Pure Dentistry

HPV and Oral Cancer: The Connection

HPV-Oral-CanerWith cases of oral cancer, specifically oropharyngeal cancer (the back of the throat), on the rise among those under 40 years of age, we as oral health professionals are trying to get the word out about the various causes of oral cancer and the importance of early detection. 

Oral cancer has historically been attributed at the highest rates to smokers.  However, with smoking on the decrease, HPV is expected to take over the role as the biggest contributor to certain types of oral cancer (oropharyngeal) in the coming years.

Here are some answers to commonly asked questions about HPV and oral cancer:

What is HPV?  HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) is a very common sexually transmitted infection.  Typically HPV goes away on its own without causing any health problems.  In fact, most people don’t ever know that they have it, which is also one of the reasons that it spreads so easily.  Even if you are not symptomatic, you can still spread HPV.

How does HPV cause oral cancer?  Occasionally, HPV does NOT go away on its own and causes problems down the road.  There are specific types of cancer that HPV can lead to.  For example, cervical cancer is almost always caused by HPV.  Oropharyngeal cancer (the back of the throat, not the main oral cavity) is another type of cancer that can be caused by HPV.

Why is oral cancer on the rise among younger people?  Studies show that most cases of oral cancer among young people are caused by HPV.  Therefore, as the incidence of the virus grows, so does the incidence of oral cancer.

What can I do to protect myself?  All girls and boys ages 11-12 years old should be vaccinated against HPV.  The vaccine is also approved for other specific groups (check CDC.gov for more information).  Those who are outside of the vaccination age group should practice safe sex.

What about early detection do I need to know?  As with many cancers, early detection is the key to a good prognosis.  Self-examinations by you and regular examinations by us are the most important things you can do to protect yourself. 

Please note that this information is intended to inform, not scare.  Although oropharyngeal cancers are increasing in incidence, they are still a very small risk in our world.  Be informed and be proactive!


Are Dental Implants Worth It?

Are Dental implants worth itWhat’s involved in a dental implant? Do they hurt? Can anyone get them? There are a lot of questions surrounding dental implants but one thing is certain; they’ve been reconstructing smiles for over 35 years with amazing results. But what’s the fuss surrounding dental implants and are they really worth it? Lets answer some question to help you decide for yourself.

Can anyone get a dental implant? Anyone who is healthy enough to get a dental implant can get one as long as they have enough bone to hold the implant. This is where bone grafting comes in for those who have been told their jawbone won’t hold an implant. Keeping up with regular oral hygiene is also an important factor and heavy smokers may be told it’s not a safe option.

What exactly is a dental implant? A dental implant replaces your tooth root with a metal rod. It provides a solid structure on which to place a new tooth that is made to match your real teeth. Dental implants not only improve the overall look of your smile but they’re durable, convenient, and easy to take care of.

What are the steps to getting a dental implant? As your doctor, we will want to develop an individualized treatment plan that focuses on your specific needs. Once we have agreed on a treatment plan, the next step will be the placement of the implant in your jaw. The implant is made of titanium and once placed the jawbone will actually begin to grow around it. In about six to twelve weeks the implant will have completely bonded to your jaw and it will be time to attach a small post that connects your new tooth to the implant. We create a mold of your bite that allows us to create your new tooth. This replacement tooth is then attached to the post and the implant process is complete!

Lastly, how painful are dental implants and are they difficult to take care of? Most patients have said they experienced very little discomfort when receiving their implant. Many have even said the process is much less painful than a tooth extraction. Mild pain that may occur for a few days after you receive your implant can be treated with over-the-counter pain medication. Dental implants require the same care as your real teeth but generally they are much easier to clean and you don’t have to worry about cavities.

We hope this answers some of the questions surrounding dental implants. If you’re missing a tooth or teeth, give us a call to ask more about the procedure. We’ve seen many patients leave happy and comfortable with their improved smile!


Invisalign®: Finally, a Straighter Smile for Anyone!

Invisalign Finally for EveryoneTen years ago, it was rare to see braces on the teeth of an adult.  Options for straightening teeth simply did not exist widely for the adult population.  It wasn’t that adults couldn’t have braces, it was just that they didn’t want to be seen in public with them.  After all, it’s one thing to see a teenager with metal brackets and wires in his or her mouth, but it’s an entirely different matter to see an adult that way. 

Not everyone has been presented the opportunity to have braces. For many people who did not have the option as a teen, they simply had to continue their life with crooked, crowded, or over-spaced teeth.

Enter Invisalign®.  The invention of clear braces has opened up the door to an improved smile for adults no matter what their age. In fact, we have Invisalign® patients that span the entire range of ages, from teens to seniors in the later stages of life.

Why?  Invisalign® knows no age.  Because it is nearly invisible, it is a much more realistic choice for adults than traditional braces were in the past.  Invisalign® is also removable, allowing you to live a more “normal” life in terms of diet, exercise and oral hygiene.

If you are interested in an enhanced smile, Invisalign® might be the right first step for you.  Give us a call for more information!


