Posts for: March, 2013
Statistically speaking, Americans can expect to enjoy a longer life today than at any time in the past. A recent U.S. government interagency study indicated that our oldest citizens are also generally getting healthier and doing better economically. Yet, along with an increased lifespan comes the possibility that at some future time, you or a loved one may undergo treatment for cancer.
There's good news here too: According to the National Cancer Institute, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, both the rate of cancer incidence and the death rate from the disease have been steadily declining. It's true that cancer treatments may cause a variety of oral health problems. But did you know that there are some measures you can take to minimize the discomfort and possible complications from these lifesaving therapies?
Chemotherapy and radiation, two common treatments, work by attacking cancerous cells. However, they can affect normal cells too — including the cells lining the mouth, and the salivary glands. This sometimes results in mouth sores, a dry mouth, and an increased risk of developing dental diseases like tooth decay.
What should you do if you or someone you love needs cancer treatments? The best outcomes can be obtained by a dose of prevention when possible, and by taking a team approach to the treatment.
Oral side effects may be worse if the mouth isn't healthy prior to cancer treatment. So, if there's time, have necessary dental procedures done before treatment begins. During and after cancer therapy, dental surgery should be limited if possible. The first step is to get a complete dental examination, and to develop a treatment plan. It's vitally important to coordinate any dental treatments with an oncologist (cancer specialist).
There are also things a patient can do to help control unpleasant oral side effects. Removing the bacteria that cause tooth decay is more essential now than ever. In addition to thorough brushing, an antibacterial rinse or fluoride gel may be prescribed. To combat the symptoms of dry mouth, it's important to drink plenty of fluids. Chewing gum with Xylitol, or using a mouth rinse or a prescription medication may also be recommended.
It's essential for those having cancer treatment to understand and follow the recommendations of their dentist and doctor. These include taking steps to reduce the chance of complications, and recognizing the warning signs that may indicate a problem.
If you would like more information about cancer treatment and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment to discuss your treatment options. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Health During Cancer Treatment.”
If you have a dental implant, you have already discovered how lifelike and comfortable this type of tooth-replacement option can be. In fact, you may not even really be aware of your implant anymore; to you, it's simply a tooth like any other. Still, it's important to keep in mind a few things about implant care so the investment you have made in your smile will last as long as possible.
Once an implant is functioning properly in a person's mouth, the biggest enemy is infection — in particular a bacterial infection known as peri-implantitis (“peri” – around; implant “itis” – inflammation). This infection can cause the supporting bone around your implant to deteriorate, which will eventually cause loss of the implant. The good news is this infection is pretty easy to avoid.
Working as a team, you and our dental hygienist can make sure your mouth stays healthy and your implant retains its attachment to the bone for a lifetime. The key is to prevent biofilm (plaque) from building up in your mouth. Your job is to maintain a good oral hygiene routine at home with daily brushing and flossing, and to come in to our office regularly for professional cleanings. The hygienist's job is to remove any buildup of plaque and tartar (hardened deposits) beyond the reach of your brush and floss.
To do this, she will use special instruments that won't scratch the crown on top of the implant or the abutment (connector) between implant and crown. This is important because a scratched surface can harbor bacteria. The metal instruments used to clean natural teeth are not appropriate for the highly polished surfaces of the crown and abutment. Power instruments can be used on implants with nylon or plastic sheaths on the tip and lots of water irrigation to clean and flush debris.
In spite of these cleaning challenges, implants are highly successful and, in fact, the best option for replacing teeth today. Studies have shown the success rate of dental implants to be over 95% — far greater than any other tooth-replacement method.
While we have gained recognition for our role in creating gorgeous smiles with porcelain veneers, the often overlooked or unknown key contributors in this process are the dental laboratory technicians. These behind-the-scenes artists are the trained professionals in the art of using dental porcelain to hand-craft veneers and crowns into near exact replicas of natural teeth in shine, opacity, translucence and shape.
Through the use of precise molds and excellent communication skills, we share detailed information with the laboratory technician to create veneers or crowns specifically for enhancing and improving your smile. In fact, communication must be so exact that it often demands correct lighting, cameras and computers to produce optimal results. This process also requires a variety of colors, shapes and translucency, created so that once we cement them into place, they appear as beautiful natural teeth. If your veneers are part of a smile restoration or makeover and you are getting them for several front teeth, the end results are typically brighter and whiter than your natural teeth. However, they must blend with surrounding teeth if those teeth are not also receiving veneers. So it is often recommended to have your natural teeth whitened before the veneers are replaced.
Good dental porcelains in the right hands can make for spectacular tooth imitations by mimicking tooth enamel perfectly. And now that you have these facts, you begin to understand all of the expertise, artistry, and the technology required by laboratory technicians to produce the most dazzling porcelain veneers.
To learn more about porcelain veneers, continue reading the Dear Doctor article, “Smile Design Enhanced With Porcelain Veneers.” Or if you are ready to see what cosmetic dentistry can do for you, contact us to schedule a consultation.