Highland Park Perio

Oral Cancer Self-Screening

Oral-Cancer-Self-ScreeningOral cancer has a bad reputation for being more deadly than some other forms of cancer that you hear of more commonly.  We are here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way.  Oral cancer goes unnoticed, not because it is difficult to see or feel, but because the idea of regular oral cancer screenings (either at home or in our office) is rather new.  It simply has not been on the public health radar until now. 

That is why we want to get the word out, and we need your help!  Examining the neck, throat and oral cavity is a relatively simple task when compared to other parts of the body such as internal organs.  Early diagnosis leads to better prognosis!

We recommend that once a month, you give yourself the following exam.  It should only take 2-3 minutes and could save your life, or the life of a loved one!

First, a word about the ever-changing mouth:  We know that many patients avoid self-exams because the mouth is one area of the body that has constant change going on.  For example, you may have a recent burn, bite or cold sore and probably don’t want to bother us every time you notice these things!  That is why we offer this rule of thumb:  any suspicious area that is not better after 14 days should be brought to our attention. 

How to perform an Oral Cancer Self Exam:

  1. Use a mirror and a bright light.
  2. Remove dentures.
  3. Look and feel lips and front of gums.  Grasp lips with your thumb and forefinger and feel for lumps.
  4. Tilt your head back and inspect the roof of your mouth
  5. Pull your cheek out to see the inside surface and gums in the rear.
  6. Pull out your tongue and look at all surfaces.
  7. Feel your neck and under the lower jaw for enlarged lymph nodes, swelling or lumps.

What are you looking for?

  1. White patches
  2. Red Patches
  3. Combination of red and white patches
  4. Sores
  5. Abnormal lumps or thickening
  6. Chronic sore throat/hoarseness
  7. Difficulty chewing/swallowing
  8. Masses or lumps in the neck

Five Foods for Healthy Teeth

food tips for healthy teethWe all know that foods high in sugar and acid are bad for teeth, but did you know that some foods are actually good for them?  Incorporating these dental friendly foods into your family meals can both fight tooth decay and prevent gum disease.  Here are five oral health friendly foods!

Almonds, Brazil Nuts, and Sesame Seeds.  These foods contain phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, zinc, and most importantly, calcium.  Dietary calcium is not only good for your bones, it may actually contribute to tooth remineralization and fight tooth decay.  Make sure to get the unhulled variety of sesame seeds, which are incredibly high in calcium.

Strawberries, Kiwi, and Citrus Fruits.  These fruits have the highest concentration of Vitamin C, which helps to increase collagen in gum tissue and prevents gum disease. 

Onions. Toss some raw onion on your salad or eat them on your hamburgers.  Onions contain powerful bacteria fighters because of their sulfer-containing compounds and are natural cavity fighters.  

Shitake Mushrooms.  Recent studies show a natural sugar found in shitakes, called lenithan, specifically targets the bacteria which causes gingivitis (gum inflammation) and tooth decay while leaving non-harmful bacteria alone. 

Apples and Celery.  Water rich fruits and vegetables stimulate saliva production, which rinses teeth of bacteria.  With their high fiber content, they act as natural tooth brushes, scrubbing your teeth as you chew, removing plaque and bacteria that may otherwise build up.

These simple everyday foods are great choices for snacks or to add to meals your family already enjoys.  Put onions or shitakes as toppings on your pizza.  Serve celery and apples with peanut butter and make a smoothie with your strawberries and kiwi.  Nuts can be eaten as a snack on their own or try them as nut butter spread on toast.  You can even throw nuts and sesame seeds in a stir fry for added texture and flavor as well as the nutritional benefit.

Green Tea.  Besides these five teeth healthy foods, you can even get a boost for your oral health by drinking this powerhouse liquid! Green tea contains “catechins” that actually fight inflammation and control bacterial infections.  One Japanese study found that regular green tea drinkers had less incidence of periodontal disease compared with people who drank the tea irregularly.  So try drinking green tea instead of that second cup of coffee or have a refreshing green iced-tea on a hot afternoon.

Besides brushing and flossing, what you eat can make a difference to your oral health.  It’s nice to know you can eat foods that taste good and be doing something good for your teeth at the same time.  Now that’s something we can all smile about!


Are You a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?

Are You a Good Candidate for Dental ImplantsIt’s estimated that 125 million Americans are missing at least one tooth.  If you are one of them, you may be considering dental implants for tooth replacement.  We think it’s important for you to know what factors make a person a good candidate for such a procedure.  Here are a few things to consider.

