Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Another Reason NOT to Skip Your Dental Visits!

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. It’s also among the most preventable and curable when caught early. And, since May is Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection & Prevention Month, we want to clue you in on just how critical a partner your dentist is when it comes to detecting this form of cancer.

What is melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, and one of the most serious. Researchers are not certain as to its causes, but according to studies completed at the University of Minnesota, repeated exposure to the sun is considered to be a “commonly associated factor.” That said, even though melanoma is understood in layman’s terms to be a “skin” cancer, we can’t always prevent it by applying sunscreen. Biologically speaking, melanoma can manifest anywhere melanocytes exist, whether that’s in our skin, mouth, heart, or other tissues. It’s precisely for this reason that maintaining regular visits to your dentist can literally save your life.

How does the dentist help and what are the symptoms?

As with any cancer, early detection is key, and a regular visit to your dentist who can see more areas of your mouth at closer range than you possibly could is your best course of action. There are signs and symptoms, however, that should elicit concern if you experience them: if you have a frequent sore throat, difficulty chewing and swallowing, and red or whitish patches within your mouth, you should see you doctor. Likewise, changes in the color, shape or size of skin pigmentation should prompt a visit to the doctor, as well as if you notice any new pigmentation on your face, head or neck.

How often do I have to have my mouth checked for this?

At every appointment your dentist should be reviewing your mouth and neck to look for any abnormalities or changes in tissue. This exam takes place without you even being aware it’s happening, but if you’re ever curious, just ask your dentist to walk you through it during your next appointment. Due to their ability to detect cancerous lesions early, an oral cancer screening can literally save your life. Your dentist may also offer additional screening opportunities using special medical screening devices that further aid in early detection by illuminating the tissue within your mouth with a special light called ViziLite. 

It’s worth repeating.

Your teeth aren’t the only things in your mouth worth protecting. So be sure to visit your dentist regularly for an oral health screening. Your dentist plays a critical role in the early detection and treatment of oral cancer concerns. Get that checkup!

Monday, August 29, 2016

What's a Lingual Frenulum and When Does it Need to be Corrected?

When you peer into your mouth, we’ll bet you see many things that are familiar to you. The tongue, tonsils, and uvula all tend to ring a bell with most people. Most of us are also familiar with the epiglottis, whose job it is to prevent the inhalation of food into the windpipe. But, what’s that thing called that attaches our tongue to the bottom of our mouth? Well, dear student, that’s called the lingual frenulum. And, sometimes, it needs to be snipped. Let’s find out why.

What Is a Frenulum?

Frenula are membranous folds of skin or mucous membranes that support or restrict the movement of a part or organ, and they exist in our brain, mouth, digestive tract, and on external genitalia.
In our mouth we have two frenula, the lingual frenulum, which secures the tongue to the bottom of our mouth, and the labial frenula, which connects the upper lip to the gum tissue just above your two front teeth. In most cases frenula develop normally without the need for any sort of correction later in life. However, occasionally labial frenula can overdevelop causing a gap to appear between a person’s two front teeth, and lingual frenula develop without the necessary length for proper speech, or too close to the tip of the tongue which can interfere with eating and speech.

When Surgery is Recommended

Generally speaking, most physicians and dentists recommend correcting lingual frenula only when they cause a significant amount of pain, or interfere substantially with one’s quality of life, as when eating, swallowing and speaking are negatively affected.

Labial frenula that disrupt the positioning of a person’s front teeth and cause a diastema (a gap) commonly self-correct with the aid of orthodontics, and are only recommended after orthodontic work.Occasionally labial frenulum concerns auto-resolve with the arrival of a child’s permanent teeth.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Three Minerals That Really Matter In Your Toothpaste

Wouldn’t it be cool if there were such a thing as vitamin toothpaste? You could slather it on your teeth each night before bed, and know your teeth were getting all the nutritional goodness they needed to fight off cavities. You’d never have to eat vegetables again! That’s not gonna’ happen – you do need to eat your vegetables – stop it. You know what, though? Minerals can be found in your toothpaste, and they’re there for good reason. Calcium and phosphorous (in the form of phosphate), along with fluoride, are included in toothpaste because they play a key role in keeping your teeth from becoming soft and yucky, which makes it easy for cavities to form.. Let’s find out more!
  • Flouride: In a way, most of us have come to associate teeth with fluoride. In fact, fluoride can even help reverse tooth decay. Pretty neat, huh? For some great stuff we’ve written on the topic, check out our writing about the ADA’s recommendation that kids under the age of 3 need it, why you might want it in a mouthwash, and in whether the young ones in your family may needfluoride supplementation.

    Fluoride’s main role is in helping  teeth reinforce their enamel through the process of remineralization. And, it does so by working with two other minerals: calcium and phosphate.
  • Calcium and Phosphates: When we think of strong bones and teeth, we often think of calcium. But there’s another mineral most of us never even think about, that serves an equally important role: phosphates. In fact, it’s when these three minerals work together that our teeth benefit most.

