Dentist - Towson
8600 LaSalle Rd. Suite 406 Severn Bldg.
Towson, MD 21286
410-321-0551

Posts for: February, 2014

By Dr. Mark Shulman
February 24, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral cancer  
EarlyDetectionisCriticaltoSurvivingOralCancer

While oral cancer makes up only a small portion of annual cancer cases, they are nonetheless a critical situation for those patients who develop them. Because cancer lesions in the mouth are easily mistaken for other kinds of sores or overlooked as they develop, they're often not detected until the later stages of the disease. The lack of early detection is a major factor in a dismal overall survival rate for oral cancer of 58%, five years after treatment. On the other hand, oral cancer diagnosed in earlier stages of development boast a much improved survival rate — up to 80% after five years.

The most important factor for early detection is your own observations while performing oral hygiene. A lesion can occur anywhere in the oral cavity (the mouth) or the pharynx (back of the mouth and throat). Of particular concern are abnormalities that appear on the lips and on or around the tongue. These abnormalities may first look like cold or canker sores, ulcers or white patches. If they don't begin to diminish in a few days, then you should certainly contact our office for an oral cancer exam (this exam is also part of your routine office visit).

While there are a number of diagnostic screening tests, the best method for achieving an accurate diagnosis is a biopsy. We would remove a small sample of the abnormal tissue (if the area is large enough to begin with) and have it analyzed microscopically. If the abnormality is small, the complete abnormality would be removed so that if it was determined to be benign or in a pre-cancerous stage, we would have already treated your condition by removing the abnormal tissue. If, however, the sample returns positive for cancer and we were unable to remove it totally during the biopsy, then a course of treatment must be developed utilizing other specialists in dental and medical oncology.

You should also be aware that there are actions you can take to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer in the first place: protect yourself from too much sun exposure; moderate your intake of alcoholic beverages; refrain from any tobacco use (smoking and smokeless) or risky sexual activity; and eat a plant-based, whole food diet. These actions coupled with vigilance for early detection can make a difference in your oral health — it may even save your life.

If you would like more information on 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 “Oral Cancer.”


By Dr. Mark Shulman
February 21, 2014
Category: Oral Health
GumInflammationCouldHaveanEffectonYourHeartHealth

Your body’s organ systems are interlinked — what happens in one system may affect another. An example of this is the interrelationship between periodontal (gum) disease and cardiovascular disease (CVD).

Medicine has discovered a common link between these two different conditions — inflammation. A result of the body’s defense mechanisms, chronic inflammation is damaging to both your mouth and your heart. Inflammation can destroy the gum’s soft tissue and underlying bone and lead to tooth loss. In the cardiovascular system, inflammation can begin and accelerate the buildup of plaque within arterial blood vessels (atherosclerosis). This inhibits the flow of oxygenated blood to both the heart and brain, which sets the stage for a heart attack or stroke.

Gum disease begins with poor oral hygiene. When brushing and flossing aren’t performed on a regular basis, or not performed adequately, it allows a thin layer of bacterial plaque called biofilm to build up on the teeth. The bacteria cause infection in the soft tissues of the gum that triggers the chronic inflammation. Because it’s often unaccompanied by other signs of infection like fever, a patient may not even be aware of it. There’s evidence now that inflammation caused by moderate to severe gum disease can contribute to a similar response in blood vessels.

We can treat the gum disease and reduce or eliminate the inflammation. This first requires the removal of all plaque and calculus (harder deposits) on the teeth, down to the root level. It may require surgery to access these areas and to help regenerate some of the lost tissue and bone that support the teeth. It’s also important to institute proper oral hygiene — effective daily brushing and flossing, semi-annual office cleanings and checkups.

In a similar way, you should address signs of inflammation in your cardiovascular system, including blood pressure management and the control of LDL (bad) cholesterol. Because both gum disease and CVD share many of the same risk factors, you can positively impact both your oral and general health by eating more nutritional foods, engaging in regular exercise and quitting tobacco products.

Treating any symptom of inflammation is important to improving your total health. By bringing gum disease and its accompanying inflammation under control, you may in turn help your heart and blood vessels.

