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How Smoking Increases the Risk of Oral Cancer

May 18th, 2022

Cigarette smoke contains more than 6,000 chemicals, and at least 200 of those chemicals are known to be harmful to your health. When smoke is inhaled, moist oral tissues are saturated with excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and a host of other known carcinogens. Most oral cancers originate in abnormal squamous cell activity, which are cells found on the lips, inside the mouth, and in the throat.

How Oral Cancer Begins

Cells exposed to consistently high levels of cigarette smoke may eventually suffer abnormal mutations within their DNA. Since deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is responsible for providing cells with instructions about growth, reproduction, and death, these instructions become distorted, which causes the cells to reproduce uncontrollably.

Essentially, that is what cancer is: rapid, unchecked growth of genetically mutated cells that encourages the development of malignant tumors. Unfortunately, the chemicals in cigarette smoke are strongly associated with oral cancer.

Signs of Oral Cancer

Early-stage oral cancer is often asymptomatic, which means symptoms appear only after the cancer intensifies and spreads. Possible signs of oral cancer include:

  • Ulcers inside the mouth or on the lips that do not heal
  • White or dark red patches inside the mouth
  • Lumps inside or around the mouth (a lump could appear on your neck)
  • Bleeding, numbness, and soreness in the mouth
  • Chronic halitosis
  • Loose teeth in the absence of tooth decay

Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Cancer

Squamous cell oral cancer is the most common type diagnosed in smokers. Dr. Michael Dougherty and our staff often discover squamous cell carcinoma lesions during dental examinations or cancer screenings. Depending on the stage of the oral cancer, treatment may begin with a biopsy or an exfoliative cytology procedure that involves collecting cells from the oral cavity using a scraper.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer patients may need surgery, radiation therapy, a combination of surgery and radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to eradicate oral cancer.

Smoking, Cancer, and Tooth Decay

Not only is smoking the number-one cause of cancer but it is also detrimental to the overall health of your teeth and gums. Yellow teeth, bad breath, dry mouth, and expedited tooth decay are all caused by smoking, not to mention the damage smoke does to the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

In other words, don’t smoke!

What type of toothpaste is right for you?

May 11th, 2022

Toothpaste no longer comes in simple choices of fluoride and fresh breath. Paste is not even the only option! You can choose gel forms and even some with ribbons of color and flavor. With so many varieties available, it may be difficult to know which features or combinations of ingredients are best for your mouth. Dr. Michael Dougherty and our team are here to help!

Fluoride

The majority of all dental patients should use toothpaste with fluoride. Fluoride helps to strengthen the enamel on your teeth; it makes them stronger and more resistant to cavities. Even if you live in an area that adds fluoride to your drinking water, the fluoride protection in toothpaste is necessary.

Some individuals can have an allergic reaction to fluoride. Fluorosis can occur in children or adults that swallow too much toothpaste while brushing. If swallowing cannot be prevented, fluoride use should be reduced. The American Dental Association has updated guidelines that recommend fluoride be used as soon as the first teeth erupt in children. However, the amount should be minimal and swallowing should be prevented.

Sensitivity Protection

If your teeth are sensitive to temperatures, toothpaste with sensitivity protection can work wonders for your discomfort. Ingredients in these pastes or gels work to block the pathways to the nerves that react to hot or cold. Do not give up on this type of toothpaste after a few days; the full results may take a few weeks.

Plaque, Tartar, and Gingivitis Protection

Everyone has bacteria in his or her mouth, and this bacteria is normal. Unfortunately, some bacteria also cause plaque. If the plaque remains on your teeth, it hardens into tartar or calculus. Tartar is an almost cement-like substance that cannot be removed by brushing alone. When bacteria and tartar are left behind, the deposits will form under the gum line. This leads to gingivitis and gum disease.

Since there is a wide variety of toothpastes and ingredients for preventing tartar and gingivitis, ask Dr. Michael Dougherty and our staff what the best choice is for your teeth. We can help you select the right combination of ingredients.

Whitening

White teeth are desirable, and manufacturers are heavily marketing whitening toothpastes. Most brands do not contain bleaching ingredients; they use abrasives to polish stains away. Unfortunately, too much abrasive use can be damaging to your teeth. If you’re interested in teeth whitening, our Aurora, CO team can recommend a number of safe and effective options.

Feel free to ask Dr. Michael Dougherty and our staff at Michael Dougherty Dentistry about the best choice in toothpaste to meet your individual needs. Remember to look for the ADA approval seal on any toothpaste you are considering.

Celebrate Your Mom’s Smile with These Mother’s Day Gifts

May 4th, 2022

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and if you’re looking for some different gifting ideas for one of the most important people in your life, we have some suggestions for you. Here are a variety of gifts large and small tailored to your mom’s interests and chosen to support her dental health. After all, that’s what we’re here for!

  • The Techie Mom

If your mother hasn’t tried the latest in brushing technology, a new electric toothbrush might be the gift to warm her techie heart.

Modern electric toothbrushes have plenty of options for the tech-savvy. They come with different settings for brushing and massaging. They can let your mom know if she’s brushing long enough, or if she’s brushing too hard, or when the brush head needs to be replaced. Some models link to apps which show a map of just where she’s brushed, in case some spots tend to get overlooked and underbrushed.

  • The Adventurous Mom

A week in the woods doesn’t faze her. Backpacking? Relaxing. Day hikes? No problem. So help your mom stay unfazed, unstressed, and problem-free with an emergency dental kit for peace of mind during those adventurous outings.

