Lansing's Dental Discussion

Posts for: April, 2013


Chewing tobacco is a known cause of oral cancer, yet many a Major League Baseball player has been seen walking onto the field with a round tin visibly poking out of his back pocket. That was before this year. Recognizing the influence big-leaguers have on their young fans, MLB players agreed to a new contract that limits their use of chewing tobacco and their ability to carry it around their fans. The 2012 season is the first to be played under the new rules, which were championed by Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

One player who used smokeless tobacco heavily is Baseball Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn. The former Padres slugger earlier this year endured 14 hours of surgery to remove a cancerous growth from the inside of his right cheek and graft a nerve from his shoulder to replace a facial nerve damaged by the tumor. This was Gwynn's second cancer surgery in less than two years.

When it comes to oral cancer, the importance of early detection can't be stressed enough. Unfortunately, this form of cancer is not usually detected until a late stage so the overall survival rate is poor, with only 58% surviving five years after treatment. Yet when oral cancer is detected while a lesion is small, survival rate exceeds 80%. That's why an oral cancer screening is always part of your dental check-up or regular cleaning appointment at this office.

During this screening we will examine your face, neck, lips, mouth, tongue and the back of your throat for any suspicious lesions (sores or ulcers) or lumps. Of course, if you notice any unusual lesions, or color changes (white or red patches), anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two-three weeks, please come in to see us as soon as possible. And if you need help kicking a tobacco habit, we can advise you on how to get it.

If you would like more information about oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”

By The Office of Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler
April 08, 2013
Category: Oral Health

Dental Care for Babies: Give Your Child a Lifetime of Smiles

    Your children are precious, and so are their constantly evolving smiles. Proper oral care begins even before you see that first tooth emerge.  It is important to know how to properly take care of your child’s smile at every age – from brushing your toddler’s teeth to eating for better oral health.  As children grow from toddlers to teens, their dental care needs continue to evolve.  Between contact sports and sugar-laden sweets and sodas, it is important to know how can you protect their teeth and preserve their smiles. 

Your Child’s First Visit to the Dentist

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends bringing your child to the dentist before his or her first birthday.  At your child’s first dental visit, your dentist will:

  • Check your child’s teeth for decay and signs of early developmental problems
  • Explain how to care for your child’s teeth
  • Answer any questions or concerns you might have

At the office of Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler we take it at a pace that will work well for your child.  The first visit is normally just an exam by the Doctor.  Once you child is age 2-3 years old we will start professional cleaning appointments with our hygienist.


How do I Begin Care for my Child’s Teeth?

    Putting your baby to sleep with a bottle in his or her mouth may be convenient in the short term, but it can harm the baby’s teeth immensely.  When the sugars from juice or milk remain on a baby’s teeth for hours, they may eat away at the enamel, creating a condition known as “bottle mouth”, which is associated with pocketed, pitted or discolored front teeth.  Parents and childcare providers should help young children develop set times for drinking during the day, as well, because drinking from a bottle throughout the day can be equally as damaging to young teeth.

    Cleaning a child’s teeth should begin when the first tooth is visible because teeth are susceptible to decay as soon as they appear in the mouth.  Wipe your baby’s teeth and gums clean after every feeding with a soft, damp washcloth or gauze pad.  A leading cause of tooth decay among young children is known as “baby bottle syndrome,” which is when an infant is allowed to drink from a nursing bottle containing milk, formula or fruit juice during nap time or at night and the baby falls asleep with the bottle in his or her mouth.  Prolonged exposure to the sugars and acids in liquids that pool around the teeth can cause discoloration and decay in teeth.  Even babies can have problems with dental decay when parents do not practice good feeding habits at home. 

    It is vital to maintain proper dental hygiene for your child from the day he or she is born because it will set the groundwork for appropriate oral health.  Visit Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler for more advice and for regular dental checkups.  It is never too soon to protect your child’s teeth!  Call us today to ensure your child is getting the best care possible.


By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
April 04, 2013
Category: Oral Health
Tags: toothache   tooth pain  

Don't ignore tooth pain hoping it goes away. No matter how mild or fleeting it may be, it's a sign that something's wrong. Healthy teeth shouldn't cause discomfort because the parts containing the nerves — the interior pulp and the dentin around it — are shielded by dental enamel and gums.