If you would like more information on the relationship between heart and gum diseases, 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 “The Link Between Heart & Gum Diseases.”


By Dr. Mark Shulman
February 13, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
Tooth-HarmingHabitstoAvoid

Did you know that you probably do at least one thing during the course of an average day that puts your healthy smile at risk? These are some of the more common offenders:

Coffee, Soda, and Sports Drink Consumption
If you really can’t give them up, try to consume these beverages with restraint. Their high acidity and/or sugar content can erode protective tooth enamel, making your pearly whites more prone to staining and decay. Even natural fruit juices should be consumed in moderation as they tend to be high in sugar and sometimes acidity (e.g. orange juice). Your best bet? Water, of course. It won’t damage your teeth and thanks to fluoridation may even help remineralize and fortify your enamel.

Brushing Immediately After Eating
If you were told to brush after every meal, forget it. Acids in foods and beverages can soften your enamel, and brushing may actually accelerate erosion. Wait at least an hour to brush, which is the time it generally takes for your oral pH to normalize and your tooth enamel to reharden. However, it is advisable after eating to floss and rinse out your mouth with plain water or a mineralized dental wash to help wash away food particles.

Jaw Clenching, Tooth Grinding, Pencil Chewing
These and similar “parafunctional” behaviors — outside the uses for which teeth are designed — can cause undue tooth wear and exert stresses that can cause chips and fractures. They can affect other parts of the oral system, too, potentially resulting in jaw joint pain and muscle spasms, headaches and other head and neck ailments.

It’s hard to cut out all high-sugar/high-acid foods and beverages, so where complete elimination isn’t possible, focus on moderation and try to consume them only during mealtime. Jaw clenching and other parafunctional behaviors are often subconscious and may be harder to control; in such cases an unobtrusive device like a clear occlusal (bite) guard can alleviate the problem.

If you would like more information about tooth damage and prevention 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 Decay” and “Stress & Tooth Habits.”


By Dr. Mark Shulman
February 05, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health  
PreservingYourTeethsEnamelCouldPreserveYourTeeth

Teeth are composed of layers of different types of tissue. The main inner layers — the pulp and dentin — help the teeth respond and adapt to external forces. But they’re vulnerable to decay and quite sensitive to environmental extremes. They are protected from all these by a coating of enamel, made of the hardest material found in the human body.

But while enamel is strong, it’s not invincible — it can soften and dissolve (de-mineralize) if the mouth environment becomes too acidic. While de-mineralization occurs normally whenever the mouth becomes too acidic after eating or drinking, saliva helps neutralize the acid (buffering); in fact, saliva can restore to the enamel some of the calcium and other minerals it has lost (a process called re-mineralization).

If the acidic level remains too high for too long it can overwhelm saliva’s buffering ability and cause permanent mineral loss to the enamel. This erosion leaves teeth more susceptible to decay and disease and could lead to tooth loss. With this in mind, here’s some ways you can help preserve your enamel:

  • Wait about thirty to sixty minutes after eating or drinking to brush your teeth. Counterintuitive as this may sound, it takes about thirty minutes for saliva to restore a normal pH level and re-mineralize the enamel. If you brush within this window of time, you could brush away some of the softened minerals from the enamel.
  • Only brush twice a day. Over-brushing causes undue enamel wear, as well as contributing to receding gums.
  • Take advantage of less acidic or mineral-rich beverages. Drink milk or water most of the time, rather than juices, sodas or sports drinks. The calcium in milk or as an additive to acidic beverages aids in buffering and re-mineralization.
  • Use a straw for acidic beverages. With a straw your teeth avoid direct contact with most of the beverage’s acid, a key factor in de-mineralization.
  • Avoid eating just before bed. Saliva flow decreases significantly when we sleep. If you eat right before bed, there may be less saliva available for buffering and re-mineralization.

Following these tips, along with effective oral hygiene, will go a long way in protecting your teeth’s enamel coating — and preserving your teeth in the long run.

If you would like more information on enamel erosion and how to prevent 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 article “6 Tips to Help Prevent the Erosion of Tooth Enamel.”




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