SATURDAY, April 7 (HealthDay News) — Not only do regular dental exams help keep your teeth and gums healthy, they can help detect oral cancer, the Academy of General Dentistry says.
As part of Oral Cancer Awareness Month in April, the group recommends that people get a dental exam from a general dentist every six months.
“The next time you visit your dentist, ask about an oral cancer screening,” academy spokesperson Dr. Seung-Hee Rhee advised in an academy news release.
“Your dentist will feel for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks, and oral cavity and thoroughly examine the soft tissues in your mouth, specifically looking for any sores or discolored tissues. Although you may have already been receiving this screening from your dentist, it’s a good idea to confirm that this screening is a part, and will remain a part, of your regular exam,” Rhee said.
Each year in the United States, more than 30,000 new cases of oral cancer are diagnosed, and more than 8,000 people die of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The five-year survival rate for oral cancer is about 50 percent.
“If it is not diagnosed and treated in its early stages, oral cancer can be deadly,” Rhee said. “Treatment for advanced stage oral cancer may lead to chronic pain, loss of function, permanent facial and oral disfigurement following surgery. The earlier the cancer is detected and treated, the better the outcome.”
Possible warning signs of oral cancer may include: bleeding sores; sores that do not heal; lumps or thick, hard spots; soreness or feeling that something is caught in the throat; difficulty chewing or swallowing; ear pain; difficulty moving the jaw or tongue; hoarseness; numbness of the tongue, and changes in the way teeth fit together.
It is estimated that periodontal disease affects up to 80 percent of men and women in the United States. Periodontitis is a chronic infection that affects the gums and the bones that support the teeth. Bacteria and the body’s own immune system break down the bone and connective tissue that hold teeth in place. The teeth may eventually become loose, fall out, or have to be removed.
While tooth loss is a well-documented consequence of periodontitis, the relationship between periodontitis and skeletal bone density is less clear. However, some studies have found a strong and direct relationship between bone loss, periodontitis, and tooth loss. It is possible that the loss of alveolar bone mineral density leaves bone more susceptible to periodontal bacteria, increasing the risk for periodontitis and tooth loss.
Osteoporosis and tooth loss are health concerns that affect many older men and women. Osteoporosis is a disease in which the bones become less dense and more prone to fracture. This disease can affect any bone in the body, although the bones in the hip, spine, and wrist are most often affected. In the United States today, 10 million individuals already have osteoporosis and 34 million more have low bone mass, placing them at increased risk for this disease.
Research suggests that there is a link between osteoporosis and bone loss in the jaw. The bone in the jaw supports and anchors our teeth. When the jaw bone becomes less dense, tooth loss can occur. Tooth loss affects approximately one-third of adults 65 years and older.
CHICAGO—December 12, 2011—Routine tooth brushing and flossing and regular check-ups by a dental professional remain the cornerstone of a healthy mouth. However, according to the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), pairing a few well-known healthy-lifestyle habits with your daily oral health regimen may also help reduce your risk for periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the gum tissue and other structures supporting the teeth. According to Dr. Pamela McClain, President of the American Academy of Periodontology and a practicing periodontist in Aurora, Colorado, “If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and may also interfere with other systems of the body. Several research studies have indicated that one’s periodontal health may be related to overall health. Therefore, it is crucial that you do everything you can to establish good periodontal health.”
According to the AAP, the following tips may help sustain healthy teeth and gums while also helping you live an overall healthy lifestyle:
- Eat and drink up. It is well known that eating a balanced diet leads to proper nutrition and helps keep the body running effectively. Studies published in the Journal of Periodontology (JOP) have also shown that certain foods can promote teeth and gum health. Foods containing omega-3, calcium, vitamin D and even honey have all been shown to reduce the incidence or severity of periodontal disease.
- Hit the gym. Frequent exercise is a recognized way to avoid being overweight, and it may ultimately reduce your risk of periodontal disease. In a study published in the Journal of Periodontology, researchers found that subjects who maintained a healthy weight and had high levels of physical fitness had a lower incidence of severe periodontitis than those that did not exercise.