Here are some common reasons that teeth ache:

  1. Gum Recession. Over time, gums can recede. Improper or excessive brushing can affect them, especially if you are genetically predisposed by having thin gums. When gums retreat, dentin can, or eventually will, be exposed. Besides its susceptibility to sensation, dentin is also more vulnerable to erosion and decay than enamel.
  2. Tooth Erosion/Decay. When acid-producing oral bacteria get the upper hand, they can eat through the tooth's protective enamel to the dentin. You may start feeling sensitivity as the decay gets deeper and closer to the pulp (nerves). Only removal of the decay and filling the cavity can stop the process.
  3. Old/Loose/Lost Filling. Fillings seal off areas of past decay. If they don't fit right or are dislodged altogether, air or food particles can slip inside and irritate exposed nerve endings. A crevice to hide in makes it prime real estate again for bacteria, too.
  4. Cracked Tooth. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching can have a similar impact on teeth that a miner's pick has on rock. At first thin lines in your enamel can develop, then cracks develop that may expose the dentin, and finally the tooth might fracture, exposing the pulp. The earlier this process is caught, the better.
  5. Pulp Tissue Infection/Inflammation. This can be caused by deep decay or trauma and suggests your tooth may be in its death throes. Sometimes the pulp infection travels into the surrounding periodontal (peri – around; odont – tooth) tissues and causes an abscess to develop. This absolutely requires immediate attention.
  6. Residual Sensitivity from Dental Work. Removal of decay before placing a filling can cause tooth sensitivity. It can take 1-4 weeks or so to improve.
  7. Sinus Pain. Congestion can cause “referred” pain in the upper teeth. When the congestion subsides, the pain should, too.

As you can see, it's risky to discount tooth pain and “wait ‘til it goes away.” Our office can help you determine the origin of your pain and the best course of action to resolve it. When in doubt, it's always better to err on the side of caution!

If you would like more information about tooth pain and ways to prevent or treat it, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!” and “Sensitive Teeth.”

By The office of Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler
April 03, 2013
Category: Relaxation
Tags: Untagged

Don’t Fear the Dentist, Learn to Overcome Your Dental Anxiety

    Some people do not look forward to dental appointments.  However, it is important to understand that most dental procedures are not painful.  Instead, just being examined can make people feel stressed and uneasy about their trip to the dentist.  If you fear the dentist, you are not alone. What is important is that there is nothing to fear about going to the dentist for check-ups and procedures because advancements in dentistry allow your dentist to provide the care you need without the pain and discomfort that you may be afraid of. Today, procedures are easy to perform and you will exhibit minimal to no pain at all.


Why do I have a Dental Anxiety?

    The causes of dental anxieties are numerous and include factors both related and unrelated to dentistry.  Past experiences will also influence the anxiety you may feel.  This not only includes physically painful dental visits and treatments, but also psychologically uncomfortable experiences, such as being humiliated by dental professionals, family, friends or others.   Be assured that Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler can help you overcome your anxiety over past dental experiences.  Her team of caring professionals will make you feel at ease every step of the way.

    Some patient’s fear of going to the dentist or getting dental procedures done is so severe that they may lose sleep at night and worry excessively about what might happen at the dentist’s office.  Dental anxiety is common and it is stated that up to 15 percent of Americans avoid seeing a dentist due to their fear. 

Some other reasons contributing to dental anxiety and dental phobia include:

  • Fear of pain
  • Feelings of helplessness and loss of control
  • Embarrassment or shame about the look and condition of the teeth, as well as the fearful behavior itself.
  • Past bad experiences, which includes physically painful dental visits, but also psychologically uncomfortable experiences.
  • History of abuse
  • Observational or vicarious learning
  • Post-traumatic stress
  • Fear of needles
  • Hopelessness that neglect or the condition has made it too late to do anything
  • Adverse effects of medication or their ineffectiveness in providing relief from anxiety and pain


How do I overcome my Dental Anxiety?

    If you have a dental anxiety, you should always communicate with your dentist.  The best thing you can do to get over your dental anxiety is to talk with your dentist about it.  If you are anxious about something, come right out and talk to Dr.Holly Scott-Hetchler about it because she will take the time to hear your fears and help make you comfortable.  We offer many options such as relaxation gas or oral medications to calm your nerves.

During a procedure, talk with your hands.  It is often difficult to speak with your mouth while you are undergoing treatment, so talk to your dentist before your procedure on how you will communicate if a problem arises or you feel discomfort.  A simple raise of the hand could signal discomfort, allowing your dentist to adjust the anesthesia appropriately.  Additionally, you can benefit from distracting yourself.  Let your mind wander and try focusing on another thought or a feature that stands out in the office.  Letting your mind wander can help ease some of your anxiety. 

Talk to Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler for more information on how to eliminate your dental anxiety so that you can receive the care you need once and for all.  

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Holly A. Scott-Hetchler DDS, PC 919 Chester RdLansing, MI 48912