Smokeless Tobacco Still Means Trouble

Let’s Clear The Air: Smokeless Tobacco Still Means Trouble!

/Chew it, dip it, suck it or “snuff” it–there’s no smoke involved with many forms of tobacco, but no matter how you use it, you’re still playing with fire! While cigarettes catch a lot of heat for causing lung cancer, many don’t realize that other types of nicotine use can be just as damaging to your general and oral health. Before reaching for the stuff, get a closer glimpse at what you’re really being sold and why it might be more harmful than you think.

Types of Smokeless Tobacco

Cigarettes have long dominated the market, but tobacco comes in countless shapes and sizes. Their novelty may tempt your curiosity, but just one try can put you on the path to addiction and some serious throat and mouth problems. Here are just a few examples of common smokeless tobacco products you’d be wise to avoid:

  • Chewing tobacco: loose leaves (often in pouch form) for placement inside the cheeks
  • Snuff or “Dip”: ground or shredded tobacco stored in tins for sniffing or chewing
  • Snus: a pasteurized form of snuff that doesn’t require spitting
  • Tobacco lozenges: powdery, tobacco-infused candies that dissolve in the mouth

Other variations include plugs, twists and bricks, but risks are the same regardless of their appearance. It’s also worth noting that regulations may differ by country, so the lack of clear warnings doesn’t mean that the product is any less toxic.

Oral Health Risks

Virtually every aspect of your oral health is affected by tobacco use, and it doesn’t take much for nicotine to do its damage. Telltale signs you may notice immediately include:

  • Stained teeth, from frequent contact with tobacco juice
  • Periodontitis, as prolonged exposure to tobacco can irritate the gums
  • Bad breath, when tobacco particles mix with your saliva and other food particles
  • New cavities, due to the sugar often used to sweeten tobacco products

Tooth sensitivity, enamel erosion and a decrease in your sense of taste and smell are other possible side effects. As costly as these dental complications may be, it pales in comparison to the lethal threat of cancer.

Symptoms Of Oral Cancer

Given that smokeless tobacco contains well over 20 carcinogenic chemicals, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that its use can result in cancer of the mouth, lip, tongue and throat (in addition to many other cancers of the body). Clear warning signs of oral cancer include white or red lesions inside the mouth (typically referred to by dentists as “leukoplakia”) that fail to heal over time, but not all symptoms are easily detected without the professional help of your dentist.

Tackling Your Tobacco Problem

Seeking professional help is your best bet both to kick your nicotine habit to the curb, as well as to prevent lasting and potentially irreversible damage to your health. Quitting tobacco use likely won’t happen overnight, but your dentist can most certainly offer guidance and point you to effective treatments and/or alternatives. Although it may be difficult to share your struggles, being open about the problem with your dentist and seeing him or her frequently is critical to minimizing the risk for oral cancer and other serious health problems.


Sources:

It may be smokeless, but it’s still tobacco. (2011 May). Retrieved July 22, 2015, from https://www.deltadentalins.com/oral_health/smokelesstobacco.html

Katz, Harold. (2011, March 5). Chewing Tobacco Can Cause Bad Breath, and Worse. Retrieved July 14, 2015,from http://www.therabreath.com/articles/news/oral-care-industry-news/chewing-tobacco-can-cause-bad-breath-and-worse-3329.asp

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, November 15). Chewing Tobacco: Not Safer than Cigarettes. Retrieved July 16, 2015,from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/chewing-tobacco/art-20047428?pg=1

High Tech Toothbrushes. Are they worth it?

High-Tech Toothbrushes: Is It Worth Going Electric?

The verdict is in: electric toothbrushes are here to stay, and they mean business for your teeth! By now, you’ve probably seen them on the shelves, on TV or in magazines. Dentists endorse them, and most are ADA-approved — but if you still swear by your manual toothbrush, these benefits just might convince you otherwise.

The Pros Of Using An Electric Toothbrush

Making the switch from a manual to an electric toothbrush doesn’t change the amount of time it takes to thoroughly brush your teeth (approximately 2 minutes), nor should it alter your brushing technique, but this is where the similarities end. Some of the biggest advantages of electric toothbrushes over traditional toothbrushes are:

1. Effortless brushing.
Because a motor oscillates and rotates the bristles for you, it requires less energy to brush your teeth. Many even find the rounded handle of electric toothbrushes to be easier to hold, and with less force required, brushing can still be done thoroughly without using a tight grip. For the elderly, those with chronic arthritis, and children and adults with dexterity challenges, this alone can make electric toothbrushes the better choice for oral health maintenance.