- Stress less. Stress can lead to a variety of health complications, including periodontal disease. Research published in the JOP showed a relationship between stress and periodontal disease. Increased levels of cortisol, which the body releases when experiencing stress, can intensify the destruction of the gums and bone due to periodontal disease. In addition, another JOP study indicated that people experiencing stress are more likely to neglect their oral hygiene.
- Kick the habit. Smoking is not only a leading cause of respiratory and cardiovascular disease in the United States, it is also a major risk factor for periodontal disease. Several research studies have shown that smoking not only increases the chance of developing periodontal disease, but it can also affect the success of treatments for existing periodontal disease.
- See the doctor. Regular check-ups by a physician can help with early diagnosis of several health issues, including periodontal disease. A large body of research associates gum disease with other chronic inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Therefore, by screening for systemic disease early and receiving any needed treatment, you may also benefit your periodontal health.
Dr. McClain stresses that while these tips may contribute to healthy teeth and gums, the benefit of routine oral care cannot be discounted. “Taking good care of your periodontal health starts with daily tooth brushing and flossing. You should also expect to get a comprehensive periodontal evaluation, or CPE, every year,” she advises. A dental professional, such as a periodontist, a specialist in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of gum disease, can conduct a comprehensive exam to assess your periodontal health.
Tooth numbering: The accordance of a unique number to each tooth. The Universal/National System for permanent (adult) dentition (1-32) includes: (1) is the patient’s upper right molar and follows around the upper arch to the upper left third molar (16), descending to the lower left third molar (17) and follows around the lower arch to the lower right third molar (32). The Universal/National System is used primarily in the United States whereas the International Standards Organization System is used in most other countries.
The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) is a professional association of more than 37,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up to date in the profession through continuing education to better serve the public. Founded in 1952, the AGD has grown to become the second-largest dental association in the United States, and it is the only association that exclusively represents the needs and interests of general dentists. More than 772,000 persons in the United States are employed directly in the field of dentistry. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patients’ oral health needs.
Approximately 75% of adults in the United States are affected by some form of periodontal disease, ranging from mild cases of gingivitis to the more severe form, periodontitis. However, recent research conducted by the AAP and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that periodontal prevalence rates in the US may have been underestimated by as much as 50 percent.
A recent study by Sharma and Shamsuddin published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of Periodontology suggests a possible link between upper respiratory diseases—including pneumonia, acute bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—and periodontal disease. Typically occurring when bacteria are inhaled into the lungs, the bacteria that cause periodontal disease also can be inhaled into the respiratory tract and increase the risk of infection.
The study examined 200 people, 100 who had been hospitalized with a respiratory infection and 100 who were healthy. The study results demonstrated that those who were part of the healthy group had better periodontal health, while the periodontal health of those with respiratory illnesses was worse.
Several studies have suggested a link between periodontal disease and other inflammatory diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. However, there is not a lot known about how periodontal disease can impact respiratory health. Considering that respiratory infections, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pneumonia, can be severely debilitating and are a major cause of death in the United States, research into how periodontal health and respiratory health are potentially connected is imperative.
The significance of this research study is that it provides further evidence of the perio-systemic link by demonstrating that the incidence of pathogens in the periodontium may play a role in the progression of non-oral disease. These findings suggest that the presence of bacteria associated with periodontal disease, such as Porphyromonas gingivalis, may increase a patient’s risk of developing or exacerbating respiratory infections. The occurrence of these oral pathogens, and the resulting supragingival plaque accumulation, periodontal pockets, and—I would argue—the inflammatory response diminishes the host defense, thereby increasing subjects’ risk for developing a respiratory infection.
Poor periodontal health, therefore, may be viewed as a risk factor for respiratory disease. But as the researchers note, other factors may come into play as well. Additional research is needed in this area to better understand how periodontal disease and respiratory disease are related.
