Fans of the legendary rock band Steely Dan received some sad news a few months ago: Co-founder Walter Becker died unexpectedly at the age of 67. The cause of his death was an aggressive form of esophageal cancer. This disease, which is related to oral cancer, may not get as much attention as some others. Yet Becker's name is the latest addition to the list of well-known people whose lives it has cut short—including actor Humphrey Bogart, writer Christopher Hitchens, and TV personality Richard Dawson.
As its name implies, esophageal cancer affects the esophagus: the long, hollow tube that joins the throat to the stomach. Solid and liquid foods taken into the mouth pass through this tube on their way through the digestive system. Worldwide, it is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths.
Like oral cancer, esophageal cancer generally does not produce obvious symptoms in its early stages. As a result, by the time these diseases are discovered, both types of cancer are most often in their later stages, and often prove difficult to treat successfully. Another similarity is that dentists can play an important role in oral and esophageal cancer detection.
Many people see dentists more often than any other health care professionals—at recommended twice-yearly checkups, for example. During routine examinations, we check the mouth, tongue, neck and throat for possible signs of oral cancer. These may include lumps, swellings, discolorations, and other abnormalities—which, fortunately, are most often harmless. Other symptoms, including persistent coughing or hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and unexplained weight loss, are common to both oral and esophageal cancer. Chest pain, worsening heartburn or indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also alert us to the possibility of esophageal cancer.
Cancer may be a scary subject—but early detection and treatment can offer many people the best possible outcome. If you have questions about oral or esophageal cancer, call our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”
You may think an office cleaning is mainly cosmetic — giving your teeth that polished look and you that pleasant, “squeaky clean” feeling. But your dental hygienist is doing more than making your teeth look great during your cleaning session — they’re also providing a valuable service keeping your teeth and gums healthy.
Here, then, are 3 things your dental hygienist is doing during a cleaning session that protects your health.
Removing disease-causing plaque. An office cleaning produces more than a fresh and clean smile. Your hygienist is manually removing plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) in hard to reach places or where it has built up despite your best efforts at brushing and flossing. This built-up plaque is a ready source of bacteria producing acids, which give rise to both tooth decay and gum disease. And for actual occurrences of the latter, plaque removal is an important part of the treatment to restore your gums to a healthy pink.
Checking for signs of dental disease. As your hygienist cleans your teeth, they’re also looking for abnormalities in the mouth’s soft tissue — lumps, bumps, sores, or swelling — that may indicate something more serious requiring further examination. They’re also assessing your overall gum health, probing any areas that might indicate gum disease. And, of course, they’re looking for cavities, softened enamel or other signs of tooth decay.
Helping you improve your oral hygiene.Â As proficient as they are, a dental hygienist can only do so much to help prevent dental disease; the rest — daily brushing and flossing — is on your shoulders. But you’re not completely on your own, because your hygienist is your best personal hygiene training partner: not only can they assess how well you’re doing in your daily regimen, but they can also give you expert advice and tips on improving your brushing and flossing performance.
If you would like more information on the role of your hygienist in your dental care, 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 “Dental Hygiene Visit.”
We all have habits: things we do every day often without consciously thinking. Some of them are good; some not so much. And many of them took root in childhood.
That's why it's important to help your children form good habits in their formative years, especially regarding oral health. Here are 4 areas to focus on developing good dental habits — and avoiding bad ones.
Keep teeth and gums clean. The best defense against dental disease is stopping plaque, a thin film of bacteria and food particles, from building up on tooth surfaces. That means brushing and flossing each day, along with regular dental cleanings and checkups. You should begin cleaning your child's teeth as soon as they appear in the mouth with a clean towel or rag at first and later brushing them. Eventually, teach your children to brush and floss for themselves. Dental visits should also begin around their first birthday.
A nutritious diet equals healthy teeth. The saying, “You are what you eat,” is especially true about teeth. Help your child form a nutritious diet habit by providing meals rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, quality protein and dairy products. You should also restrict their sugar intake, a primary food for bacteria that cause tooth decay; try to limit sweets to mealtimes and avoid constant snacking.
