Dr. Lily Ling received her DMD from Tufts Dental School and completed an advanced education in general dentistry (AEGD) residency at UConn Health Center.
Sherborn Family Dental P.C.
19 N. Main Street, Suite 1B
Sherborn, MA 01770
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Sherborn Family Dental Blog
Posts for: April, 2012
Increased risks to your dental health during pregnancy
It is crucial to take proper care of your dental health during pregnancy. Increases in hormone levels during pregnancy can cause your gums to soften and bleed, leaving you more susceptible to gum disease, sensitivity, and other oral health problems. Routine exams and cleanings during your pregnancy are perfectly safe and recommended by the American Dental Association.
Some oral health symptoms that you should watch for during pregnancy:
- tender, red, and swollen gums;
- bleeding gums; and
- bad breath.
Do not ignore dental problems since they can take a toll on your health and your baby’s health.
When to visit the dentist during pregnancy
The best times to complete dental work are: prior to conception; during the second trimester; and early in the third trimester. When you decide to have a baby make an appointment with your dentist to complete all necessary dental work pre-conception. If you are already pregnant, try to schedule your regular dental cleaning and any necessary treatment during the second trimester. Routine x-rays can usually be postponed until after the birth.
Let your dentist know you are pregnant. Routine treatments (fillings and crowns) and sometimes emergency work (root canal or tooth extraction) should be completed to reduce the chance of infection. If dental work is performed during pregnancy, the second trimester is ideal. Fetal organ development occurs during the first trimester and it is best to avoid all potential risks at this time. Once you reach the third trimester, it may be difficult to lay on your back for an extended period of time.
Elective treatments such as teeth whitening and cosmetic procedures should be postponed until after the birth. While the risks are minimal, the safest course of action is to defer cosmetic procedures.
Oral health tips during pregnancy
- Brush and floss. Due to enhanced risk of gum disease from hormone changes, it is more important than ever to brush and floss your teeth during your pregnancy. Brush regularly after meals, at least twice daily. Floss at least once per day.
- Rinse after being sick. Morning sickness is common and the acid can be very damaging to the surface of your teeth. Avoid brushing immediately after being sick. The acid from your stomach can cause tooth erosion which will worsen with brushing. Drink some water and rinse with mouthwash to thoroughly flush out the acid before brushing your teeth.
- Regular Exams and Cleanings. Continue to have your regular exams and cleanings during your pregnancy. Try to schedule these during the second trimester.
Oral cancer is cancer of the mouth, tongue, or oropharynx (the middle of the throat, from the tonsils to the tip of the voice box).
Oral cancer is not rare
Close to 37,000 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in the United States this year. It will cause over 8,000 deaths, killing roughly one person per hour, 24 hours per day.
Approximately half of people with oral cancer will live more than five years after they are diagnosed and treated. If the cancer is found early (before it has spread to other tissues), the cure rate is close to 80-90%. However, more than half of oral cancers have already spread by the time that the cancer is detected. In most cases it has spread to the throat or neck.
Oral cancer is particularly dangerous because it may not be noticed by the patient in its early stages as it can frequently spread without resulting in pain or symptoms that people might easily recognize. Screening for oral cancer is important and is part of a regular dental examination.
Signs and symptoms of oral cancer
See your doctor about any skin lesion, lump, or ulcer that does not resolve itself within 14 days and appears on the tongue, lip, or other mouth areas.
Oral cancer often exhibits the following characteristics:
- small sores in the mouth;
- tongue problems;
- difficulty swallowing or speaking;
- swollen lymph nodes in the neck;
- usually painless in the early stages;
- a burning sensation or pain in the later stages.
Younger, non-smokers are the fasting growing population for oral cancer
For decades, oral cancer had most often occurred in older people who had a history of using tobacco products. Today that is no longer the case. A virus called Human Papilloma Virus version 16 (HPV16) has replaced tobacco as the number one cause of oral cancer. This is one of the same viruses that are responsible for the majority of cervical cancer in women. HPV16 is now the leading cause of oral cancer and is found in approximately 60% of newly diagnosed patients.
This has also impacted the demographics of who is getting the disease. It is no longer the domain of those over age 50 who have smoked a decade or more of their lives. The fastest growing segment of the oral cancer population are people in the 25-50 age range who have never been smokers. Evidence suggests that the HPV16 virus can be sexually transmitted between partners and accounts for the increase in young victims of oral cancer who do not have a history of using tobacco.
While HPV16 has become the most common cause of oral cancer, additional risk factors continue to include smoking, using chewing tobacco or dip, and heavy drinking of alcohol.
For more information about oral cancer visit www.oralcancerfoundation.org or speak with your doctor.