Posts for: November, 2013
Statistically speaking, Americans can expect to enjoy a longer life today than at any time in the past. A recent U.S. government interagency study indicated that our oldest citizens are also generally getting healthier and doing better economically. Yet, along with an increased lifespan comes the possibility that at some future time, you or a loved one may undergo treatment for cancer.
There's good news here too: According to the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, both the rate of cancer incidence and the death rate from the disease have been steadily declining. It's true that cancer treatments may cause a variety of oral health problems. But did you know that there are some measures you can take to minimize the discomfort and possible complications from these lifesaving therapies?
Chemotherapy and radiation, two common treatments, work by attacking cancerous cells. However, they can affect normal cells too — including the cells lining the mouth, and the salivary glands. This sometimes results in mouth sores, a dry mouth, and an increased risk of developing dental diseases like tooth decay.
What should you do if you or someone you love needs cancer treatments? The best outcomes can be obtained by a dose of prevention when possible, and by taking a team approach to the treatment.
Oral side effects may be worse if the mouth isn't healthy prior to cancer treatment. So, if there's time, have necessary dental procedures done before treatment begins. During and after cancer therapy, dental surgery should be limited if possible. The first step is to get a complete dental examination, and to develop a treatment plan. It's vitally important to coordinate any dental treatments with an oncologist (cancer specialist).
There are also things a patient can do to help control unpleasant oral side effects. Removing the bacteria that cause tooth decay is more essential now than ever. In addition to thorough brushing, an antibacterial rinse or fluoride gel may be prescribed. To combat the symptoms of dry mouth, it's important to drink plenty of fluids. Chewing gum with Xylitol, or using a mouth rinse or a prescription medication may also be recommended.
It's essential for those having cancer treatment to understand and follow the recommendations of their dentist and doctor. These include taking steps to reduce the chance of complications, and recognizing the warning signs that may indicate a problem.
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.”
If you think cavities are an inevitable part of childhood, think again; tooth decay, which is actually an infectious disease caused by bacteria, is completely preventable. This is a good thing, because tooth decay can be painful and interfere with a child's ability to eat, speak, and focus in school. Parents have a big role to play in helping their children's teeth stay healthy. Here are some things you can do:
Establish an oral hygiene routine. Good oral hygiene practices should start as soon as the first tooth appears. An infant's teeth should be wiped with a clean, damp washcloth each day. Starting at age 2, a brushing routine should be established using a soft-bristled, child-sized brush and just a smear of fluoride toothpaste. Children need help brushing until around age 6, when they have the dexterity to take over the job themselves — and learn to floss.
Limit sugary drinks and snacks. Sugar is the favorite food of decay-causing oral bacteria. In the process of breaking down that sugar, the bacteria produce tooth-eroding acid. Too much exposure to this acid will leave a small hole, or cavity, in the tooth and create an entry point for the bacteria to reach deeper inside the tooth. Beverages that are sugary AND acidic, such as sodas and sports drinks, are particularly harmful.
Make sure your child sees the dentist regularly. Routine exams and cleanings are a must for good oral health. Even if your child is doing a good job maintaining an oral hygiene routine, there are places where bacterial plaque can build up beyond the reach of a toothbrush and floss. These areas require professional attention. We can also give your child an in-office fluoride treatment to strengthen enamel and reverse very early decay. In some cases, we will recommend dental sealants to smooth out the little grooves in a child's back teeth. This is a quick and easy in-office procedure that will keep out food debris and bacteria for years. And, of course, we can monitor your child's dental development.
If you have any questions about tooth decay or the development of your child's teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”
Once an exclusive procedure reserved for movie stars and millionaires, teeth whitening has become increasingly popular among all sectors of the population — including teens. While long-standing research has proven the process to be safe and effective, there are a few things everyone should know in order to make the experience as pleasant and successful as possible.
Teens, perhaps even more than others, can benefit from the confidence that comes with a healthy smile. And, because sensitivity of the gums is rarely a problem in younger people, their whitening treatments are less likely to cause discomfort. However, it's important for teens (and everyone else) to get treatments under the watchful eye of a dentist. Why?
For one thing, immature adult teeth are relatively vulnerable to the whitening process. And for young and old alike, a discolored tooth may be a symptom of an underlying dental problem, like an abscess or a root canal infection. These problems must be treated before the whitening process is begun. Also, teeth can't always be lightened to the same degree, and existing or planned dental work may have an impact on the whitening procedure. So it's best to come in and see us before you begin any tooth whitening treatment.
There are generally three methods used in tooth-whitening: in-office treatments with concentrated bleach application, at-home treatments with custom-made trays and appropriate dentist-supplied bleach, and over-the-counter (OTC) products. All use a type of peroxide to lighten the teeth, and all are safe when used as directed, under a dentist's supervision.
So what's the difference? Time! One study showed as few as three in-office visits were needed to lighten tooth color by six shades — a change that required 16 days with OTC products. Many opt for the cost-effective middle ground of custom-tray bleaching, which can achieve the same whitening in one week.
But what's especially important for a teen is that a dentist becomes involved in his or her treatment. In some cases, over-enthusiastic young people have used OTC bleach excessively, causing severe damage to the enamel layer of their teeth.
If you would like more information about teeth whitening for teens, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about these issues by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Whitening Safety Tips” and “Important Teeth Whitening Questions Answered.”
Not long ago, Jane Fonda gave a British interviewer a clue as to how she manages to look so young at her advanced age. During the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, the septuagenarian actress and fitness guru said to a journalist from the London-based Daily Mail, “See these teeth? They cost $55,000. It was teeth or a new car — and I opted for the teeth.”
We think she made the right choice — though she might have overpaid just a tad. Most people don't have that kind of cash to spend on either a car or new teeth. But luckily, you can get either for a lot less — particularly the teeth!
The truth is, at a reasonable cost, cosmetic dentistry really can make you look a lot younger while giving your self-esteem a tremendous boost. It's an investment in both your emotional and oral health as we will never implement a smile makeover without first making sure we've addressed any underlying dental disease. Best of all, it doesn't have to cost anywhere near what you'd pay for the latest-model Jaguar, the price tag of Fonda's smile notwithstanding. Here is a list of the more common cosmetic dental techniques used to enhance a person's smile:
- Whitening — a peroxide-based bleach is applied directly to the teeth to remove minor staining and discoloration.
- Bonding — an acrylic material is applied to a tooth, colored and shaped to match the person's other teeth. Primarily used for chipped, broken or decayed teeth.
- Enamel Shaping — the removal of very tiny amounts of enamel, the tooth's outer layer, for a more pleasing tooth shape.
- Veneers — a thin shell of custom-designed tooth-colored material, usually porcelain, affixed to the front surface of the teeth.
- Crowns and Bridgework — a technique that covers heavily damaged teeth or replaces missing teeth by capping them, or using capped teeth to support one or more false teeth.
- Dental Implants — a small titanium post is surgically implanted in the jawbone to replace the root-part of a missing tooth. A lifelike crown is attached to the implant above the gum line and is the only part of the whole tooth restoration that is visible in the mouth.
- Gum Contouring — a minor surgical procedure altering the position of the gum tissue to improve the look and regularity of the gum line around the teeth.
If you'd like more information on cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment. To learn more, please read the Dear Doctor magazine articles, “Beautiful Smiles by Design” and “The impact of a Smile Makeover.”