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Oral Cancer is Not Rare

The most commonly held myth about oral health might be that oral cancer is rare. The truth is that oral cancer is common.

According to the American Cancer Society, nearly 50,000 Americans were diagnosed with oral/oropharyngeal cancer last year. Worldwide, the problem is exponentially greater. Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of oral cancer and accounts for roughly 90 percent of all cancers of the head and neck. Of those diagnosed, only half will be maxillofacial cancer - paid - Depositphotos 13282076 m-2015alive in five years.

Oral cancers related to the HPV virus continue to increase, but these cancers are more receptive to treatment protocols. It is frustrating that we do not have the same kind of success with prevention and diagnosis that we have achieved with other types of oral cancer. The treatment of oral cancer is especially brutal, often leaving scars that will remain for the rest of a patient’s life.

Consider, if you will, these statistics about oral cancer:

  • There are 240 billion people over the age of 16 in the US.
  • In 2017, 49,670 new cases of oral/oropharyngeal cancer were diagnosed.
  • One in every 4,831 people will be diagnosed every year with oral/oropharyngeal cancer.

HPV related cancers are difficult to diagnose because of the challenges in visual and tactile examination. HPV appears most often in the lymphoid tissues (tonsillar areas, posterior base of the tongue, and the oropharyngeal area. Thus, a critical part of diagnosis relies upon patient interviews.

The most common symptoms of HPV-related cancers are:

  • A sore or ulcer that does not heal within 14 days.
  • Red, white, or black discoloration of soft tissues in the mouth.
  • An abnormality that bleeds easily when touched.
  • A lump or hard spot in the tissue – usually on the border of the tongue.
  • Tissue that protrudes higher than the surrounding tissue.
  • A sore under a denture that does not heal after adjustment of the denture.
  • A developing lump or thickening in the mouth.
  • A painless fixated lump that is firm on the outside of the neck that has persisted for at least 2 weeks.

In some cases, less common symptoms will be present:

  • Sore throat or hoarseness that does not resolve within a few weeks.
  • Constant coughing that does not stop after some days.
  • Difficulty swallowing, with the feeling that food is unable to pass through the throat.
  • Ear ache on one side that lasts for more than 14 days.

No cancer or pre-cancerous condition should be ignored. Nor should you delay in seeing your dentist. Dentists and hygienists check for signs of cancer when you are in our office. You should also be aware of these symptoms and notify your dentist immediately if you identify any of them. Together, we have a greater opportunity to catch these cancers earlier and to prevent further development.

 
Home Ownership and Dental Health

What does home ownership have to do with visits to the dentist? According to a new preliminary study, it may be a key indicator of dental health.

Experts have been discussing for more than a year why some people do or do not visit a dentist at least once each money-house-on-white-background -storyblocks -   rYxfcT6Niyear. A large number of studies have demonstrated the vital connection between oral health and general health. Previous studies have determined that cost is the primary barrier to dental care among U.S. adults. (The next two barriers are: insurance didn’t cover procedures and too busy.) Studies have examined the role of various socioeconomic factors in the decisions of adults to see their dentist.

The new study examined “wealth” and income as correlates of dental health. Researchers defined wealth status in terms of home ownership and income of more than $2,900 per month (poverty income ratio). Based upon this definition, participants were divided into four groups: high wealth and high income, high wealth and low income, low wealth and low income, and low wealth and high income. Members of each group were asked if they saw a dentist during the last 12 months.

The findings indicated a correlation between high wealth and income and good dental health. This is not surprising to most of us because cost is less likely to be a barrier to dental care. Yet many other factors come into play in the analyses: age, race, education, ethnicity, marital status, employment, etc. The definition of wealth is difficult to ascertain and needs further refinement. Home ownership alone may not be an adequate definition of wealth, for example.

This is the first study conducted that utilizes wealth and income as differentiators. It has opened the door for further study of the role of other factors with wealth and income in the future. It is important because it can provide insight and guidance to policymakers who are being asked to find solutions and programs to assist citizens to obtain dental care.

It is encouraging to see new approaches to the demographic data. We hope that these studies offer reliable and useful insights for those tasked with helping all citizens obtain quality dental care.

 
Tracking What Goes into Your Mouth

Scientists have developed a new type of sensor that can reside in your mouth and monitor the food you eat and the beverages you drink. Ready or not, the technology is here.

This offers great promise for scientists and for medical and dental professionals who want/need to know what goes into your mouth with great accuracy. This sensor was designed at Tufts University School of Engineering. It is a tiny, wireless sensor that can be attached to one of your teeth. It will bond to the surface of a tooth, and its 2 square graphicstock-excited-bearded-man-enjoying-eating-hamburgers-isolated-on-white-background - SM - storyblocks - Hd7yIdiS2xmillimeters can collect information about your consumption of various chemicals and nutrients.