Avoid habits with hidden dangers. Actually, this one is about you — and what you might be doing to increase your child's risk for dental disease. Avoid actions that increase the chances of transmitting oral bacteria from you to your infant, like kissing on the lips or licking a pacifier to clean it. You should also avoid giving your child night-time bottles or sippy cups filled with milk, formula or any sweetened liquid — likewise for pacifiers dipped in something sweet.
Steer them away from future bad habits. As children become teenagers, they're eager to stretch their wings. While this is normal and good, they can get into habits with dire consequences for oral health. You should by all means steer them away from tobacco use or oral piercings (tongue and lip bolts especially can wreak havoc on tooth structure) that can harm their teeth and gums.
If you would like more information on dental care for children, 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 “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”
Your front teeth are the stars of your smile — so it makes perfect sense to replace them if they’re missing. But is it really necessary to replace a largely unseen back tooth with an implant or bridgework?
The answer is an unequivocal yes. Your individual teeth are an interactive part of a dynamic mechanism that enables you to eat, speak and smile. They’re highly adaptable and can move incrementally to accommodate mouth changes — especially when one of them is lost.
Back teeth not only help us chew food efficiently, they also ease some of the pressure from front teeth as we chew. Our efficiency while chewing suffers when they’re missing; other teeth will wear faster and tend to move out of position, “drifting” into the space left by the missing tooth. And without their stimulation during chewing, new bone may grow at a slower rate to replace older bone, reducing bone volume over time.
So, whether visible or not, replacing a back tooth is the best course to take to prevent these adverse consequences. Your two best options are fixed bridgework or dental implants, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.
Bridgework has been the traditional method for replacing one or a few missing teeth: they’re long-lasting if cared for properly, have a life-like appearance that blends well with other teeth and are a good option when implants aren’t. But they require extensive altering of the anchor teeth (those used on either side of the bridge to secure it) and they’re highly prone for trapping food between them and the gums, increasing the risk of disease.
Dental implants are easily maintained and their installation doesn’t affect adjacent teeth as with a bridge. They’re also durable with a 95% success rate after ten years. On the other hand, the installation process can take several months and visits, and they require a certain amount of bone mass for proper placement and so aren’t ideal for certain patients.
Regardless of its location, if you have a missing tooth or one that may need to be removed, you should visit us for a complete examination. From there we can tell you how your mouth has been impacted by the missing tooth and which replacement option is best for you.
If you would like more information on tooth replacement 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 “Replacing Back Teeth.”
At the first-ever Players Weekend in August 2017, Major League Baseball players wore jerseys with their nicknames on the back. One player — Cleveland Indians shortstop, Francisco Lindor — picked the perfect moniker to express his cheerful, fun-loving nature: “Mr. Smile.” And Lindor gave fans plenty to smile about when he belted a 2-run homer into the stands while wearing his new jersey!
Lindor has explained that he believes smiling is an important part of connecting with fans and teammates alike: “I’ve never been a fan of the guy that makes a great play and then acts like he’s done it 10,000 times — smile, man! We’ve got to enjoy the game.”
We think Lindor is right: Smiling is a great way to generate good will. And it feels great too… as long as you have a smile that’s healthy, and that looks as good as you want it to. But what if you don’t? Here are some things we can do at the dental office to help you enjoy smiling again:
Routine Professional Cleanings & Exams. This is a great place to start on the road toward a healthy, beautiful smile. Even if you are conscientious about brushing and flossing at home, you won’t be able to remove all of the disease-causing dental plaque that can hide beneath the gum line, especially if it has hardened into tartar, but we can do it easily in the office. Then, after a thorough dental exam, we can identify any problems that may be affecting your ability to smile freely, such as tooth decay, gum disease, or cosmetic dental issues.
Cosmetic Dental Treatments. If your oral health is good but your smile is not as bright as you’d like it to be, we can discuss a number of cosmetic dental treatments that can help. These range from conservative procedures such as professional teeth whitening and bonding to more dramatic procedures like porcelain veneers or crowns.
Tooth Replacement. Many people hide their smiles because they are embarrassed by a gap from a missing tooth. That’s a shame, because there are several excellent tooth-replacement options in a variety of price ranges. These include partial and full dentures, bridgework, and dental implants. So don’t let a missing tooth stop you from being Mr. (or Ms.) Smile!
If you’d like more information about oral health or cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Beautiful Smiles by Design” and “The Impact of a Smile Makeover.”
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