Posts for category: Oral Health

ThisYoungWomansCancerExperienceaTeachableMomentforallofus

With college, a full-time job and an upcoming wedding to plan, Brooke Vitense had the hectic life of an average young woman in her twenties. But a chance discovery one morning would completely upend her normal life.

That morning Brook noticed white spots on the underside of her tongue while brushing her teeth. Not long after, she pointed out the spots to her dentist during her regular dental checkup. He recommended having the spots biopsied, just to be safe. She needed a wisdom tooth removed, so she scheduled the biopsy with her oral surgeon to coincide with the tooth extraction.

She soon forgot about the biopsy — until her dentist contacted her about the results. The lesions were pre-cancerous: he recommended she have them and a portion of her tongue removed surgically as soon as possible.

She underwent the procedure, but that wasn't the end of her ordeal. The follow-up pathology report indicated cancerous cells in the tissue excised during the procedure. To ensure elimination of any remaining cancerous cells they would need to remove more of her tongue as well as the lymph nodes from her neck.

Brooke survived her cancer experience and has since resumed her life. Her story, though, highlights some important facts about oral cancer.

Oral cancer is life-threatening. Although cases of oral cancer are rarer than other types of malignancies, the survival rate is low (50%). This is because lesions or other abnormalities are often dismissed as simple sores. Like any cancer, the earlier it's detected and treated, the better the chances for survival.

Anyone of any age can develop oral cancer. While most cases occur in older adults, young and otherwise healthy people like Brooke are not immune. It's important for everyone to make healthy lifestyle choices (good oral hygiene and nutrition, moderate alcohol use and avoidance of tobacco) and see a dentist whenever you see an abnormal sore or spot in your mouth.

Regular dental checkups are crucial for early detection. Had Brooke not seen her dentist soon after discovering the spots on her tongue, her survivability could have been drastically lower. Regular dental visits (and cancer screenings if you're at high risk) could mean all the difference in the world.

If you would like more information on the signs and treatment of oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can watch Brooke's interview by visiting How a Routine Dental Visit Saved My Life

ExpertAdviceVivicaAFoxonKissingandOralhealth

Is having good oral hygiene important to kissing? Who's better to answer that question than Vivica A. Fox? Among her other achievements, the versatile actress won the “Best Kiss” honor at the MTV Movie Awards, for a memorable scene with Will Smith in the 1996 blockbuster Independence Day. When Dear Doctor magazine asked her, Ms. Fox said that proper oral hygiene was indeed essential. Actually, she said:

"Ooooh, yes, yes, yes, Honey, 'cause Baby, if you kiss somebody with a dragon mouth, my God, it's the worst experience ever as an actor to try to act like you enjoy it!"

And even if you're not on stage, it's no fun to kiss someone whose oral hygiene isn't what it should be. So what's the best way to step up your game? Here's how Vivica does it:

“I visit my dentist every three months and get my teeth cleaned, I floss, I brush, I just spent two hundred bucks on an electronic toothbrush — I'm into dental hygiene for sure.”

Well, we might add that you don't need to spend tons of money on a toothbrush — after all, it's not the brush that keeps your mouth healthy, but the hand that holds it. And not everyone needs to come in as often every three months. But her tips are generally right on.

For proper at-home oral care, nothing beats brushing twice a day for two minutes each time, and flossing once a day. Brushing removes the sticky, bacteria-laden plaque that clings to your teeth and causes tooth decay and gum disease — not to mention malodorous breath. Don't forget to brush your tongue as well — it can also harbor those bad-breath bacteria.

While brushing is effective, it can't reach the tiny spaces in between teeth and under gums where plaque bacteria can hide. But floss can: That's what makes it so important to getting your mouth really clean.

Finally, regular professional checkups and cleanings are an essential part of good oral hygiene. Why? Because even the most dutiful brushing and flossing can't remove the hardened coating called tartar that eventually forms on tooth surfaces. Only a trained health care provider with the right dental tools can! And when you come in for a routine office visit, you'll also get a thorough checkup that can detect tooth decay, gum disease, and other threats to your oral health.

Bad breath isn't just a turn-off for kissing — It can indicate a possible problem in your mouth. So listen to what award-winning kisser Vivica Fox says: Paying attention to your oral hygiene can really pay off! For more information, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can read the entire interview with Vivica A. Fox in Dear Doctor's latest issue.

BoostYourOverallHealthbyReducingGumInflammation

The human body’s immune system has amazing defensive capabilities. Without it a common cold or small wound could turn deadly.

One of the more important processes of the immune system is inflammation, the body’s ability to isolate diseased or injured tissue from unaffected tissue. Ironically, though, this vital component of the healing process could actually cause harm if it becomes chronic.

This often happens with periodontal (gum) disease, an infection of the gums caused by bacterial plaque built up on teeth due to inadequate hygiene, which in turn triggers inflammation. The infection is often fueled by plaque, however, and can become difficult for the body to overcome on its own. A kind of trench warfare sets in between the body and the infection, resulting in continuing inflammation that can damage gum tissues. Untreated, the damage may eventually lead to tooth and bone loss.

