My Blog

Posts for: November, 2013

By My Dentist
November 25, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   oral cancer  
SignsandSymptomsofOralCancer

No one wants to hear the word “cancer.” But thanks to advances in detection and treatment, the disease increasingly can be stopped in its earliest stages when it's most treatable and outcomes are most favorable. Oral cancer accounts for a relatively small 3% of cancers in men and 2% in women, but early detection rates are lagging. Our office screens for oral cancer as part of your regular checkups. Knowing some of the signs and symptoms can help you monitor as well.

The main areas where oral carcinomas (cancers) occur are:

  • the tongue (most common location, particularly the sides and on the floor of the mouth),
  • the lip (especially the lower one),
  • the oral cavity (the mouth), and
  • the pharynx (back of mouth and throat).

Early Signs

Most oral cancers are preceded by surface changes (lesions) of the oral membranes. In the “precancerous” stage, white or red patches start forming and a non-healing ulcer may appear. The most common locations on the tongue for this to occur are on the sides and underneath on the floor of the mouth. Lip cancers typically develop on the lower lip, usually in people with a history of sun exposure. There has often been prior damage at the site such as scaling and crusting.

Be aware that oral cancers can be mistaken for cold and canker sores, ulcers, minor infections, and even irritations caused by biting or certain types of food. If lesions don't heal within two or three weeks, there's a higher likelihood that they are cancerous.

An in-office examination includes the following:

  • visual inspection of face, lips, neck and mouth;
  • inspection of sides and underneath of tongue and floor of mouth using gauze to gently manipulate the tongue;
  • palpation of the floor of the mouth, sides of neck and glands to detect unusual lumps; and
  • an “open wide and say ‘Aah’” examination of the back of your throat.

There are some risk factors for oral cancer that can't be controlled, such as a family history, age and race. But awareness, monitoring for potential signs and seeking prompt attention are always key ingredients in protecting your oral health!

If you would like more information about oral cancer detection, 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 “Oral Cancer.”


ChangesDavidBowiesDentalTransformation

In his decades long career, pop-music chameleon David Bowie has gone through a dizzying series of transformations. And as he morphed from alien-inspired space oddity to fashion-forward international superstar, his smile benefited from some very dramatic ch-ch-ch-changes. While Bowie hasn't talked much about his dental treatments, a comparison of pictures from the mid 1970s to the mid '90s (not to mention a much-viewed youtube video on the subject) makes it clear: his tooth staining, misalignment and gum recession have been left behind like polyester bellbottoms.

But tooth makeovers aren't just for pop stars! Cosmetic dentistry can benefit anyone who's interested in improving their appearance, at any age. Often, treatment starts with a “smile analysis” — a review of the current aesthetics of your mouth, including the shape, spacing, color and alignment of the teeth, the appearance and general health of the gums, and the way the lips and gums frame the smile.

This analysis can help pinpoint some places where the overall look of your smile may need improvement, and it can also identify some specific treatments to make it better. It's even possible to see a simulation of what you'd look like after the treatments are complete, to help ensure that your goals are realistic and attainable. What are some of the most common cosmetic procedures?

For stained teeth, you can try in-office whitening with concentrated bleaching solutions, or professionally-supervised at-home treatments using plastic trays that are custom-made to fit your teeth. The major difference between the two is the amount of time you need — with in-office treatments, you'll see results right away, while at-home gels may require weeks.

Tooth bonding and restoration with composite resin is a relatively fast and easy way to fix minor to moderate chips, flaws and discoloration. Because the composite material bonds directly to the tooth itself, this method requires only minor tooth preparation, and is often completed in just one office visit.

If your teeth, like Bowie's, need more extensive restoration, dental veneers or crowns may be required. Veneers are super strong, wafer-thin coverings that fit over the front surface of your teeth. Besides giving you that “Hollywood white” smile, they can also lengthen teeth that are too small, correct misalignment and close gaps in your smile. To correct even more extensive problems, crowns (also called caps) can replace the entire visible portion of one or more teeth — or, if teeth are missing, a permanent, long-lasting dental implant can be placed.

Many adults are choosing orthodontics to correct problems of tooth position, alignment or spacing — in fact, some 20% of all orthodontic patients today are grown-ups! It's never too late to start treatment, and with less-noticeable appliances like clear aligners and tooth-colored braces, it's easier than ever to make those ch-ch-ch-changes.

If you would like more information about the options available in cosmetic dentistry, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Orthodontics For The Older Adult” and “Cosmetic Dentistry.”