The Importance of Oral Cancer Screening

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Maria Ambra, RDH

The Importance of Oral Cancer Screening

As health care providers, during a patient’s initial dental visit, we ask if they would like to have an oral cancer screening in addition to their dental evaluation. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the time, the patient’s answer will be “no” or “I don’t have cancer and never have” or “I’m too young and I don’t smoke, therefore, I don’t need one today”. As Registered Dental Hygienists in today’s ever changing health care demands, how can we approach such an important discussion and answer these types of questions?

In the early stages of most forms of oral cancer, the cancer can’t be detected only visually and may not manifest as painful or cause any discomfort. It is possible for perfectly healthy patients of any age to have pre-cancer or oral cancer and be asymptomatic. Oral cancer is considered an epidemic disease in which over the past 6 years, research shows that this epidemic disease is not caused primarily by traditional risk factors any longer such as smoking, drinking or chewing tobacco.

Unfortunately, 40% of our young population (nonsmokers), especially among high school athletes, makes for the majority of new cases of cancer in the oral cavity and pharynx and more that 50% are detected in late age causing death.

In the population of patients over 40, as age increases, the likely hood of disease tends to develop due to the fact that their immune system becomes less efficient and also an excessive amount of unprotected exposure to the sun can increase lip cancer (the most common undetected oral cancer that is often mistaken for chapped lips). People, who live in areas with poor access to health care or don’t visit a dentist or doctor regularly, are considered to be increased risk for malignancies.

In younger adults under 40, a higher risk is contributed by the exposure to the HPV-16 and the HPV 18 viruses known as the human papilloma virus, leading to an increase each year of about 39,000 new cases of cancer which are found in areas of the body where HPV is found. Cervical cancer is the most common HPV associated cancer among women and oropharyngeal cancer which is often located in the back of the throat, on the base of the tongue and tonsils are the most common among men. It can be spread and contract as easy on intimate contact including kissing through saliva or skin-to-skin contact. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommends conducting an oral cancer screening at least once a year for all patients age 17 and beyond. Due to the fact that the naked eye may miss even early signs of oral malignancies, we, as dental practitioner’s, must introduce to our patients the state of the art, new technologies such as IDENTAFI, ORAL-ID or VELSCOPE.

All three are revolutionary devices that use multi-spectral technology to identify early morphologic and biochemical changes of the cells in the mouth, throat and tonsil. During the examination, the patient is also educated by the providers to self- examine often at their own. Some of the early indicators are red or white discoloration of tissues or any sore that doesn’t heal within 14 days, with that, advanced indicators such as sensation of something being stuck in the throat, any numbness in the oral cavity or ear or jaw pain, a lump or thickening in their neck need to be reported immediately to professionals to be examined and evaluated forward. Early detection means early treatment and cure of 90% of cases. EARLY DETECTION SAVES LIVES!

 Want to learn more? Visit us at

http://www.shalimarfamilydentistry.com

http://www.northstapleydentalcare.com

http://www.alamedadentalaz.com

http://www.dentistingilbert.com

Sources:

www.oralcancerfoundation.com. Edited on March 2013

Hocking, Stein A,Regan D et.al. Head and neck cancer show increasing incident of potential HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer.2011 MAR 1

http://www.cancer .org. Can oral cavity and oropharyngeal cancer be found early?

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Dental “Myth Busters”

Becky Larson, RDH

Dental “Myth Busters”

There are a lot of dental myths out there that are sometimes mistaken for dental truths.  Here are a few facts to help clear up some of the confusion.

Myth #1: You don’t need to brush baby teeth because they will fall out eventually anyway.

Absolutely not!  Baby teeth can still get cavities, which can spread to other teeth and cause pain.  Some baby teeth may even fall out too soon and cause problems with bite or improper development of a child’s permanent teeth.  It’s also important to establish good oral hygiene habits early on.  Children’s teeth should be brushed twice daily (just like adult teeth).

Myth #2: Fluoride is poisonous and should be avoided.

Wrong!  Each day the enamel layers of our teeth lose minerals (demineralization) due to the acidity of plaque and sugars in the mouth.  The enamel is remineralized from food and water consumption.  Too much demineralization without enough remineralization leads to tooth decay.  Fluoride helps strengthen enamel, thus making it more resistant to acidic demineralization.  Fluoride can sometimes reverse early tooth decay.  According to the American Dental Association, community water fluoridation is the single more effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay.  Many dental offices also offer in office fluoride treatments that can help both children and adults.

Myth #3:  You lose one tooth each time you have a child.

Now that’s just silly.  Some women think that when they are pregnant the baby leeches a lot of their calcium supply.  That may be, but it doesn’t mean she will lose any teeth.  However, pregnant women are prone to cavities or having other dental problems.  This is due to morning sickness and vomiting, dry mouth, and a desire/craving for more sugary or starchy foods.  Pregnant women in these circumstances should be sure to continue their regular dental check-ups and try to maintain pristine oral home care.

