How cancer treatment affects oral health

When someone is undergoing cancer treatment, its important that they involve their dentist in their program of care.

They should schedule a dental exam and cleaning before the treatment actually begins and then repeat it periodically during the course of treatment.

Its important that they tell the dentist that they are being treated for cancer and that they also discuss any dental procedures, such as extractions or insertion of dental implants, with the oncologist before starting the cancer treatment.

Its therefore a good idea to ensure that the dentist and oncologist have each others details to enable them to discuss any issues to help the patient.

And the dentist and physician should be informed about any issues such as bleeding of the gums, pain, or unusual feeling in the teeth or gums, or any dental infections.

Maintaining excellent oral hygiene during cancer treatment is vital to reduce the risk of infection and to help aid the treatment process.

How sugar in your diet affects your teeth

The sugar content in the food you eat has a big effect on your teeth and gums.

When bacteria (plaque) come into contact with sugar in the mouth, acid is produced, which attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more. This can eventually result in tooth decay.

Thats why drinking sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks can take a toll on teeth.

This is particularly true for children as their eating patterns and food choices affect how quickly they develop tooth decay.

Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. However, almost all foods, including milk or vegetables, have some type of sugar. Many of them also contain important nutrients that are an important part in our diet.

To help control the amount of sugar you consume, read food labels and choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars. Soft drinks,candy, cookies and pastries often contain added sugars.

Common questions about dental insurance

Understanding what’s covered by your dental insurance is an important part of making sure you get the best oral care possible.

Here are some common questions that arise when people want to understand their cover better.

– If treatment my dentist recommends is not covered by my insurance, does that mean it’s not necessary?

Some plans make exclusions such as sealants, pre-existing conditions, adult orthodontics, and specialist referrals. This depends on your dental plan and you should not let the level of cover determine whether you need treatment.

– My dental benefit will only pay for a large filling but my dentist recommends I get a crown. Which should I choose?

Some plans will only cover the least expensive solution but it may not be the best option for your needs. You should decide based on your health needs and not on your insurance cover.

– My dental plan says it will pay 100 percent for checkups and cleanings but the insurance company says I owe for part of the dentist’s charge. How can this be?

Some plans provide cover based on a “customary fee” for each procedure. So, if your dentist’s fee is higher, your benefit will be based on a percentage of the customary fee instead of your dentist’s fee. Although these limits are called “customary,” they may not accurately reflect the fees that dentists charge in your area.

– Will my plan cover the care my family will need?
If your employer offers more than one plan, check the exclusions and limitations of the coverage as well as looking at the general benefits. It’s a good idea to discuss your family’s likely needs with your dentist before choosing a plan.

The plan document should specify who is eligible for coverage under the plan.

Plans offered by the same provider or employer can vary according to the contracts involved so your dentist will not be able to answer specific questions about your benefit or predict what the coverage for a particular procedure will be.

If you have specific questions about coverage, talk to your plan provider.

Whats involved in getting a dental implant?

Dental implants are increasingly popular as a way to replace missing or damaged teeth.

Their great advantage is that they look natural and feel secure helping you to restore your smile and eat more easily.

Implants are an ideal solution for many people but they are not an option for everyone.

Placing implants requires some surgery so patients must be in good health, have healthy gums and have adequate bone to support the implant.

They must also be committed to taking action to maintain their oral hygiene and to visiting the dentist regularly.

The process for placing implants is as follows:

First, surgery is performed to place the anchor. This can take up to several hours. Following the surgery, you may need to wait up to six months for the bone to grow around the anchor and firmly hold it in place. Sometimes follow up surgery is required to attach a post to connect the anchor to the replacement teeth. Alternatively, the anchor and post may already be attached and are placed at the same time.

After the gums have had several weeks to heal, the next step is to fit specially-made artificial teeth to the post portion of the anchor. This can take a few weeks to complete as several fittings may be required.

Implant surgery can be done either in a dental office or in a hospital, depending upon a number of factors. A local or general anesthetic may be used. Usually pain medications and, when necessary, antibiotics are prescribed.

After your implants are fitted, your dentist will give you tips and advice on maintaining your oral hygiene.

Your dentist can help you decide whether you would be a good candidate for implants.

What Causes Sensitive Teeth?

If you sometimes find the taste of something hot or cold painful on your teeth, you may suffer from sensitive teeth.

Sensitive teeth is a common problem which may be caused by cavities and fractured teeth.

But it can also be caused by worn tooth enamel, a cracked tooth or an exposed tooth root.

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the body and it protects the crowns of healthy teeth. A layer called cementum protects the tooth root under the gum line.

The part underneath the enamel and the cementum is called dentin, which is less dense than enamel or cementum.

The dentin contains small hollow tubes or canals called tubules. When the dentin loses its protective covering, the tubules allow hot, cold, acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth.

This causes hypersensitivity and occasional discomfort but fortunately, the irritation does not cause permanent damage.

