Get Screened! April is Oral Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Month

indexDid you know that every time you have a dentist appointment at Enlighten Dental Care, you are also being screened for cancer? We do a visual examination of all the soft tissues in the mouth, which includes manually extending the tongue to examine its base, palpating the floor of the mouth, and digitally examining the borders of the tongue and the lymph nodes surrounding the oral cavity and neck.

Why do we do this? Each year, there are approximately 45,000 new cases of mouth and throat cancer diagnosed, and about 13 percent of those die within the same year. Early detection means treatment is more likely to be successful, which is just one more reason why regular dental check-ups are so important.

Are you at risk for mouth and throat cancer? Here are some of the risk factors you may be able to minimize or control:

  • Use of tobacco products. This includes cigarettes, cigars, pipes, chewing tobacco and snuff. The amount and length of time you have used the product matters as well.
  • Heavy drinking is associated with oral cancer, particularly when combined with smoking.
  • HPV infection. Human papilloma viruses are involved in some cancers, and about 25 percent of patients with oral cancers are infected with the same HPVs as are seen with cervical cancer.
  • UV exposure. Lip cancers are more common among people who work outdoors or have prolonged exposure to sunlight.
  • Poor nutrition. Studies have found a link between diets low in fruits and vegetables and an increased risk.
  • Chewing betel quid. Usually used in other parts of the world, such as Asia, these are small parcels that typically contain areca nuts, wrapped in a betel leaf coated with slaked lime and may contain tobacco.

During your dental exam, we are checking your face, neck and mouth for lumps, red or white patches, and sore areas that do not heal. If you have noticed any changes in your mouth or neck, it is important to let us know so that we can examine the area more closely. Don’t be afraid to speak up — the earlier a cancer is detected the better, and it may just save your life.

For more information, visit oralcancer.org. And schedule your dental check-up with Enlighten Dental Care today!

Top Health Reasons to Prevent Gum Disease

World Oral Health DayOn March 20, 2016, we celebrate World Oral Health Day, an international day to celebrate the benefits of a healthy mouth and to promote worldwide awareness of the issues around oral health and the importance of oral hygiene for old and young. This year’s theme is:

It all starts here. Healthy mouth. Healthy body.

Why do we place so much importance on brushing, flossing and regular dental health check-ups? One of the main reasons is to prevent gum disease — an inflammation of the gum line that can progress and become more serious and end up affecting the bone that surrounds and supports your teeth.

Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease can affect more than your mouth. In fact, more and more research is showing that the inflammation — not the bacteria in the mouth — is the factor that is associated with several other diseases. Beyond simply avoiding bad breath and keeping your teeth intact, here are some of the top reasons to prevent falling prey to gum disease.

  • Cognitive decline. Recent research found that gum disease may be associated with a faster cognitive decline in people who have early Alzheimer’s disease.  The scientists measured patients’ cognitive ability and inflammatory markers in their blood samples, and had their oral health assessed by a dental hygienist. When the researchers followed up six months later, they found that if a person had gum disease, they had a six-fold increase of cognitive decline, as well as increased inflammation.
  • Increased complications in patients with diabetes. Research has found that the relationship between gum disease and diabetes is a two-way street — people with diabetes are more likely to have gum disease, and people with gum disease who have diabetes may find it more difficult to control their blood sugar. Blood sugar that is poorly controlled can put people at risk of diabetic complications.
  • Increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Scientists believe that inflammation caused by gum disease is linked to and increases the risk of heart disease; however, no causal relationship has been identified. In addition, a study that looked for a link between stroke and gum disease found that people diagnosed with acute cerebrovascular ischemia were more likely to have an oral infection when compared to those in the control group.
  • Respiratory problems. Scientists have found that bacteria that grow in the mouth could be aspirated into the lungs and cause respiratory diseases such as pneumonia.
    Increased risk of cancer. Surprisingly, researchers have found that men with a history of gum disease were 14 percent more likely to develop cancer. Some cancers — including kidney cancer, pancreatic cancer and blood cancers — carried a 30 percent or more risk.

The three stages of gum disease are gingivitis, periodontitis and advanced periodontitis. Gum disease is treatable, and early intervention is important. If you have swollen, tender, red or bleeding gums — or any other signs of gum disease — schedule an appointment with Enlighten Dental Care today.

Dry Mouth — Not Good for Your Teeth!

Email_571b2d4fc9e54428bf8e0bb15357873fAre you frequently thirsty with a sticky, dry feeling in the mouth? During these cold winter months when the air is dry and many have colds and other viruses, you may have a condition called dry mouth.

