Posts for: January, 2014
According to a recent study from the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, the incidence of cancer is dropping and the survival rate is increasing. In general, the outlook for patients undergoing treatment for the disease is getting better and better. Unfortunately, it's possible that some essential lifesaving treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, can adversely affect your oral health. If you (or a loved one) need cancer treatment, however, there are some things you should know that can help minimize the possible complications and side effects.
- Chemotherapy and radiation are effective cancer treatments, but they may cause oral health problems. These therapies work by attacking cancer cells, but they can also damage healthy cells, including those in the salivary glands and the lining of the mouth. Common symptoms may include a dry mouth or uncomfortable mouth sores. Cancer patients may also be at higher risk for dental disease, especially tooth decay.
- Prevention is the best way to minimize these problems. It's important to have a complete dental evaluation before cancer treatment begins. Side effects often result when the mouth isn't healthy prior to the start of therapy — so if there's time for necessary dental treatment beforehand, it can be beneficial in the long run.
- Taking good care of the mouth is crucial at this time. During cancer treatment, proper brushing is more important than ever. A fluoride gel or antibacterial rinse may be prescribed to help prevent tooth decay. Prescription medications are sometimes recommended to alleviate dry mouth, but drinking plenty of water, chewing xylitol-containing gum, or using a soothing rinse of salt, water and baking soda can help too.
- A team approach is essential for the best care. This includes coordination between dentists and oncologists (cancer specialists), and sharing information about prescription and non-prescription drugs, medical histories and treatment plans.
- It's vital to understand and follow medical recommendations. This means not only getting the necessary treatments and taking prescribed medications, but also learning to recognize the warning signs of potential problems. With the support of our office, your oncologist, and caring family and friends, we can make cancer treatment as comfortable as possible and help obtain the best outcome.
If you would like more information about cancer treatment and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”
Do your teeth stain easily? Are you worried that your new white fillings won't remain white for very long? Staining generally falls into one of two categories — extrinsic (external) staining, which affects the outside of the teeth, and intrinsic (internal) staining, which is discoloration of the tooth structure itself. The good news is that both can be treated and, once we determine the exact cause, there are a number of options to remedy it. You can have whiter teeth in almost no time!
External staining is generally caused by beverages or foods like red wine, tea, coffee and some spices, or even substances like tobacco. Stain that is brown, black or gray can become even worse in the presence of dental bacterial plaque and when the mouth is dry. On the other hand, internal tooth staining can make the teeth appear more yellow as a natural result of aging, or after root canal treatment when tooth structure can become more brittle and dry.
Treatment for external (extrinsic) staining includes:
- Lifestyle modification: You can help put a stop to your staining problem by reducing or eliminating the habits that cause it, such as smoking and drinking red wine.
- Practicing efficient oral hygiene: Preventing extrinsic staining can be as simple as brushing twice a day with toothpaste that contains tooth-whitening agents or other solutions to reduce the appearance of stains. Don't be embarrassed to ask our office about brushing and flossing because most people do it wrong until they're properly instructed.
- Professional Cleaning: We can remove some extrinsic staining with ultrasonic cleaning followed by polishing with an abrasive prophylactic paste.
Other treatment options to reverse either intrinsic or extrinsic staining include:
- Whitening by bleaching: Bleaching for extrinsic stains can be performed either in our office or at your home using a whitening kit. Bleaching for internal (intrinsic) stains can only be conducted in our dental office because it typically involves bleaching the tooth or teeth from the inside.
- Fillings and restorations: For teeth that have been stained due to decay, or for fillings that are old and discolored we can remove the decay and restore the teeth, which will restore them to their natural brighter color.
If you are ready to say goodbye to your stained teeth, call our office today to make an appointment. For more information about treating stained teeth, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Staining: Getting To The Cause Of Tooth Discoloration Is The First Step Toward Successful Treatment.”
Tooth whitening procedures and products have become increasingly popular over the last two decades. There are two main sources of application: professional procedures performed in a dentist’s office; and over-the-counter products for performing whitening applications at home. While there are pros and cons to both approaches, neither type poses a significant health risk — that is, if you match the correct product to the type of staining you have, and it’s applied according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Although whitening treatments may differ in formula and strength, almost all use hydrogen peroxide as the bleaching agent, usually contained in carbamide peroxide which splits into hydrogen peroxide and urea upon activation. After many studies, there’s a strong consensus that hydrogen peroxide used at the levels found in whitening products doesn’t cause any harm to the body, including as a precursor to cancer.
But as the 16th Century Swiss physician Paracelsus once noted, “All substances are poisons… The right dose differentiates a poison from a remedy.” This is true of the chemicals that make up whitening products — they’re safe unless they’re overused. Going beyond their directions for use could lead to tooth enamel damage.
Further caution is also in order for teenagers using whitening products. Although they may have their permanent teeth (although younger teens may still have some primary teeth), the enamel layer is still developing and can be more vulnerable to damage from whitening chemicals than for adults.
The best approach for both a professional or home whitening procedure is to first seek consultation from our office. If nothing else, you should at least undergo a dental examination to identify the true cause of your teeth’s staining or discoloration. If the discoloration originates within the tooth, home applications and many professional treatments will not help if they bleach the outer surface only. We can also advise you on the proper application and dosage for a chosen product.
Using the right whitening product and in an appropriate manner will reduce the risk of injury to your teeth and overall health. And, the end result can be a brighter, more vibrant smile.
If you would like more information on tooth whitening, 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 “Tooth Whitening Safety Tips.”
Electric-powered toothbrushes have been in use for decades, and continue to enjoy wide popularity. But since their inception in the 1950s, there’s been a continuous debate not only about the best choice among powered toothbrushes, but whether powered toothbrushes are as effective in removing plaque as manual toothbrushes.
These debates are fueled by a large body of research over many years on powered toothbrushes. For instance, an independent research firm known as the Cochrane Collaboration has evaluated over 300 hundred studies of powered toothbrushes (over a thirty-year span) using international standards to analyze the data.
Surprisingly, they found only one type of powered toothbrush (using a rotation-oscillation action) that statistically outperformed manual toothbrushes in the reduction of plaque and gingivitis. Although from a statistical point of view the difference was significant, in practical terms it was only a modest increase in efficiency.
In all actuality, the most important aspect about toothbrushes in effective oral hygiene isn’t the brush, but how it’s used — or as we might say, “it’s not the brush so much as the hand that holds it.” The fact remains, after first flossing, a manual toothbrush can be quite effective in removing plaque if you brush once or twice a day with a soft-bristle brush using a gentle brushing motion.
Although a powered toothbrush does much of the work for you, it still requires training to be effective, just as with a manual toothbrush. We would encourage you, then, to bring your toothbrush, powered or manual, on your next cleaning visit: we would be happy to demonstrate proper technique and give you some useful tips on making your brushing experience more effective.
Remember too: brushing your teeth and flossing isn’t the whole of your oral hygiene. Although a critical part, brushing and flossing should also be accompanied with semi-annual professional cleanings to ensure the removal of as much disease-causing plaque as possible.
If you would like more information on types of toothbrushes, 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 “Manual vs. Powered Toothbrushes.”