Most People Are Good Candidates.  Dental implants can replace one, several, or all of your teeth.  They can be used in place of bridges or dentures.  Good candidates have healthy gums and are old enough so that their jawbone has stopped growing.  You should also have enough bone to support and anchor the implants. Even if you have lost bone in your jaw, however, you may still be a good candidate for implants.  In fact, dental implants may be recommended to prevent further bone loss.  In these situations, bone can actually be rebuilt with grafting procedures as part of the implant process. 

Evaluation.  Successful implantation starts with a thorough evaluation of your jaw, teeth, mouth and overall health.  You will receive a mouth X-ray and possibly a Computed Tomography (CT) scan.  This will help us identify areas of bone loss and carefully see the shape of your sinuses and nerve location to make accurate assessments for your treatment.  We will also do a thorough medical evaluation, as your overall health and history plays a big role in how well your implant will heal and fuse to the bone. 

People At Risk of Poor Outcomes.  Uncontrolled diabetes, cancer, radiation to the jaws, smoking, alcoholism, or uncontrolled gum disease are all risk factors that can adversely affect your outcome.  You may still be a good candidate with one of these diseases, but we’ll want to thoroughly assess your situation and work with you and your doctor to increase your overall health and functioning.  People who take certain medications, such as steroids or drugs that suppress the immune system may not be suitable candidates, either.  And people with certain habits, such as people who severely grind or clench their teeth may put too much pressure on the implants, causing long term damage.

Overall, dental implants have a very high rate of success and patients tell us how happy they are with the outcome.  If you are considering implants, we can complete a careful examination  to determine what options are best suited for you.  Call us today to make that appointment!

Serving Patients with Special Needs

Serving-Patients-with-Special-Needs copyWe are committed to making care available for all patients who need it, regardless of special healthcare needs. Patients with special needs include the elderly, those with limited mobility, mentally disabled individuals, immuno-compromised people and those with mental illness. Specific diseases that can frequently hinder proper dental care include autism, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis and Down syndrome.

Often times, these individuals have higher rates or poor hygiene, which leads to greater incidence of gingivitis, periodontitis and dental caries. These conditions can sometimes require root canal therapy or other dental procedures to save the patient’s tooth. While treating a patient with special needs, we strive to ensure:

  • A friendly and comfortable environment
  • Sensitivity and compassion from team members
  • Predictable experiences at each appointment

Our team possesses the compassion and understanding that is imperative when caring for a special needs patient. Some cases involving severe disabilities may require specialized equipment and anesthesia. We realize that each individual with special needs is a unique case and will require different systems and skills to properly treat. We are confident we can provide competent care for the majority of patients who are labeled as special needs.

For patients who are specifically incapable of ideal hygiene, it is essential that the people in daily contact with them become involved in their oral healthcare requirements. If you are a caregiver for a patient with special needs, the best course of action to determine if we can offer treatment is to call our office with any questions and possibly reserve an appointment to tour our facilities. If more complex oral care is required, we will refer you to the appropriate specialist who also works with the special needs population.

Grow Your Own Bone? Bone Grafting is Routine.

GrowYourOwnBoneIt seems like something out of a science fiction movie, but with our help, you can easily re-grow bone to treat many common disorders in the mouth and make it dental-implant ready!  Bone grafting is a common procedure done right in our office. Here is a simple explanation of this effective treatment option.

Reasons for Bone Grafting.  There are many different reasons that a person loses bone support in the jaw.  Sometimes it is due to injury, sometimes it because of missing teeth, and other times it is a due to a developmental defect or periodontitis.  Bone graft surgery, also called regenerative surgery, is used to replace bone and soft tissue by actually stimulating the body’s natural ability to re-grow the lost tissue.   If your jawbone is inadequate to support dental implants, bone grafting can be used to build a sturdy foundation for implant-supported teeth.

It’s A Natural Process.  With bone grafting surgery, a piece of bone is removed from another area of your jaw or your body, often the hip, and is transplanted into your jawbone.  Sometimes we may use donor or synthetic graft material. Your body uses the implanted bone graft material as a frame on which it can grow new bone.  Over time and with your body’s own healing mechanisms, the grafted bone fuses and becomes an integrated part of your existing bone.  Bone grafting is a safe and very successful procedure that can be done in the office under local anesthesia.  After the procedure, you will be given antibiotics and pain medication if needed.  Swelling can be treated with ice packs applied to your face.  Most patients proceed with their normal life the next day.  Be sure to follow medication instructions and  keep your mouth as clean as possible while you heal.

