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.”
Let's say you happen to be sitting on a plane next to supermodel Bar Refaeli, who was recently voted #1 on Maxim magazine's Hot 100 list. You're a little nervous, but you want to make a good impression. What's the first thing she's going to look at? Your expensive suit? Your sculpted torso? How about — your smile!
“Teeth are the first thing I look at,” explained the glamorous cover girl in a Maxim interview. “A nice smile with beautiful teeth is the most attractive thing.”
We wholeheartedly agree. But, of course, not everyone is lucky enough to be born with a perfect set of teeth. What to do then?
“Let's just say that with today's orthodontists, I don't understand why people wouldn't fix them,” Refaeli stated. Need we say more?
The Israeli supermodel, who has appeared in several Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues, knows what she's talking about. Refaeli started modeling as a young child, but had to put her career on hold for a few years while she got braces. When they came off, at age 11, she began her steady climb to the top of the modeling business.
Plenty of aspiring actors and models — as well as regular folks — get braces as children. But if you're serious about improving your smile, it's never too late to have orthodontic treatment. For adults, there are many options available in addition to the standard metal appliances.
Colorless ceramic braces offer a less noticeable way to correct misaligned teeth. Made of high-tech materials that resist staining, their translucent appearance blends so well with the look of your natural teeth that it can be hard to tell you're wearing them.
Clear aligners are an alternative to braces that are worn 20-22 hours per day. They consist of a series of precision-made, transparent “trays” that gradually straighten your teeth over a period of time. Best of all, you can remove them for special occasions — like meeting a supermodel.
Which type of orthodontic treatment is best for you? Why not come in for a consultation and find out! Working together, we can evaluate your situation and develop an effective, individualized treatment plan that fits your lifestyle.
If you have questions about orthodontic treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Orthodontics For The Older Adult.”
The increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in Americans have been getting a lot of attention lately. Most people know that the two are clearly linked. But did you know there's also strong evidence of a link between diabetes and gum disease?
Both diabetes and periodontal (gum) disease are chronic inflammatory conditions. That means they are disorders that develop over time (chronic), and are characterized by problems with a function of the immune system (inflammation). In diabetes, problems with the hormone insulin lead to abnormal levels of sugar in the blood. This can bring about a number of complications which, if not treated, may result in kidney failure, coma and even death. In many people, however, it's a condition that can be managed with drugs and lifestyle changes.
You may not think of gum disease (periodontitis) as a serious illness. But here's something you should know: If you have diabetes, having gum disease is a risk factor for worsening control of blood glucose levels, and may also increase the risk of complications. Likewise, having diabetes puts you at greater risk for developing more severe forms of periodontal disease.
What is gum disease? It's actually a group of diseases caused by many types of bacteria in the mouth, which affect the tissues around the teeth. Initially, it often causes swelling and redness of the gum tissue. Left untreated, it may result in bone loss, abscess formation, and ultimately the loss of teeth. But its ill effects aren't limited to your mouth.
Periodontal inflammation is associated with a higher systemic (whole-body) inflammatory state. That means it may increase your risk for cardiovascular diseases like heart attack and stroke, and adverse pregnancy outcomes — as well as complicating the management of blood-sugar levels in diabetics.
Now, here's the good news: Treatment of periodontal disease which reduces inflammation has a beneficial impact on the inflammatory status of the whole body. For people who have both diabetes and periodontal disease, that means that periodontal therapy can lead to improved blood sugar control.
How do you know if you have periodontal disease? Bleeding gums and bad breath are both possible symptoms, as are redness and soreness of the gum tissues. But these warning signs may be masked by any number of other factors — or may not be noticed at all.
The sure-fire way to diagnose and treat periodontal disease is by getting regular dental checkups, followed by specialized periodontal treatment when necessary. If you presently have diabetes, or may be at risk for developing the disease, those check-ups and treatments are even more important.
If you have concerns about diabetes and gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Diabetes & Periodontal Disease” and “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease.”
While she was pregnant with her son Camden Jack Cutler, 25-year-old Kristin Cavallari noticed an odd occurrence in her bathroom sink: “Every time I floss, my sink looks like I murdered somebody!” the actress and reality-TV personality exclaimed. Should we be concerned that something wicked is going on with the star of Laguna Beach and The Hills?
