Mouth cancer, also known as oral cancer, affects more than 50,000 newly diagnosed people every year. It’s scary, it’s serious, and it can be deadly. However, it’s not all bad news. In fact, oral cancer can be treated successfully if it’s caught early and treatment begins quickly. To do this, your dentist in Sparks, as well as yourself, need to check for signs of oral cancer often. But what exactly should you look for?
Oral Cancer Signs & Symptoms
Some of the early signs of oral cancer can easily be confused with other non-serious oral health conditions. This is one thing that can make oral cancer tricky to catch. However, if any of the signs and symptoms below don’t go away within 2-3 weeks, schedule an appointment with your Sparks dentist to get checked out.
- Chronic cough
- Changes in voice
- Difficulty swallowing
- An earache on one side
- A hard lump in the soft tissues
- Swollen tonsil on one side without pain
- A painless lump on the outside of the neck
- Any sore that doesn’t heal itself within 2-weeks
- Discoloration in the mouth including a red, white, or black appearance
Check Your Mouth Initiative
Created by The Oral Cancer Foundation, the Check Your Mouth public health initiative was designed to help people self-identify potential abnormalities in the mouth. Now, while this tool is incredibly helpful for those at-home checks, they don’t replace your dentist. The best way to truly diagnose oral cancer is through your dentist in Sparks. This is one reason why bi-annual dental visits are so important as they allow your dental team to see any changes that may have occurred since your last appointment and treat them appropriately.
Reduce The Risk
Oral cancer can happen to anyone at any time. But there are a few people who are at increased risk of developing oral cancer, including:
- People 50 or older — Oral cancer tends to be most prominent after 50.
- Current or former tobacco users — 80% of those who get oral cancer either currently use tobacco or did at one time.
- Heavy drinkers — Another habit that can increase the risk of oral cancer is drinking alcohol heavily. Nearly 70% of those diagnosed with oral cancer are heavy drinkers.
- Men — Men are more likely to develop oral cancer than women.
If you’re overdue for a dental visit or have an area of concern, we welcome you to schedule an appointment at our Sparks dental office today. We’re always happy to help!
Anyone can crack a tooth at any time and anywhere. If this happens, you should schedule a visit with your dentist in Sparks as soon as you can. But there are a few things you can do at home to help protect your tooth and relieve any pain that you may have. Keep in mind, these tips are only temporary and you still need to be seen by a dentist for proper treatment.
If you happen to crack a tooth at night or on a weekend when your dentist may not be readily available, try these tips for temporary help:
- If you can, take over-the-counter pain medication.
- Use a dental anesthetic to help numb the area.
- Rinse with warm salt water a few times a day to remove bacteria.
- Apply an ice pack to your cheek to reduce swelling.
Signs of a Cracked Tooth
Sometimes you can crack a tooth and not even know it. But most often, a cracked tooth comes along with a few key signs, including the following from the American Association of Endodontists:
- Pain while chewing
- Sensitivity to hot, cold, and sweets
- Pain that comes and goes
Cracked Tooth Treatment
If you do crack a tooth, don’t worry. There are several different ways that your dentist in Sparks may use to fix it.
Bonding – Bonding is a simple, painless way to repair a cracked tooth. Your dentist will fit the crack with a sticky resin, harden it using a special light, and restore your tooth.
Dental Crowns – Another option to treat a cracked tooth is a dental crown. This is usually more appropriate for a larger crack. Your dentist in Sparks will create and place a custom crown over the affected tooth, protecting it from more damage. Each crown is designed to match the shape, color, and size of your other teeth so nobody will ever know it’s there.
Root Canal – If a crack is deep enough to affect the inner tooth, you may need a root canal. A root canal may sound scary and painful, but the opposite is true. During a root canal, your dentist will remove any affected pulp which will relieve any pain you may have. A root canal can also protect you from developing an infection.
Tooth Extraction – When a cracked tooth goes beyond repair and affects too much of the natural tooth structure, your dentist may recommend an extraction. However, many times, extracted teeth can be replaced with a dental implant or bridge so you don’t need to live with a missing tooth.
It is possible to have a cracked tooth and not know it. However, the longer a cracked tooth goes undetected and untreated, the more it can lead to bigger problems. This is why it’s so important to see your dentist at least twice a year. These regular visits help identify any problems early while they’re easier to treat.
