When I remind you that you need to come in for an examination every six months, you may think, ‘Six months, eight months … what’s the difference?’ The truth is, two months could make a difference when it comes to your health. I’m not just talking about tooth decay or gum disease, either. There is a very real danger that could be avoided by being seen by me semi-annually, without fail. What is it? Oral Cancer.
The Risk of Oral Cancer
Despite what you may think, oral cancer doesn’t just affect those who use tobacco products. While that certainly increases your risk, there are other risk factors, as well, including:
- Heavy drinking (particularly when combined with tobacco use)
- Gender, as oral cancers tend to affect more men than women
- The human papillomavirus
- Prolonged sun exposure, particularly without sunscreen
- A weakened immune system
What to Look For
Only the well-trained eye of a professional can detect suspicious spots, but if you have any of the following symptoms, schedule an appointment with me sooner rather than later:
- A mouth sore that doesn’t go away
- Persistent pain in the oral tissues
- A lump or thickened area on the cheek
- A red or white patch in the oral tissues
Some of these symptoms may be caused by other conditions, but don’t ignore them for too long; after all, it’s far better to be safe than sorry.
The Benefits of Early Diagnosis
Like many cancers, oral cancer is highly treatable when detected early. This is exactly why I like to see you every six months. Not only do I conduct a thorough visual examination of your oral tissues, but I palpate the tissue as well to make sure everything feels as it should. If anything appears abnormal — which I will only know if I see you regularly — we’ll proceed with the next step, which in most cases is a biopsy. Whatever the case may be, early diagnosis increases your chances of survival.
If you’re even a little bit late for your semi-annual appointment, call today to schedule your next exam. From oral cancer to gum disease, oral health is connected to overall health; keeping you healthy is my priority.
A healthy mouth is important for your whole body. This is especially true for patients with diabetes. Presently, there are over 26 million people with diabetes in this country.
Studies have shown that people with diabetes are 2 times more likely to get moderate to severe gum disease. Having diabetes makes the body more susceptible to bacterial infections. Diabetes decreases the ability to fight germs that invade the gums, causing more bone loss. People with diabetes have a poor healing response.
Gum infections can cause high glucose levels to be elevated and at times uncontrolled. High glucose levels in saliva help plaque thrive on your teeth. Plaque is a film of bacteria that develops within hours of eating and releases acids that cause tooth decay. Plaque that is not removed can harden into tartar. When tartar collects, brushing and flossing can become difficult and may even be uncomfortable. This can lead to periodontal disease, a chronic inflammation and infection of the gums.
Warning signs of periodontal disease:
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Bleeding gums
- Gums pulling away from the teeth
- Bad breath and/or bad taste
- Teeth become loose and/or start to separate
Regular professional cleanings, examinations and routine gum testing is so important. Eating a healthy diet, taking medications and insulin as directed by your physician can help you manage the oral complications of diabetes.
Treatment for gum disease is not like it once was. In my office treatment is non-surgical. The cleaning is done gently to reach below the gum where the bacteria hide. Medication is applied for comfort. Laser technology is also used to kill the bacteria and promote tissue attachment healing. With some patients I find the need for Perio Protect Trays. These trays assist in the delivery of medication in the areas of bone loss. Treatment has been very successful with stopping the progression of this disease. Gum disease is not curable, but with maintenance, we achieve improved oral health!
We look forward to seeing your smile!
Dr. Angela Britt