaces of the upper teeth. When in place and properly adjusted, this custom-made appliance allows your muscles and therefore jaw joints to relax. And it will prevent you from grinding your teeth, another contributing factor to TMD. We will probably ask you to wear it when sleeping or in times when you are feeling stressed when clenching or grinding habits may be active. We may also suggest that you obtain some relaxation therapy and/or biofeedback from a licensed therapist, as this can prove helpful in treating TMD.
If you have suffered from frequent jaw pain in the past and suspect that you may have TMD, please let us know so that we can address it at your next appointment. Or if you are currently in constant or severe pain, contact us immediately to schedule an appointment. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms, and treatment options for TMD by reading “TMD — Understanding The Great Imposter.”