Posts for: March, 2013
A consistently dry mouth is not only uncomfortable and unpleasant but also probably more serious than you think. Dry mouth, medically known as xerostomia (“xero” – dry; “stomia” – mouth) affects millions of people, but few understand why it happens or why it is important.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
It is normal to awaken with a dry mouth because saliva flow decreases at night. But if your mouth is persistently dry throughout the day, it may be a result of habits such as smoking, alcohol or too much coffee drinking or even dehydration. It is also a common side effect of some medications. Xerostomia is not a disease in itself, but it could be a symptom of salivary gland or other systemic (general body) disease.
Why is Saliva Important?
A persistently dry mouth can be a problem. Not only does it feel unpleasant and lead to bad breath, it can also significantly increase your risk for tooth decay. Saliva lubricates your mouth for chewing, eating, digestion and even speaking. Saliva also has important antibacterial activities. Most importantly normal healthy salivary flow neutralizes and buffers acids in the mouth to protect the teeth from the acids produced by bacteria on the teeth that cause decay, and by acids in sodas, sports drinks and juices that can erode tooth enamel.
Not only does saliva neutralize acids but with its high mineral content it can actually reverse de-mineralization — the process by which acids attack enamel and remove calcium from the enamel surface. Healthy saliva actually re-mineralizes the outer layers of tooth enamel, but the process can take 30-60 minutes. That's why it's important not to snack on sugars or drink sodas between meals — one an hour and your mouth is acidic all the time.
Individuals without enough saliva are especially at risk for root decay and fungal infections, and they are also more likely to lose tooth substance through abrasion and erosion.
What Can We Do for a Dry Mouth?
If your mouth is usually dry, make an appointment with us to assess the causes of the problem. However it may be more serious with medical implications. The solution may be as simple as drinking more water and using good daily oral hygiene, or it may necessitate prescription medication to promote more saliva flow.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your dry mouth and what we can do to help. For more information read the article in Dear Doctor magazine “Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk.”
Cancer is never a pleasant topic. Yet, rather than wish it away, many people have chosen to take an active and positive role in the prevention and early detection of the disease. Did you know that you and your dentist, working together, can help identify a major class of cancers in the early stages? Let's spend a few moments discussing oral cancer.
Oral cancer is dangerous. Although it accounts for a relatively small percentage of all cancers, it isn't usually detected until it has reached a late stage. And at that point, the odds aren't great: only 58% survive 5 years after treatment, a rate far less than that of many better-known cancers. It is estimated that in the United States, this disease kills one person every hour, every day.
Oral cancer used to be thought of as an older person's disease — and it still primarily strikes those over 40 years of age. But a disturbing number of young people have been diagnosed with the illness in recent years, making them the fastest-growing segment among oral cancer patients. This is due to the sexually-transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV16). So, while long-time tobacco users and heavy drinkers still need screenings, most young people do too.
What's the good news? When it's detected early, the survival rate of oral cancer goes up to 80% or better. And having an oral cancer screening is part of doing something you should be doing anyway — getting regular dental checkups. That's one more reason why coming in to our office regularly for your routine examination is so important.
Of course, if you notice any abnormal sores or color changes in the tissue around your mouth, lips, tongue or throat — especially if they don't go away in 2-3 weeks — come in and see us right away. They could be just cold sores — or not.
An oral cancer exam is fast and painless. It involves a visual inspection of the mouth and surrounding area (face, lips, throat, etc.), during which we may also feel for lumps. We'll also gently pull your tongue from side to side, and check underneath it for early signs of a problem. If needed, we can schedule a biopsy for any suspicious areas. Sound easy? It is! So don't ignore it — remember that early detection could save your life.
Losing a baby tooth is an important milestone in a child's life. Be sure to take a photo of that toothless smile — it will be something you treasure as your child grows up.
You may be wondering what is really happening when a baby tooth becomes loose and eventually falls or is pulled out. Read on for some answers.
What are baby teeth?
An infant's teeth begin to form before birth, by the fifth to sixth week after conception. When the baby is born, 20 primary (baby) teeth are almost completely formed inside the jaws. These first teeth, also called deciduous teeth, begin to erupt through the gums at about the time the baby begins to eat solid food. The front teeth (incisors) are usually the first to come in, at age six months to a year.
Why are they called deciduous teeth?
Deciduous means “falling off at maturity.” The same term refers to trees that lose their leaves every fall. In many mammals, including humans, it refers to the first teeth, which need to come out to make room for the larger permanent teeth to come in.
What causes the deciduous teeth to become loose?
While your child is using his primary teeth to bite and chew, his adult (permanent) teeth are quietly growing inside his jawbone. Starting with tooth “germs” (the word comes from germination, meaning the start of growth), the top part of each tooth, called the crown, grows first. Then the bottom part, or root, begins to grow and elongate. As the roots develop and the permanent teeth take up more room in the child's jaw, they begin to push against the baby teeth. This causes the roots of the baby teeth to melt away or resorb. Eventually little or nothing is left to hold the baby teeth inside the child's gums, they become wiggly, and finally they can easily be pulled out. This may leave a little bleeding gum tissue that quickly heals.
What should you watch for in the transition from primary to permanent teeth?
As the permanent teeth erupt (push through the gums and become visible), you may notice that they are too crowded, have too much space between them, or are crooked. It's a good idea to have an orthodontic (from ortho, meaning straight and dont, meaning tooth) evaluation at age five to seven. Watch to see that the baby teeth are lost in the right sequence. If one is lost prematurely, for example from decay, make sure that the space that it occupied is maintained to make room for the adult tooth that will replace it. We can help you with this.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss whether your child's baby teeth are being lost in the right sequence and if the adult teeth are coming in correctly. For more information see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Losing a Baby Tooth.”