Teeth in the News: Dental Care Reduces Respiratory Infections in the ICU

We are always pleased to pass along any oral health information to our patients and their families as we come across it in our various news sources. Simply put: we love it when we find teeth in the news!

Tooth illustration with iconWhile we don’t spend significant time in hospitals ourselves, we were still happy to hear about a recent study that suggests that patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital benefit from enhanced dental care in more ways than you would expect!

Typically, in an ICU setting, patients receive routine oral hygiene treatments from the nurse staff. However, when researchers assigned half of the patients to receive enhanced dental care from a dentist that included brushing, tongue scraping, calculus removal and more, they found that those patients were 56% less likely to develop a respiratory tract infection during their ICU stay.

This is significant because hospital-acquired infections such as respiratory infections are not uncommon due to the nature of the hospital environment and can be dangerous for vulnerable patients. You may be wondering “What is the connection between oral hygiene and respiratory infections?” In fact, infections such as these often originate in the oral cavity. Catching them early before they get into the major organs of the body may be one way to combat healthcare-associated infections.

This is just another example of how your oral health affects the health of your whole body! Be sure to employ excellent brushing and flossing habits at home while you are well to avoid additional problems in your body down the road!


Invisible Braces: Not Just for Looks

When most of us think of invisible braces such as Invisalign®, we naturally assume that their sole purpose is to enhance the aesthetic value of one’s smile.

Invisible BracesAnd to a certain extent that assumption is true. For most people with braces of any type, the primary goal of straightening their teeth is improving their look. But did you know that there are actually added health benefits to having a straighter smile as well?

Here, we outline just a few reasons, outside of the obvious aesthetic benefits, that invisible braces can help you:

  • Periodontal Health: Overcrowded teeth can result in swollen, red, irritated gums. More often than not, these symptoms are the result of periodontal disease. Braces help to straighten and evenly space teeth to allow for enhanced gum health.
  • Better Cleaning Access: Because the clear teeth aligners are removable, you can do a better job of brushing and flossing your teeth, just as you would without braces. By contrast, traditional metal braces limit access to the surfaces and in-between areas of teeth, making it difficult to maintain a good brushing and flossing routine.
  • Healthy Diet: Invisible braces are removable, which means that there are no restrictions to what you eat. This allows you to continue your healthy eating habits just as if you didn’t have braces at all. With traditional metal wires and braces, however, some people fall into the trap of eating only soft foods and thus miss out on much-needed nutrients.
  • Overall Health: Because oral infections are thought to be related to other health issues in the body such as an increased risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, keeping your teeth properly spaced and straightened is an important first step toward better health throughout your body.

Allow us to enhance your smile both aesthetically and from an oral health standpoint as well with invisible braces!


Dental Implants vs. Dentures and Bridges

Whether it was during a consultation in our office or perhaps while you were doing your own research online, you have probably come across the term “dental implant” at some point. A dental implant is a great way, often the best way, to replace a missing tooth.

Dental lmplants vs DenturesSo how do you decide if a dental implant is the right path for you, or if a more traditional tooth replacement method such as dentures or bridges is the best way to go?

We have been asked this question many times, and have compiled a comprehensive breakdown of the benefits that implants offer over their conventional counterparts. We hope that this guide will help make the decision process easier for you.

Dental Implants vs. Dentures and Bridges: Things to Consider

  • Longevity: Dental implants offer a long-term solution (often lasting a lifetime) to missing teeth, while dentures and bridges require replacement every 5 to 10 years. Not only does this mean less hassle, it also means that implants may be more affordable over time.
  • Quality of Life:
    • Simply put, dental implants look, feel and function more like natural teeth than do dentures and bridges.
    • With a dental implant, our patients can hardly notice the difference when biting into hard objects. They also look more natural.
    • In addition to that, dental implants are fixed – they are not going to fall out while you are talking or smiling, and you don’t have to put them away each night when you go to sleep. They remain in your mouth, anchored to your jawbone at all times.
  • Bone Stability and Health: Just like muscles, bones also need a “workout” in order to maintain their mass and health. So when a tooth is missing from the jawline, the bone underneath the old tooth site becomes atrophied and shrinks. Dentures and bridges do nothing to help this deterioration. However, dental implants actually screw into the bone and integrate with it, actually encouraging new bone growth.
  • Overall Health: Because implants allow for a normal range of food choices in the diet (a benefit not afforded by dentures), they encourage you to continue your healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life!

Do you still have questions? As always, we are here to answer any questions you have. Give us a call for more information!


Strawberries and Baking Soda for Whiter Teeth: Debunked

You may have heard the recent claim that a mixture of fruit and baking soda applied to the teeth will whiten them dramatically, inexpensively and in a much more “organic” way than traditional bleaching methods.

Strawberries and Baking SodaIn particular, young adults and teens have shown themselves to be susceptible to this advice. They readily experiment with it and spread the idea throughout their community because the materials involved are so easily accessible.

While the claim has some merit and certainly comes from well-meaning sources, we feel that we should set the record straight. New research done on the subject from Professor So Ran Kwon of the University of Iowa shows that while the mixture does brighten the smile a bit, it does so merely by removing superficial debris. So although the teeth may look whiter, the effect is short-lived. As plaque and debris build up again, the teeth will darken.

