Wednesday, March 1, 2017

April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

This April marks the 14th observance of Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Yet there are still plenty of people who underestimate the seriousness of oral cancer, don't know the warning signs, and are unsure where to get screening or treatment for this potentially deadly disease. It's true that oral cancer doesn't have as high a profile as some other cancers - but thanks to the efforts of educational foundations, medical professionals, and celebrities like actress Blythe Danner and baseball superstar Tony Gwynn (1960-2014), it significance is increasingly being recognized.

How common is oral cancer? According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, some 50,000 Americans will be diagnosed with this illness in the current year. Five years from now, slightly more than half of those people will still be alive. That's one of the most troubling aspects of the disease: Its survival rate is much lower than that of more well-known cancers - like breast or cervical cancer, or Hodgkin's lymphoma. A major reason for those discouraging odds is that oral cancer isn't generally found until it has reached a later stage of development, when it's harder to treat successfully.

That's why early diagnosis of oral cancer is so important - and why it's vital to become aware of possible warning signs of the disease. The first symptoms are often relatively minor: a red or white patch or a sore on the tongue, lips or the inside of the mouth, that doesn't go away within 14 days; an unusual lump or mass in the mouth or neck; or difficulty eating, speaking or swallowing. While these symptoms are common and most often benign, they can also indicate an early stage of oral cancer.

Fortunately, dentists are trained to recognize the early signs of oral cancer, and we can often identify possible signs of the disease in its initial stages. We perform oral cancer screenings at routine dental exams, but you can also come in for an examination any time you have a concern. The good news is that recent advances in diagnosing oral cancer offer the hope that more people will get appropriate, timely treatment for this potentially deadly disease.

If you have questions about oral cance, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation.



Encourage Your Child to Stop Thumb Sucking Around Age 3

One of the biggest concerns we hear from parents is about their child's thumb sucking habit. Our advice: if they're under age 4, there's no need for concern - yet. If they're older, though, you should be concerned about the possible effect on their bite.

Thumb sucking is a universal habit among infants and toddlers and is related to their swallowing pattern during feeding. As they swallow, their tongue thrusts forward to create a seal with the lips around the breast or a bottle nipple. Many pediatricians believe thumb sucking replicates nursing and so has a comforting effect on infants.

Around age 4, though, this swallowing pattern begins to change to accommodate solid food. The tongue now begins to rest at the back of the top front teeth during swallowing (try swallowing now and you'll see). For most children, their thumb sucking habit also fades during this time and eventually stops.

But for whatever reason, some children don't stop. As the habit persists, the tongue continues to thrust forward rather than toward the back of the top front teeth. Over time this can place undue pressure on both upper and lower front teeth and contribute to the development of an open bite, a slight gap between the upper and lower teeth when the jaws are shut.

While late childhood thumb sucking isn't the only cause for an open bite (abnormal bone growth in one jaw is another), the habit is still a prominent factor. That's why it's important that you start encouraging your child to stop thumb sucking around age 3 and no later than 4. This is best accomplished with positive reinforcement like rewards or praise.

If they've continued the habit a few years after they should have stopped, we may also need to check to see if their swallowing mechanism has become stunted. If so, we may need to use certain exercises to retrain their tongue to take the proper position during swallowing.

While you shouldn't panic, it's important to take action to stop thumb sucking before it becomes a long-term problem. A positive, proactive approach will help avoid costly orthodontic problems later in their lives.

If you would like more information about thumb or finger sucking, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "How Thumb Sucking Affects the Bite."



Plan Ahead to Make Your Smile the Best it can be for Your Big Day!

The big day you've waited for all your life is just around the corner - your wedding day! And to make that day as special as possible you've been working on making yourself more attractive.

In all your preparations, don't forget your smile. There are many ways to make it shine, some requiring little time or effort. A professional dental cleaning and polishing, for example, can do wonders for brightening your smile. If you have above normal staining, you can also undergo professional whitening to remove stains and enhance your teeth's natural color.

Some problems, though, like chipped, slightly misaligned or heavily stained teeth may require more than a cleaning or whitening session. In these cases, you might consider covering these less attractive teeth with porcelain veneers to transform their appearance. As the name implies, veneers are a thin layer of tooth-colored, translucent porcelain custom designed for you and bonded permanently to the visible tooth.

