Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tobacco, Cancer and Oral Health

By Doyle Williams

Tobacco is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States, and unfortunately, we see the dangers of it all too often in the dentistry field.  Despite the warnings, education and community outreach, tobacco use in the US has been steady, and is increasing globally.  The Institute of Medicine is holding a workshop next week in Washington DC with health leaders from around the country to examine the impact of policies and programs to reduce tobacco use and to promote collaboration among the cancer community and others to implement strategies to eliminate tobacco use.

Oral cancer is most commonly caused by tobacco use, so to see the health community come together to discuss this issue is a promising step.  Smokeless tobacco and cigarettes contain at least 28 cancer-causing chemicals, and can cause cancers of the mouth, lip, tongue, pancreas, and even voice box, esophagus, colon and bladder.  If you’re a tobacco user, be sure to inform your dentist, so they can perform a thorough exam to check for oral cancers. But the most important thing you can do is quit.

Even if you’re not a tobacco user, be sure to ask your dentist for an oral cancer screening- it can happen to anyone!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

How to Find the Right Dentist

By Dr. Doyle Williams

All too often we hear from patients that they haven’t been to the dentist in years because they weren’t able to find one they liked or trusted.

Finding the right dentist can be hard, but it’s a crucial step towards good oral health.

First, comfort plays an essential role in finding the right dentist. It’s important that a dentist makes you feel at ease so you can ask questions about your care and you trust the dentist to perform procedures.

This is especially important when looking for a pediatric dentist.  If children develop good dental habits when they’re young, they’re more likely to continue to practice good oral health later in life.

You will find dentists are either a DMD (Doctor of Dental Medicine) or DDS (Doctor of Dental Surgery). Both apply to general dentists and refer to the same training programs.

Convenience is also an important part of choosing the right dentist. If you choose a dentist who has office hours that are compatible with yours and whose location is convenient, it will be easier to make and keep appointments. For example, in Massachusetts, DentaQuest’s Oral Health Center, our model dental office, has extended hours and a staff of general dentists, pediatric dentists, periodontists, endodontists and orthodontists.

Choosing a dentist who will understand your dental benefits is also important. Check your dental benefits company’s website to find the right dentist for you in their network.

Dental diseases are almost 100% preventable; having a good dentist who is experienced in preventive care is important. If you work together with your dentist and make regular appointments, you can maintain excellent oral health.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Self-Healing Teeth

By Dr. Doyle Williams

There’s exciting news on the dental research front!  Scientists at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry have come up with a new dental filling that kills bacteria and regenerates teeth harmed by cavities.  The research team still has to finish conducting tests before the fillings are approved for general use, but this innovation sounds especially promising.

As you know from reading this blog, cavities are a bacterial infection. After your dentist drills out the infected area, there are always some residual bacteria hanging around in this non-sterile environment of the mouth. These bacteria can cause more cavities down the road (which is why dental care professionals are so adamant about having you brush and floss-- to keep your mouth as bacteria-free as is possible). The new fillings have an antibacterial ingredient that will kill the left-over bacteria. They also stimulate healing of the affected tooth which causes a new healthy layer of tooth beneath the filling. And since these new fillings are supposed to last longer than traditional fillings, they should help you keep your teeth healthier longer.

New developments like this work at the University of Maryland School of Dentistry are always exciting for us to see. They are making it possible for dental care professionals to find early decay and fix it before it progresses to become a bigger and more painful problem. Our DentaQuest Oral Health Center, is using this new scientific knowledge to help their patients to reduce the level of the decay-causing bacteria in their mouths. Instead of just placing fillings after decay has already progressed to a cavity, they use other measures, like changes in diet, fluoride varnish, healthy sugars like xylitol or protective sealants, to stop early decay, help the tooth heal without any drilling, and then make it more resistant to future decay.

DentaQuest is committed to this prevention-focused approach to better oral health.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Mothers- The Key to Good Health

By Dr. Doyle Williams

Dear Mom,

We at DentaQuest want to take a moment to recognize you for all you do for your family’s health-- and especially for oral health.  

Moms (and dads!) can be key to their children’s healthy hearts, healthy bones and healthy smiles.

Moms are often the gatekeeper to their family’s wellbeing -- making sure there are clean clothes and healthy meals. Scheduling and keeping track of all those appointments for the dentist, the doctor, and more.

There are studies that show that the choices a mother makes --from the beverages she drinks to the foods she buys and even where she keeps the family snacks -- may dramatically affect her family’s nutrition, long-term health, and risk for chronic disease.

Mom’s healthy habits are just as important for her children as they are for her.  When moms set the example for good oral health, her kids will have a good example to follow.

So, we’re extending a heartfelt thank you to all Moms because they insist that their children brush and floss twice a day-- even when they are tired and cranky, and because they drive the kids to dental appointments—even when they don’t want to go, and who are conscious about their own health, because its important to have healthy moms setting a good example for the whole family.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week

By Dr. Doyle Williams

Last week was Oral, Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week, organized by the Head and Neck Cancer Alliance.  Though we say it over and over, it can’t hurt to remind everyone again about the importance of getting screened for oral cancer.

The signs of possible oral cancer lesions in your mouth include both “raised” and “sunken” lesions, changes in coloration, hardening lesions and lesions that bleed easily. If you have any of these symptoms for more than two weeks, please see your dentist about them.

The survival rate for oral cancer is very good if it’s detected early, so don’t forget to ask your dentist for a screening at your next visit.