Dry mouth, also known by its formal name xerostomia,” is a condition in which your mouth becomes unusually dry, most often because of a decrease in the production of saliva by the salivary glands. The condition can lead to bad breath, tooth decay, periodontal disease and even candidiasis infection because the oral microflora are disturbed.

What Causes Dry Mouth?

Dry mouth can be caused by several things, including:

  • Medications, such as antihistamines and antidepressants
  • Medical conditions (for example, poorly controlled diabetes)
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Spicy foods
  • Sleeping with your mouth open

What Damage Can Dry Mouth Cause?

A recent study found that sleeping with your mouth open can be as damaging for your teeth as drinking a fizzy soda before bed.

When your mouth is dry, the protective effect of saliva is removed. Why does this matter? Saliva has the natural ability to kill the bacteria in the mouth that produce acid. When acid levels in the mouth rise, that is when tooth decay and erosion occurs.

Treating Dry Mouth

If you’re experiencing dry mouth due to a certain medication, talk to your physician about changing the medication or decreasing the dosage. In addition, talk to your dentist about the condition. There are oral rinses that can increase mouth moisture, and there is also a medication that can increase saliva production.

Other things you can try to reduce dry mouth include:

  • Sucking on sugar-free candy or chewing sugar-free gum
  • Drinking water
  • Breathing through your nose instead of your mouth as much s possible
  • Using vaporizers to increase moisture in the air

And, most importantly, always brush with a fluoride toothpaste, floss and visit your dentist regularly. If you have questions about dry mouth, please call Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month

The campaign slogan for National Children’s Dental Health Month 2016 is the “Sugar Wars.” Help your children fight the “Sugar Wars” and reduce their risk of tooth decay with the following tips:NCDHM2016_YouthPoster_8,-d-,5x11_English

  • Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Why? Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
  • Limit between-meal snacks. If your children crave snacks, offer them nutritious foods.
  • If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless. Chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
  • Monitor beverage consumption Instead of drinking soft drinks all day, children should choose water and low-fat milk.
  • Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
  • Schedule regular dental visits.

Contact Enlighten Dental Care today for more information about how you can help your kids fight the “Sugar Wars!”

 

Three Cool Dental Technologies You May Not Know About!

Email_58e26293721e45e3b66faa59ceb3fc4fIt’s a New Year, and you can make a fresh start. If you haven’t been to the dentist in a while, it’s time to make an appointment to make sure your teeth and mouth are healthy — and find out how easy a visit to the dentist can be thanks to newer technologies designed to create a more pleasant experience.

Here’s three technologies that can bring a brighter smile to your face …

  • Digital X-rays. Using digital X-rays is much faster and more efficient than the traditional radiograph X-rays you may remember. How do they work? At Enlighten Dental Care, we place a wireless sensor in your mouth to take the X-ray. Within 30 seconds, the image is generated on the computer, where it can be viewed and stored so we can compare X-rays from year to year.Benefits of digital X-rays include the following:
    • Faster process
    • Less radiation
    • The ability to look at the bone beneath the teeth and cavities between the teeth
    • The ability to examine the roots and nerves of the teeth and diagnose lesions such as cysts and tumors
    • The ability to assess damage when trauma occurs to the teeth
  • Lasers to diagnose cavities. For many, many years, the only way to diagnose cavities was by probing teeth with a dental instrument and looking for soft areas. — or seeing the cavity on an X-ray. Cavities would often be in a more advanced stage before they were detected.Today, lasers can identify and treat cavities at an earlier stage while the cavity is still beneath the enamel, thus allowing us to provide minimally invasive treatment. At Enlighten Dental Care, we use the DIAGNOdent laser, which emits safe pulses of light through the tooth and finds hidden decay by finding where the teeth “glow.” (Healthy teeth don’t glow.) The laser can find decay at such an early stage, which means that a simple fluoride treatment may be able to reverse the decay and rebuild the healthy tooth structure.
  • Air abrasion. You can have dental work done without the drill! At Enlighten Dental Care, we use air abrasion for drill-free fillings. The instrument works like a mini sandblaster and blows a powerful air stream of tiny aluminum oxide particles onto the tooth, cleaning the decay off in the same way a sandblaster removes paint. No drill means no need for numbing the area or undergoing anesthesia!The benefits of air abrasion include:
    • The ability to remove very small areas of decay and preserve more of the tooth structure
    • Low noise and odorless
    • Reduction or elimination of vibration, heat and pressure
    • Less invasive, faster treatment at an earlier stage
    • Smaller fillings

A visit to the dentist is a much more pleasant experience in 2016. Make your appointment today by calling Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904.

