Complete Family Dentistry Blog - Waukesha , WI
Posts for: September, 2014
Oral cancer is a serious health problem, responsible for the death of about one person every hour, every day in the United States. It was once thought that folks over 40 were chiefly at risk for the disease. If present trends continue, however, younger people may soon form the majority of oral cancer patients. So, no matter who you are, it makes sense to recognize the risk factors, and find out what you can do to reduce your chances of getting the disease.
As in many other diseases, genetic factors play a role in determining whether an individual will develop oral cancer. At present, there's nothing we can do about these inborn traits. But there are several choices we can make that will lessen our risk of oral cancer. Most of these risky behaviors are associated with other types of cancer as well.
Moderate to heavy drinkers, and users of tobacco products of all types, are as much as 9 times more likely to develop the disease than non-users. Chronic exposure to the sun has long been associated with the development of cancers of the lip. And, because the sexually-transmitted Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can lead to oral cancer, unsafe sexual behavior is a factor that's fast becoming a primary cause of the disease.
So if you need another reason to quit smoking, stop drinking excessively, wear sunscreen and practice safe sex — consider this your warning. But there's still more you can do to reduce your risk for oral cancer, and improve your general health as well.
Eating a plant-based, whole food diet doesn't just reduce your risk of getting oral cancer — it also makes you less likely to develop many other cancers, and various chronic conditions like heart disease. The exact mechanisms by which this happens aren't completely understood, but its effects have been documented in numerous studies.
Avoiding certain chemicals, like the nitrites often found in preserved foods, can reduce cancer risk. And the antioxidants you get by eating a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help protect your body from cancer-causing substances.
Finally, don't ignore regular cancer screenings. The early signs of oral cancer are difficult for many people to distinguish from common mouth sores — but we are trained to identify possible problem areas, and can schedule further tests if needed. You can get an oral cancer screening (a fast and painless procedure) at your regular dental checkup. And you always get your checkups on time — don't you?
If you have concerns about oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Oral Cancer” and “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”
Keeping up your dental hygiene with daily brushing and flossing is essential to preventing disease and maintaining good oral health. But that doesn’t mean it’s all on your shoulders — the fact is, you have a strong partner in your dental hygienist. This valuable member of our staff provides a number of different functions that add a boost to your hygiene habits.
Perhaps the most important of those functions is semi-annual teeth cleanings. While daily brushing and flossing removes most of the bacterial plaque that causes dental disease and decay, harder deposits (tartar) will still form over time, especially in places your brush or floss can’t reach. To remove it requires advanced skills and specially designed hand instruments or ultrasonic equipment. In the case of advancing gum disease, your hygienist may also assist with a procedure known as root planing to reach plaque and tartar adhering to tooth root surfaces below the gum line.
Dental hygienists are also on the lookout for abnormalities that may be a sign of disease. During teeth-cleaning sessions, your hygienist looks for gum inflammation or bleeding that may indicate the presence of periodontal gum disease, a progressive condition that, left untreated, could lead to tooth loss. We will be able to assess the extent of the disease by gently probing and measuring any detachment of the gum tissue that has formed voids known as pockets. They also look for signs of oral cancer — bumps, sores or areas of swelling or tenderness.
There’s one other function your hygienist provides to enhance your oral health — educating and training you on dental care. They can provide you helpful information on risk factors for tooth decay or other dental diseases, along with helpful ways to reduce that risk. They can also help you improve your brushing and flossing techniques by demonstrating proper form.
Cleaning, monitoring and educating — these different “hats” your hygienist wears form a beneficial part of your overall dental care. Working together, you’ll be able to keep your teeth and gums in good form and function.
If you would like more information on the benefits of a dental hygienist, 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.”