The facts about oral cancer

Oral cancer is not as well known as other types of cancer but it can represent a life-threatening risk if not identified early.

– It strikes an estimated 35,000 Americans each year
– More than 7,500 people (5,200 men and 2,307 women) die of these cancers each year
– More than 25% of Americans who get oral cancer will die of the disease
– On average, only half of those diagnosed with the disease will survive more than five years
– African-Americans are especially vulnerable; the incidence rate is 1/3 higher than whites and the mortality rate is almost twice as high

Although the use of tobacco and alcohol are risk factors in developing oral cancer, approximately 25% of oral cancer patients have no known risk factors.

There has been a nearly five-fold increase in incidence in oral cancer patients under age 40, many with no known risk factors.

The incidence of oral cancer in women has increased significantly, largely due to an increase in women smoking. In 1950 the male to female ratio was 6:1; by 2002, it was 2:1.

The best way to prevent oral cancer is to avoid tobacco and alcohol use.

Unusual red or white spots can form in and around the mouth. These are often harmless but they can be cancerous or pre-cancerous.

Identifying and removing these early enough is a major factor in reducing the incidence of cancer.

So knowing the risk factors and seeing your dentist for regular examinations can help prevent this deadly disease.

How the food you eat can cause tooth decay

When you put food in your mouth, it immediately meets the bacteria that live there.

Plaque, for example, is a sticky film of bacteria.

These bacteria love the sugars found in many foods. So, when you don’t clean your teeth after eating, the bacteria and the sugar can combine to produce acids which can destroy the enamel – the hard surface of the tooth.

In time, this can lead to tooth decay. The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more damage occurs.

Many foods that are nutritious and important in our diet contain sugars – such as fruits, milk, bread, cereals and even vegetables.

So the key is not to try and avoid sugar but to think before you eat.

When you eat is also important because each time you eat food that contains sugars, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.

This means that foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm. More saliva is released during a meal, helping to wash foods from the mouth and reduce the effects of acids.

Here are some tips to follow when choosing your meals and snacks.
– Eat a variety of foods from different food groups
– Limit the number of snacks that you eat
– If you do snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit

Its also important to brush your teeth twice a day and to clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

And of course regular visits to your dentist will help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur while they are easier to treat.

Periodontal disease: what it is and how to avoid it

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support your teeth.

There is a very slight gap (called a sulcus) between the tooth and the gum.

Periodontal diseases attack this gap and cause a breakdown in the attachment of the tooth and its supporting tissues.

When the tissues are damaged, the sulcus develops into a pocket and, as the disease gets more severe, the pocket usually gets deeper.

The two major stages of periodontal disease are gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis is a milder and reversible form of periodontal disease that only affects the gums. Gingivitis may lead to periodontitis, which is a more serious, destructive form of periodontal disease.

There are several factors that have been shown to increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
– Systemic diseases such as diabetes
– Some types of medication
– Crooked teeth
– Bridges that no longer fit properly
– Fillings that have become defective
– Smoking
– Pregnancy

And there are a number of warning signs that can suggest a possible problem:
– Gums that bleed easily
– Red, swollen, tender gums
– Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
– Persistent bad breath or taste
– Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
– Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
– Any change in the fit of partial dentures

However, its also possible to have periodontal disease with no warning signs.

Its therefore important to have regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations.

If you have developed periodontal disease, the treatment will depend on how far it has progressed.

You can take steps to prevent periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring.

Good dental hygiene practices such as brushing twice a day, cleaning between your teeth, eating a healthy diet and having regular visits to the dentist will make a huge difference.

How medication and anesthesia can help make your visit to the dentist easier

Your dentist will do everything possible to make your visit as relaxed and comfortable as possible.

Depending on the treatment you are receiving, there are several medications available to help.

Some drugs control pain, some help you relax and others put you into a deep sleep during dental treatment.

The best approach will depend on the type of procedure being undertaken, your overall health – including any history of allergies – and the degree of anxiety you feel.

Some of the options your dentist might discuss include:

Analgesics: These are the most commonly used drugs for relief of toothache or pain following dental treatment. They includes aspirin, acetaminophen and anti-inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen. There is a separate category of narcotic analgesics – such as those containing codeine – which are used for more severe pain.

Local anesthesia: Topical anesthetics are applied to mouth tissues with a swab to prevent pain on the surface level. They may also be used to soothe mouth sores. Injectable local anesthetics prevent pain in a specific area of your mouth during treatment by blocking the nerves that sense or transmit pain and numbing mouth tissues.

In other cases, your dentist many recommend sedation or general anesthesia.

Your dentist will discuss the best approach to suit your needs.

The secrets of avoiding gum disease as an older adult

Gum disease also known as periodontal disease often progresses slowly, without pain, over a long period of time and thats one reason it is common among older adults.

The longer the disease goes undetected and uncontrolled, the more damage it causes to gums and other supporting tissues.