Following proper oral hygiene helps prevent the gums from receding and causing the pain of sensitive teeth.

Brushing your teeth incorrectly or even brushing too much can cause gum problems.

Your dentist will advise you on the best daily routint to maximize your oral hygiene.

How sedation and general anesthesia can make your visit to the dentist easier

While local anesthetics are often used in dental treatment, there is sometimes a need for anti-anxiety agents – such as nitrous oxide – or sedatives to help people relax during dental visits.

Dentists may use these agents to induce “minimal or moderate sedation”.

In this case, the patient reaches a relaxed state during treatment but can respond to speech or touch.

Sedatives can be administered before, during or after dental procedures by mouth, inhalation or injection.

More complex treatments may require drugs that can induce “deep sedation”.

This reduces consciousness and causes a loss of feeling which helps to reduce both pain and anxiety.

Sometimes patients undergo “general anesthesia” where the drugs lead to a temporary loss of consciousness.

A dentist may recommend deep sedation or general anesthesia for certain procedures with children or with adults who have severe anxiety or for people who have difficulty controlling their movements.

While these techniques to control pain and anxiety are used to treat tens of millions of patients safely every year, its important that you let your dentist know anything that might affect your ability to benefit from them for example, tell them about any illnesses or health conditions, whether you are taking any medications and if you’ve had any problems with allergic reactions to medications.

Dental plaque – what it is and how to avoid it

You’ve probably heard people talking about plaque and maybe you’ve some idea of what it is.

But its useful to know a bit more about it so that you can do whats necessary to minimize the risks.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums.

When you’ve eaten a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. When this happens regularly, the enamel can weaken. This eventually leads to tooth decay.

The food we eat often causes plaque bacteria to produce acids. So, if you eat a lot of snacks, your teeth may be suffering acid attacks all day.

If you don’t remove the plaque through effective daily brushing and cleaning between the teeth, it can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

Another effect of plaque is that it also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red and tender or causing them to bleed easily.

If you want to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, make sure you have a balanced diet and avoid having too many snacks between meals.

When you feel like a snack, go for foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.

Your options if you have many missing or damaged teeth

People who have not followed adequate dental care for some years may have already lost most of their teeth and feel a little hopeless.

Sometimes they ask a dentist to remove the remaining teeth as they are often broken and have deep cavities.

It’s true that, sometimes, removal of the remaining teeth and replacing them with full dentures is the only option.

But more often there are other options available.

Some or all of the remaining teeth could be repaired and used in conjunction with a partial denture. While a full denture replaces all of the teeth on the upper or lower jaw, a partial denture replaces some of the teeth.

If only a few weak teeth remain on the upper jaw, it might be preferable to have them extracted and a full upper denture made. Full upper dentures can be more secure than lower ones as the upper denture gets added stability from the palate and is not easily dislodged by the tongue.

If only a few teeth remain on the lower jaw, however, the dentist will usually aim to save them and use a partial denture if necessary.

Ideally, all teeth that can be saved should be saved but this is not always possible – often due to finances.

In such cases, having teeth removed and dentures may be the only option.

Is bottled or tap water better for your teeth?

With many people concerned about the taste and purity of tap water, the sales of bottled water have increased significantly in recent years.

Tap water goes through a process of purification designed to eliminate suspended materials, remove tastes and odors and kill microorganisms.

Fluoride is added to most tap water supplies with the aim of reducing cavities.

Fluoride becomes incorporated into our teeth as they develop and makes them more resistant to decay. It can reverse the progress of early cavities and reduce the need for dental treatment.

Mass water fluoridation has played an important role in reducing tooth decay.

The problem with bottled waters is that they usually don’t contain fluoride.

So there is a risk that drinking bottled water can increase the risk of cavities for some people.

If you drink a lot of bottled water, you can make up for this by using fluoride toothpaste and mouth rinse.

Your dentist may even suggest a fluoride supplement if they notice an increase in cavities.

Dry mouth is a common problem that can harm your teeth

If your saliva flow is reduced, this can cause dry mouth which often leads to increased tooth and gum problems.

Dry mouth known as xerostomia – is a common problem especially among older adults. Its caused by certain medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

The common problems associated with dry mouth include:

– Constant sore throat
– Burning sensation
– Problems speaking
– Difficulty swallowing
– Hoarseness or dry nasal passages

When there is not enough saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, there is a risk of extensive tooth decay.

If you are at risk from this condition, your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture.

For example, sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

As dry mouth is a potential side effect of many prescribed and over-the-counter medications it is a very common problem.

These medications can include antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, high blood pressure medications, muscle relaxants, drugs for urinary incontinence, Parkinsons disease medications, antidepressants and many others.

Fortunately there are many simple solutions available to reduce the risk to your oral health caused by dry mouth so talk to your dentist if you are on any kind of medication or you feel you may be at risk from this issue.