October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. While you may see many people sporting pink bracelets, clothes, or even hairstyles, we have chosen to raise awareness by writing about the connection between oral health and breast cancer.
More than 200,000 women are in the U.S. are diagnosed with breast cancer every year. With a breast cancer diagnosis comes a great amount of health challenges, including issues with oral health. Many breast cancer patients are at risk for dental caries, pain, and xerostomia. These conditions can seriously affect oral health.
Xerostomia is a form of dry mouth that can cause serious decay to teeth. We all need saliva in our mouth because it helps to wash away bacteria that will become acid and erode enamel. Suffering from dry mouth allows the bacteria, acid, and plaque on teeth to cause decay much more quickly and severely. This makes it much easier for cavities to form.
Chemotherapy is the main cause for most oral health issues during cancer treatment. The drugs used during chemotherapy can affect oral health negatively and require additional care from your dental team. Ask your dentist about the best practices for your teeth during treatment. They will know the best ways to prevent decay and further damage in your mouth.
A recent BBC article unveils the dangers of teeth whitening when a dental professional does not perform it. Unless you have purchased an over-the-counter whitening system, or one from a licensed dentist, it is not recommended to receive teeth whitening from anyone that is not a dentist.
According to the article, multiple beauty salons in England offer whitening services as a response to the high numbers of people who want the cosmetic service. However, customers who opt to go to the beauty salon for whitening instead of the dental office are in serious danger. A dental professional takes a detailed history of the patient and has studied the ins and outs of teeth, oral health, and whitening for years; your beauty salon does none of this.
You are putting yourself and your teeth at danger if you seek whitening outside of the dental office. If the whitening tray is not positioned appropriately then it is possible to get chemical burns, or even violently ill if you were to accidentally swallow some of the bleaching product.
In the UK it is even illegal for anyone who is not a dentist to offer a teeth-whitening service. So why you might be wondering are over-the-counter whitening kits allowed? This is simply because these kits have much lower levels of hydrogen peroxide than what is administered chair side. This makes it safe to use.
It is important to remember to see a dental professional if you want your teeth whitened. Otherwise, you can run the risk of harming your teeth and yourself by skipping the dental office and heading to the salon.
Did you know that your smile can help change your entire outlook on life in the middle of a rotten day? Did you know that your smile can change another person’s mood? Did you know that your smile speaks volumes about you? Science is now starting to prove some of these claims, and to measure the intensity and genuineness of a person’s smile and how that can determine whether or not they will be divorced or live a long life.
A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
A recent study looked at college students’ Facebook photos, which were evaluated based on their smile intensity, and found that “women tended to smile more than men and with more intensity…smile intensity was correlated with the self-reported life satisfaction … and … smile intensity was a good predictor of changes in life satisfaction" over the course of the three-and-a-half year study.
Other studies have shown that if people are forced to smile, they feel happier.
We are not suggesting that anyone be forced to smile, but here's the scoop on the research...
This happens, researchers speculate, for several reasons. Swedish researchers found that people subconsciously change their facial features to mimic the emotions they’re seeing. So, for example, if you smile at a person, they will smile back, even though they may not consciously decide to do so. This is called “mimicry” and it explains the phrase “when you smile the world smiles with you”. Further study shows that this apparent reflexive response releases serotonin, dopamine and other mood boosting hormones relieving stress, depression, and even lowering blood pressure and boosting the immune system.
Imagine what would happen in Massachusetts if we all smiled a little more!!
Tips on Maintaining a Healthy Smile
Obviously, maintaining a healthy smile is the key to making all these things happen. A healthy smile also prevents harmful bacteria from entering your bloodstream and lungs and contributing to the effects of cardiovascular disease according to the Journal of Periodontology.
A person’s smile can be compromised by many things - tooth decay, periodontal disease, receding gums, and tooth loss (edentulism). Tooth decay can cause black spots on the teeth and may require treatment with fillings. Periodontal disease (periodontitis) or gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. Left untreated, it affects the gum and underlying bone’s ability to hold on to teeth or keep them stable while chewing, resulting in receding gums and lost teeth. Studies have shown that people who are on a low income or the elderly have higher incidents of all these conditions. But “young people” can suffer from these conditions as well, and given how much emphasis our society puts on “looking great”, having a healthy smile is certainly one of the keys to healthy and happy life. It’s so important to take care of it.