Lightweight kits are available in sporting stores and online. Supplies like cotton rolls, dental floss, oral pain relievers, a dental mirror, and even temporary fillings are included, because, as your mom no doubt told you, it’s always best to be prepared!

  • The Gourmet Mom

For the mom who appreciates foods which both taste good and do good, consider a gourmet gift which can satisfy her palate and contribute to her health. While normally we wouldn’t recommend sugary chocolates as having any kind of health benefit, dark chocolates are the delicious exception to the rule.

Dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) is a great source of antioxidants, iron, zinc, magnesium and other important minerals. It’s lower in sugar content, and some studies suggest that dark chocolate has cavity-fighting properties and supports gum health. For a personal touch, deliver homemade treats like dark chocolate-covered frozen bananas (low in acidity and filled with nutrients) or dark chocolate-dipped strawberries (a good source of vitamin C, which is great for her gums).

  • The Athletic Mom

She can outski you, outrun you, and hit those threes with ease. If your mom finds her bliss on the slopes, the soccer pitch, the basketball court, or any other sporty venue, consider a custom mouthguard to protect that winning smile.

Custom guards are more comfortable than store-bought options because they are molded to fit the user’s teeth and mouth precisely. This is especially helpful for those with dental work like braces or bridges. And, because the fit is custom, your mom will enjoy easier breathing and talking while exercising.

  • The Mom on the Go

With her active life, any gift which makes your mom’s busy schedule run more smoothly is a good thing—such as a portable kit filled with dental necessities.

A travel toothbrush, a small tube of her favorite toothpaste, a compact mirror, dental picks, dental floss, and a mini-bottle of mouthwash are great basics for a confident smile any time of day. Put everything in a stylish lightweight travel bag. And don’t forget to include a pack of sugarless gum! Sugarless gum helps increase saliva flow (for better hydration) and decrease oral acidity (to help prevent enamel erosion).

  • The Media-Ready Mom

With those perfect selfie angles, your mom’s smiles light up social media! If she’s ever expressed an interest in lightening and brightening that beautiful smile, a professional whitening treatment might be the very gift for her.

Professional whitening at our Aurora, CO office is the most effective way to brighten teeth, with results which are generally faster and more long lasting than over-the-counter treatments. And it’s done with your mom’s dental health in mind, with a checkup to make sure her teeth are in perfect shape before whitening, and with protective measures in place for sensitive mouth and gum tissue.

We hope this list is a helpful starting point for choosing a smile-healthy gift tailored to your mom’s interests. But we can’t close without adding one last gift perfect for every mother. Including a heartfelt letter or card telling her how much she means to you will put a smile on your mom’s face long after Mother’s Day has come and gone!

Courting Disaster

April 27th, 2022

When we think of sports and dental damage, we naturally think of hockey and football. But when it comes to the actual number of dental injuries suffered each year, vying for top seed is the game of basketball.

How is this possible? After all, football and hockey are categorized as “collision sports”! But along with the helmets, shin guards, and padding, these teams often require mouthguards—and this makes all the difference. Studies have shown that an increase in the number of players wearing mouthguards means a decrease in the number of oral traumas.

And while basketball isn’t considered a collision sport, it is a contact sport. Basketball is a combination of running, jumping, hard surfaces, and solid bodies. And elbows. We can’t forget elbows. So a broken or even a knocked out tooth isn’t, unfortunately, all that unusual when bodies in motion meet hard surfaces—or other players. But there are other dental dangers as well. Besides tooth injuries, oral injuries can involve:

  • The ligaments and bone structures holding teeth in place
  • Bones in the upper and lower jaw
  • Delicate gum, tongue, and mouth tissue.

You need a solid defensive strategy to reduce the severity of oral injuries or to prevent them from happening altogether. The best play in your playbook? Wearing a mouthguard!

Choosing the right guard is key. There are three common options, and you can choose the model which works best for you:

  • Stock guards, which are ready-made guards in pre-formed shapes and sizes. You can buy them over the counter in drug stores and sporting goods stores. Because these guards aren’t shaped to fit your teeth and mouth specifically, they can be less protective (and harder to speak around).
  • “Boil-and-bite” guards can also be purchased, and can provide a closer fit. After warming the guard in hot water as directed, you place it in your mouth and bite down firmly to mold it to your teeth.
  • Dr. Michael Dougherty can make you a mouthguard which is designed and crafted specifically for your use. Because this guard is custom-fitted, it provides better protection for your teeth and mouth. Patients often find custom guards much more comfortable and more durable as well.

Mouthguards are most effective when you wear them on the court and care for them off the court. This means avoiding a few flagrant fouls.

  • Dirty play

All those moist nooks and crannies inside your mouthguard are a perfect environment for bacteria, mold, and plaque buildup. You should clean your mouthguard carefully every time you wear it, and let it air dry before popping it back in the case. Ask Dr. Michael Dougherty for advice on getting your guard and its case their cleanest.

  • Failure to sub out in a timely fashion

Mouthguards don’t work if they’re damaged. If you notice any warping, breakage, or jagged or sharp edges, contact our Aurora, CO office for a replacement. If a guard doesn’t fit you properly, it doesn’t protect you, and sharp edges can irritate or injure delicate mouth tissue.

  • Unnecessary roughness

Your mouthguard protects you, so don’t forget to protect it! Keep your guard in its case when you’re not wearing it to save it from dirt, damage, and disappearance.

If you know your basketball, you know your guard game can make all the difference. Even though a mouthguard might not be mandatory on your team, that doesn’t mean it’s not essential. Remember that basketball is a contact sport, and protect yourself with a mouthguard whenever you play.

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