In addition to that, the fruit and baking soda mixture method may reduce the surface hardness of your teeth, leaving them vulnerable to decay.

To achieve a permanently whiter smile, what you really need is a substance that penetrates into teeth and breaks down stain molecules, whitening teeth from the inside out for better and longer-lasting results.

If you want whiter teeth, we urge you to use ADA approved methods for achieving that brighter smile!


Porcelain Veneers for a Flawless Smile

Some patients come to us loving their smile but wanting just a little bit more in terms of aesthetics. To perfect an already great smile, we may suggest porcelain veneers. Porcelain veneers are often our go-to tool to correct minor imperfections on the surface of teeth or spacing issues.

Porcelain VeneersHere are some frequently asked questions and answers about veneers:

Q: Are veneers heavy or thick? Will I feel them in my mouth?

A: No, in fact veneers are thinner than a fingernail, once they are in place you won’t even know they are there!

 

Q: How long do they last?

A: Properly installed, veneers can last from 10-20 years. A great investment for an enhanced smile!

 

Q: How are they attached? Can they fall off?

A: Veneers are attached to your tooth with a very strong bonding compound. They do not fall off and provide years of durable use.

 

Q: Do veneers look like natural teeth?

A: Porcelain is the perfect material to copy tooth enamel, as it is incorporates luster, shine and translucence to look just like your natural teeth.

 

Q: What if the surrounding teeth are a different color?

A: Generally what we recommend is that we use a whiter shade of porcelain for the veneer and perform tooth whitening in conjunction with the veneer process to give you a perfect match throughout your mouth.

 

Q: Do veneers stain?

A: No, porcelain veneers do not stain, even over time.

 

If you want to take your smile from “okay” to “stunning”, ask us if veneers are a good option for you!

 


Dental Implants: A Three-Step Procedure

One of the most common questions we hear from patients when it comes to dental implants is “Why does it take three separate procedures?”

Dental Implants - 3 StepIt helps to understand that within the entire dental implant process, there are not just three stages, there are also three important parts to the final product that replaces your tooth. First, there is the implant itself, which is the metal rod that we surgically implant into the bone. Next, there is the abutment, which connects the implant to the artificial tooth. And lastly, the crown (or prosthetic tooth) itself.

The fact that the process has three physical components alone doesn’t tell the whole story though. Here, we explain why the most commonly employed dental implant method is split up into three separate procedures.

Step One: Placing the Implant

The first stage of the dental implant process is to bury the implant in the jaw bone via a surgical procedure. The dental implant replaces the tooth root, and requires healing time. During this healing time, osseointegration (the integration of the bone with the implant itself) occurs. The bone cells actually attach to the implant rod, filling in the spaces to secure the implant in place for permanent residency.   The healing time usually takes from 3-6 months.

Step Two: Placing the Abutment

The abutment is a post that connects the implant to the prosthetic tooth. Essentially, the abutment is a bridge that spans through the gum line so that the implant itself remains buried. As with the implant, the abutment has a healing period of its own. The gum around the abutment must heal and form a cuff or collar around it before the crown can be placed.

Step Three: The Prosthetic Tooth

Once the implant site and abutment have successfully integrated, the prosthetic tooth is fabricated and installed.

If you have any questions about the dental implant process, give us a call!


Traveling and Oral Health: Tooth Tips for the Holidays

We don’t have to tell you: the winter holidays mark one of the busiest seasons of the year. With shopping, parties and vacations jam-packed on the calendar, it’s no wonder that many people take shortcuts when it comes to oral health maintenance during this time. If you are traveling during the holiday season and you want to avoid a January surprise cavity (or worse), here are some simple tooth travel tips to help you keep your smile intact.

  1. TravelDon’t leave home with a toothache! If you suspect you have any lurking problems in your mouth, schedule an appointment prior to your travel date so that you don’t end up with a tooth emergency while out of town. Research emergency dental clinics in your destination city and have those numbers handy to ensure that your time off is as relaxing as possible.
  2. No one ever regrets buying travel-sized gear. Keeping a travel toothbrush, floss and toothpaste on hand in addition to trial sizes of your favorite toiletries reduces your packing time, and not just during the holidays.
  3. Splurge on probiotics! Diseases and germs run rampant in buses, airports and other communal places that you might encounter during your trip. Researchers believe that probiotics are not only good for the gut; they may help maintain optimal oral health too!
  4. Toothbrushes don’t last forever! Generally, dentists recommend that you buy a new toothbrush every two to three months when at home. However if you are traveling, your toothbrush is exposed to even more bacteria. It’s best to toss it when you return home and swap it for a fresh brush, even if it hasn’t hit the three-month mark yet.
  5. Chewing gum is a limitless oral-health-on-the-go tip! Bringing sugar-free gum with you has multiple benefits; not only does it taste good and make your breath smell fresh, but the gum can help remove food that may be stuck in your teeth as well, acting as a secondary toothbrush.