Seven Significant Holiday Hazards for Your Teeth

With the constant activity and parties, we all know the holidays can be stressful on the mind, body … and even the teeth. Here are seven hazards and how you can avoid ending up with cracked, stained or cavity-ridden teeth!  PicMonkey Collage

  1. Stress
    Holidays can be stressful, and you may find yourself grinding your teeth. The results can be headaches, jaw pain and damaged teeth. Using a dental mouth guard can help prevent the damage.
  2. Candy Canes and Other Hard Candies
    Biting into a candy cane or other hard candy can cause cracked and chipped teeth, and, of course, all of that sugar sits around in your mouth as well and creates a build-up of bacteria. If you must indulge in candy, go for the dark chocolate.
  3. Ice, Ice Baby
    If you’re socializing at a holiday party, and your drink is empty, don’t start chewing on your ice. Not only is it loud and makes it difficult to talk, it damages your teeth. Chewing ice can cause cracks in the enamel and expose the dentin, causing weaker teeth and sensitivity. The habit can also cause the fillings in your teeth to have a shorter lifespan.
  4. Too Much Alcohol
    Drinking too much alcohol can cause dehydration and dry mouth, and, over time, it can reduce your saliva flow, leading to tooth decay and gum disease.
  5. Red Wine Specifically
    Research has revealed that red wine can actually help prevent cavities because it slows the growth of bacteria; however, it can still stain your teeth. To prevent stains, brush your teeth before going out (wine likes to cling to plaque), try sipping water in between glasses of red wine and eat high fiber foods (such as broccoli) to help brush away the stains. Eating cheese can also help.
  6. Sodas and Citrus
    Along with the alcohol and ice are the sodas and citrus fruits such as lemons and limes. Watch your intake on all of this because acidic foods erode enamel and leads to decay over time. Drink plenty of PLAIN water.
  7. Dried Fruits
    These may seem like a healthy treat, but because they are sticky, they stay on the teeth longer than other foods. Drink water, brush and floss after eating.

If you do have a dental emergency during the holidays, please call Enlighten Dental Care at (336) 765-0904 and follow the prompts.

Is Flossing Really Necessary?

An October article in Time magazine titled “You Asked: Do I Really Need to Floss” discussed how some experts and research say that flossing is a waste of time. The article alluded to research that doesn’t support the assertion that flossing prevents cavities and gum disease, as well as research that found flossing does not prevent plaque, the stuff that causes cavities. One study also found that some people damaged their gums by yanking down too hard while flossing.

Oh yay, you’re probably thinking … flossing is a waste of time. NOT.

At Enlighten Dental Care, we disagree with the premise of the article and point out the importance of flossing to ALL of our patients. It is apparent to dental professionals which patients do floss and which ones do not. Science is still trying to figure out all of the links between oral health and overall health and has not established a link between flossing and prevention of some of the more morbid conditions such as heart disease and kidney disease. But just because it has yet to be proven doesn’t mean there isn’t a link.

Here are some reasons why we know flossing is important…

  • The modern diet is filled with carbohydrates and sugar, which cause plaque between the teeth. This plaque has to be removed somehow. That’s where flossing comes in.
  • While flossing “may” have some of the hazards alluded to in the article, such as damaging gums, it is very unlikely. Overzealous brushing is much worse for your gums.
  • Flossing does make a difference in overall gum tone — compare it to soft, flabby muscles in sedentary individuals vs. firm muscle tone in active individuals.

Unfortunately, many people do not floss correctly. Don’t snap the floss straight down into your gums. Instead, ease the floss between your teeth and form a C-shape around the tooth to gently slide the floss up and down and scrape away the stuff that builds up between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach.

The ideal approach to good dental hygiene is to thoroughly brush — but not scrub — teeth twice a day, combined with a gentle form of plaque removal, either by flossing or using a hygiene aid such as interproximal brushes. Also, it’s advisable to introduce a rinse such as Listerine and brush your tongue in order to keep your mouth meticulously clean.

Our recommendation at Enlighten Dental Care is “everything in moderation.” Eat healthy, brush twice a day and floss once a day. Simple.

Could Tonsil Stones Be Causing Your Bad Breath?

Bad breath can be caused by numerous things — bacteria that breed inside your mouth, pungent foods such as garlic, smoking, medical problems and poor oral hygiene are all common causes. Enlighten picture

But there is another common cause of chronic halitosis: tonsil stones, also known as tonsilloliths. Tonsil stones are clusters of calcified material that may inhabit deep holes in your tonsils called “crypts.” The substance has a cheese-like consistency and tends to smell … well, horrible.

Why Do Tonsil Stones Form?

The role of the tonsils is believed to be functioning to trap incoming viruses and bacteria particles that are passing through your throat. Within their nooks and crannies, bacteria, dead cells and mucous can become trapped and harden or calcify, resulting in small tonsil stones.

