Dental Tips Blog

Aug
15

Tobacco-induced Gum Recession

Posted in Oral Cancer

Smokeless tobacco, dip, or snuff can cause a few different side effects in your mouth that your dentist will want to monitor at your check-ups. Staining and oral cancer are a couple of examples, but another one is gum recession.

Gum recession is when gum tissues creep further down the roots of the tooth, exposing the length of the tooth to external elements. The reason why recession is a problem is that it can cause tooth sensitivity as well as make the tooth lose supportive structures on one side. In some cases, the recession caused by smokeless tobacco may be so severe that the entire length of the tooth is exposed and the tooth could fall out of the mouth.

How can you tell if you have gum recession? Gum tissues should appear even throughout the mouth, and come all the way up to the white crown portion of the tooth. If yellow root surfaces are exposed, then gum recession has occurred.

What does smokeless tobacco have to do with gum recession? Well, the nicotine inside of the tobacco needs a way to get into your body. To do this, tobacco manufacturers place small glass particles into the smokeless tobacco. This mild irritating capability allows the nicotine to be absorbed, but it also damages the soft mucosal tissues.

If you use smokeless tobacco, be sure to have your dentist check the areas where you hold the snuff during the day. These “pouch” areas are at an increased risk of developing precancerous tissue and gum recession. You should have an examination and oral cancer screening at least every 6 months to monitor changes or progress in conditions such as these.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Eberhard, Mockingbird Dental Associates

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Jul
3

Smoking or Smokeless Tobacco: Which is Worse?

Posted in Oral Cancer

If you’re a tobacco user, you’ve heard from your dentist about the need to stop using tobacco products because they can damage the health of your mouth. Some people even switch from smoking to dip tobacco or vice versa, because they believe that one of them is “less bad” than the other. Is this really true?

Cigarette use causes blood vessels around your teeth to atrophy, damaging the gum tissues around them. This can allow gum disease to progress more rapidly and not respond to professional treatments, due to the body’s inability to naturally heal itself of infection. As a result, many smokers with gum disease are at a risk to lose their teeth. There is also the increased risk of developing cancerous or precancerous tissues inside of the mouth, throat, and lungs.

Smokeless tobacco contains tissue irritants that lead to gum recession and precancerous tissue formation in areas where the dip his held. Gum recession can become so severe, that the entire surface of the root is exposed and the tooth is lost. Moving the dip from place to place will minimize irritation, but is not a proven way to prevent the advancement of cancerous diseases.

Both types of tobacco products present specific oral health risks. Simply giving one up for the other does not assure that you’re less likely to develop conditions like tooth loss, oral cancer, or lung cancer. Instead, ask your dentist or physician about smoking cessation programs or medication that can help you kick the habit for good. Make sure you receive an oral cancer screening from your dentist at least twice each year.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Eberhard, Mockingbird Dental Associates

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Feb
13

Why is it Important to Screen for Oral Cancer During Dental Checkups?

Posted in Oral Cancer

Oral cancer screening is a critical part of every bi-annual dental check up due to the aggressiveness of the disease if it is not detected and treated early.  It is estimated that approximately 40,000 people will be diagnosed with some form of oral cancer every year.  People, who smoke, chew tobacco or drink heavily, are especially at risk.

As a result of most cases not being detected until they are in their advanced stages, oral cancer is one of the deadliest cancers, with a five year survival rate less than 50%.  However, if the cancer is detected early, the long term survival rate is over 75%.  The best way have the cancer detected is to have regular dental checkups!

During the routine dental exam, the dentist will look for early signs of cancer using two methods, both of which are effective in detecting oral cancer.  The first method is a thorough visual exam of the patient’s entire mouth including the lips, gums, roof of the mouth, tongue, area under the tongue, tonsils, and the inside of the mouth.

The second method of oral cancer screening is to have the patient wash out their mouth using a special rinse.  The rinse will coat the entire mouth and will bond to any suspicious areas, which are then visible to the dentist using a specialized hand held light.  In the event that a suspicious area is detected, the dentist will work with several other doctors, including oral surgeons, to determine if the suspicious area is cancer and then to work out an aggressive treatment program.

Posted on behalf of Dr. Paul Eberhard, Mockingbird Dental

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