    Let’s take a quick look. Phosphates exists (among other places) in our saliva. In fact, it’s one of the most prevalent minerals in the human body! After eating, phosphate ions and calcium ions work to naturally repair teeth through a process known as remineralization. What’s really cool is that this process has to happen via saliva. Without saliva there is no way to carry these ions into the “pores” of the tooth. When fluoride is added to the mix, the three form into a different mineral known as fluorapite, which makes our enamel harder than it would be by nature, and layers on this protective mineral faster than enamel remineralizes on it’s own. The result is stronger teeth! Pretty cool, huh?
So there you have it – calcium, phosphate and fluoride. The teeth musketeers! Want to make sure you have enough phosphate in your diet? Simply eat a well-rounded diet that includes meat, cheese, yoghurt, grains, nuts, and fruits and vegetables … it’s really that simple! All for one, and one for all!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Should You Have Your Amalgam (Silver) Fillings Removed?

If you have “silver” fillings in your mouth, you’re well aware of how they affect your smile. Shiny, right!? If you’ve ever thought about having them removed, and had any concerns as to whether it was the right thing to do, the safe thing to do, or even an affordable thing to do, we’re here to help. We’ll cover these questions, and a few other common concerns that tend to pop up when the dentist is asked: “Can you do anything about all that metal in my mouth?”

How much does it cost?

The cost to remove an old amalgam filling and replace it with resin, varies. But, you should expect it to fall somewhere between $115 and $300. Here’s an interesting online dental cost calculator you could play around with to get a feel for what you could be looking at in your market. 

Are there risks involved in removing fillings?

Yes. Generally speaking, if an amalgam filling remains strong and free of decay, the Food and Drug Administration recommends it be left alone. Disturbing a successful filling means a greater portion of the tooth would need to be removed, and working on an amalgam filling can also exposing you to mercury vapor you could otherwise avoid. 

But, which is safer? Amalgam or Resin?

This is the perennial question. With amalgam, there is concern over the metals used, and with resin it's the BPA. The American Dental Association has information regarding the safety and efficacy of both solutions, so if this issue concerns you, you can get an accurate understanding of the risks by clicking the links above. Coming to a conclusion that’s right for you is something only you can do. So, educate yourself as much as possible, using the input of your physician and well-researched medical sites to help you get there.

When it really comes down to it, the decision as to whether to leave in or switch out amalgam fillings with resin is up to your doctor. Your X-rays, the health of your gum tissue, and your teeth and bone structure will inform your dentist as to what’s best for you. After all, your teeth as unique as you are!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I Studied Geography Online, But What's a Geographic Tongue?

"Mom, do you know what's going on with my tongue? … It's got some weird patches on it … yuck!"

How's that for a question not commonly found in the parental handbook?  What your child is most likely concerned about is what is referred to as a "geographic tongue." The condition is nothing serious, and it really doesn't have much to do with Geography. It is something you might want to know about, though, particularly if your child is wondering why their tongue suddenly looks like it’s sporting the map of Europe.

So, What IS that Funny Shape?

Geographic tongue is a harmless condition of the tongue caused by the loss of some of the tiny little pinkish-white "bumps" that cover the surface of the tongue. Those bumps, called papillae, serve two main functions, the first is to help create friction and grip the food that enters your mouth, and the second is to provide receptors for your sense of taste. That's right, a portion of those papillae are your taste buds!

Science doesn't exactly understand what causes the loss of some of these papillae, however, there is some speculation the condition can be genetic, as well possibly related to allergies, diabetes, oral contraceptive use, stress and immune system hypersensitivities. Psoriasis, which is itself an immune related skin condition, is frequently seen in patients with geographic tongue. Another common symptom seen in individuals with geographic tongue are tongue "fissures," which resemble deep cracks along its surface.

Should I Worry?

For the most part, geographic tongue doesn't present any real concern for those who have it, other than its appearance. It's also not contagious in any way, so your teen needn't be worried about spreading it to anyone. For some, there can be occasional discomfort which is usually brought on by certain foods - particularly of the acidic and spicy variety.

The clearest indicator your child might have geographic tongue are the irregular, smooth, red patches that give this condition its unique name.  The patches can sometimes be surrounded by a white or yellowish border, caused by the body's white blood cell response to the loss of the papillae, and the patches will vary in shape and size. They're also known to come and go frequently, and at times, can even been seen to "shift" to other areas of the tongue - sometimes even within hours.

The main thing to keep in mind though, is that geographic tongue is not in and of itself a serious condition and often goes away by itself. If you or your child is concerned, or even if you just have more questions about what's happening on your child's tongue, see your dentist or physician to ask more questions. As always, it's important to rule out any underlying issues that can contribute to any illness, and this might be one of those instances where a quick visit to the doctor can provide some further assurance.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Electronic Cigarettes: Are They Any Better for Your Health?

