How cancer treatment can affect your oral health

More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year and many of them will develop problems with their oral health as a result of their cancer treatment.

While it’s natural that they’ll be focused on their cancer treatment, it’s important not to overlook the importance of a dental examination as part of the process of maintaining overall health.

For example, radiation therapy of the head and neck area may lead to certain complications such as dry mouth, sensitive lesions in the oral cavity, hypersensitive teeth, rapid tooth decay and difficulty swallowing.

Chemotherapy and other medication can also have significant effects in the mouth.

To help prevent, minimize and manage such problems, the dentist and oncologist can work together – before and during cancer treatment.

Many medications lead to dry mouth, which can lead to a higher risk of gum disease and other problems.

The dentist may therefore recommend a saliva replacement, an artificial saliva that is available over-the-counter at pharmacies.

Frequent fluoride applications may also be recommended.
If you are receiving treatment, schedule regular screenings with your dentist and contact your dentist or physician immediately on any sign of mouth infection.

This may have serious implications for your overall health.

Your dentist and physician both want your treatment to be as safe and effective as possible.

Diabetes and your dental health: How your dentist can help

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important that you let your dentist know so that they can give you the best care possible.

As more than 15 million Americans have diabetes, your dentist will be familiar with the issues and will give you the specialist care you need.

This is important because diabetes can lower your resistance to infection and slow the healing process.

It’s important to tell your dentist:

– If you have been diagnosed with .diabetes
– If the disease is under control
– If there has been any other change in your medical history
– Names of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs you are taking

The most common oral health problems associated with diabetes are:

– Tooth decay
– Periodontal (gum) disease
– Salivary gland dysfunction
– Fungal infections
– Infection and delayed healing
– Taste impairment

If you have regular dental checkups – and keep your dentist informed about your status – they’ll be able to help you reduce and manage these risks.

Why a dental abscess should be treated quickly

If you have any kind of swelling in your gum, it almost certainly indicates a serious infection that should be treated urgently.

Dental abscesses result from a bacterial infection in the teeth or gums.

For example, it may come from an untreated cavity. Cavities result when some of the bacteria in our mouths mix with sugars and starches in our diet to produce acid.

This acid attacks the hard enamel coating of our teeth and, as the cavity gets deeper, it eventually infects the nerve and blood supply of the tooth.

In some cases, a dental abscess is caused by an infection of the gum. Bone loss from gum disease can create a pocket between the tooth, gum and bone.

When bacteria and other debris get into this pocket, an abscess can form.

The treatment for an abscess depends on how severe the infection is.

If the abscess has been caused by decay, root canal treatment may be needed or the tooth may even have to be removed.

If the abscess has been caused by the gum, the gum will need deep cleaning or surgical treatment. Again the tooth may need to be removed.

Sometimes, a small incision may be made into the gum to drain the abscess. If this happens, antibiotics and pain medication may be used to relieve discomfort.

If you wait until the gum is severely swollen before seeking treatment, the situation can become very serious.

The abscess at this stage can prevent you breathing properly and can be life-threatenting.

So if you have any signs of swelling in your gum, contact your dentist immediately.

Taking care of your dentures

Your dentures are designed to last a very long time so its important that you take care of them as you would take care of your own teeth.

They are very delicate and may break easily if dropped even a few inches. So its a good idea to stand over a folded towel or a basin of water when handling dentures.

When you are not wearing your dentures, store them away from children and pets.

Like natural teeth, dentures must be brushed daily to remove food deposits and plaque.

Brushing helps prevent dentures from becoming permanently stained and helps your mouth stay healthy.

There are special brushes designed for cleaning dentures but a toothbrush with soft bristles can also be used. Avoid using hard-bristled brushes as these can damage your dentures.

Some denture wearers also use hand soap or mild dishwashing liquid for cleaning and thats fine. But avoid using powdered household cleansers, which may be too abrasive. Also, avoid using bleach, as this may whiten the pink portion of the denture.

The first step in cleaning dentures is to rinse away loose food particles thoroughly. Moisten the brush and apply denture cleanser. Brush every surface, scrubbing gently to avoid damage.

Dentures may lose their shape if they are allowed to dry out. When they are not worn, dentures should be placed in a denture cleanser soaking solution or in water. Never place dentures in hot water, which could cause them to warp.

Ultrasonic cleaners are also used to care for dentures. However, using an ultrasonic cleaner does not replace a thorough daily brushing.

You can seriously damage your dentures by trying to adjust or repair them yourself. So see your dentist if your dentures break, crack, chip or if one of the teeth becomes loose.

Over time, dentures will need to be relined, rebased, or remade due to normal wear. They may also need to be replaced if they become loose and the teeth show signs of significant wear.

You need to make regular visits to your dentist to make sure the dentures are working as well as possible for you and to check for more serious problems in your mouth such as oral cancer.

Solving the problem of bad breath

Bad breath – which is also known as halitosis – is a worrying problem that can also be embarrassing.

But theres no need to put up with it. If you suffer from bad breath, your dentist will be able to suggest a range of solutions.

