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.”
Lately, I’ve seen some commercials from dental insurance companies showing wallets trying to run away when they hear dentists telling their owners about needed dentistry. (If you haven’t seen it, you can view it here: https://www.ispot.tv/ad/Itb6/physicians-mutual-dental-insurance-scared-wallet )
I have to admit that it’s very difficult to hear someone say that they can’t afford a needed dental procedure when in the next breath they’re telling me they’re going on a vacation they’ve always wanted to go on—a vacation that often costs more than what they’d need to spend on their mouth! They say people buy what they want over what they need—consider:
Do you like your teeth? Do you like the lifestyle they give you?
Think about it:
- Are you able to eat what you want to eat or do you have to limit your diet because you can’t chew properly? Healthy teeth are the best choice for being able to eat whatever you want to eat.
- When you smile, what do people see? Do they see nice teeth that show that you care about your appearance? Or do they see gaps and discolorations that may indicate the opposite to them? (Whether that’s what you mean to convey or not, that’s how many people unconsciously view your appearance.)
- When you talk, how do you sound? Teeth are a very important part of our speech. Just listen to any child who’s lost his or her front baby teeth to hear the difference. Cute when you’re young—not so cute when you’re older.
These are just a few of the benefits that your teeth and mouth provide to you. It’s time to realize that healthy teeth and gums are a want as well as a need. For the best health and function. your teeth, gums, bone and titanium must live in harmony in your body. We’d like to help you achieve this!
**Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgment of your healthcare professionals.
The internet has transformed how we get information. Where you once needed to find an encyclopedia, telephone directory or library, you can now turn to your handy smartphone or tablet for the same information.
But this convenience has a dark side: A lot of material online hasn’t undergone the rigorous proofreading and editing published references of yesteryear once required. It’s much easier now to encounter misinformation—and accepting some of it as true could harm your health. To paraphrase the old warning to buyers: “Viewer beware.”
You may already have encountered one such example of online misinformation: the notion that undergoing a root canal treatment causes cancer. While it may sound like the figment of some prankster’s imagination, the idea actually has a historical basis.
In the early 20th Century, a dentist named Weston Price theorized that leaving a dead anatomical part in the body led to disease or major health problems. In Price’s view, this included a tooth that had undergone a root canal treatment: With the vital pulp removed, the tooth was, in his view, “dead.”
Price amassed enough of a following that the American Dental Association rigorously investigated his claims in the 1950s and found them thoroughly wanting. For good measure, a Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA Otolaryngology—Head & Neck Surgery) published a study in 2013 finding that not only did canal treatments not increase cancer, but they might even be responsible for decreasing the risk by as much as forty-five percent.
Here’s one sure fact about root canal treatments—they can save a tooth that might otherwise be lost. Once decay has infiltrated the inner pulp of a tooth, it’s only a matter of time before it spreads through the root canals to the bone. Removing the infected pulp tissue and filling the resulting empty space and root canals gives the tooth a new lease on life.
So, be careful with health advice promoted on the internet. Instead, talk to a real authority on dental care, your dentist. If they propose a root canal treatment for you, they have your best health interest—dental and general—at heart.
If you would like more information on root canal treatment, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Root Canal Safety: The Truth About Endodontic Treatment and Your Health.”
Have you seen the commercial about the dentist who’s only a “dental monitor”? In other words, he only finds the problem and tells you about it; he doesn’t fix it. (If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CGDzxPsdi7w ). Seems kind of silly when we put it that way, but if you’re still of the mindset to “just watch” a dental problem, you’re doing the same thing.
In the past, we, as dentists, were taught to “just watch” small areas of decay on teeth and other early problems. I think in part we did this because the fillings available at the time required dentists to remove a significant amount of tooth structure to place the filling—so we waited until the area of decay penetrated the tooth enamel before we drilled.
Today, we have products that will bond to the tooth enamel—allowing us to fill a tooth all while removing much less tooth structure than we had to in the past. With this technology, the days of “just watching” a small cavity are past!
Remember the problem won’t cure itself, it’s only going to keep getting worse. It won’t get less expensive to fix by waiting—and in many cases it may get more expensive to do so and/or require additional dental services to fix it. And it won’t get more comfortable if you wait.
A cavity isn't going to heal itself--it's only going to keep getting larger and may end up needing a root canal or to be removed if you wait too long. Periodontal or gum disease isn't going to get better if you don't treat it--all you'll end up doing is losing more jaw bone from around your teeth!
(Note: There are a few isolated cases where Watching is indicated. For example, if you have a soft tissue sore, we might watch it for two weeks to see if it heals on its own. So, if you’ve burned the roof of your mouth with hot pizza, as long as you don’t keep traumatizing the area, it should heal itself within two weeks as part of the normal healing process. But if the area doesn’t heal, we then need to address it without waiting.)
*Note: The information in this article is not meant to replace the clinical judgment of your healthcare providers.
Pain is the body’s warning system: It tells us something is wrong. And depending on the location and intensity of the pain, it can give us vital clues about the problem.
Sometimes, though, it’s not so clear and direct—the pain could arise from any number of sources. Toothaches often fall into this category: Although it’s likely indicating a tooth or gum problem, it could be something else — or even somewhere else.
This is known as referred pain, in which you may feel pain in one location, like your mouth, but the actual source of the problem is somewhere else, like an infected and congested sinus passage. If we’re able to identify the true source and location of the pain, the better the chances of a successful treatment outcome.
Besides sinus infections, there are other conditions like trigeminal neuralgia that can refer pain to the mouth. This painful condition involves the trigeminal nerve, a large nerve running on either side of the face that can become inflamed. Depending on where the inflammation occurs, you might feel the pain at various points along the jaw, feeling much like a toothache.
There’s also the case of an earache mimicking a toothache, and vice-versa. Because of the proximity of the ears to the jaws, there is some nerve interconnectedness between them. For example, an infected or abscessed back tooth could feel a lot like an earache.
These and other possible problems (including jaw joint disorders or teeth grinding) can generate pain as if it were coming from the mouth or a single tooth. To be sure you’ll need to undergo a complete dental examination. If your dentist doesn’t find anything wrong with your mouth, he or she may refer you to a medical doctor to explore other possible causes.
Getting to the root cause of pain can help determine which treatment strategy to pursue to relieve it. Finding the actual source is the most efficient way to understand what a pain sensation is trying to tell us.
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