Posts for: August, 2014
The most important thing you can do for your dental health is to develop a daily habit of removing plaque, the bacterial film that builds up on your teeth and the leading cause of tooth decay and gum disease. You know you need to do better — but as with other daily habits that require discipline, it can be a challenge.
One way to make it easier is to develop a plan — a step-by-step process you can use to keep your hygiene habits on track. Here’s a suggested template for such a plan.
Step 1: Partner with us for hygiene training. As with other habits, going at it alone can be daunting. As your dental office, we have the knowledge and experience to advise you on the right toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and other products to use, and to train you on the best techniques for brushing and flossing.
Step 2: Develop an evaluation system. It helps to know if your hygiene efforts are effective. You can evaluate for yourself how well you’re doing by running your tongue across your teeth (does it feel smooth?), rubbing floss against the sides of your teeth (does it make a squeaky sound?), or looking for signs of bleeding or bad odor. We can also perform tests, such as using disclosing solution dyes to reveal plaque or regular dental exams to identify any indications of disease or decay.
Step 3: Maintain the change in your behavior. The biggest obstacle for sticking with a new habit is discouragement — if you don’t eventually see progress you can easily give up. Our regular interaction with you and your own evaluations will provide valuable insight as to how you’re progressing. These tangible indications build confidence and help you cement your new habit into place.
Every new habit starts with a burst of enthusiasm. To become permanent, however, it must continue on once the “newness” wears off. By developing a plan like the one described above, you’ll be more apt to continue practicing your new hygiene habit until it becomes a permanent part of your daily life. The dividends can be healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime.
If you would like more information on an oral hygiene plan, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Hygiene Behavior.”
After her husband, producer Bruce Paltrow, succumbed to oral cancer in 2002, actress Blythe Danner made it her mission to help save other families from the heartache she and her children (Jake and Gwyneth Paltrow) suffered with his loss. Now active with the Oral Cancer Foundation, Blythe uses her fame to bring awareness to the disease, which she says she and her family knew very little about before Bruce received his diagnosis.
In an interview with People magazine, Blythe said she believes her husband's cancer could have been detected earlier if the family had been alert to the symptoms.
“For months I had noticed Bruce's voice was hoarse,” she said. “I started asking him to see a doctor. But he kept saying, ‘No, no, no, I'm fine.’ ”
When a lump became visible in his neck, he did go to the doctor and found he had a tumor in his throat. The cancer eventually spread to his lymph nodes. Compounding Blythe's sadness is the feeling that she might have been able to do something to prevent her husband's death.
“I feel tremendously guilty,” she told the magazine, noting that she wishes she had simply insisted her husband get himself checked out. “Education and early detection are so important,” she said of her campaign to raise awareness. “That's why I'm doing this.”
Though Bruce Paltrow was a smoker, it's important to note that young, non-smokers comprise the fastest-growing segment of the population being diagnosed with the disease. That's because a sexually transmitted virus known as HPV16 is now a major cause of oral cancer.
Oral cancer screenings are yet another good reason to make regular semi-annual visits to the dentist. We have the training to notice oral abnormalities, and to monitor and/or biopsy any suspicious lesions. At your oral cancer screening, we will feel your neck for lumps and inspect your lips and all inside surfaces of the mouth, including the back of your throat.
Of course, if you or a loved one experience persistent hoarseness, white or red patches or other changes in your mouth or tongue that don't go away in a few weeks, please don't hesitate to come in and see us.
We’ve all heard about potentially negative health effects from the sugar that’s added to many of our favorite foods. So these days, lots of us are trying to cut down on our consumption of sugar — not only to lose weight, but also to help prevent maladies like diabetes and heart disease. We can’t help noticing those pastel-colored packets — pink, yellow and blue — on the rack of our favorite coffee shop. But now we’re wondering: Are those sugar substitutes a good alternative to natural sugar? And which one should we choose?
Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades. Six different types (including the ones in the colorful packets) are currently approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration; a couple of older ones (notably cyclamates) have been banned for many years. In addition to those zero-calorie sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners called sugar alcohols (for example, mannitol and xylitol) are often used as food ingredients. So what’s the difference between them — and which one is best?
That’s not so easy to answer. If you have a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame (the blue packet), because your body can’t process the substance. Otherwise, the choice may come down to a matter of taste. Even though they are FDA-approved, some controversy (both fact-based and far-fetched) remains about the long-term safety of sugar substitutes, and their usefulness in preventing obesity and other diseases.
Yet it’s clear that for some people, the consequences of consuming too much sugar could be much worse. So if you’re at risk for diabetes or certain other diseases, sugar substitutes can be an important tool in maintaining a healthier diet. They also have another health benefit: sugar substitutes don’t cause cavities. Further, some sugar alcohols (xylitol in particular) have the property of stimulating saliva flow, and have been shown to actually impede the formation of cavities. Oral health is an important (if sometimes overlooked) component of your general well-being, and several studies have pointed to a link between oral and systemic diseases — for example, diabetes and heart disease.
As with so many aspects of our health, there seems to be no “magic bullet” to cure all our diet-related problems. But used in moderation, artificial sweeteners can be a valuable part of the effort to improve our overall health and well-being. For more information on this topic, see the Dear Doctor article “Artificial Sweeteners.”