Dr. Barsoum's Blog
Posts for: September, 2011
For many people, starting a chewing tobacco habit begins as something you do with “all the guys” to be cool and fit in. It often starts when playing sports such as baseball. And because it is smokeless tobacco, many people think it is harmless; thus they slowly start “dipping” more often until they are chewing tobacco throughout each day, every day.
The truth about chewing tobacco is that it isn't harmless. It is extremely dangerous and contains more than 30 chemicals known to cause cancer. It also contains nicotine, the highly addictive-forming drug found in cigarettes. Sure, it may not have the odorous (and dangerous) impact of cigarettes, cigars and pipes that can negatively impact others nearby, but it can destroy both your oral and general health and even kill you.
Steps You Can Take to Quit
Once a person decides to stop using chewing tobacco, it can be a difficult process and even more difficult to quit cold turkey. If the latter describes your situation, try a smoking cessation program or talk with your doctor about prescription medicines available to help you kick the habit. You may also find free counseling (via telephone) or other groups and organizations created to help people break free from their tobacco addiction. This is often a great way to start the quitting process.
Two of the most important steps you can take are to involve your physician and our office in your strategy to kick this habit. In addition to encouraging and supporting your decision, we can closely monitor your oral health during the process.
Dental caries (tooth decay) is similar to the pesky bumblebee that invades your lovely summer barbecue. You can find temporary solace from this intruder by eliminating that very first bee that you see, but if you are situated in an area that is close to the bee's nest, it won't be long before the next bee buzzes along. This is similar to tooth decay. Having one cavity-laden tooth drilled and filled is really just a temporary fix. The underlying conditions that led to tooth decay in the first place need to be addressed in order for your risk of future infection to decrease.
Researcher Dr. John Featherstone created the concept of the Caries Balance in 2002, in which he explained that tooth decay and overall dental health are dependent upon a proper balance of disease-causing and health-promoting factors. Discovering what the fundamental problem really is (and getting as far away from that hornet's nest as possible) can help both determine and curb your risk for future tooth decay.
Here's the issue in a nutshell: Susceptible teeth, in the presence of acid producing bacteria when fed by sugar from your diet, basically, will create all the conditions necessary to cause tooth decay.
To determine your risk for tooth decay, see how many times you answer “Yes” to the following questions:
- Do you brush your teeth twice a day to reduce bacterial plaque sticking to the teeth?
- Do you use fluoride toothpaste to strengthen the teeth against acid attack?
- Do you use a fluoride mouthrinse?
- Do you floss daily?
Every affirmative answer decreases your risk of getting cavities, but even doing all of this may not be enough!
Now, how many times can you answer “Yes” to these questions?:
- Do you smoke? Smoking causes mouth dryness, and creates a host of other health problems.
- Do you snack frequently between meals? One sugary snack and your mouth is acidic for the next hour. One snack per hour and your mouth is acidic all day.
- Do you frequently have acid reflux or heartburn? Reflux creates extreme acidity in the mouth and directly erodes tooth enamel.
- Do you drink soda, sports drinks, or acidic beverages frequently? These beverages are very acidic.
- Is your mouth frequently dry? Do you take any medications that cause mouth dryness? Saliva is nature's own defense against acidity and helps neutralize acid in the mouth.
- Have you had frequent cavities in the past and/or have you had any crowns or fillings in the past three months? The best indicator of future disease is past disease!
Every affirmative answer increases your risk of getting cavities!
Now that you are a little more knowledgeable about your personal risk for tooth decay, make an appointment with us to discuss the preventative measures that can give you some control over the future condition of your teeth. Ignoring the risks and then ending up with a mouth full of rotting teeth when you knew better could really sting a little!
To learn even more about the delicate balance between the disease causing and protective factors related to tooth decay, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Tooth Decay: How To Assess Your Risk.”
If you fear a visit to the dentist, you are not alone. Studies have shown that up to 75% of people surveyed have some fear of dental visits, and 10 to 15% fear the dentist so much that they avoid any dental treatment. This can have serious repercussions, leading to toothaches, infections, and loss of teeth. Poor oral health can even negatively affect your general state of health.
Here's the good news. Even people who are the most afraid of the dentist can learn to reduce their fear and feel calm and safe during a dental visit.
Dental fears develop when people have bad dental experiences. For many, the problem is a sense of loss of control. Sometimes, fears are based on stories people have heard or even movies they have seen.
The feeling of being afraid reinforces your fear. If you experience the rapid heartbeat, sweaty palms, tensed muscles, and other symptoms of fear while in the dentist chair, you are likely to remember these unpleasant feelings afterward and become even more fearful. In order to reverse this process, you need to begin to associate dental visits with good experiences and a sense of control. Here's how we can help you do this:
- Know that you are not alone and we are here to help you.
- Talk to us about your fears. We are sure to listen and not be judgmental. If you don't talk about it, you can't get over it.
- We will start by doing things that cause only mild or no anxiety. We want each visit to be a good experience, so you are able to leave our office with a feeling that it was okay, and you can do it again.
- Our goal is for you to overcome your fear. We will make this a priority and that priority is as important as “fixing your teeth.” We will be happy to talk about the time and fees associated with your treatment so that you can overcome your fear and gain a sense of control of the situation.
- It took a while for your fears to develop, so you should realize that it will also take a while to get over them. We will spend as much time as you need to get over your fears and will not rush you into doing anything for which you are not ready.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about any fears you may have. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Overcoming Dental Fear & Anxiety.”
Often perceived as a cancer that only affects older adults who have a history of heavy tobacco and alcohol use, oral cancer is now on the rise among younger adults as well. New research has found a link between oral cancers, and the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), a disease that is primarily spread through oral sex.
Importance of Screening: If you're concerned about oral cancer, rest assured that our office routinely carries out a cancer screening exam on every patient. We have several ways to painlessly detect abnormal tissues in their earliest stages. In addition, please contact our office if you experience any of the following signs or symptoms:
- White and/or red patches in the mouth or on the lips
- A bleeding or ulcerated sore in the mouth
- A sore anywhere in your mouth that doesn't heal
- Persistent difficulty swallowing, chewing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
Although all of these symptoms can also be signs of less serious problems, be sure to alert our office if you notice any of the above changes.
Prevention: you can take a proactive role in preventing oral cancer by:
- Conducting an oral self-exam at least once a month. Use a bright light and a mirror, look and feel your lips and front of your gums, the roof of your mouth, and the lining of your cheeks.
- Scheduling regular exams in our office. The American Cancer Society recommends oral cancer screening exams every three years for people over age 20 and annually for those over age 40.
- Refraining from smoking or using any tobacco products and drinking alcohol only in moderation.
- Eating a well balanced diet.
- Practicing safe sex.
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