Nobody likes to hear that they have a cavity, but cavities are the most common dental problem that your dentist in Sparks treats every single day. In fact, over 90% of Americans between 20-64 years old have had at least one cavity. What causes such a widespread problem? Well, it depends on a variety of factors, which we’ll explore in this blog.
When we talk about cavities, we’re essentially talking about tooth decay. Tooth decay is a disease that wears down tooth enamel and can affect the inner workings of teeth – including the dentin and the pulp. The deeper the decay goes, the more likely it is that you’ll experience symptoms. Decay can occur for a number of reasons, so it’s important to understand the causes so that you can take steps to prevent it.
- Oral Hygiene
One of the main causes of decay and cavities is a result of poor oral hygiene. You should brush your teeth twice a day, morning and night. But brushing alone isn’t enough to fully protect your teeth. You should also floss in between each and every tooth every day. If you don’t floss, you’re missing out on cleaning a large portion of your teeth, and it can put you at risk for tooth decay. In fact, most adult cavities form in between teeth.
- Sugar & Plaque & Bacteria, Oh My!
The other main cause behind dental decay is a combination of what we eat and how our mouths react during digestion. Let’s take sugar as an example. While you may think that sugar causes cavities, your dentist in Sparks wants you to know that that’s not entirely accurate. You see, it’s not the sugar that causes decay but rather how the sugar feeds bacteria that causes cavities. When we consume sugary foods or drinks, the bacteria in our mouths feed on the sugar and release an acidic byproduct. This acid attacks tooth enamel which can lead to erosion and, eventually, decay.
There are times when you won’t even know that you have a cavity. This happens when the decay is in the early stages and it’s also when it’s the easiest for your dentist in Sparks to treat. However, when the decay affects the inner tooth and hits the nerves, you may start to notice some common cavity symptoms, including:
- Increased sensitivity
- Pain when biting down
- Seemingly random tooth pain
- Pain when eating sweets
- Visible holes
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, call your dentist to schedule an appointment.
The best way to prevent cavities requires a few different things. But the good news is, they’re all easy. Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, and see your dentist in Sparks twice a year. Also, try to limit your intake of sugary treats and drinks to reduce the chance of cavities.
There are certain things you expect when you visit your dentist in Sparks — to get a cleaning, a thorough exam, perhaps a filling or two, and occasionally some x-rays. But are dental x-rays actually necessary? After all, if nothing looks wrong or feels wrong, do you really need to get them? The short answer is yes, and for several reasons.
What Are Dental X-Rays?
Just like an x-ray of your arm or leg, dental x-rays take images that show the hard surfaces in your mouth. The energy of x-rays passes through the skin and highlights only dense areas such as teeth and bone. The skeletal-like images produced from x-rays give your dentist in Sparks an inside look at your oral health and can help identify problems that can’t be seen through a visual or manual dental exam alone.
What Do Dental X-Rays Show?
We already know that dental x-rays show the teeth and bone, but what does your dentist look for on x-rays? The truth is, x-ray images can identify several things that could otherwise be missed and progress into more serious problems.
Dental x-rays are most commonly used to help diagnose decay and cavities when they’re still small and easier to treat. You may not yet even have any signs of a cavity, but a quick x-ray can show one developing. X-rays can also catch decay that can develop under a previous dental restoration such as a crown or a filling. Finding and treating these areas of decay early can save you from ever experiencing the pain that could result if left alone.
When a patient has a toothache, their dentist in Sparks will most likely start by taking a few x-rays to get a closer look at the area. Oftentimes, a toothache can be a sign of an infection, also known as an abscess. To treat an abscess, your dentist will most likely remove the infected area of the tooth and may choose to cap it with a dental crown. Severe cases may even require an extraction.
- Bone Loss
Our teeth are typically strongly secured into our jaw bone. But things like gum disease, missing teeth, and osteoporosis can cause the jaw bone to deteriorate. This bone loss can increase the risk of tooth loss, cause headaches and jaw pain, and can even affect the appearance of the face making it appear wrinkly or saggy.
Are Dental X-Rays Safe?
We understand that there may be some concerns surrounding the use of dental x-rays and exposure to radiation. However, advancements in dental technology have made digital dental x-rays one of the lowest forms of radiation emission. In fact, research conducted by the Kois Center for Dental Education shows that four bitewing x-rays emit only 0.005 mSv (millisieverts) of radiation. This is less than what humans are exposed to naturally every day.
Even though you may not get dental x-rays at every appointment, you should get them when they are recommended. They will help your dentist provide personalized care, catch and treat problems early, and help you maintain a healthy smile.
