Posts for: March, 2014
Oral cancer accounts for approximately 3% of cancers in men and 2% in women. That may not sound like a lot, but the disease often isn't detected until it has progressed to its later stages when it's harder to treat and the outlook for survival is significantly diminished.
The main areas where oral carcinomas (cancers) occur are:
- the tongue (most common location, particularly the sides and underneath)
- the lip (especially the lower one),
- the oral cavity (the mouth), and
- the pharynx (back of mouth and throat).
Risk Factors You Can't Control
Even if you can't change these risks, awareness helps raise your vigilance in order to catch potential problems early when treatment options and positive outcomes are greatest.
- Aging — More than 90% of all oral cancers occur in individuals over 40. However, the incidence among younger people has been on the uptick recently, perhaps related to lifestyle behaviors.
- Race — African Americans have a higher incidence of oral cancer than Caucasians.
Risk Factors You Can Address
- Smoking and chewing tobacco — Smokers are at five to nine times greater risk and snuff and tobacco chewers at about four times greater risk
- Alcohol — Moderate to heavy drinkers are at three to nine times greater risk; the higher the alcohol content, the greater the risk
- Chronic sun exposure — Often connected with lip cancers.
- Viral infections — Namely the human papilloma virus “HPV 16,” which has been linked to sexual transmission (oral sex) and cervical cancer in women.
One way you can address these risk factors is to have a diet rich in fruits/vegetables, which are high in antioxidants because they been found to have a protective effect against a variety of cancers, including oral.
As part of your routine oral hygiene, you should be closely monitoring any non-healing changes in your mouth (e.g., ulcers or sores, white or red patches on the tongue). And rest assured that as part of your regular check-ups, our office performs a comprehensive visual screening for signs of oral cancer.
If you would like more information about oral cancer prevention and 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 articles “Oral Cancer” and “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”
Dental implants provide a number of advantages as a tooth replacement system, like durability and imperviousness to decay or gum disease. Bone naturally grows and attaches to the titanium posts, strengthening the attachment over time, and they don’t cause damage to adjacent teeth. Best of all, an implant and its crown’s life-like appearance can rejuvenate a person’s smile, transforming their appearance and self-image.
But it takes time to complete treatment with dental implants — months of healing and sufficient bone growth to anchor the implant before affixing the permanent crown. If the natural tooth requires extraction first, this may add another step — and more healing time — to the process.
In recent years, though, patients who meet certain criteria are able to shorten the time after a tooth extraction with “immediate” implants. In this case, rather than waiting for the socket to heal following a tooth extraction, the implant is placed directly into the socket immediately after the extraction. Immediate implants thus combine tooth extraction and implantation into one procedure.
For the best results, the extraction must be done very carefully to avoid as little damage as possible to surrounding tissue and bone. It’s also important for the implant to be completely immobilized within the bone with no movement at all. It will stabilize further as bone growth (or ossification) occurs over time.
It’s also possible to attach a provisional crown to the immediate implant for aesthetic purposes. This isn’t the permanent crown that will be affixed after bone growth around the implant; for that reason it’s made in such a way that it doesn’t contact its counterpart tooth in the opposing jaw. Although the implant is completely immobilized mechanically, it’s still not ready for the full forces of normal biting and chewing. After two to three months, the implant should be fully integrated with the surrounding bone and ready for the permanent crown.
Immediate implants are best for the more visible front teeth that encounter less biting force than back teeth. The technique not only reduces healing time, but enables patients to gain an “immediate” aesthetic benefit — and something worth smiling about.
If you would like more information on immediate implants or other dental implant options, 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 “Immediate Implants.”
It’s a recognized goal of modern dentistry to help you keep your natural teeth clean and disease-free, so you’ll be able to enjoy them for your whole life. But dentists can’t accomplish that goal by ourselves — we need your help! Maintaining good oral hygiene is the best way to ensure that your smile stays as healthy as it should be. Here are a few simple tips that can make a big difference in your dental health.
- Use the right brush, and change it as needed. What’s the right brush? Generally speaking, it’s one with soft bristles that’s small enough to fit your mouth comfortably. However, if you have trouble using a manual brush effectively (because of arthritis, for example), consider getting a good-quality electric brush. Change your brush when its bristles begin to stiffen or wear out. Ask us about proper brushing technique if you have any questions — and, of course, make sure to use a toothpaste with fluoride.
- Floss — every day. Because no matter how hard you try, you simply can’t reach all the areas in between your teeth with a brush alone — and that’s where many cavities get started. Plus, when it comes to preventing periodontal (gum) disease, flossing may be even more important than brushing, since it can actually remove plaque (a bacterial film) from under the gums. So no more excuses — OK?
- Stay away from sugary drinks and between-meal snacks. That includes sodas, cookies, and so-called “energy” drinks, which often pack a damaging one-two punch of sugar and caffeine. If you eat sugary treats at all, do so only after a meal. This will give your mouth plenty of “free time” to neutralize the acids that result when sugar is processed by oral bacteria. It’s these acids that are the primary cause of tooth decay.
- Avoid bad oral-health habits. Some you already know: smoking (or using tobacco products of any kind); excessive consumption of alcohol; chewing on pencils, fingernails, or anything else that doesn’t belong in your mouth. But some you may not know: A clenching or grinding habit at night can cause serious tooth damage without you even realizing it. Getting an oral piercing increases your chance of chipping a tooth, and can lead to other problems. And playing sports without a mouthguard is risky business.
- See your dentist regularly. You can do plenty on your own to keep up your oral health — but it’s also important to see us regularly. When you come in for an office visit, we will check you for early signs of problems, and take care of any that we find… before they get bigger and harder to treat. We’ll also make sure you leave with a sparkling smile that has been thoroughly and professionally cleaned.
If you would like to learn more about maintaining good oral hygiene, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. For more information, see the Dear Doctor magazine articles on “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health” and “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”
Your skeletal system plays an essential role in your physical well-being. Not only do bones physically support the body and protect internal organs, they also store minerals, produce blood cells and help regulate the body’s pH balance.
As dynamic, living tissue, bone goes through a normal cycle of removing old, ineffective areas (a process called resorption), followed by the formation of new bone to replace it. For most adults, the two sides of this cycle are roughly balanced. But with age and other factors, the scale may tip in favor of resorption. Over time the bone will become weaker and less dense, a condition known as osteoporosis.
One common approach in treatment for osteoporosis is a class of drugs known as bisphosphonates. Taken orally, bisphosphonates act to slow the bone’s resorption rate and restore balance to the bone’s natural regenerative cycle. But while effective for osteoporosis, it could affect your oral health, particularly if you are considering dental implants.
Long-term users of bisphosphonates can develop osteonecrosis, a condition where isolated areas of bone lose their vitality and die. This has implications for dental implants if it arises in the jawbone. Implants require an adequate amount of bone structure for proper anchorage; due to the effects of osteonecrosis, there may not be enough viable bone to support an implant.
Of course, the treatment for osteoporosis varies from patient to patient according to each particular case. Another effective treatment is a synthetic hormone called teriparitide, a manufactured version of a naturally occurring parathyroid hormone. Daily injections of teriparitide have been shown to slow resorption and stimulate new bone growth. And unlike bisphosphonates, researchers have found no link between the use of teriparitide and osteonecrosis.
If you are undergoing treatment for osteoporosis and are also considering dental implants, you should discuss the matter with your healthcare team, including your physician, dentist and dental specialists. Understanding how the treatment for your osteoporosis could affect your dental health will help you make informed decisions about your overall care and future dental needs.
If you would like more information on how osteoporosis may affect your 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 “Osteoporosis & Dental Implants.”