Posts for category: ORAL HEALTH
April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month! We know that oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it is worth using this opportunity to learn more about the disease and spread the knowledge so that everyone can increase their awareness about this type of cancer. The more that we know, the better that we can all work to prevent it!
Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It truly is a deadly disease.
The reason that oral cancer scores a higher death rate as compared to other cancers such as Hodgin's disease, thyroid cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it has become too advanced to treat. Unfortunately, due to the high vascularity or blood supply to the oral cavity, it can spread to other body parts more quickly if it is not treated early.
So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness.
- AGE: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above 40. If you are over 40, make sure that your doctor checks you for the signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
- TOBACCO: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that is yet another reason, among many, to avoid all forms of tobacco.
- ALCOHOL: Excessive alcohl consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical call acetaldehyde, which damages the body's DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it easier for tobacco to infiltrate the mouth tissue.
- SUN EXPOSURE: Your lips ned SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
- DIET: Not getting all of the nutrients that you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.
Although everyone knows that the mouth is full of bacteria, this invisible community of germs lives in a protective home called biofilm. This biofilm can be be found in wet places such as ponds, sewers, bathroom drains, as well as growing on metals and minerals. The type of biofilm that is found in the mouth can be either healthy or diseased! Both are composed of the same compounds, but when they combine with certain amino acids or chemicals, diseased biofilm will begin to destroy the enamel. You might notice this as a slimy yellow buildup of dental plaque on the surface of the teeth.
Biofilm takes form when free-swimming bacterial cells land on a surface and attach in a cluster. The cells begin to multiply and form a micro-colony that promotes diverse bacterial species to grow. To prevent diseased biofilm from settling in the mouth to begin with, make sure that part of your daily hygiene routine includes two minute twice daily brushing and flossing. Regular and consistent dental cleanings are also a very important part of keeping the bad bugs at bay. Although there are harmful bacteria that damage healthy tooth structures, it is essential to keep a healthy amount of biofilm in the mouth. This healthy biofilm protects the body from disease and is replicated every twenty minutes. Maintaining the proper amount of healthy biofilm also decreases the chance of the mouth producing too many harmful bacteria!
Most people know when they have a cavity...they can either see it on their tooth, or unfortunately, they feel it...OUCH! But there are certain things that many of our patients don't know about cavities that could save them a trip to Thomas Family Dentistry here in Broken Arrow, OK! Take a LOOK ...
> NOT ALL SUGARS ARE CREATED EQUAL. It's quite well known that eating dietary sugars in excess along with poor oral hygiene can lead to dental decay. This is due to the fact that the bacteria in the mouth feed on these sugars and form acids as a byproduct of that process, which in turn can disslove the protective enamel of the tooth. But did you know that Xylitol, a sugar alcohol derived from birch or corn that is commonly used in sugar-free gum, actually prevents the bacteria from converting sugars into harmful acids.
> NOT WHAT YOU EAT BUT HOW YOU EAT. Did you know that "grazing," the art of contant snacking, can actually contribute to cavities and other oral health problems! Every time a carbohydrate is consumed, the bacteria in the mouth produce acid, which lowers the pH of the saliva. Constant eating does not allow the saliva to ever return to it's neutral state, which is more alkaline. It actually takes saliva about 20 minutes to neutralize the acids in the mouth after eating. So sipping on pop, lemon water, or a latte throughout the day is especially harmful! From a dental cavity risk stand point, it is always best to consume any food or drinks that contain sugar all at once and not over the course of the day.
> FLOSSING IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ORIGINALLY THOUGHT. Although flossing is considered as an after thought by most patients, the toothbrush cannot actually reach many of the areas that are coated by bacteria and food debris. In fact, it is said that brushing alone does not clean about 54% of the tooth structure, mainly between the teeth and below the gumline.
> A DRY MOUTH. The mouth's best defense against cavities and tooth decay is actually the saliva! As the importance of the neutralizing effect that the saliva's pH has on cavity prevention has been previously stated, the drier the mouth, the higher the risk for tooth decay. A dry mouth can be caused by many factors like common medications and simple aging. Using a dry mouth toothpaste, sipping on water and chewing gum that contains xylitol can actually be easy ways to decrease the dryness.
> OVER-BRUSHING. If you brush like a construction worker with a jackhammer, you should ease up! Brushing too hard, especially with a firm or hard toothbrush, can actually scrape away at the enamel. Thinning the enamel increases the risk for decay. Brush lighly, with the toothbrush angled at the gumline for two minutes, twice a day. Remember the dental motto, brush longer, NOT harder!
When was the last time that you ever gave your toothbrush any serious thought? Sure, you hopefully use it every day (and ideally twice), and you know that with just the size of a green pea of toothpaste that it shines up your teeth nicely, not to mention preventing bacteria, plaque, and inflammation from reeking havoc in your mouth!
Today, we want to focus in on the top FIVE things that you should never do with your toothbrush! Take a look.
LOCATION. Location! Location! Location! Not just important in real estate. If you have your toothbrush too close to the toilet, you are brushing your teeth with what's in your toilet! In other words, keep your toothbrush stored as far away from the toilet as possible.
GERMS. Not rocket science, but the average toothbrush harbors ten million microbes of bacteria! Many families keep their toothbrushes jammed together in a cup holder on the bathroom sink, but this can lead to cross-contamination. Family members' toothbrushes should be kept at least an inch apart. Don't worry, they won't take it personally!
FREQUENCY. Don't delay replacing your toothbrush. It's best to purchase a new one (including electric toothbrush heads), every three to four months, but by all means get one sooner if the bristles are broken down because of your frequent and vigorous brushing. Remember, brush longer, NOT harder to remove the bacterial film coating. The average patient only brushes for about 45 seconds, once daily, and research now shows that it takes a minimum of about two minutes of active brushing to be effective. Take the challenge and time your brushing cycle. You may be surprised! And finally, if you have a cold or the flu, replace your toothbrush after you recover.
STORAGE. Another consideration about the storage of your toothbrush is to keep it out of reach from toddlers. The last thing that you want for your toothbrush is for it to be chewed like a pacifier, dipped in toilet water, or be used to probe the dusty heating ducts.
SHARING. The phrase "sharing is caring," takes on a whole other meaning in this case! Although your parents probably taught you the importance of sharing, back when you were the one "exploring" the world with your new found toddler toy, their toothbrush, some things should never be shared, and your toothbrush is certainly one of them!
In our continuing efforts to provide the highest quality of dental health care available to our patients, we regularly screen our patients for oral cancer. The fact is, every hour of every day in North America, someone dies of oral cancer, which is the sixth most commonly diagnosed form of the disease. Although the five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved, early detection is the key!
Oral cancer can occur on the lips, gums, tongue, inside lining of the cheeks, roof of the mouth, and the floor of the mouth. Symptoms of oral cancer may include a sore in the throat or mouth that bleeds easily and does not heal, a red or white patch that persists, a lump or thickening, ear pain, a neck mass, or coughing up blood. Difficulties in swallowing, chewing, or moving the tongue or jaws are often late symptoms.
While there is no way to predict exactly which individuals will get oral cancer, there are potential causes like age, tobacco uses, excessive alcohol, persistent viral infections like HPV16 and a diet that is lacking or low in fruits and vegetables.