Each and every February, loved ones throughout the United States go above and beyond preparing for Valentine’s Day. Whether you choose to show your love with chocolates or flowers, one thing remains constant — bright red hearts are everywhere we look. But there’s another reason (besides Valentine’s Day) that we should pay attention to these hearts. February is American Heart Health Month and focuses on raising awareness of how daily choices affect our risk of heart disease. In fact, this holiday has a special place in your Sparks dentist’s heart because there is a strong connection between oral health and heart health.
What is Gum Disease?
Gum disease is an infection in the gum tissues usually caused by a buildup of bacteria and plaque. When someone doesn’t brush their teeth often enough or well enough, plaque is left behind and can easily work its way up under the gum, settle in, and cause trouble.
There are four stages of gum disease including:
- Slight Periodontal Disease
- Moderate Periodontal Disease
- Advanced Periodontal Disease
Gum disease can be treated if caught in the gingivitis stage, so make sure you visit your dentist in Sparks every six months for dental cleanings, x-rays, and thorough exams so we can identify any problems early.
What Does This Have to Do With Your Heart?
If gingivitis isn’t diagnosed and treated quickly it will progress into slight, moderate, or advanced periodontal disease, all of which are irreversible. When gum disease progresses into these advanced stages, the infection can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body. This can affect areas outside of the mouth, including the heart.
Bacteria from gum disease in the bloodstream causes the body to produce too much C-reactive protein (CRP). Higher than normal levels of CRP can lead to serious conditions such as:
- Inflamed arteries
- Blood clots
- Heart attacks
Knowing that your oral health can have such an impact on your overall wellness makes it so incredibly important that you practice good oral hygiene habits at home, including brushing twice a day for two minutes and flossing every day.
Signs of Gum Disease
Since early diagnosis is so crucial to treating gum disease before it has the chance to affect the rest of your body, you need to know the signs of gum disease. Keep an eye out for:
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing
- Puffy, tender gums
- Bad breath
- Loose teeth
If you notice any of the signs of gum disease, call your dentist in Sparks to schedule an appointment. This American Heart Health Month, commit to reducing your chances of heart disease by brushing and flossing every day, seeing your dentist in Sparks twice a year, exercise, and eat a healthy diet. For more ideas on how to live a heart-healthy life, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Just like you can buy sushi from a gas station, you can also use your teeth as tools. However, neither comes highly recommended. And for good reason. While your dentist in Sparks isn’t an expert on local sushi, we are experts on teeth. Our teeth are designed to help us speak and chew, and using them for anything other than their intended purpose can put your smile at increased risk of damage.
Avoid Using Teeth To Open Packages
We’ve all been there — hungry for lunch with a delicious bag of chips waiting for us. We go to open it and it’s just… stuck. We pull and pull but we just can’t get the bag to open. So instead, we grab the bag between our teeth, bite down, and rip. Finally! Crunchy, crispy chips. While this tactic can successfully open packages, it can also cause tooth damage. When you encounter pesky packaging, tough tape, or tricky tags take a few extra minutes to find a pair of scissors and save yourself a potential trip to your dentist in Sparks.
Don’t Use Teeth To Help Carry Things
Another common way we tend to use our teeth as tools is to try and have them function as another hand to help us carry or hold things. However, our teeth aren’t meant to grip and hold on to things like nails, pencils, or even your cell phone. Doing so can also increase the risk of breaking or cracking teeth as well as put you at risk for choking.
Keep Things Out of Your Mouth
Anything that’s not food shouldn’t go anywhere near your mouth. This includes things like fingernails, pens, and jewelry. Chewing on non-food items can damage your teeth and your jaw and require treatment from your dentist in Sparks. Besides, a lot of these things can contain a lot of germs so the last place you should put them is in your mouth.
Take It Easy On The Nuts
Nuts are a great, nutritious snack that is packed with protein. They’re also pretty convenient and can travel easily. However, nuts have shells, and if you buy unshelled nuts, you’ll have to remove the casing to get to the edible inside. The most common way to do this is to crack the shell between teeth. This can once again lead to chips, cracks, or broken teeth. Other food items that can also damage your teeth in a similar way are popcorn, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.
Our teeth are incredibly tough and the protective enamel is actually the strongest substance in the human body. However, as with everything, teeth do have their limits to what they can withstand. To help protect your teeth, use them only to chew your food and avoid using them as any sort of tool. And of course, make sure to see your dentist in Sparks every six months for preventive dental checkups.
