The Impact of Oral Cancer Screening

It has been beaten into your brain, you have heard it so many times you could scream... The American Dental Association recommends you see your dentist twice a year for regular cleanings and check-ups. One of the reasons it is recommended to have regular check up's for your mouth, much like for the rest of your body, is to screen for any abnormalities. The impact of oral cancer screening is just as vital as screening for cancers anywhere else. According to The American Dental Association, 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral and throat cancers this year. The 5-year survival rate of those diagnosed is only slightly more than 64% therefore, when cancer is detected and treated early, treatment-related health problems are reduced. Oral Cancer can range from your lips all the way to back of your throat and everywhere in between. Look inside your mouth and think about all that surface area. As your dentist, I make it a point to look for any signs or symptoms of anything abnormal in your mouth, this does not just include decay in or on your teeth. I am looking for any redness, lumps, lesions and your bite. When I ask you questions about how your mouth is feeling, I am wanting to know if you are having any soreness, tenderness, and swelling. What you may think something that is not that big of a deal, it may be. When I am asking about your family history - though it may seem strange that I am a dentist, as you know, having an idea of what the family's history of illness is can be an indicator in your own body.

 

I encourage that if between your regular visits to your dentist's office you notice anything that seems off, do not hesitate to give your doctor a call. I am sure he/she will be more than happy to schedule an appointment even just to put your mind at ease. Keep in mind there are many things that can stick out to indicate something may be abnormal. According to The American Dental Association, the symptoms of mouth or throat can include:

 

  • A sore or irritation that does not go away
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness or numbness in mouth or lips
  • A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving your tongue or jaw
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

 

Patients over the age of 40 tend to be more at risk of these factors, it has however been found in patients younger than that. Contributing factors can include tobacco/nicotine users of all kinds, HPV has even been associated with certain types of oral cancer. Keeping your mouth healthy with brushing, flossing, fluoride use, regular dental visits, a good diet, and keeping your mouth moist will not only assist in presentation of tooth decay but oral cancers as well.

 

For more information about oral cancers please visit http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oral-cancer or http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/facts/

Oil Pulling

Oil pulling is the practice of swishing oil (coconut, sesame, or sunflower oil is recommended) for 20 minutes each day. The benefits are said to help prevent gingivitis and plaque buildup - some also say it can help prevent cavities among other health benefits. It is really difficult for someone in my profession to try a different oral health technique to really get a grasp on the dental benefits of it. I say this because anyone in the dentistry profession has a tendency to get regular cleanings and check up's and often times more than every six months. As the "oil pulling" trend is becoming more popular, patients are asking me how I feel about it - so I did it. My oil pulling experience was interesting. Swishing coconut oil for a solid 20 minutes each day was trying on me, my jaw got tired and it seemed like 20 minutes lasted a lifetime. I did read that there are other, shorter methods to do this - but I wanted to try it as authentically as possible.

I did notice right away that my breath felt like it was fresher. I am not able to attest whether it was the refreshing coconut oil or if it really genuinely cleaned bacteria and plaque off of my gums and teeth. After a few days of this painstaking task, I did notice less tissue breakage when I flossed meaning my gums were a little healthier. I will have to have one of my hygienists tell me how well I did at my next hygiene cleaning where they can check under the gum line and take my periodontal readings. All in all, I can see how oil pulling has some benefits. I would not recommend oil pulling as a substitute for regular hygiene appointments and dental check up's and I certainly do not suggest skipping brushing or flossing regularly either, but as an addition to your current healthy dental hygiene habits, I say go for it. Let me know if you have tried it and how you feel about it.

Understanding Dental Insurance

Now that the end of the year is approaching a lot of you are going through plan after plan your employer has selected for your medical, dental and vision plans. I hope this will help in understanding dental insurance better and will assist in helping you choose the correct plan for you. One of the largest misconceptions about dental insurance is that it works hand in hand with your medical insurance - it does not. Dental insurance is a completely different animal. The way I can best describe it to a patient is to think of it strictly as a discount - no more, no less. Dental coverage is decided by how much your employer pays into the plan, it has nothing to do with what your dentist would recognize as the best possible treatment. It is a contract between your employer and the insurance company and they are deciding what amounts your plan pays and what is covered. You as an employee have every right to let your employer know if your coverage is not adequate for your health needs.

So many of my patients will tend to select the treatment option that is covered by their dental insurance and not what is recommended. I feel I must point out that your health is the most important thing. As many of you know I tend to recommend to my patients what I would to my own mother or father to keep their mouths healthy; it is not my practice to overextend your wallets. Many dental offices, including mine, try to help take all the guess work out of dental insurance. We will call and get full breakdowns from each company to get an overview of what is covered and what is not. We will file all of your claims so you do not have to mess with the paperwork and follow up ultimately saving you a lot of time and money. Dental insurance is just one part of staying healthy. If you ever have any questions on how your insurance works - we will be more than happy to take the time to explain all of the ins and outs. We will help you understand what your insurance will cover and how to plan accordingly. Remember, the least expensive option is not always the best option. This goes for dental, medical or vision. Understand your insurance; it will make your life a lot easier when it comes to deciding what is best for you.

What we expose ourselves to

These days we can never be too careful with our bodies and what we expose ourselves to. More often than not I have patients who will decline dental X-rays because of the myth of how much radiation they actually produce. It is not my practice, nor any member of my staff to unnecessarily expose patients to radiation. The recommended amount of X-rays truly depends on your age, oral and physical health, and your risk for disease, thus the reason a health history update is asked for at each visit to the office. For instance, children require dental X-rays more often than adults as their mouths continue to grow and develop and their mouths are more susceptible to tooth decay. Even though adult's mouths stop developing at a certain point that does not mean that the mouth stops changing. X-rays are important for adults as well to monitor new decay and any wear and tear that comes with (gasp) age, eating habits, previous dental work or trauma.

Dental X-Rays are safe, but they do require very low levels of radiation exposure. There are certain types of images in very specific instances that do emit a much high dose of radiation, but Cone Beam images are rare and if your dentist or doctor suggests one, it would be for a very good reason. The lead jackets provided protects your vital organs and your thyroid from the low levels of radiation delivered though routine dental X-rays. The background radiation of a set of dental X-rays is 1 day. Background radiation is natural radiation that we are all exposed to on a daily basis and can be found in soil, rocks, buildings, the sun, air and water. The radiation you are exposed to on a 4 hour passenger airline flight is the same as 1 set of dental X-rays. For this and more information about dental x-rays please visit http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/x/x-rays