In treating gum disease, our main goal is to stop the infection (and hence the inflammation) by aggressively removing plaque and calculus (tartar). Without plaque the infection diminishes, the inflammation subsides and the gums can begin to heal. This reduces the danger to teeth and bone and hopefully averts their loss.

But there’s another benefit of this treatment that could impact other inflammatory conditions in the body. Because all the body’s organic systems are interrelated, what occurs in one part affects another especially if it involves inflammation.

It’s now theorized that reducing gum inflammation could lessen inflammation in other parts of the body. Likewise, treating other conditions like high blood pressure and other risk factors for inflammatory diseases could lower your risk of gum disease and boost the effectiveness of treatment.

The real key is to improve and maintain your overall health, including your teeth and gums. Practice daily brushing and flossing to remove plaque, and visit your dentist regularly for more thorough cleanings. And see your dentist at the first sign of possible gum problems like bleeding, redness or swelling. You’ll not only be helping your mouth you could also be helping the rest of your body enjoy better health.

If you would like more information on the relationship between gum disease and other systemic conditions, 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 “The Link between Heart & Gum Diseases.”

ChewingTobaccoisJustasAddictiveandDangerousasSmoking

Ask people about the “Great American Smoke-Out,” and many could tell you about this annual promotion encouraging tobacco smokers to quit. Ask them about “The Great American Spit-Out,” though, and they may look puzzled. That’s because most of society’s attention is on quitting smoking; but the truth is smoking isn’t the only tobacco habit that needs to be kicked.

Whether chewing tobacco or the more finely ground snuff, smokeless tobacco is a popular habit especially among young athletes. It doesn’t receive the attention of smoking tobacco because it’s perceived as less dangerous. The truth is, though, it’s just as hazardous — especially to your oral health.

While any form of tobacco is considered a carcinogen, smokeless tobacco in particular has been linked to oral cancer. This is especially dangerous not only because oral cancer can lead to physical disfigurement and other negative outcomes, but it also has a dismal 58% survival rate five years from diagnosis.

And because it too contains highly addictive nicotine, smokeless tobacco can be just as difficult to quit as smoking. Fortunately, the same techniques for smoking cessation can work with chewing habits. Nicotine replacements like nicotine gum, lozenges and patches, as well as Zyban, a cessation medication, have all been shown helpful with quitting smokeless tobacco.

Often, however, it takes a change in perception — taking chewing tobacco down from its pedestal of “coolness” and seeing it for what it is: a dangerous habit that increases the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and even decreased sexual arousal and function. And although not life-threatening, it can also give you bad breath, dry mouth and an assortment of dental problems that incur financial and social costs. Teeth and gums in that environment aren’t so cool.

The first step is to consider the consequences of continuing the chewing or dipping habit and making the decision to quit. You may also benefit from the help of others: counselors experienced with tobacco cessation programs or a support group of others trying to quit. Following through aggressively will help ensure smokeless tobacco won’t lead to the loss of your teeth, health or life.

If you would like more information on quitting smokeless tobacco, 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 “Quitting Chewing Tobacco.”

SupportYourChildsTeethDevelopmentwithProperHygieneandDentalCare

Between infancy and the onset of puberty, your child will grow one set of teeth, lose it and grow another; their jaw structure will also change dramatically. This rapid development sets the course for their oral health later in life.

That’s why it’s so important to care for their teeth and gums in these early stages through daily hygiene and regular dental visits for disease prevention and treatment. Hygiene is the cornerstone of this care, and should begin in earnest when your child’s first tooth erupts in the gums, by first gently cleaning around the newly erupted teeth and gums after each feeding with a water-soaked gauze pad.

As they pass their first birthday you can switch to a small, soft-bristled toothbrush and just a smear of fluoridated toothpaste. Children should begin learning to brush around age 2, first by modeling you as you brush together. They should be adept enough by age 6 to brush on their own, at which time you can introduce flossing. We’re more than happy to advise you on technique for both of these hygiene tasks.

Age one is also the time for them to begin regular dental visits for cleanings and checkups. This will help us stay ahead of any developing decay or other issues and perform preventive treatments like dental sealants or fluoride applications. It will also help your child become comfortable with the dental office, which can make it easier for them to develop a long-term habit of regular dental care.

There are also habits you should practice (or avoid) that support good oral health for your child. For example, you shouldn’t allow them to sleep with a pacifier or a bottle filled with anything but water. Breast milk and formula contain some forms of sugar that bacteria can feed on; if this becomes too frequent it can result in higher acid levels that soften enamel and lead to decay. You should also take preventive actions to protect your child from teeth-damaging injuries like playing too close to hard furniture.

All these common sense measures support your child’s oral development. You can then let Nature takes its course as your child develops a healthy mouth for a lifetime.

If you would like more information on oral care for children, 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 “Top 10 Oral Health Tips for Children.”



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Merrell Family Dentistry

(828) 692-1210
713 Oakland St Hendersonville, NC 28791-3647