3 Simple Steps To A Healthier Smile
1) First, the Wellesley Dental Arts recommend good oral hygiene practices – brushing AND flossing. Many people forget about flossing or think it’s not as important as brushing, but it is extremely important as it removes plaque and food from between teeth and stimulates gums and keeps them healthy. If you’re not sure how to use it properly, or want to be sure your brushing technique is effective, please talk to your Wellesley Dental Arts dentist.
2) Second, you need to plan for regular dental checkups with your Wellesley dentist. These appointments are for more than just a cleaning. Your dentist and dental hygienist examines your mouth for signs of cancer and/or vitamin deficiency, as well as other illnesses or medication side effects that can affect the health your teeth and gums. Many people have dental phobias or think that they don’t feel any pain or symptoms so there isn’t anything wrong. For this reason they put off going to see a dentist. Many dental conditions can happen without you knowing it, but can show up on an X-ray. Your Wellesley dentist is the first line of defense in keeping your healthy smile healthy on the inside and outside.
3) Third, don’t put off dental treatments if needed. In the end, this can end up costing patients a lot more in terms of money in the long-run because they will require more extensive treatment to take care of a more involved dental issue. If your dentist reveals that you need treatment, make it a priority to have it taken care of as soon as possible. It is easier to take care of a smaller, less expensive treatment now, than to have to pay for more extensive and expensive treatment plan later. The Wellesley Dental Arts multi-disciplinary practice have a variety of skilled dental practitioners to help you with your individual dental needs.
A person’s mouth works most efficiently and effectively when every part—teeth, gums, muscles, ligaments, joints, bone—work together properly. When something is not quite right with any one of those parts, over time other bodily functions can be affected. The main purpose of the mouth and its structures is to chew food—break down the food into digestible pieces. Many people spend a good portion of their lives trying to make sure that their chewing function is as it should be. Such things as missing or cracked teeth, sore or clicking jaws, or teeth that don’t fit properly together can affect how and what a person eats, and how the body processes what he or she does eat.
Missing Teeth a Major Matter
Missing teeth can affect a lot more than people realize. Missing teeth can affect esthetics for certain, impacting not only peoples’ first impressions of you, but also your self-esteem because you realize your smile is not perfect.
Not replacing missing teeth can ultimately result in dietary issues—people may avoid certain foods because they can’t chew them, missing out on nutrients that the body needs to stay healthy, and because food isn’t broken down as much as the body needs, the digestive system has to work harder to process the food and a person may experience more bouts of indigestion, acid reflux, stomach upset, and other gastric-related issues.
Missing teeth also mean that chewing forces aren’t as evenly distributed as nature intended. For example, if a person is missing molars, chewing may be done by incisors, which biologically were never designed to do that. This all affects the development and health of the mouth structures. Jaw joints, muscles and ligaments can become tight or stretched and painful, and the bones under the gum can deteriorate and may not be able to support restorations if left too long.
What to do about Missing Teeth?
There are generally three methods for replacing missing teeth, each one depending on a person’s budget and needs.
Crown, bridge or partial denture – These are usually used for replacing one, two, or three teeth or short spans of space in the mouth. The crowns needed to fill in the spaces, are usually suspended from existing teeth. The supporting teeth are usually ground down, root canaled, and then clasps or bars secured to them to which the crown, bridge or partial denture will clip. A “fixed removable bridge” or denture is one option where the denture is secure during function, but easily removable for cleaning.
Full denture – This is usually reserved for those patients who are missing all of their teeth in either (sometimes both) arch. This is usually acrylic with porcelain crowns and sits on the gum. With today’s modern cosmetic and prosthetic dentistry technology, full dentures are much more natural looking than in the past.
Implant-based restoration – To avoid grinding down and structurally compromising adjacent teeth, and/or the deterioration of underlying bone from chewing forces being applied directly on top as opposed to inside and through, implant-based restorations are becoming the treatment of choice for many patients. They are long-lasting, once successfully integrated, and act and look more like natural teeth.
Each treatment plan is decided through consultation with a dental professional and depends on a person’s individual financial and biological circumstances. You owe it to yourself to get all the facts about what your dentist can do for you.