Myth #4:  If your gums are bleeding you should avoid brushing your teeth and flossing.

I can’t even begin to stress how wrong this one is!  If your gums are bleeding it means there is active inflammation and infection present.  That means you need to improve on oral hygiene by brushing more frequently or more effectively.  Bleeding gums is a sign of periodontal disease.  If caught early (in the gingivitis stage) it can be reversed.  Brushing should be done twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush.  Flossing should be done at least once daily.

Myth #5:  Placing a tablet of aspirin beside an aching tooth can ease the pain.

Wrong again.  In order to ease the pain caused by a toothache, aspirin must be fully swallowed.  Placing aspirin on gum tissue for long periods of time can actually damage the tissue and possibly cause an abscess.

Myth #6:  You don’t need to see the dentist if there is no visible problem with your teeth. 

Unfortunately not all dental problems will be visible or obvious.  You should continue to visit the dentist for regular check-ups at least twice per year, in conjunction with your cleanings.  Dental radiographs or other instruments can detect cavities or other problems that might not be causing any symptoms yet.  It’s best to catch things early to minimize the treatment needed.

Myth #7:  After a tooth has been treated for decay it will not decay again.

There are no guarantees in dentistry!  While the dentist will do their best to restore teeth to last for as long as possible, there is no way of knowing when or if a tooth will get recurrent decay.  Proper oral home care can prolong the life of dental restorations.

Don’t always believe what you hear!  If you have questions or concerns about your dental health be sure to ask your dentist, hygienist, or other dental professional.

 Want to learn more? Visit us at

http://www.shalimarfamilydentistry.com

http://www.northstapleydentalcare.com

http://www.alamedadentalaz.com

http://www.dentistingilbert.com

Sources:

http://www.ada.org/en/public-programs/advocating-for-the-public/fluoride-and-fluoridation

http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/fluoride-treatment

http://www.livescience.com/22463-gain-a-child-lose-a-tooth-myth-or-reality.html

http://tips4dentalcare.com/2008/06/21/popular-myths-about-dentistry/

Six Sign You Need to See a Dentist


Lora Cook, RDH

Six Sign You Need to See a Dentist

Life is so busy, between work, family, and social functions it is hard to fit everything in. Especially that annoying sixth month check up and cleaning. For some people who have had problems with their bone and gum tissue around the teeth more frequent cleanings are needed. However with all that we have to juggle these days regular check ups are sometimes put off too long. When nothing hurts it is all too easy to put a dental check up on the back burner for ‘when we have time’. Lets all face it, we will never feel like we have more time and delaying dental care and especially routine cleanings and check ups will only make the problem worse. Sometimes a problem that we never knew we had silently brewing. Here are five signs that indicate you need to see your dentist.

Inflamed Gums: If you notice that your gum tissue bleeds easily, is red, tender and sore. Make an appointment! These may be signs of gingivitis or possibly gum disease. Brushing harder or more frequently will not take care of this problem. You may have build up that cannot be removed by your toothbrush or floss at home. Left untreated this may lead to tooth loss.

White Spots on Teeth: The white spots on the enamel are the first signs of tooth decay. Decay or a cavity is the break down of the enamel caused by bacteria that weakens the enamel then erodes it away.

Temperature Sensitivity: This can be caused by different possibilities. A cavity can cause sensitivity to hot or cold. Also root sensitivity; this is when the gum tissue recedes down the root of the tooth exposing the root surface that should normally be covered by your gum tissue. Delaying an exam and treatment will only lead to more extensive problems if you are experiencing temperature sensitivity.

Color Changes in Your Mouth: If you have noticed any color changes to the tissue in your mouth see your dentist right away. Always do a little visual inspection after you brush your teeth. Look at your palate. Inside your cheeks, on top and underneath your tongue. Also the back of your throat. Any color changes, lumps or bumps in the tissue should be looked at by your dentist right away.

Headaches: If you are experiencing frequent headaches especially when you first wake up this may be a sign that you are clenching or grinding your teeth. This will cause irreversible damage to your teeth. Your dentist might recommend a custom night guard, this can alleviate your headaches and take that stress off of your jaw joint at night while your sleep.

Chronic Bad Breath: May be a sign of gingivitis or periodontitis. The sooner either of these can be diagnosed and treated the healthier your mouth will be and the less likely that this will lead to tooth loss.

 Want to learn more? Visit us at

http://www.shalimarfamilydentistry.com

http://www.northstapleydentalcare.com

http://www.alamedadentalaz.com

http://www.dentistingilbert.com

Sources:

https://www.verywell.com/top-common-dental-problems-1059461

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sensitive-teeth/ faq-20057854

https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/teeth-grinding-bruxism#1