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Is there really a link between my mouth and heart?

August 16th, 2019

Yes, indeed! While brushing, flossing, and regular visits to Michael Dougherty Dentistry are all key to maintaining a healthy smile and mouth, Dr. Michael Dougherty and our team want you to know the state of your oral health has a significant effect on your overall health.

Our mouths are full of bacteria—some good, and some harmful. Some types of bad bacteria can cause cavities, gingivitis and even periodontal (gum) disease. Without proper oral care and hygiene, these harmful types of bacteria are capable of entering your blood stream through inflamed gums, when inhaled through the mouth or through saliva.

Gum disease, in turn, has been linked to a number of health problems, researchers have found. These include:

  • Heart disease: Gum disease may increase the risk of heart disease. Gum disease also is believed to worsen existing heart disease.
  • Stroke: Gum disease may increase the risk of the type of stroke caused by blocked arteries.
  • Diabetes: People with diabetes and periodontal disease may be more likely to have trouble controlling their blood sugar than diabetics with healthy gums.
  • Premature birth: Women who suffer from gum disease during pregnancy may be more likely deliver their baby early, and it is likely her infant may be of low birth weight.

Dr. Michael Dougherty and our team at Michael Dougherty Dentistry are experts in identifying and treating periodontal disease. Give us a call today at our convenient Aurora, CO office to schedule an appointment to improve your oral health and your overall health, too!

How to Handle an Unexpected Dental Emergency

August 9th, 2019

Regardless of the type of dental emergency you experience, it is important that you visit Michael Dougherty Dentistry for emergency dental care as soon as possible. A chipped or cracked tooth requires professional attention, as bacteria may gather in these areas, potentially causing infection that could require a root canal. Remember, you may be capable of managing pain, bleeding, and swelling at home, but by visiting our office for immediate treatment, you can fight infections and minimize lasting damage to your mouth, teeth, and gums under the expert care of our emergency dentist.

24/7 Emergency Dental Care

Michael Dougherty Dentistry is proud to offer emergency dental care around the clock, seven days a week. Dental emergencies do not wait for regular business hours, and if you experience a serious dental emergency, you need immediate treatment. Whether you have a broken tooth or if you have bitten through your tongue, do not hesitate to visit us day or night. Until you arrive at our office, however, there are some helpful steps you can take if you encounter a serious dental dilemma.

Managing Your Dental Emergency

If a toothache is causing problems, you can probably keep the discomfort under control until our emergency doctor can treat you. Start by checking the gums that surround the affected tooth for inflammation, bleeding, or foreign objects. There may be food lodged in the gum that could be removed by flossing. You can control pain by placing a cold compress against your mouth, or by using an over-the-counter oral numbing agent.

More serious situations may be extremely time sensitive, and require immediate emergency attention. For example, if a tooth is completely knocked out, carefully clean it with water. Try to place the tooth back into its socket or briefly store it in a cup of milk if it will not fit back into the gum. Never pick up a tooth by the root or force it into the socket. Come straight to our office, as your tooth will need to be replaced within a short amount of time. Similarly, if you have bitten through your lip or tongue, the American Dental Association recommends carefully cleaning the area before coming as quickly as you can to our emergency dental office for treatment.

Remember, there is no reason you should live with discomfort. By visiting our Aurora, CO office immediately in an emergency, you can take control of your oral health comfortably and safely.

Antibiotic Prophylaxis or Pre-Medication

August 2nd, 2019

At Michael Dougherty Dentistry, we know the human mouth contains a lot of bacteria. A bacterium can travel through your body with routine activities that are a normal part of daily living. You spread bacteria when you brush or floss your teeth, when you chew, and when you swallow.

For most people, bacteria don’t cause any problem. For some people, however, especially those who have chronic medical conditions, specific cardiac conditions, or whose immune systems are compromised, bacteria that spreads throughout the bloodstream can lead to much more serious bacterial infections.

The goal of pre-medication or antibiotic prophylaxis, Dr. Michael Dougherty will tell you, is to prevent bacterial endocarditis, a serious infection of the endothelial heart surfaces or the heart valves. The condition is also called infective endocarditis. A small population of people with certain health problems has a high risk for contracting this potentially deadly bacterium.

The American Heart Association states that people at greatest risk for contracting bacterial or infective endocarditis are:

  • Patients who underwent cardiac valve surgery in the past
  • Those who have suffered past incidents of infective endocarditis
  • Patients who have mitral valve prolapse, resulting in or causing valve leakage
  • People who have had rheumatic fever or any degenerative cardiac condition that produces abnormalities in cardiac valves
  • Patients who suffer from certain congenital heart diseases

For these patients, any dental procedure may cause bleeding, and prophylactic antibiotic administration is recommended as a preventive measure.

Other patients who require prophylactic antibiotics

The American Association of Endodontists extends recommendations to patients who have undergone joint replacement surgery within the past two years, suffer from type 1 diabetes, or have immune deficiencies from diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or HIV; cancer patients whose immune systems are suppressed because of radiation or chemotherapy; people who have had organ transplants; and hemophiliacs.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also includes people who suffer from sickle cell anemia, as well as patients who suffer from conditions that require chronic steroid therapy.

Typical endodontic procedures for which antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended include root canal therapy (when it involves going deeper than the root apex), surgical tooth extractions, and any other dental, endodontic, or periodontal procedure during which the doctor anticipates bleeding.

Although different medical societies and organizations offer these guidelines as a way of identifying patients for whom prophylactic pre-medication is essential prior to dental procedures, dentists will take each patient's medical history and personal risk factors into consideration. Some doctors may choose to administer antibiotics following a procedure, especially for patients who have previously suffered from oral infections either as a result of dental procedures or that necessitated oral surgery.

For more information about antibiotic prophylaxis, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Michael Dougherty, please give us a call at our convenient Aurora, CO office!

HPV and Oral Cancer

July 19th, 2019

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and, while most of these infections leave our systems on their own with no long-term ill effects, some cancers have been linked to certain “high risk” strains of the virus. One of these strains, HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer.

HPV-related oral cancer most often appears in the oropharynx. This area of the mouth includes:

  • The base, or back, of the tongue
  • The soft palate
  • The tonsils
  • The back and sides of the throat

While HPV-related oral cancers can appear in other parts of the oral cavity, they most typically occur at the back of the throat and tongue and near the folds of the tonsils. Because of this location, oropharyngeal cancer can be difficult to detect. This is one more important reason to maintain a regular schedule of dental exams. Our examination doesn’t focus only on your teeth and gums. We are trained to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth, head, and neck to make sure you have the earliest treatment options should they be needed.

If you discover any potential symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer, call us for a check-up. These symptoms can include:

  • Trouble moving the tongue
  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Trouble opening the mouth completely
  • A red or white patch on the tongue or the lining of the mouth
  • A lump in the throat, neck, or tongue
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is always best to be proactive. HPV-related oral cancer is rare, but it is on the increase. While HPV-positive oral cancers generally have a better prognosis than HPV-negative oral cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are still essential for the best possible outcome.

Finally, if you are a young adult or have an adolescent child, talk to Dr. Michael Dougherty and to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, which is effective before exposure to the virus occurs. Most HPV vaccines, while not designed specifically to prevent oral cancer, prevent the HPV16 strain from infecting the body—the very same strain that causes the majority of HPV-related oral cancers.  Although no studies have shown definitive proof yet, there is strong feeling in the scientific community that these immunizations might protect against HPV-positive oral cancer as well as cervical, vaginal, and other cancers. It’s a discussion worth having at your next visit to our Aurora, CO office.

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