While veneers can significantly change your smile, it can't fix every appearance problem. Some teeth require more extensive dental work, like a porcelain crown that completely covers a tooth, or dental implants to replace missing teeth. In more complex situations you may want to look at orthodontics to repair an unattractive bite, or plastic surgery to change the look of a gummy smile.

Keep in mind, though, many of such treatments take time: installing dental implants can take months and some orthodontic treatments, years. As soon as you can, you should discuss your smile appearance with your dentist and what can be done to enhance it in the time you have.

With the help of your dentist, orthodontist or other specialist, you can change your smile. And that, along with all your other preparations, will help make that once in a lifetime day even more special.

If you would like more information on undergoing a smile makeover, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Planning Your Wedding Day Smile."



Be Sure to Have These 3 Essentials Covered Beforehand for Veneer Success

For over three decades, veneers have helped mask dental imperfections like chipping, staining or gaps and improve the appearance of millions of teeth. As the name implies, this thin layer of porcelain covers a tooth's visible surface and accurately mimics the texture, color and translucence of natural teeth.

Veneers could be just the solution you need for a more attractive smile. But before you begin treatment, be sure you have these 3 essentials in place to ensure a successful outcome.

True expectations. While the transformation of a tooth's appearance with a veneer can be astounding, veneers in general do have their limitations. You need an adequate amount of the tooth's structure present for a veneer to properly adhere - if not, you may need to consider a porcelain crown instead. Likewise, gaps and other misalignments may be too great for a veneer to cover: in that case, you should consider orthodontics. A thorough examination beforehand will determine if veneers are the best option for you.

An artisan team. Every veneer is custom made to match an individual patient's tooth shape and color, handcrafted by a skilled dental technician. There's also an art to the dentist preparing the tooth beforehand and then properly positioning the veneer for bonding to achieve the most attractive result. Be sure, then, that your veneer "team" comes highly recommended by others.

The best materials. The first porcelains were powdered glass ceramics mixed with water to form a paste. Technicians shaped the paste in successive layers and as it oven-cured it took on the beautiful translucence of natural teeth. Unfortunately, this type of porcelain could be brittle and prone to shattering when subjected to heavy biting forces. In recent years, though, we've begun to use ceramics reinforced with other materials like Leucite for added strength. Today, the materials dentists use have much better durability.

If you would like more information on porcelain veneers, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Porcelain Veneers."



Monday, December 12, 2016

Three Surprising Foods That Could Help You Fight Tooth Decay

You've no doubt heard about certain foods and beverages that increase your risk for dental disease. These foods, often high in added sugar or acid, can lead to tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease.

But have you heard about foods with the opposite effect - actually protecting your teeth against disease? Many of these dental-friendly foods are plant-based and fibrous: they stimulate saliva production, one of the mouth's best disease-fighting weapons.

But there are also some foods you might not expect to make the good list for dental health. Here are 3 surprising foods that could help you fight dental disease.

Cheese. We've long recognized milk as important to dental health - but cultured dairy products like cheese are also good for teeth. Cheese stimulates saliva, which neutralizes acid and replenishes the enamel's mineral content. Cheese also contains decay-stopping minerals like calcium, phosphorous and casein. And although milk cheese contains the sugar lactose, this particular type triggers less acid production than other sugars.

Black & green teas. You may have heard about the staining effect of tea, and avoided it as a result. But both forms of tea are also rich in antioxidants, substances that protect us against disease, including in the mouth. Black tea also contains fluoride, which strengthens enamel against cavities. If you drink tea, of course, you should exercise diligent hygiene to reduce any staining effect.

Chocolate. Yes, you read that right, chocolate: unrefined cocoa to be exact, which contains a number of compounds that resist decay. Ah, but there's a catch - chocolate in the form of your favorite candy bar usually contains high amounts of sugar. Sweetened chocolate, then, is a mixed bag of decay-resistive compounds and decay-promoting sugar. To get the benefit you'll have to partake of this favorite food of the Aztecs in a more raw, less sweetened form.

Of course, there's no single wonder food that prevents tooth decay. Your best approach is a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy and quality protein while limiting sugar-added and acidic foods. And don't forget daily brushing and flossing, coupled with regular dental visits for cleanings and checkups. Having a comprehensive dental care plan will help ensure your teeth remain healthy and disease-free.