Symptoms of Tonsil Stones

One of the primary symptoms of tonsil stones is really bad breath. Patients may also have a sore throat, and lumps of solid white material may be seen in the back of the throat. Tonsil stones may also become dislodged during coughing or eating.

Large tonsil stones are fairly rare, but if they do develop they can cause problems swallowing, ear pain and tonsil swelling.

Preventing and Treating Tonsil Stones

The best way to prevent tonsil stones is to practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth and tongue properly twice a day, floss and use mouthwash. If you detect tonsil stones, you may want to gargle with salt water (dissolve ¼ to ½ teaspoon of salt into 8 ounces of warm water) and then attempt to dislodge them gently with a cotton swab, toothbrush or water pick.

If you have tonsil stones that you cannot remove yourself, talk to your Enlighten Dental Care dentist or doctor about removal. Tonsil stones are generally not a serious condition, but a tonsillectomy (surgical removal of tonsils) may be warranted in severe, chronic cases.

Don’t Delay Dental Treatment! (Why These Excuses Don’t Fly)

schedulingMy teeth are fine; I’ll go if there’s a problem. Going to the dentist is expensive. It’s uncomfortable and/or I’m scared when they clean and work on my teeth.

Do you use one of these excuses? All of these are reasons people avoid going to the dentist every six months for a check-up. And none of these are good enough reasons.

My teeth are fine; I’ll go if there’s a problem …

If nothing is hurting and you think your teeth are fine, that is not a reason to avoid a regular check-up and cleaning. Gum disease and cavities don’t just pop up suddenly — they take a while to develop.

A simple, small cavity that isn’t causing pain can be treated with a quick, less expensive filling. Once the decay has reached the nerve of your tooth and is causing pain, the likelihood of a filling fixing the problem is slim, and you are looking at much more extensive, expensive dental work.

Going to the dentist is expensive …

It is true that dental care is not cheap. In fact, more than one in three Americans delays dental care because of their financial situation, according to a 2013 survey by ORC International and Aspen Dental.

Still, it is much better to spend the money on maintenance than to let a problem fester and wind up in the emergency room with a severe toothache and have to have teeth removed. Gum disease and tooth decay are preventable and controllable diseases, and if left unchecked, they can lead to additional health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, as well as premature births or low-birth weight babies.

Extensive dental work and other health problems are much more expensive than regular check-ups/cleanings and doing your own regular flossing and brushing with a fluoride toothpaste.

It’s uncomfortable and/or I’m scared when they clean and work on my teeth …

Dental anxiety and dental phobia are real; it is estimated that 9 percent to 15 percent of Americans avoid the dental treatment they need because of this kind of apprehension.

Help is available with conscious sedation, a safe and effective modality available through dentists with training in this area. Enlighten Dental Care offers three different types of conscious sedation: oral sedation, nitrous oxide sedation and IV sedation. For more information, click here.

In addition, it’s important to remember that dentistry has changed a lot over the decades, and if you are basing your fears off of what you remember as a child, don’t. Today, the sound of the drill can be drowned out with a simple iPod, and there are needle-free alternatives for anesthetics!

Don’t delay your dental maintenance … schedule your Enlighten Dental Care appointment today.

To Chew or Not to Chew?

Is chewing gum bad for your teeth, good for your teeth or what?

You may have heard mixed messages in the news about chewing gum, so here is the latest advice about chewing gum and your teeth.

  • 42702614_sAvoid chewing gum with sugar in it. While sugar-containing gum does increase saliva flow, which is good, the sugar is used by plaque bacteria to produce decay-causing acids. Chewing gum with sugar is essentially “bathing” the teeth in sugar.
  • Generally, it has been thought that sugar-free gum chewed after meals and snacks can help rinse off and neutralize the acids released by the bacteria in plaque. Non cavity-causing sweeteners include aspartame, xylitol, sorbitol or mannitol.
  • However, artificial sweeteners are NOT the perfect answer. For example, aspartame has been linked to birth defects, cancers, brain tumors and weight gain.
  • The artificial sweetener xylitol is thought to be the best choice for sugar-free gum because the xylitol has an added benefit of inhibiting the growth of a certain kind of oral bacteria.
  • Unfortunately, however, the most recent Cochrane review study did not find any “robust” evidence to support the claim that xylitol in candies and gums boosted oral health.
  • Avoid chewing gum if you have tempomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). Chewing gum can cause jaw muscle imbalance.
  • Chewing gum may cause gastrointestinal problems, either from swallowing excess air or from the artificial sweeteners.

Bottom line? If you must chew (because you need to relieve stress or stop smoking, etc.), then please choose a sugar-free gum with xylitol. But as with anything, the key is moderation, so don’t overdo (chew) it!