Posts for: April, 2018
Fans of the legendary rock band Steely Dan received some sad news a few months ago: Co-founder Walter Becker died unexpectedly at the age of 67. The cause of his death was an aggressive form of esophageal cancer. This disease, which is related to oral cancer, may not get as much attention as some others. Yet Becker's name is the latest addition to the list of well-known people whose lives it has cut short—including actor Humphrey Bogart, writer Christopher Hitchens, and TV personality Richard Dawson.
As its name implies, esophageal cancer affects the esophagus: the long, hollow tube that joins the throat to the stomach. Solid and liquid foods taken into the mouth pass through this tube on their way through the digestive system. Worldwide, it is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths.
Like oral cancer, esophageal cancer generally does not produce obvious symptoms in its early stages. As a result, by the time these diseases are discovered, both types of cancer are most often in their later stages, and often prove difficult to treat successfully. Another similarity is that dentists can play an important role in oral and esophageal cancer detection.
Many people see dentists more often than any other health care professionals—at recommended twice-yearly checkups, for example. During routine examinations, we check the mouth, tongue, neck and throat for possible signs of oral cancer. These may include lumps, swellings, discolorations, and other abnormalities—which, fortunately, are most often harmless. Other symptoms, including persistent coughing or hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and unexplained weight loss, are common to both oral and esophageal cancer. Chest pain, worsening heartburn or indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also alert us to the possibility of esophageal cancer.
Cancer may be a scary subject—but early detection and treatment can offer many people the best possible outcome. If you have questions about oral or esophageal cancer, call our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”
While we often associate tooth decay with cavities forming in a tooth’s visible or biting surfaces, the occurrence of this all too common disease isn’t limited to those areas. Cavities can develop in any part of a tooth exposed to bacteria.
Gum recession, the shrinking back of the gums from the teeth, can cause such exposure in areas normally covered by the gums. Because these areas are usually more vulnerable to infection when exposed, cavities can develop at or right below the gum line. Because of their location it can be difficult to fill them or perform other treatments.
One way to make it less difficult is to perform a crown lengthening procedure. While the term sounds like we’re increasing the size of the tooth, we’re actually surgically altering the gums to access more of the affected tooth surface for treatment. It’s typically performed in a dental office with local anesthesia by a general dentist or a periodontist, a specialist in the gums.
During the procedure, the dentist starts by making small incisions in the gums to create a tissue “flap” that can be lifted out of the way. This exposes the underlying bone, which they then reshape to support the gum tissue once it’s re-situated in its new position. The dentist then sutures the gums back in place. Once the gums heal, the decayed area is ready for treatment.
Crown lengthening is also useful for other situations besides treating cavities. If a tooth has broken off at the gum line, for example, there may not be enough remaining structure to support a crown. Crown lengthening can make more of the underlying tooth available for the crown to “grab” onto. It’s also useful in some cases of “gummy smiles,” in which too much of the gum tissue is visible in proportion to the tooth size.
Because crown lengthening often involves removing some of the bone and is thus irreversible, you should discuss this procedure with your dentist in depth beforehand. It could be, though, this minor procedure might make it easier to preserve your teeth and even make them look more attractive.
Could your mouth be trying to tell you that trouble is brewing?
It’s important that you are listening to what your mouth is trying to tell you. While not all dental issues will cause symptoms if you are noticing any changes that give you pause then it’s always a good idea to turn to our Bethesda, MD, family dentist Dr. John Kelly to find out whether or not you might require dental treatment such as a root canal.
Root canal treatment is actually more common than you might think and really not as big a deal as you might have been led to believe. Ignore those silly horror stories. In fact, the belief that root canals are painful is a myth that we are here to debunk. So, why is a root canal sometimes necessary?
While tooth enamel is very strong it can still become damaged by decay, trauma, or an infection. When these issues are bad enough they can break through the enamel and enter the inside of the tooth, infecting the dental pulp and root canals. Once bacteria has entered the inside of the tooth the only option is for our Bethesda, MD, dentist to go in and disinfect the tooth while also removing the infected dental pulp.
A dental pulp is a fleshy mass that is integral to the development of a tooth. Of course, once the tooth has fully matured the pulp is no longer necessary for it to thrive. If the pulp has been infected the most common and telltale sign is a toothache.
A toothache can manifest itself in many ways. You may only notice pain when chewing or putting pressure on the tooth, while others may experience constant pain. The pain can range from mild to severe. Of course, any dental pain isn’t normal and it’s important that you nip the problem in the bud as soon as possible. If you are experiencing a toothache please give your family dentist a call right away.
Other signs that you may need a root canal include:
- Lingering or sudden tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods and beverages
- Puffy, red, or tender gums surrounding the affected tooth
- Tooth darkening (a sign that the roots of the tooth have decayed)
- A pimple-like bump on the gums (a sign of an infection)
If you are dealing with a toothache or other symptoms that you suspect might be warning you that you need care then don’t hesitate to turn to our Bethesda, MD, family dentist right away. Call Bethesda Row Dental today!