Lansing's Dental Discussion

Posts for: July, 2015

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
July 30, 2015
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral cancer   nutrition  

Good nutrition is vital for maintaining health and preventing disease, especially for your mouth. A diet rich in whole foods — fresh fruits and vegetables, protein and dairy products — and low in sugar will not only promote strong teeth and gums, but lessen your chances of developing tooth decay or periodontal (gum) disease.

Diet is also a prominent factor in reducing the risk for another serious mouth disease — oral cancer. While oral cancer makes up only 3% of total cancer cases reported annually, the five-year survival rate is a sobering 50%, much lower than for other types of common cancers. While genetics plays a role in your susceptibility to oral cancer, lifestyle choices and practices present the greater risk factors for the disease.

Of these lifestyle factors, refraining from tobacco products, moderating your alcohol consumption and avoiding risky sexual behavior are of primary importance in reducing your cancer risk. With that said, you should also take into account the foods that are part of your daily diet — both what you should and shouldn’t eat. As an example of the latter, some foods contain a class of chemicals known as nitrosamines that are carcinogenic (cancer-causing). One such chemical, nitrite, is used as a preservative in meats like bacon or ham, and may also be found in beer, and seafood products.

On the positive side, your diet should be rich in foods that supply antioxidants, substances that protect the body’s cells from damaging, unstable molecules known as free radicals. The best sources for antioxidants (more so than dietary supplements) are plant foods rich in fiber and vitamins C and E. Eating more of these may also reduce your intake of nitrates, animal fat and saturated fat.

Adopting a moderate, nutritious diet, along with exercise, can have a huge positive impact on your general health and quality of life. Along with other lifestyle changes, better dietary choices can also help ensure a healthy mouth and reduce your risk of oral cancer.

If you would like more information on the role of nutrition in reducing your risk of oral cancer, 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 “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”

By Holly A. Scott-Hetchler DDS, PC
July 22, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures
Tags: fillings  

Find out what to do when your dental filling becomes damaged.

If you’ve ever had a cavity, then your Lansing dentist Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler likely removed the decay and painlessly filled your tooth to preserve your smile. While dental fillings are made from durable composite resin, sometimes fillings can become damaged. Find out what you should do if your filling cracks.

When will my dental filling need to be replaced?

While dental fillings are durable and designed to last for years, at some point they will need to be replaced. Teeth grinding, jaw clenching and wear and tear from eating can cause a dental filling to crack or fail, shortening its lifespan.

If your filling has cracked or become damaged, this allows bacteria to enter the tooth and potentially cause further damage. While these bacteria can be removed by brushing your teeth at least twice a day, they can be difficult to remove with your regular toothbrush. To prevent your tooth from developing more decay, you’ll need to see your Lansing dentist for treatment.

How do you know that your filling has begun to fail?

Sometimes you don’t, which is why keeping up with regular dental examinations are vitally important to detecting and treating problems with your dental fillings. If you see your Lansing dentist every six months for routine cleanings, we will typically be able to detect issues as soon as possible before other complications have set in. Even if you can’t tell that your filling is worn or cracked, we will be able to check the filling's integrity by using a special instrument. X-rays can also help to confirm whether a dental filling is still sound or not.

If your Lansing dentist finds that your dental filling has failed or decay on your X-ray, then the dental filling needs to be replaced. Do not put off getting a new filling! The longer you wait, the more likely it is that the crack will worsen or tooth pain will set in. Early detection is key!

Dealing with a dental problem that needs immediate repairs? Your Lansing dentist is at your service. Call Dr. Holly Scott-Hetchler's office right away, and let us care for your damaged filling.

By Holly Scott-Hetchler DDS
July 15, 2015
Category: Dental Procedures

A few days before the Oscars, Vanity Fair magazine asked Academy Awards host Neil Patrick Harris to name his most treasured possession. Was it his Tony award statuette for best leading actor in a musical? His star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame? The stethoscope he wore while playing teenaged doctor Doogie Howser on TV? No, as it turns out, the 41-year-old actor’s most treasured possession is… his wisdom teeth. Yes, you read that correctly. “Oddly, I still have my four wisdom teeth,” Harris said. “I refuse to let them go or I’ll lose my wise parts.”

How odd is it for a 41-year-old to have wisdom teeth? Actually, not that odd at all. While it is true that wisdom teeth are often removed, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to this. It all depends on whether they are causing problems now, or are likely to cause problems in the future.

The trouble wisdom teeth cause is related to the fact that they are the last molars to come in, and that molars are large in size. By the time wisdom teeth appear between the ages of 17 and 21, there often is not enough room for them in the jaw. Sometimes it’s because you may have inherited a jaw size that’s too small for your tooth size; and generally speaking, the size of the human jaw has evolved to become smaller over time.

If room is lacking, the adjacent molar (that came in earlier) can interfere with the path of eruption — causing the wisdom tooth to come in at an odd angle. The wisdom tooth can hit up against that other tooth, possibly causing pain or damaging the adjacent tooth. This is known as “impaction.” Sometimes the wisdom tooth breaks only partway through the gum tissue, leaving a space beneath the gum line that’s almost impossible to clean, causing infection. A serious oral infection can jeopardize the survival of teeth, and even spread to other parts of the body.

If a wisdom tooth is impacted, will you know it? Not necessarily. A tooth can be impacted without causing pain. But we can see the position of your wisdom teeth on a dental x-ray and help you make an informed decision as to whether they should stay or go. If removal is the best course of action, rest assured that this procedure is completely routine and that your comfort and safety is our highest priority. If there is no great risk to keeping them, as Neil Patrick Harris has done, we can simply continue to monitor their condition at your regular dental checkups. It will be particularly important to make sure you are reaching those teeth with your brush and floss, and that you keep to your schedule of regular professional cleanings at the dental office. All healthy teeth are indeed worth treasuring.

If you would like more information about wisdom teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”

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