If you would like more information on food choices and dental health, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article "Nutrition & Oral Health."

In Today's NFL, Oral Hygiene Takes Center Stage

Everyone knows that in the game of football, quarterbacks are looked up to as team leaders. That's why we're so pleased to see some NFL QB's setting great examples of... wait for it... excellent oral hygiene.

First, at the 2016 season opener against the Broncos, Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers was spotted on the bench; in his hands was a strand of dental floss. In between plays, the 2105 MVP was observed giving his hard-to-reach tooth surfaces a good cleaning with the floss.

Later, Buffalo Bills QB Tyrod Taylor was seen on the sideline of a game against the 49ers - with a bottle of mouthwash. Taylor took a swig, swished it around his mouth for a minute, and spit it out. Was he trying to make his breath fresher in the huddle when he called out plays?

Maybe... but in fact, a good mouthrinse can be much more than a short-lived breath freshener.

Cosmetic rinses can leave your breath with a minty taste or pleasant smell - but the sensation is only temporary. And while there's nothing wrong with having good-smelling breath, using a cosmetic mouthwash doesn't improve your oral hygiene - in fact, it can actually mask odors that may indicate a problem, such as tooth decay or gum disease.

Using a therapeutic mouthrinse, however, can actually enhance your oral health. Many commonly available therapeutic rinses contain anti-cariogenic (cavity-fighting) ingredients, such as fluoride; these can help prevent tooth decay and cavity formation by strengthening tooth enamel. Others contain antibacterial ingredients; these can help control the harmful oral bacteria found in plaque - the sticky film that can build up on your teeth in between cleanings. Some antibacterial mouthrinses are available over-the-counter, while others are prescription-only. When used along with brushing and flossing, they can reduce gum disease (gingivitis) and promote good oral health.

So why did Taylor rinse? His coach Rex Ryan later explained that he was cleaning out his mouth after a hard hit, which may have caused some bleeding. Ryan also noted, "He [Taylor] does have the best smelling breath in the league for any quarterback." The coach didn't explain how he knows that - but never mind. The takeaway is that a cosmetic rinse may be OK for a quick fix - but when it comes to good oral hygiene, using a therapeutic mouthrinse as a part of your daily routine (along with flossing and brushing) can really step up your game.

If you would like more information about mouthrinses and oral hygiene, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Any Time, Any Place: Cam Newton's Guide to Flossing

When is the best time to floss your teeth: Morning? Bedtime? How about: whenever and wherever the moment feels right?

For Cam Newton, award-winning NFL quarterback for the Carolina Panthers, the answer is clearly the latter. During the third quarter of the 2016 season-opener between his team and the Denver Broncos, TV cameras focused on Newton as he sat on the bench. The 2015 MVP was clearly seen stretching a string of dental floss between his index fingers and taking care of some dental hygiene business... and thereby creating a minor storm on the internet.

Inappropriate? We don't think so. As dentists, we're always happy when someone comes along to remind people how important it is to floss. And when that person has a million-dollar smile like Cam Newton's - so much the better.

Of course, there has been a lot of discussion lately about flossing. News outlets have gleefully reported that there's a lack of hard evidence at present to show that flossing is effective. But we would like to point out that, as the saying goes, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." There are a number of reasons why health care organizations like the American Dental Association (ADA) still firmly recommend daily flossing. Here are a few:

  • It's well established that when plaque is allowed to build up on teeth, tooth decay and gum disease are bound to follow.
  • A tooth brush does a good job of cleaning most tooth surfaces, but it can't reach into spaces between teeth.
  • Cleaning between teeth (interdental cleaning) has been shown to remove plaque and food debris from these hard-to-reach spaces.
  • Dental floss isn't the only method for interdental cleaning... but it is recognized by dentists as the best way, and is an excellent method for doing this at home - or anywhere else!

Whether you use dental floss or another type of interdental cleaner is up to you. But the ADA stands by its recommendations for maintaining good oral health: Brush twice a day for two minutes with fluoride toothpaste; visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and checkups; and clean between teeth once a day with an interdental cleaner like floss. It doesn't matter if you do it in your own home, or on the sidelines of an NFL game... as long as you do it!

If you would like more information about flossing and oral hygiene, please visit our website at www.myparkdental.com, or contact us here, or schedule an appointment for a consultation.