Taking steps to stop oral cancer before its too late

Oral cancer hits more than 30,000 Americans every year but you can minimize the risk by taking steps to ensure its caught early enough.

The first indications of oral cancer may be a very small, but dangerous, oral spot or sore that you are not even aware of.

In a routine examination, your dentist will carefully examine the inside of your mouth and tongue.

If they notice a flat, painless, white or red spot or a small sore, this may be completely harmless. But harmful spots or sores often look the same as harmless ones.

To ensure that a spot or sore is not dangerous, your dentist may choose to perform a simple test, such as a brush test. This collects cells from the lesion which can them be analyzed.

Any positive results from a brush test must usually be confirmed by a biopsy before deciding the next step.

If precancerous cells are found, the lesion can be surgically removed if necessary during a separate procedure.

When caught early enough, the chances of preventing the cancer developing are high but only half of those diagnosed survive more than five years.

Thats why regular dental examinations are so important for your overall health and not just to have good teeth.

The secrets of brushing and flossing your teeth effectively

Though many of us say we brush our teeth regularly, you get the best results by making sure you brush properly.

Here are the steps you should follow:

First, place the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.

Then, move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes.

Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.

Use the “toe” of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.

Finally, brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.

As well as brushing your teeth, you should floss them every day. Heres how to floss for best results.

Break off about 18 inches of floss and wind most of it around one of your middle fingers.

Then wind the remaining floss around the same finger on the opposite hand. This finger will take up the floss as it becomes dirty.

Hold the floss tightly between your thumbs and forefingers.

Guide the floss between your teeth using a gentle rubbing motion. Never snap the floss into the gums.

When the floss reaches the gum line, curve it into a C shape against one tooth. Gently slide it into the space between the gum and the tooth.

Hold the floss tightly against the tooth. Gently rub the side of the tooth, moving the floss away from the gum with up and down motions.

Repeat this method on the rest of your teeth.

Don’t forget the back side of your last tooth.

If you have difficulty handling dental floss, consider other types of interdental cleaner such as special brushes, picks or sticks.

Your dentist or hygienist will be able to give your further tips on how to brush and floss for best results.

How a baby’s first teeth develop

A newly born baby usually has no teeth visible but most have begun to develop primary or baby teeth.

These generally begin to appear about six months after birth.

Over their first few years, they will develop all 20 primary teeth and will usually have them all in place by age three.

The teething process is uncomfortable for many babies and they can become sleepless and irritable. They also might lose their appetite or drool more than usual.

If your infant has a fever or diarrhea while teething or continues to be cranky and uncomfortable, call your physician.

Sometimes when a tooth erupts, an eruption cyst may develop. The tooth will eventually rupture this as it pushes through the gums and these cysts are usually harmless and should be left alone.

If a baby has sore or tender gums when they are teething, it can help to gently rub the gum with a clean finger, a small, cool spoon or a wet gauze pad.

When this happens, your dentist or pediatrician may suggest a pacifier, teething ring or a special numbing salve for the gums.

When the teeth begin to erupt, you should brush them with a soft-bristled toothbrush and a little water to prevent tooth decay.

Toothpaste is not recommended until a child reaches age two. When a child begins using toothpaste, you need to supervise the brushing to make sure they don’t swallow it.

Regular dental checks should begin after your child’s first tooth appears or by their first birthday.

What to do if you have problems with your dentist

Choosing the right dentist for your needs is an important part of giving yourself the best oral health possible.

Sometimes you may find that things are not working out for the best and it’s important to take steps to resolve any problems rather than just put off your dental care.

First, talk to your dentist about any concerns. They will probably be able to accomodate your needs if you tell them what you are looking for.

In some situations, you may feel that you want to look around at alternative options – maybe there are other dentists who meet your needs better, taking into account factors such as location, office hours, fees and emergency arrangements.

If you are comparing fees, ask for estimates on full-mouth x-rays and a preventive dental visit that includes an oral exam and tooth cleaning.

If you have any doubts about treatment your dentist has recommended, it may be a good idea to set your mind at rest by getting a second opinion from another dentist.

However, even in the best dentist-patient relationship, problems can sometimes occur. If your dentist is not able to resolve your concerns, you can contact your state or local dental association.

They have established systems of peer review that provide an impartial and easy way to resolving misunderstandings regarding the appropriateness or quality of care.

If you are not completely staisfied with the dental treatment you are getting, it’s important ot take steps to put it right – whether you sort it out with your own dentist or find another one.

Understanding your wisdom teeth

Many patients ask whether wisdom teeth are really necessary since so many people have them removed.

The fact is that wisdom teeth are a valuable asset to the mouth when they are healthy and properly positioned.

However, problems can occur that sometimes make it better to have them removed.

For example, when the jaw isn’t large enough, the wisdom teeth can become impacted – misaligned or unable to grow in properly. They may grow sideways, emerge only part way from the gum or remain trapped beneath the gum and bone.