Although periodontal disease is caused by plaque, other factors can increase the risk or severity of the condition, including:
– Food left between the teeth
– Tobacco use smoking and smokeless tobacco
– Badly aligned teeth
– Ill-fitting bridges or partial dentures
– Poor diet
– Systemic diseases such as anemia

Although periodontal disease is common, it can be controlled and, if caught in its early stages, it can be reversed. However, in advanced stages, it may require surgery.

Look out for the following warning signs and see your dentist if you notice any of them:
– Bleeding gums when you brush
– Red, tender or swollen gums
– Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
– Pus between your teeth and gums when the gums are pressed
– Loose teeth or teeth moving apart
– Any change in your bite
– Any change in the fit of your partial dentures
– Constant bad breath or bad taste

Keeping an eye out for these problems and having regular dental checkups can help you stop gum disease becoming a major and expensive problem.

What is plaque and how does it affect your teeth?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that covers our teeth and, when we eat something, these bacteria release acids that attack the tooth enamel.

When these attacks are repeated over time, the enamel will break down and this will eventually lead to cavities.

When plaque is not removed through daily brushing and cleaning it hardens into calculus or tartar. When tartar collects above the gum line, brushing and cleaning between the teeth becomes more difficult.

The gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This is called gingivitis and it is the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease.

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against this happening:

– Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner
– Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams
– Ask your dentist about sealants these are protective coatings that can be applied to the back teeth where decay often starts.

If you take steps to remove the plaque each day, you have a greater chance of avoiding tooth and gum problems.

How mouth protectors can save your teeth

If you take part in sports that carry a significant risk of injury, you should wear a mouth protector.

Accidents can happen during any physical activity and, if you participate in sports such as football, hockey, basketball, baseball, gymnastics and volleyball, you might be grateful for the extra protection one day.

Something as simple as a misdirected elbow in a game, or a spill off a bicycle, can leave you with chipped or broken teeth, nerve damage to a tooth or even tooth loss.

Mouth protectors usually cover the upper teeth and they can cushion the effect of a blow to the face, reducing the risk of broken teeth and injuries to the soft tissues of the mouth.

In addition, if you wear dental appliances such as braces on your lower jaw, your dentist may suggest a mouth protector for these teeth as well.

A properly fitted mouth protector will stay in place while you are wearing it, making it easy for you to talk and breathe. The three main types of mouth protectors are:

Stock: These are inexpensive and come ready to wear. But they often dont fit very well and they can be bulky making breathing and talking difficult.

Boil and bite: These can also be bought at many sport stores and may fit better than stock mouth protectors. You first soften them in water, then insert them and allow them to adapt to the shape of your mouth.

Custom-fitted: Protectors that are specially made for you by your dentist are more expensive but are likely to fit better than one you buy off the shelf.

Choosing to wear the right mouth protector can help you avoid serious long-term damage to your teeth and mouth.

How sugar in your diet affects your teeth

The sugar content in the food you eat has a big effect on your teeth and gums.

When bacteria (plaque) come into contact with sugar in the mouth, acid is produced, which attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more. This can eventually result in tooth decay.

Thats why drinking sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks can take a toll on teeth.

This is particularly true for children as their eating patterns and food choices affect how quickly they develop tooth decay.

Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. However, almost all foods, including milk or vegetables, have some type of sugar. Many of them also contain important nutrients that are an important part in our diet.

To help control the amount of sugar you consume, read food labels and choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars. Soft drinks,candy, cookies and pastries often contain added sugars.

Treating facial pain and jaw problems

Chronic facial pain is a problem faced by millions of Americans.

Common symptoms can include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth or even head and neck aches.

If you are suffering from this type of pain, your dentist can help identify its source with a thorough exam and appropriate x-rays.

Sometimes, the problem is a sinus or toothache or it could be an early stage of periodontal disease.

But for some pain, the cause is not so easily diagnosed.

There are two joints and several jaw muscles which make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak, and swallow.

These structures include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone, the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints, the TMJs.

Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.

There are several ways the TMJ disorders may be treated.

Diagnosis is an important step before treatment.

Part of your clinical examination includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving.

Your dentist may take x-rays and may make a cast of your teeth to see how your bite fits together.

To help you deal with this pain, your dentist will recommend what type of treatment you need and may refer you to a specialist.

Why to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance

When buying dental products, its a good idea to look out for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.

The first Seal of Acceptance was awarded in 1931 and its regarded as an important symbol of a dental product’s safety and effectiveness.

Although the Seal program is strictly voluntary, approximately 100 companies participate in it and they commit significant resources to testing their products in clinical and laboratory conditions.

More than 300 consumer dental products carry the Seal of Acceptance. These include toothpaste, dental floss, manual and electric toothbrushes, mouth rinse and chewing gum.

You can get more information about the seal and how it is awarded for specific products at http://www.ada.org/ada/seal/

This site also contains links to the most current lists of accepted consumer products.