Healing Times. Healing time following bone grafting depends on the amount of bone loss and the location of the graft area. Maintaining a healthy amount of bone tissue around your teeth is crucial to keeping up your oral health.  We are more than happy to explain different materials and techniques that can be used for an optimal outcome.

Bone grafting allows your body to rebuild itself.  It can be a great way to restore your natural jaw line and smile.  Let us help you decide if bone grafting is the right procedure for you!

Gingivitis vs Periodontitis

GingivitisvsPerioDid you know that gingivitis isn’t actually gum disease? Most are surprised to find out that gingivitis is actually the inflammation of your gums that if untreated will lead to periodontitis, otherwise known as gum disease. Rest assured, not all gingivitis progresses into gum disease, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take it seriously. Early on in the stages of gingivitis, plaque starts to build up that causes gums to become inflamed but at this stage no irreversible harm has been done. So what’s the story and how do you know if you have periodontitis?

When your teeth start to become affected after untreated gingivitis, that’s when you need to start worrying. Not brushing and flossing will cause gingivitis to progress to periodontitis. When the inner layer of gum and bone pull away from each other and form pockets, food and sugars get stuck and cause further infections that can lead to tooth loss. Preventing the disease is as simple as brushing and flossing! Plaque build up is the #1 cause of gum disease and tooth loss. 

The gums anchor teeth in and when periodontitis occurs, your gums have eroded to the point teeth actually become loose. This is a dangerous stage but there’s still hope!  We are able to measure the amount of exposed tooth in patients with periodontitis and are trained to clean deep pockets that have formed, allowing gums to heal.

Remember:  it all starts with plaque! Brushing and flossing keep gingivitis from occurring and reduce the chance of tooth loss in the long run. It’s easy to let gingivitis get out of control! Make sure to visit us regularly to ensure you’re not in the early stages of periodontitis.

Considering the Costs of Dental Implants

costs of Dental ImplantsWhen compared to the costs of other tooth replacement options, boy do dental implants seem expensive!  Yet you may be surprised to learn that, in the long run, dental implants can be more affordable than their traditional counterparts.  Understanding this procedure and the factors that determine the costs can help you decide if dental implants are a good investment for you!

What is a Dental Implant?  A dental implant is a permanent replacement for lost teeth. It is made of an artificial tooth firmly held in place by a tooth root made of titanium (which is biocompatible) that is surgically placed into your jaw.  Dental implants help stabilize the jaw and the bone around it to avoid future bone loss and maintain the shape of your jaw.  They never have to be removed and feel more natural and comfortable than dentures.  And unlike bridges or crowns, which are cemented in, the chances of slippage or shifting are eliminated.  With implants, talking and eating become worry free.

Steps In a Dental Implant Procedure.  We will first use extensive imaging to determine bone health, height, and thickness to assess your bone and teeth structure carefully. The surgery itself is done in our office in separate stages.  First, the implant is surgically placed into your jawbone, completely hidden within your gum tissue.  Once the implant has integrated into your bone, a healing process of about 4 to 6 months, the next stage is the placement of the abutment, or the post that penetrates the gum and will connect the replacement tooth to the implant.  The final stage involves attaching your artificial tooth (made from impressions of your natural tooth) to the abutment.  If more than one tooth is being replaced, a removable bridge is used, as it is more affordable than implanting each tooth separately. For a bridge, it takes only one implant on either side to span an area holding several teeth.  The bridge snaps into place for a more permanent and natural fit than dentures.

Factors That Affect the Cost.  While dental implant surgery is a safe and routine option, it is a complex procedure that takes time and expertise to be done effectively.  There are many factors that will influence the final costs including what X-ray and CT scans are necessary to evaluate and assess the implant area and the brand and material of the post, abutment and artificial teeth.  However, the biggest cost factor is the complexity of the surgery itself.  For example, how many teeth are we replacing and what is the location? Will additional procedures, such as bone grafting or sinus elevation be required?  We do our best to make sure that your estimate includes all of the possible costs of each of the steps of your procedure.

While dental implants may seem expensive, they are often more affordable in the long run than traditional restoration methods such as crowns and bridges, which are more vulnerable to damage and usually require repairs or replacement every few years.

Dental implants are known to have a 95% success rate when completed by professionals with the right experience and training, such as us!  Because dental implants offer a permanent solution, are natural and comfortable, and require little maintenance, they are a cost effective choice for most of our patients.