This study places a lot of emphasis on the role of bacterial pathogens in the progression of both periodontal disease and respiratory disease. While the presence of bacteria is a determinant of disease, it is often the inflammatory response to bacteria that is essential in the initiation and progression of disease states.
Individuals may be genetically predetermined to respond differently to a challenge, such as bacteria, and therefore their level of disease may be different. It seems that while an in-depth discussion of inflammation was missing in this study, there was speculation that periodontal pathogens not only are responsible for respiratory tract infection, but also that these pathogens may affect the local defense mechanisms of the region to increase these patients’ risk for respiratory disease.
Both periodontal disease and respiratory disease are often classified as inflammatory conditions, so it may be possible that inflammation may be a factor in the link between the two. Obviously, more research is required to illustrate this and better understand if and how the inflammatory response to periodontal bacteria leads to the development or aggravation of respiratory infections.
Periodontal disease is a chronic, inflammatory disease that can impact overall health, and therefore, we must treat our patients accordingly. This means conducting a comprehensive periodontal evaluation on an annual basis to ensure that periodontal disease is caught early and an appropriate treatment plan can be established. The dental team must work together to ensure that each patient receives a yearly comprehensive examination, including intraoral, extraoral, and occlusal evaluations; a thorough assessment of plaque, calculus, and gingival inflammation; probing of at least six sites per tooth; assessment and documentation of recession and attachment loss around teeth; radiographic evaluation of bone loss; and an assessment of patient-associated risk factors such as age, smoking, and the presence of other chronic, systemic conditions associated with systemic inflammatory burden.
If you have aching teeth with no signs of tooth decay or gum disease, you may be experiencing bruxism. Bruxism is the technical term for grinding your teeth. Bruxism is a common cause of aching teeth that affects millions of people of all ages in the United States. (1)
In addition to aching teeth, symptoms of bruxism include:
- Headaches upon waking in the morning
General feeling of pain in the face
Jaw muscles that feel painful or tight
Chipped, broken, or worn teeth or fillings
Swelling along the lower jaw
Contractions of the jaw muscles
Audible teeth grinding at night (1)
Treatment for Aching Teeth
If you experience aching teeth and other symptoms of bruxism, see a dental professional as soon as possible. If left untreated, chronic tooth grinding can damage crowns and fillings, and wear away tooth enamel, putting your teeth at increased risk for infection or decay. Causes of bruxism that lead to aching teeth include crooked teeth, poor jaw alignment, and stress or anxiety. If bruxism is due to misaligned teeth, straightening your bite with orthodontia could help solve the problem. But if bruxism is due to chronic stress, stress management techniques may be needed to help relieve your aching teeth.
Your dental professional may recommend a mouth guard to wear at night to help prevent tooth pain associated with bruxism.
What’s a Cleft Lip or Cleft Palate?
The word cleft means a gap or split between two things. A cleft lip is a split in the upper lip. This can happen on one or two sides of the lip, creating a wider opening into the nose. A cleft palate is a split in the roof of the mouth. This leaves a hole between the nose and the mouth.
Sometimes a cleft lip and cleft palate occur together. Cleft lip and cleft palate are very common and occur in about 1 or 2 of every 1,000 babies born in the United States each year.
Cleft lip and cleft palate are birth defects. This means they happen while a baby is developing. Normally, the mouth and nose of a baby develop between the first 6 and 12 weeks of growth inside the mother. In some babies, parts of the lips and roof of the mouth don’t grow together. Because the lips and the palate develop separately, it’s possible to have cleft lip alone, cleft palate alone, or both together.
We don’t always know why a particular baby has cleft lip or cleft palate. Sometimes the condition runs in families. This means that a person with cleft lip or cleft palate may have a relative with the same thing.
Other times, cleft palate is part of a syndrome, meaning there are birth defects in other body parts, too. Sometimes a cleft may be related to what happened during a mother’s pregnancy, like a medication she may have taken, a lack of certain vitamins, or exposure to cigarette smoke. Most of the time, however, the cause of the cleft is unknown.