The reasons wisdom teeth may have to be extracted include:
– The teeth have only partially erupted. This leaves an opening for bacteria which cause infection.
– There is a chance the wisdom teeth will damage adjacent teeth.
– A cyst forms which may destroy surrounding structures such as bone or tooth roots.

Ask your dentist about the health and positioning of your wisdom teeth.

Your dentist will tell you if there are any issues and will recommend any steps needed.

Why to look for the ADA Seal of Acceptance

When buying dental products, its a good idea to look out for the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Acceptance.

The first Seal of Acceptance was awarded in 1931 and its regarded as an important symbol of a dental product’s safety and effectiveness.

Although the Seal program is strictly voluntary, approximately 100 companies participate in it and they commit significant resources to testing their products in clinical and laboratory conditions.

More than 300 consumer dental products carry the Seal of Acceptance. These include toothpaste, dental floss, manual and electric toothbrushes, mouth rinse and chewing gum.

You can get more information about the seal and how it is awarded for specific products at http://www.ada.org/ada/seal/

This site also contains links to the most current lists of accepted consumer products.

Your saliva and why its so important

You probably don’t give too much thought to the saliva in your mouth but, if you think of it like a bloodstream you’ll realize how important it is.

Like blood, saliva helps build and maintain the health of the soft and hard tissues.

It removes waste products from the mouth and offers first-line protection against microbial invasion that might lead to disease.

Saliva is derived from blood and therefore can also be used to detect disease.

Saliva enhances enamel protection by providing high levels of calcium and phosphate ions. It contains the minerals that maintain the integrity of the enamel surface and helps protect against caries.

When salivary flow is reduced, oral health deteriorates – much in the same way body tissues suffer if blood circulation is disrupted.

Patients with dry mouths (xerostomia) experience difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing. A major cause of dry mouth is medication – almost eighty percent of the most commonly prescribed medications lead to dry mouth.

Chewing gum after a snack or meal stimulates salivary flow, clearing food from the mouth and neutralizing plaque acid.

Your saliva is important to your oral health both for preventing disease and in helping to diagnose problems.

How the food you eat can cause tooth decay

When you put food in your mouth, it immediately meets the bacteria that live there.

Plaque, for example, is a sticky film of bacteria.

These bacteria love the sugars found in many foods. So, when you don’t clean your teeth after eating, the bacteria and the sugar can combine to produce acids which can destroy the enamel – the hard surface of the tooth.

In time, this can lead to tooth decay. The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more damage occurs.

Many foods that are nutritious and important in our diet contain sugars – such as fruits, milk, bread, cereals and even vegetables.

So the key is not to try and avoid sugar but to think before you eat.

When you eat is also important because each time you eat food that contains sugars, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.

This means that foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm. More saliva is released during a meal, helping to wash foods from the mouth and reduce the effects of acids.

Here are some tips to follow when choosing your meals and snacks.
– Eat a variety of foods from different food groups
– Limit the number of snacks that you eat
– If you do snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit

Its also important to brush your teeth twice a day and to clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

And of course regular visits to your dentist will help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur while they are easier to treat.

Building a strong relationship with your dentist

You’ll give yourself the best chance of good oral health if you build a strong relationship with your dentist.

That can sometimes mean asking the right questions and helping them to assist you in the best way possible.

So you want to make sure you have a dentist who will first of all explain techniques that you should use to help prevent dental health problems. They should be willing to show you step-by-step what you need to do.

You should also choose a dentist who is willing to take time to answer your questions, especially when they are recommending a course of treatment.

If you don’t understand any part of what your dentist recommends, don’t be afraid to ask for more information.

You may want to ask if there are other options to the solution they recommend. For example:

– How do the options differ in cost?
– Which solution will last the longest?
– Do all the options solve the problem?

Ask the dentist which treatments are absolutely necessary, which are elective and Which are cosmetic.

Ask which procedures are urgently needed, and which ones are less urgent. Your dentist will help you prioritize between problems which need immediate attention and those that are less urgent.

Often, treatment can be planned over a period of time but make sure you understand any consequences of delaying treatment.

It’s naturally also important to make sure that you are given full information about fees and payment plans before treatment is scheduled.

Dental plaque – what it is and how to avoid it

You’ve probably heard people talking about plaque and maybe you’ve some idea of what it is.

But its useful to know a bit more about it so that you can do whats necessary to minimize the risks.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums.

When you’ve eaten a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. When this happens regularly, the enamel can weaken. This eventually leads to tooth decay.

The food we eat often causes plaque bacteria to produce acids. So, if you eat a lot of snacks, your teeth may be suffering acid attacks all day.

If you don’t remove the plaque through effective daily brushing and cleaning between the teeth, it can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

Another effect of plaque is that it also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red and tender or causing them to bleed easily.

If you want to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, make sure you have a balanced diet and avoid having too many snacks between meals.

When you feel like a snack, go for foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.