The end of 2020 was a time for us to put the year behind us and give us hope for a better, healthier new year. As we embark on this new calendar year, many of us have made resolutions to ourselves or our families to get healthy or quit long-time habits that put us at risk for health issues. These resolutions can help transform lives and your dentist in Sparks would like to be a part of that by encouraging you to also resolve to take better care of your smile.
Oral Health is Linked to Overall Health
If your goal for this year is to get healthier overall, you can’t ignore your oral health. After all, our oral health is directly linked to our overall health and one can certainly affect the other. So as you commit to getting your 10,000 steps a day or eating healthier, make sure you also consider the following.
- Drinking Water
We often hear about patients wanting to cut back on sugary soda in the new year and drink more water. This is one of the best things you can do for both your whole body and your mouth. Water allows our bodies to function properly and keeps the mouth hydrated and moist which can help fight off cavity-causing bacteria. Aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day.
- Quitting Smoking
Another popular, yet difficult, resolution year after year is to quit smoking. This can be an intimidating endeavor but with a good plan and a solid support system, we believe anyone can stop smoking. There are countless overall and oral health benefits to quitting including reducing the risk of cancer and lowering the likelihood of gum disease.
- Practicing Good Oral Hygiene
Everyone knows that your dentist in Sparks wants everyone to brush and floss every day, but we also know that this simple task can get overlooked and go undone. However, brushing and flossing your teeth each and every day is the best way to prevent dental problems from popping up. Make sure you brush twice a day and floss at least once a day to protect your pearly whites from cavities, gum disease, bad breath, and other problems.
- Keeping Your Dental Appointments
We always recommend that patients see us for professional dental cleanings and checkups twice a year, and sometimes more often. These bi-annual appointments are crucial to maintaining a healthy and mouth as well as a healthy body. They allow your dentist in Sparks to find any potential problems early and treat them quickly before they become big problems.
Make a promise to yourself that you will commit and follow through with your 2021 resolutions. And if you’re serious about getting healthier, schedule an appointment with your dentist today.
We’ve been programmed to believe that the whiter a smile is, the healthier it is. However, this isn’t always the case. In fact, your dentist in Sparks wants you to know that there is such a thing as a too-white smile, and a smile that’s over-bleached can actually lead to other oral health problems.
The Truth About Smile Whitening Treatments
Smile whitening is probably the most popular form of cosmetic dentistry done today. However, what was once only available at the dentist can now be done at home without any exam or assurance that the teeth are healthy enough. Additionally, even though over-the-counter whitening treatments can make it easier for people to whiten their teeth, it’s become increasingly popular and has created almost a whitening addiction. Both of which can cause some serious problems.
More Whitening, More Problems
Now, we should note that smile whitening can be done safely. However, there are issues when someone whose teeth aren’t healthy, or who thinks “the more whitening, the better” whitens their teeth that can cause things to take a turn for the worse.
Over-bleaching your teeth can wear down tooth enamel. Without this protective layer, teeth are put at increased risk for decay, cavities, and sensitivity. Additionally, if your teeth aren’t healthy to begin with, and let’s say you have a cavity, introducing bleaching ingredients can cause uncomfortable zings of pain through your teeth. And the problems don’t end there.
Many over-the-counter whitening treatments allow too much of the bleach to touch and sit on the gums which can cause gum irritation, sometimes severe. Lastly, too much whitening can actually make your teeth appear more translucent and darker in appearance, which is the opposite of what you want.
Safely Whiten Your Smile
The best way to get a whiter smile is to first start by talking to your dentist in Sparks. Not only can they help you find the best smile whitening treatment for you, but they can also help you find the best shade of white for your teeth for an overall natural, yet enhanced, look. Whichever smile whitening treatment you agree on, make sure you follow the directions to a “T,” especially if you’re going to use a take-home whitening product. Don’t leave the whitening gel on longer than recommended, and stop use if irritation or sensitivity occurs.
Even though smile whitening treatments can be found at any grocery store or even ordered online… it doesn’t mean that all of them are created equally. Make sure you do your own research, talk with your dentist in Sparks, and don’t overdo it.
Kissing our loved ones is probably one of the best ways to show them that we care. But did you know that kissing can help us in other ways, too? Sharing a smooch can release endorphins in our brains and make us feel happier. It can also exercise our facial muscles and even burn some calories. However, as with everything, your dentist in Sparks wants you to know that kissing doesn’t come without its risks.
