Gum disease or periodontitis is caused by the build-up of bacteria under the gumline and along the root surface of the teeth. If the bacteria is not properly and frequently removed, the plaque along these areas will calcify into calculus or tarter and stick to the side of the tooth similar to barnicles on the side of a ship. This tarter is teeming with bacteria that causes an immune response in which you begin to break down the bone holding the teeth in place. This is a chronic and progressive disease that if not arrested, oftoen leads to tooth loss.
Causes and Prevention of Oral Cancer
The most common cause of oral cancer is tobacco use, chewing tobacco being a more common cause than smoking, but both can lead to it. Interestingly, smoking pipes and cigars leads to more oral cancer than cigarettes, statistically speaking, presumably due to how deeply the smoke is inhaled. There is new evidence that vaping also increases oral cancer risk due to the release of chemicals like formaldehyde, but since this is a new practice the research is still emerging. Excessive alcohol consumption also leads to a higher risk of oral cancer and is considered the second highest risk factor. The best prevention for oral cancer is to not use tobacco and to only use alcohol in moderation. Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) can also increase oral cancer risk significantly. Knowing this, it is suggested that eveyone, male and feamale, under the age of 18 riecieve the HPV vaccine as a prevnetive measure.
Signs and Common Areas to find Oral Cancer
The most common site for oral cancer is on the back of the tongue to one side or the other. Chewing tobacco users will commonly develop lesions in their cheeks where they hold their tobacco, but it is possible to develop lesions anywhere in the mouth. A malignant lesion normally looks white or red and often appears ulcerated, but generally has little or no pain. Skeletal cancer will exhibit atypical bony changes on a radiograph.
Oral Cancer Screening
Screening is done by the doctor at each of the patients normal cleaning recall appointment. At each recall and during a patient’s initial comprehensive examination, the examining dentist will check the soft tissue of the mouth and tongue for any atypical lesions. Also, radiographic x-rays are taken periodically to also check for any skeletal abnormalities.
Treating Oral Cancer
Oral cancer most commonly needs surgical intervention for treatment and depending on the extent and type of cancer, this surgery may involve the removal of only soft tissue like the tongue or cheek, or removal of hard tissue as well such as the jaw bone. Other treatment such as radiation and chemotherapy depends on the type and progression of the disease.
Guide to Orthodontics
Orthodontics is the area of dentistry that deals with changing the position of teeth. Although mostly associated with the cosmetic goals of creating “straight” teeth for a more symmetric smile, orthodontics can be used to create space for tooth or implant restorations where teeth have drifted over time into spaces of missing teeth. Orthodontics have been used to change tooth position to relieve jaw pain associated with how teeth come together. Systems to accomplish these goals vary from fixed or traditional bands and brackets to removable plastic trays such as Invisalign.
Traditional braces with bands and brackets are cemented to teeth and connected to other teeth with wires on some or all the teeth. Traditional braces can be used to relieve crowding, reduce overbites, correct rotated or tilted teeth, close spaces or gaps or help impacted teeth erupt. Traditional braces may require the patient to wear elastics and maintain excellent hygiene throughout treatment which typically lasts 2 or more years.
Orthodontics can also be accomplished using removable appliances. Typically these are made up of a series of plastic trays which are fabricated to move the teeth while in the patient’s mouth. The trays can be removed by the patient for eating and cleaning both the teeth and trays. The trays require the patient to be more responsible about wearing them as prescribed by the dentist. Each type of treatment has its strenghts and weakneses and can be used to accomplish different results. Sometimes the best treatment results can only be obtained by combining both treatment modalities.
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