Don’t judge a book by its cover is a common phrase usually associated with judging situations or people by looking at them. No news is good news is another adage that many people live by. Unfortunately in dentistry, these statements have proven incorrect and ultimately costly in many cases.
Dental problems such as tooth decay or root deterioration are not always obvious. Just looking at a tooth in the mirror every time you brush will not show if there are problems inside or around it. Assuming that your oral hygiene is fine or you don’t need a dentist or routine dental cleanings because your teeth don’t hurt does not mean there isn’t anything wrong with your teeth or mouth. Many issues cannot be felt and yet are discovered upon the taking of X-rays or by examining the areas around and in between with dental instruments.
Dentistry’s main goal is preventive care…maintaining optimal oral conditions to keep problems from forming. Its secondary goal is to find and treat problems before they become too painful or destroy teeth or gum or bone. Ensuring that you maintain good oral hygiene habits including regular cleanings with a hygienist and check-ups with a dentist is a lot less costly financially and personally than waiting for problems to painfully appear and dealing with them then. For many patients, there is no prior warning of anything wrong with their mouth or teeth before the onset of pain, but a simple matter of good oral hygiene and regular dental appointments would have caught the issue a lot sooner, saving the patient a lot of pain and expensive restorations.
Having a dental problem is not always obvious. Some people may not experience any discomfort or pain at all, some may not experience it until the issue is really advanced, and others know something’s wrong from the very early stages. This is one of the reasons it is so imperative to schedule regular dental checkups; to catch any potential dental issues at the earliest stages to reduce the chances of pain or complications and costs associated with treatment. Your dentist will always be happy to talk with you about any questions you may have about something new or different happening in your mouth. Although there may not be any severe pain, below is a list of symptoms that should prompt you to consult with a dentist for evaluation. There may not be a problem, but, if there is, treatment can be initiated as soon as possible, avoiding complications and giving you peace of mind.
Pain – This is the most obvious indication that there is a problem in your mouth. But it may not be always be associated with your teeth. Keep track of where the pain starts and whether it “spiders” or radiates from a certain spot in your mouth. Is it actually in a tooth? What happens to create the pain (biting or chewing, exposure to hot or cold)? If you have pain in either of your jaw joints note what happens to your level of pain when you’re chewing or resting. Also try to determine whether the pain is related to the joint (ball and socket) itself, or the muscles around it. Obviously, if you experience any severe pain call your dentist immediately. Mild or moderate pain that does not go away on its own within a day or two also requires a timely call and visit to the dentist to find out what is going on and fix the problem.
Red and bleeding gums – Red and bleeding gums are one of the first indications of gum disease and can be easily remedied with the establishment of a more stringent oral hygiene regimen, including flossing which is often neglected. Obviously if these symptoms do not improve you need to see a dentist, or schedule more frequent dental hygiene visits. Often a new prescription medication will cause the mouth to be dry and require more frequent cleanings, as the plaque builds up faster.
Decreased range of motion – This is of particular importance in issues related to the jaw joint, or TMJ, especially if there has been some kind of trauma to the jaw area. Sometimes a person is unable to open their jaw as wide as normal. This is usually because the ligaments, muscles and joint have been stretched or damaged. Sometimes the bone is broken. Decreased range of motion can also occur when wisdom teeth that are trapped below the gumline, infected or impacted. Your dentist should be consulted immediately if your mouth doesn’t open as usual. Again, a timely consultation can avert disaster by beginning treatment early, avoiding complications and providing peace of mind.
Loose teeth – Loose teeth are often the results of poor oral hygiene which can cause red and bleeding gums and lead to severe periodontal disease. This infection in the gums causes the bone around the teeth to melt away, essentially reducing contact with the teeth. Teeth can then become loose and be lost as the anchor of bone is eliminated. Loose teeth are not necessarily painful, but they are a major sign that things aren’t right and, if treatment isn’t sought soon, can result in even bigger restorative issues and treatment costs. The health of the whole body is poorly impacted by the bacteria associated with periodontal disease. Recent medical research has shown that the cleaner your mouth is, the healthier your body is.
These are just some of the more commonly experience dental problems that don’t necessarily start with an X-ray or dental examination and may, in fact, happen in between dental appointments without warning. Your dentist will always be happy to evaluate your issues and discuss options with you, so please call if you have any concerns!