The Many Faces of Tooth Pain

The Many Faces of Tooth PainMany people think that a painful tooth means they need a root canal treatment.  While that is sometimes true, it’s not always the case.  In fact, there are many other reasons that teeth can hurt!

Here, we offer a guide to some common types of tooth pain and what that pain may be trying to tell you:

Sensitivity to hot and cold foods:

If the pain is short-lived, you probably do not have a serious problem, but more likely a loose filling or a small amount of gum recession that has resulted in root surface exposure. Use sensitive teeth toothpaste and a soft brush with an up and down motion.  If this doesn’t help after a week or so, give us a call.

Heat sensitivity after an appointment:

Some types of dental work can inflame the pulp inside your teeth, causing sensitivity for several weeks. If it lasts longer than that, let us know.

Sharp pain when biting:

Sometimes sharp pain can be caused by a loose filling, other times it may signal that there is a crack in your tooth.  Either of these scenarios requires evaluation by a professional, so please give us a call.

Pain/Sensitivity lasting longer than 30 seconds:

Often this means that the pulp (innermost part of your tooth) has been damaged.  Without intervention, you may lose this tooth so it is important to call us to find out if you may need root canal treatment.

Frequent, dull aching in the jaw.

This can happen when excessive grinding of the teeth happens (bruxism), or it could even be a sign of a sinus headache or infection.  Please call us for more information.

Severe pain, pressure or swelling of the gums:

This may mean that you have an abscessed, infected tooth that may have spread to other tissues in the mouth.  This is a serious situation that requires an immediate call to our office for instructions.   

Is Periodontal Disease Contagious? And Other Questions…

In our practice, we hear many great questions about periodontal disease and gums in general.  So, to help educate our patients better, we have compiled a list of the most frequently asked questions for you here:

Q:  Is periodontal disease contagious?

A:  Yes and no.  The disease, which is an inflammatory response to bacteria under the gums, itself is not contagious.  However, that bacteria can be spread through saliva, which could in turn cause periodontal disease in another person.  To be safe, don’t share utensils or toothbrushes in your house.

Q:  Can children get periodontal disease?

A:  No.  Periodontal disease has only very rarely been found in children and adolescents.  However, it’s never too soon to adopt good healthy gum habits!  Teach your kids to brush twice and floss once every day.

Q:  Do I need antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria?

A:  Possibly.  A number of factors go into our determination about whether a patient needs topical antibiotic treatment after a periodontal cleaning.  If you do need it, it will be applied under the gums during treatment.

Q:  Are diabetes and periodontal disease related?

A:  Yes, periodontal disease is a common complication of diabetes, most likely because diabetes makes a person more prone to infection.  New evidence also shows that good perio health may have a positive effect on blood sugar levels as well!

Q:  What about heart disease?

A:  This is less clear, however several studies have shown that gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease as well.

As always, we are here to help.  If you have additional questions that don’t appear on this list, give us a call!

The Science Behind Oral Cancer

The-Science-Behind-Oral-CancerCan drinking coffee really help prevent oral cancer? What about different types of foods? Numerous studies have been published that claim certain foods and drinks can prevent oral cancer but when it comes to a disease that will affect 43,250 people this year, it’s important to get the facts.

Oral cancer, also referred to as mouth or head and neck cancer, occurs when there is a problem with the lifecycle of a normal, healthy cell. Cells are supposed to grow and divide into new cells as your body needs them but when this process goes wrong, your body over produces cells. These extra cells can cause a tumor to form.  Depending on the type of cells in the tumor, it could be cancerous or benign.

Some studies may say they have proof that a specific food or drink helps to prevent mouth cancer but in reality the best way to prevent the disease is to avoid certain risk factors like smoking and drinking. Drinking in excess accompanied by smoking makes you highly susceptible to the disease and should be avoided.

Most oral cancers start in the tongue in what are called the flat cells and they can spread to other parts of the body if they aren’t caught early (in doctor lingo, cancer of these flat cells is called squamous cell carcinoma). Interestingly, when these oral cancer cells spread to other parts of the body such as the lungs, they are still considered oral cancer cells rather than lung cancer cells. Where these abnormal cancer cells begin is what they will always be referred to as, regardless of where they spread.

Doctors still don’t know why one person gets oral cancer while another person does not, but it is important to note that oral cancer is NOT contagious. Avoiding risk factors and eating healthy is key to preventing oral cancer. Make sure to visit us regularly so we can check for signs of oral cancer!