Your dentist will be able to spot problems such as gum disease, dry mouth or other disorders. Thats why its important to maintain good oral hygiene, schedule regular visits to the dentist and have professional cleaning.

Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day and clean between your teeth each day using floss or interdental cleaners. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too!

If your dental check up shows that your mouth is healthy, your dentist may refer you to your family physician as sometimes bad breath can be a sign of other health problems.

If the odor is due to periodontal (gum) disease, sometimes professional periodontal cleaning is needed to remove the bacteria and plaque that accumulate. And your dentist may recommend a special antimicrobial mouth rinse.

Keeping your mouth healthy and stopping periodontal disease are essential to reducing bad breath.

So make sure you schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup.

The keys to keeping your mouth healthy

A healthy mouth is a good indication of your overall health and helps you to keep a great smile and continue eating what you want for many years to come.

There are a few steps you can take to make sure your mouth is as healthy as possible:
– Brush your teeth twice a day using a good quality toothbrush
– Renew your toothbrush regularly. It will only keep your mouth healthy if the brush is in good condition and the bristles are strong. You should replace it at least every three or four months
– Clean between your teeth. Your toothbrush can’t reach everywhere and bacteria can linger between the teeth so its important to clean between them every day using floss or an interdental cleaner
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleaning and oral examinations

Your dentist will be able to give you tips on what other products you should consider to help improve your oral health.

For example, antimicrobial mouth rinses and toothpastes can reduce the germs in your mouth and reduce the risk of gum disease.

Also, fluoride mouth rinses can help reduce and prevent tooth decay. Studies have shown that using mouth rinses provides valuable protection over and above that provided by fluoride toothpaste alone.

Look out for the ADA seal when buying toothbrushes and other dental products. This is a sign that the product has met American Dental Association standards for safety and effectiveness.

Following these steps can help ensure that you continue to enjoy great oral health.

How sealants can give your teeth extra protection

Sealants are made from plastic material applied to the back teeth to protect the enamel from plaque and acids.

The plastic bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth – premolars and molars.

Although thorough brushing and flossing can help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, the toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque.

The benefit of sealants is that they protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.

Your dentist can apply sealants quite easily and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth.

The teeth being sealed will first be cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution which makes it easier for the sealant to stick to the tooth.

The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens.

Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay.
They usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. Your dentist will check the condition of the sealants during your regular visits and reapply them when necessary.

Sealants are ideal for children because the risk of developing pit and fissure decay starts early in life. However, many adults can benefit from sealants as well.

Your dentist can tell you whether sealants would help your oral hygiene program.

Caring for people who have special needs

People at any age can have a condition that makes it difficult for them to look after their own dental health.

This could affect people who suffer from a wide range of conditons such as stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, Alzheimers disease or arthritis.

However, people in all of these categories have the same dental needs as everyone else – they need daily brushing and flossing, regular dental visits and a balanced diet.

There are some steps caregivers can take to make it easier to look after people in those categories.

If the person is uncooperative or uncontrollable, try to explain what you are about to do and schedule the task for a time of day when they are rested.

Move in a calm, slow, reassuring manner to avoid startling them. Give praise and encourage them when they help themselves.

Support the persons head, and take special care to prevent choking or gagging when the head is tilted back.

If the person is unable or unwilling to keep their mouth open, your dentist will explain how you can make and use a mouth prop.

Ask your dentist for advice on how to care for people with special needs and check if they have facilities for caring for these needs in the dental office.

What is plaque and how does it affect your teeth?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that covers our teeth and, when we eat something, these bacteria release acids that attack the tooth enamel.

When these attacks are repeated over time, the enamel will break down and this will eventually lead to cavities.

When plaque is not removed through daily brushing and cleaning it hardens into calculus or tartar. When tartar collects above the gum line, brushing and cleaning between the teeth becomes more difficult.

The gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This is called gingivitis and it is the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease.

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against this happening:

– Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner
– Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams
– Ask your dentist about sealants these are protective coatings that can be applied to the back teeth where decay often starts.

If you take steps to remove the plaque each day, you have a greater chance of avoiding tooth and gum problems.

How to stop your dentist using too much jargon

Having a good relationship with your dentist means they should be able to explain things clearly to you and talk to you in language you understand.

The challenge for the dentist is that, as with any type of medical and professional training, they have to learn many unusual and technical terms.

This jargon has a purpsoe as it allows professionals to communicate clearly with each other on the same basis.

But often there is no need to use this terminology with the patient. Using these terms becomes a habit and they forgat to translate for the patient.

Soemtimes. it’s easier to say what you are thinking to a patient rather than have to translate it into something he or she will understand. And the dentist is usually thinking using the jargon.

Many common dental words such as restoration (filling), dentition (set of teeth) and occlusion (how the teeth come together) can easily be translated into terms patients understand.

Your dentist wants to help you understand as much about your dental health as possible so they would prefer that you stop them and ask what terms mean or simply ask them to speak in plain English.

They often slip into jargon out of habit or because it allows them to communicate more easily with others on the team.

They want you to get the treatment you need and be satisfied. So they won’t mind if you stop and remind them to communicate more effectively.