Before you call in the authorities, ask a periodontist: He or she will tell you that there's actually no mystery here. What Cavallari noticed is, in fact, a fairly common symptom of “pregnancy gingivitis,” a condition that affects many expectant moms in the second to eighth month of pregnancy. But why does it occur at this time?
First — just the facts: You may already know that gingivitis is the medical name for an early stage of gum disease. Its symptoms may include bad breath, bleeding gums, and soreness, redness, or tenderness of the gum tissue. Fundamentally, gum disease is caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria, or plaque, on the teeth at the gum line — but it's important to remember that, while hundreds of types of bacteria live in the mouth, only a few are harmful. A change in the environment inside the mouth — like inadequate oral hygiene, to use one example — can cause the harmful types to flourish.
But in this case, the culprit isn't necessarily poor hygiene — instead, blame it on the natural hormonal changes that take place in expectant moms. As levels of some female hormones (estrogen and/or progesterone) rise during pregnancy, changes occur in the blood vessels in the gums, which cause them to be more susceptible to the effects of bacterial toxins. The bacteria produce toxic chemicals, which in turn bring on the symptoms of gingivitis — including painful and inflamed gums that may bleed heavily when flossed.
Is pregnancy gingivits a cause for concern? Perhaps — but the condition is generally quite treatable. If you've noticed symptoms like Kristen's, the first thing you should do it consult our office. We can advise you on a variety of treatments designed to relieve the inflammation in your gums and prevent the harmful bacteria from proliferating. Of course, your oral health (and your overall health) are prime concerns during pregnancy — so don't hesitate to seek medical help if it's needed!
How did things work out with Kristen? She maintained an effective oral hygiene routine, delivered a healthy baby — and recently appeared on the cover of Dear Doctor magazine, as the winner of the “Best Celebrity Smile” contest for 2012. And looking at her smile, it's no mystery why she won.
If you would like more information about pregnancy gingivitis, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Expectant Mothers” and “Kristen Cavallari.”
Guidelines regarding the concentration of fluoride in water have recently been changed by the US Government's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These agencies recommended a reduction of fluoride in water supplies to 0.7mg/L, modifying the original recommendations provided in 1962 by the US Public Health Service.
What is fluoride, and why add it to water supplies?
Fluoride is a chemical form of fluorine, a naturally occurring element. For decades, scientists have carried out studies on the effects of fluoride in water, and they have proved that fluoride strengthens tooth surfaces and makes them resistant to decay. A fluoride concentration of about one milligram per liter (1 mg/L), or 1 part per million (1ppm), in the water supply is associated with substantially fewer cavities. This concentration of fluoride (equivalent to a grain of salt in a gallon of water) has been found to have no negative health effects.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that fluoridated water is one of the ten most effective public health measures of the 20th Century. The optimal amount of fluoride necessary to make teeth resistant to decay turns out to be between 0.7 and 1.20 milligrams per liter (mg/L). A certain amount of fluoride occurs naturally in water supplies, and communities have added fluoride to bring the amount up to the optimal recommendations.
How does fluoride you drink get into your teeth?
The fluoride you drink in your water is deposited in your bones. Bone is an active living substance that is constantly broken down and rebuilt as a normal body process. As this happens the fluoride is released into the blood, from which it can enter the saliva and act on the tooth surface.
What about fluoride from other sources?
Americans now have access to many sources of fluoride in addition to the water they drink. These include foods, beverages and toothpaste. As a result, dentists have begun to notice an increased prevalence of a condition known as Dental Fluorosis.
What is Dental Fluorosis?
Dental Fluorosis can occur when teeth, particularly in children, receive too much fluoride. This condition is a mottling or uneven staining of the tooth surface enamel. There may be small white spots or extensive brownish discolorations. The mottled enamel is still resistant to decay, but it may be unattractive in appearance.
What is the idea behind the new guidelines?
With the new guidelines, fluoride is kept at the lower end of the scale of the optimal concentration for strengthening teeth against decay. At this end, there is room to add consumption of fluoride from other sources such as foods or toothpaste. In short, it is the best of both worlds.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about fluoride. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Fluoride & Fluoridation in Dentistry” and “New Fluoride Recommendations.”
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.