If you’re a smoker looking to quit, electronic cigarettes may look to be the perfect panacea; providing the familiar look and feel of a cigarette without the drawbacks of tobacco. Understanding how accurate this viewpoint is, however, is the question you should ask yourself, and given the product’s lack of real history in the marketplace, getting a conclusive answer will take time. The best approach, then, is to get the facts as they exist now, so you can make as informed a decision as is possible. We’d like to help.

What We Know Now:

  • The best air for your lungs is clean air. Perhaps Dr. Tim McAfee, of the Center For Disease Control, says it best: “We have to rely on what we know of toxicology, that what comes out of e-cigarettes is less toxic, but it’s more toxic than breathing clean air.
  • We don’t want our kids smoking. While electronic cigarettes can be purchased without nicotine, most still contain this addictive chemical compound. Candy flavored “vapors” as they’re known, and “skins” that allow consumers to change the look of an e-cigarette have raised concern that these products are being marketed to children. As a result, since there is no federal age restriction on the purchase of e-cigarettes, nearly every state in the union has passed their own laws prohibiting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.
  • E-cigarettes can play a part in smoking cessation programs. Electronic cigarettes have only been on the market for 10 years, so research studies surrounding their efficacy in helping people quit smoking are not large in number. That said, the research is promising when compared to traditional cessation products such as nicotine patches.
  • We need more research. One difficulty in understanding the benefits, or potential harm, of e-cigarettes lies in the diversity of the product. Because it is unregulated, and hundreds of companies manufacture these products (including major tobacco companies), there is currently no adequate way to measure their composition, nor effects. There are just too many variables. For that reason, the attorneys general from 40 states each signed a single letter to the FDA in September of 2013 requesting oversight of the products. Further research is indeed the key to clarifying the debate around e-cigarettes.
As it is with any contentious discussion, particularly one centered on smoking, there are many differences of opinion. Whatever your personal viewpoint, please do your research and understand the risks. As the old saying goes: “Caveat emptor.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Should You Get A WaterPik?

The most effective product in the world is rendered useless if it never makes it out of the box. Juicers, exercise machines, even the latest low-calorie snack you purchased can help us acquire the healthy body we desire. Yet, unless we actually prepare the fruits and veggies, take the laundry off the treadmill, and eat healthy, we’ll see none of the benefits these products can deliver. The same is true with flossing. It works. But only 2-15% of the population flosses regularly. Perhaps considering a product you’d actually use might do the trick? Have you thought about an oral irrigator?

In 1962, a Colorado dentist Geald Moyer developed a concept that would help his elderly patients increase the effectiveness of their dental hygiene. Idea in hand, he teamed up with a hydraulic engineer by the name of John Mattingly, and together, they developed the world’s first oral irrigator. It later became known as WaterPik.

Today, there are oral irrigators of all shapes, sizes, and brands on the market. Each designed with an eye toward helping you keep your mouth as healthy as it can be. But how can you be sure you really need one?

Here’s a quick quiz. If you answer yes to each of the questions below, you might benefit from an oral irrigator:
  1. Is your floss getting dusty? We all know you intend to do well. After all, you do (at least!) owna package of dental floss … (You do, right?!) And, you buy the floss that tastes best to you,glides most effectively, and doesn’t hurt your gums or fingers when you use it. But if you haven’tused it since the few days after your last hygiene appointment, you’re really not helping yourself very much.
  2. Do you have a lot of space between your teeth? Food, bacteria and plaque all love a great place to hide, and the spaces between your teeth provide plenty of comfort. If your dentist ever recommended you use an interproximal brush to get between your teeth, and you answered yes to question number one, please advance to question number three. You’re getting closer to the prize!
  3. Is your mouth occupied by dental prosthetics? Bridges, braces, partials … if your mouth is home to one or more of these dental devices, you can benefit from an oral irrigator.
  4. Will you use it? This, of course, is the million-dollar question. Believe it or not, adoption rates for oral irrigators are pretty high. They tend not to sit on the countertop and collect dust. Anecdotally, using these devices seems to be less cumbersome for most people than flossing – it’s somewhat … fun.  So, if you like the idea of massaging your gums each night before bed, don’t like flossing lectures, and have a true desire to avoid dentures, implants and gum disease later in life, you’ll probably find an oral irrigator to be quite useful.
So how did you do? Did you answer yes to each question? Also, be sure to ask your dentist for their recommendation for the irrigator that’s best for your specific needs. Believe it or not, not everyone should purchase the same type!

Lastly, keep in mind there is no dismissing the power of regular brushing and flossing. We’re not recommending you give up flossing in favor of an irrigator. In fact, if you were to brush, floss AND irrigate, your efforts at maintaining an inflammation-free zone in your mouth would be medal-worthy. But if you’re not inclined to floss, you might wish to consider an oral irrigator. Like flossing and brushing, they have been proven to help reduce the harmful effects of plaque on teeth and gums. So, the next time you’re in for a cleaning, ask your dentist for their recommendation. They might just have one on offer for you as well!