Posts for: May, 2014
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.”
Some train intensively for months ahead of time, so they can achieve peak performance during the season; others simply enjoy occasional pick-up games with friends. But here’s something all athletes, both amateurs and professionals, should know: Dental accidents in sports can happen at any time, and the consequences of not wearing the proper protective equipment can be serious.
Don’t believe us? Just ask American Idol season 5 winner Taylor Hicks. Before his singing career took off, Hicks was a high-school basketball star; he lost his two front teeth during a championship game.
“It was just one of those collisions that happen in sports,” Hicks recently told Dear Doctor magazine. “I never wore a mouthguard in basketball. Obviously I should have.”
We agree. And we want to remind you that basketball isn’t the only game that poses a risk to your teeth (although statistics show it’s the leading cause of sports-related dental injuries). Soccer, bike riding, and equestrian sports — along with some two dozen other games and physical activities — are all on the American Dental Association’s list of sports in which participants should wear a mouthguard.
What’s the best kind of mouthguard? The answer is: the one you actually wear. For the maximum comfort and protection, there’s nothing like a custom-fitted mouthguard provided by our office. This is a piece of protective equipment that’s individually crafted just for you — in fact, it’s made from a model of you own teeth! Not only will it fit your mouth perfectly, but it’s also strong, lightweight and easy to wear.
It’s true that off-the-shelf mouthguards are available from big-box retailers in limited sizes (like small, medium and large); also available are the so-called “boil and bite” types, which you soften in hot water before molding them into shape with the pressure of your fingers, teeth and tongue. Either one of these options is probably better than nothing — but neither provides the level of protection and comfort that a custom-made mouthguard offers.
When you consider the potential cost of tooth replacement — not just its hefty price tag, but also the lost time, trouble and inconvenience it can cause — we think you’ll agree that a perfectly fitted mouthguard, made by our office, is a piece of sports equipment you really can’t afford to do without. Best of all, its cost is quite reasonable.
So if you’re the active type, come in to ask us about fitting you with a custom mouthguard. For more information, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Athletic Mouthguards” and “An Introduction to Sports Injuries & Dentistry.”
Your teeth have enemies — bacteria that feed on biofilm, a thin layer of food remnant known as plaque that sticks to your teeth, are one such example. After ingestion, these bacteria produce acid, which can erode your teeth’s protective enamel and lead to tooth decay.
Fortunately, you have a weapon against enamel loss already at work in your mouth — saliva. Saliva neutralizes high levels of acid, as well as restores some of the enamel’s mineral content lost when the mouth is too acidic (re-mineralization).
Unfortunately, saliva can be overwhelmed if your mouth is chronically acidic. Here’s how you can help this powerful ally protect your enamel and stop tooth decay with better hygiene and eating habits:
Remove bacterial plaque daily. You should floss and brush with fluoride toothpaste everyday to remove plaque. It’s also recommended that you visit us twice a year for professional cleanings to remove hard to reach plaque. We can also train you on how to properly floss and brush.
Wait an hour after eating to brush. It may sound counterintuitive, but brushing immediately after you eat can do more harm than good. The mouth is naturally acidic just after eating and some degree of enamel softening usually occurs. It takes a half hour or so for saliva to restore the mouth’s pH balance and re-mineralize the enamel. If you brush before then, you may brush away some of the softened enamel.
Limit sweets to mealtimes. Constantly snacking on sweets (or sipping sodas, sports or energy drinks) will expose your teeth to a chronic high level of acid — and saliva can’t keep up in neutralizing it. If you can’t abstain from sugar, at least limit your consumption to mealtime. It’s also a good habit to rinse out your mouth with clear water after drinking an acidic drink to flush out excess acid.
Boost saliva content with supplements. If you suffer from insufficient saliva production or dry mouth, try an artificial saliva supplement. Chewing xylitol gum can also help boost saliva production, as well as inhibit the growth of infection-causing bacteria. We’ll be glad to advise you on the use of these products.