Germs & Bacteria
We all know that germs can be passed from one person to another through kissing, but they aren’t the only things being swapped. When it comes to kissing, your dentist in Sparks is also concerned with the sharing of bacteria. You see, certain types of bacteria have been known to increase the risk of tooth decay and cavities. Now, while our mouths are naturally packed with bacteria, when we kiss, these bacteria (both good and bad) can easily transfer from person to person and introduce cavity-causing bacteria.
Keep Your Bacteria to Yourself
Even though kissing comes with some potential negatives, we’re certainly not recommending that you stop altogether. Instead, your dentist in Sparks has a few tips you can try in order to keep both you and your partner smooching safely.
- Breath Test
Nobody wants to kiss someone who has bad breath, and now we’re going to give you yet another reason to tread carefully when you encounter someone with chronically bad breath. Bad breath may be a sign of gum disease, which itself is caused by an overload of bacteria and an infection in the gum tissue.
- Oral Hygiene
Even though our mouths naturally contain tons of bacteria, you should always brush and floss regularly in order to keep bacteria levels in check. Also, it’s key that you see your dentist in Sparks at least every six months for professional cleanings to further protect your teeth.
- Drink Water
When you’re not able to brush your teeth try to drink or even rinse your mouth with water. This can also help remove bacteria buildup. You can also chew Xylitol gum to help reduce bacteria levels and give your breath a fresh boost for all those kissable moments. Plus, Xylitol can keep bacteria from sticking to your teeth and creates a neutral pH level in your mouth for even more protection.
Some Good News
It’s important to note that there are certainly some positives to kissing, some of which we mentioned earlier. As it relates to your oral health, kissing can actually help good bacteria move from person to person and increases your saliva production. Saliva is your mouth’s natural way of washing away bacteria and neutralizing acid, both of which help protect your teeth against decay.
When it comes to kissing, there are more positives than negatives. Just make sure you practice good oral hygiene habits so your breath is kissable fresh every single time you pucker up.
It’s not uncommon to hear your dentist in Sparks toss around the words ‘plaque’ and ‘tartar’ almost interchangeably. In fact, we’ve realized that this could cause some confusion, and as always, we want to help our patients understand the difference between the two. Join us as we take a look at what exactly plaque and tartar are, and how they can affect your family’s oral health.
What is Plaque?
When trying to remember the difference between plaque and tartar, it may help to think of the two Ps. Plaque is the primary, or first, thing that can affect your teeth. Plaque is a sticky film that’s basically made up of millions and millions of bacteria. It naturally builds up on teeth throughout each day, and as we eat, the plaque bacteria are also eating. As a byproduct of this feeding, the bacteria release acids. These acids can erode tooth enamel, weaken teeth, and make it easier for cavities to form. However, when we effectively remove plaque through brushing, we can help reduce the number of bacteria and lower the risk of decay and the need for fillings from your Sparks dentist.
What is Tartar?
So what happens when plaque remains on the teeth for too long? That’s where tartar comes into play. When plaque isn’t effectively removed it will harden into tartar. Now, while plaque can be cleaned away through at-home brushing, tartar is a different story. Once plaque hardens into tartar it can’t be removed through regular brushing. Your dentist in Sparks will need to intervene to thoroughly remove tartar buildup. If tartar is not removed, it can increase the risk of cavities, cause tooth discoloration or tooth sensitivity, and can even lead to gum disease.
How to Avoid Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Avoiding plaque buildup and, in turn, tartar isn’t difficult, but it does require good oral hygiene habits. Make sure you’re brushing your teeth each morning and before bed every night for two minutes each time. Additionally, it’s important to remove plaque that may have accumulated in between teeth by flossing once a day. In between brushings, try to drink plenty of water to help neutralize and rinse away acids, and also to remove bacteria. You can also chew sugarless gum after meals and snacks. And as always, try to avoid sugary sweets and drink as it will make for both a happier, healthier smile and a happier dentist.
The truth is, everyone’s teeth will accumulate some plaque and some tartar. The important thing to remember is that this buildup needs to be removed through both brushing and flossing properly at home and seeing your dentist regularly. That’s why we always recommend that our patients visit us every six months for a checkup and thorough cleaning to remove any tartar that may have formed since their last appointment.
If it’s been longer than six months since your last dental appointment, we welcome you to call and schedule a checkup today. We can’t wait to see you!