Scientists believe that this sensor can replace the completely unreliable food diaries. We all know that most of us cheat a bit with a food diary. Our idea of a small order of fries might actually be the equivalent of a doctor’s large order. And it is extremely difficult determine exactly how much salt or sugar you have added to certain foods. “Failing to note” a late-night snack will become impossible, and there will be little opportunity to “fudge” on the amount of candy – including fudge—that you consume.

The technology could be exceptionally helpful to scientists who are studying the effects of nutrients and chemicals on your body. It could also be useful to your physician or your dentist to know how your diet might be helping or harming you. One obvious example might be the person who is doing everything right but is not losing weight. This technology might be just what is needed to analyze how various foods and beverages and being processed by your body. This is the kind of information some of us might want to know in order to adjust your diet to reduce the impact of a particular chemical or nutrient.

When perfected, this kind of technology could help us to understand how medications interact with foods in our bodies. We might learn how to maximize the value of chemotherapy while minimizing some of the side effects. It could also be able to detect and measure our stress levels.

This type of sensor may offer a wealth of helpful information about our diets and our health. It may help all of us to live longer and healthier lives.

Unfortunately, it will take some of the fun out of sneaking an extra serving of ice cream or adding extra salt or sugar to food.

What do you think about these tooth-residing sensors?

 
A good use of smartphones by teens

A recent study found that a good use of smartphones by teens is to connect with their electric toothbrushes to help them brush longer and better.

A group of 60 teens (ages 13 – 17) were randomly divided into two groups: one group received a soft manual teen with smartphone -SM - storyblockstoothbrush (Oral-B Indicator 35); the other group received a power toothbrush and an Oral-B Precision Clean brush head. All participants were given the same toothpaste. Those using the power toothbrush also received a charger and Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone loaded with the Oral-B Application v. 2.1, OB2 phone app.

All participants received an oral exam to establish baselines for various aspects of brushing and to identify focus areas needing additional attention. Those using manual toothbrushes were instructed to brush as usual for two minutes twice daily and to spend an extra 10 seconds on their focus areas. The same information was given to the group using power toothbrushes via the app. They were sent home to brush as instructed for two weeks.

After two weeks participants were re-examined and their scores were compared to the baseline exam. There was little change in the brushing habits of those using manual brushes (baseline 119.2 seconds; 2 weeks 118.4 seconds). But those using power toothbrushes improved significantly (from a baseline of 108.6 seconds to 143.5 seconds).

The study concluded: “These results demonstrate striking oral health benefits when patients are motivated by advanced oral hygiene products and technologies to brush longer and more thoroughly.”

 
Please Don’t Try to Whiten Your Teeth with Charcoal

Many conversations are occurring on the internet about tooth whitening. Some offer good advice. But some are pushing ideas that are simply harmful in some way. Before you try some method that you find online check with your dentist. Be certain that what you are planning to try will not damage your teeth.

A case in point is the current trend that suggests the use of charcoal to whiten your teeth. Please don’t try this. Duringcharcoal toothpasts - paid -shutterstock 1017408808 the last two years people have been discovering new ways to use activated charcoal for their health and beauty needs. One such use is cleaning skin with charcoal, which absorbs the oils and stains. The thinking seems to be that if charcoal works so well for the skin, it should also work for teeth, making them whiter.

Charcoal is “wood that has been placed inside a low oxygen environment like a steel or clay box and heated to over 1000 degrees F.” The lack of oxygen ensures that the wood cannot be lit nor can it burn. The heating process removes water, tar, gasses, and other elements in the wood through melting or evaporation. What remains at the end of the process is pure carbon and ash. Brushing with charcoal means that you are rubbing a very hard substance against your delicate teeth.

While most toothpaste contains abrasive elements that clean your teeth, these elements are significantly less damaging that charcoal. In fact, the abrasiveness of the charcoal can actually damage your teeth by eroding the enamel on your teeth. What immediately appears to be whiter teeth will fade over time, making the teeth appear yellow. When charcoal is used incorrectly or too often, it erodes the enamel. When the enamel is eroded, what becomes visible is the underlying dentin.

The effect of a long-term use of charcoal to brush your tooth to whiteness is actually harmful to your teeth. What people do not seem to understand is that damage to tooth enamel is permanent. When you remove the enamel, you cannot replace it.

We recommend oral hygiene products that have earned the Seal of Acceptance from the American Dental Association (ADA). This seal has not been given to charcoal. In fact, the ADA included this statement in an article in its journal last year: There is “insufficient clinical and laboratory data to substantiate the safety and efficacy claims of charcoal and charcoal-based dentifrices.”

Before risking permanent damage to your teeth and gums, always use products that pass two tests: the seal of the ADA and the recommendation of your dentist.

 
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