Posts for: July, 2013
Oral cancer is not as uncommon as people think. In 2008 an estimated 34,000 cancers of the mouth and throat were diagnosed. In order to minimize your risk of developing oral cancer, be aware of habits that increase your risk.
Risk Factors for Oral Cancer include:
- Use of smoking or chewing tobacco: Tobacco smokers have 5-9 times greater risk of developing this cancer than non-users; snuff and chewing tobacco users have a four times greater risk than non-users.
- Excessive use of alcohol: Moderate to heavy drinkers at are 3-9 times greater risk than non-drinkers.
- Exposure to sun: Chronic sun exposure is associated with development of lip cancers.
- Certain viral infections such as the human papilloma virus that can cause cervical cancer in women can also cause oral cancer.
- Compromised immune (resistance) systems that are not functioning properly can be associated with cancers.
- Poor nutrition including diets low in fruits and vegetables can increase risk for all cancers including oral cancer.
- Family history: People carry a predisposition in their DNA (the genetic material they inherited from their parents) for developing cancer.
Oral Cancers Can Mimic Harmless Sores
Early signs of oral cancer can mimic harmless sores that occur in the mouth such as canker sores, minor infections, or irritations that occur from biting or eating certain foods. Cancers in the lip area can easily be mistaken for harmless sores.
Early Detection is Key
It is important to have regular oral examinations to detect signs of oral cancer. Although 90 percent of oral cancers occur in people who are over 40, it is becoming more prevalent in younger people, particularly those who adopt risky behaviors: smoking, drinking and oral sex.
- If you notice any unusual lesions (sores or ulcers), or color changes (white or red patches), anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two to three weeks, come and see us and have it examined immediately.
- Definitive diagnosis may require a small biopsy, the microscopic examination of a piece of tissue from the affected area.
It is important not to let a suspicious sore go unchecked. If detected and treated early, while a lesion or growth is small, survival rates can exceed 80 percent. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about oral cancer. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”
Do you frequently experience bleeding gums during your daily brushing routine? You might assume that you are brushing too hard and that this bleeding is normal. However, you should know that any bleeding of gum tissue is abnormal and should be considered a potential sign of gum disease.
Gum tissues usually bleed because of dental plaque buildup from poor oral hygiene practices. When the plaque is left around the gum line for a long period of time, 24 hours or more, the gum tissues respond by becoming inflamed — this can quickly become a chronic inflammation.
Here are some other warning signs of gum disease:
- Bad Breath. Bad breath is one of the most common signs of gum disease. This is especially true for those who do not floss, because plaque collects in the protected areas between the teeth making them especially prone to gum inflammation. This plaque often produces a pungent smell that causes bad breath.
- Red or Sensitive Gums. If you look closely in the mirror, you might see redness of the gums. It may also seem as if your gums are swollen, and in more advanced cases, this can lead to receding gums. Finally, you might notice gum sensitivity when you brush or a sensitivity to hot and cold.
- Tooth Loss. If this disease goes untreated, over time, bone loss will cause loose teeth, movement or migration of the teeth into a new and unstable position, and ultimately tooth loss. The rate of progression will depend upon the type of gum disease that you have.
- Painful Gums. Once you start to feel acute pain and extremely sore gums, this may mean you have developed a periodontal abscess. When this happens, the bacteria are walled off inside a gum “pocket,” and since your body's defenses are overwhelmed, there is a battle between the bacteria in that pocket and your body's defense mechanisms. The result is a collection of pus and extra bone loss. Your gums will be sore, swollen, red and may even discharge pus.
As you can see, the further the disease progresses, the greater the amount of pain and damage that will occur. Therefore, upon the first sign of gum disease, such as bleeding gums, you should schedule an appointment with us immediately.
Do you clench your jaw or grind your teeth? Bite your nails? Chew on pencils or toothpicks? Or, heaven forbid, unscrew hard-to-open bottle caps using your precious pearly whites?
Over time, habits such as these — referred to in dentistry as “parafunctional” (para – outside; functional – normal) or beyond the range of what nature intended — can inflict excessive wear and tear on your teeth. Besides the impact damaged teeth can have on your smile, so called “tooth to tooth” and “tooth to foreign object” behaviors can cause physical problems, such as jaw joint and muscle pain, headaches, earaches, and even neck and back pain.
Use of Excessive Force
Parafunctional behaviors exert an abnormal amount of force on your teeth — up to 10 times the amount used for biting and chewing. Tooth grinding or “bruxism” (from the Greek word brykein – “gnash the teeth”) is particularly detrimental and is commonly seen in individuals who are experiencing a stressful time in their life. Some medications can also trigger it. Since bruxism often occurs while people sleep, it's possible to be unaware of it unless a partner comments (it can be noisy!) or a dental professional points out the tell-tale signs of wear.
To counter the adverse effects of nocturnal tooth grinding our office can create a customized night or occlusal (bite) guard. Typically fashioned from a hard, clear “processed acrylic” (wear-resistant plastic), this type of guard is amazingly inconspicuous. It is made to fit over the biting surfaces of the upper teeth only and is thinner than a dime. When it is worn, the lower teeth easily glide over the upper teeth rather than chomping into and gnashing with them, which minimizes the likelihood of erosion, chipping and uneven or excessive wear of the biting surface of the teeth. The guard is so unobtrusive, that some people even wear it as they go about their daily activities.
Remember: In addition to proper dental hygiene, you can help keep your teeth healthy by using them wisely!
If you would like more information about parafunctional habits like bruxism and ways to protect your teeth, 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 “Stress & Tooth Habits” and “How And Why Teeth Wear.”