2. Better cleaning ability.
Thoughtful bristle design coupled with the automatic power of electric toothbrushes makes it easy to remove plaque from hard to reach areas. The constant rotating and even pressure can also result in a more consistent cleaning than you might achieve with a standard toothbrush. Often, electric toothbrushes come with a variety of heads that you can experiment with until you find one that cleans your teeth the best.

3. Other hygiene-helping features.
Thanks to technology, electric toothbrushes come with many other bells and whistles that can help ensure proper hygiene. From timers that notify you once you’ve brushed long enough, to sensors that alert you if too much pressure is being applied or if the head needs to be replaced, electric toothbrushes can help you stay on track to meet multiple oral health goals.

4. Less plastic to be thrown away.
Unlike manual toothbrushes, you don’t need to toss out the whole brush once the bristles are worn. Only the head of an electric toothbrush needs to be replaced, which means a lot less plastic that is thrown out in the long run. From an environmental standpoint, electric toothbrushes are also a better choice than battery-operated toothbrushes because they can be recharged.

Other Factors To Consider

Just as there are pros to using an electric toothbrush, there are a few cons to be aware of before making a final decision.

  • Price: Electric toothbrushes are significantly more expensive than manual toothbrushes; the price difference may cause some initial sticker shock. However, to keep costs down you can always purchase one electronic toothbrush and multiple detachable heads – for each member of the household.
  • Convenience: Those who are frequently on the go may find it slightly cumbersome to have to pack a charger.

If you’re interested in an electric toothbrush, however, don’t cross it off your list without trying a battery-operated toothbrush first. It’s similar in concept and feel, but much more affordable, and it can help you determine whether electric toothbrushes are worth the investment.

Comfort Matters Most

A toothbrush loaded with features won’t do you any good unless you’re comfortable with it. For the sake of your oral health, it’s worth considering all the toothbrush options available, but choose the one you believe will best help you maintain good hygiene…whether it be manual or powered. If you’re still unsure and need additional guidance, ask your dentist for help; he or she may recommend a particular brand based on your unique dental needs.


Sources:

McManus, M. (n.d.). 5 Benefits of Electric Toothbrushes. Retrieved June 1, 2015 from http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/oral-care/products/5-benefits-of-electric-toothbrushes.htm

Power Toothbrush or Manual Toothbrush. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2015 from http://www.oralb.com/topics/power-toothbrush-or-manual-toothbrush.aspx

Being Pregnant and Going to the Dentist

Keeping up with your dental checkup during pregnancy is safe and important for your dental health. Not only should you take care of cleanings and other procedures during your pregnancy, but your dentist can help you with any pregnancy-related dental issues you might be experiencing.

The American Dental Association, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics all encourage women to get dental care while pregnant. “During this crucial period of time in a woman’s life, maintaining oral health is directly related to good overall health.” and, Oral health is now considered so important to a healthy pregnancy that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends an oral exam be included in the first prenatal visit and that caregivers advise expectant moms to see their dentist. 

  >> Click for More Information About Being Pregnant and Dentistry

Major Health Clues Your Mouth Provides

Dentist or Detective?
Major Health Clues Your Mouth Provides

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Chew on this for a minute: just by glancing inside your mouth, your dentist can tell you a number of things that may be news to you and your doctor! Surprising as it may sound, your oral health can speak volumes about the rest of your body, and something as simple as a routine dental checkup can benefit your health and wallet big time. From harmful habits to life-threatening diseases, find out what clues your mouth can provide about your wellbeing.

The Presence of Disease

Many connections between your mouth and larger health issues have to do with bacteria. Studies have shown that heart disease and endocarditis (an inflammation of the lining of your heart), in particular, are linked to gum disease – a bacterial infection of the mouth. Inflamed gums can also signal a vulnerable immune system, which can be due to diabetes or disorders such as Sjogren’s syndrome. Furthermore, patients who are pregnant and are diagnosed with periodontitis may be at a heightened risk for birth-related issues, as studies have shown a connection between gum disease and both premature birth and low birth weight.

In addition to gum problems, other oral matters are also telling. Tooth loss, for instance, has commonly been linked with both osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s. And lesions of the throat occur often in individuals suffering from HIV or AIDS. Last but not least, a dental exam can detect both oral and throat cancer, which typically present themselves via sores or patches that don’t go away. Suffice it to say, dental checkups can prove themselves invaluable when it comes to early detection of life-threatening health conditions.

Incompatibility With Certain Medications

While you may already be aware of and treating a health condition, a dentist can help identify whether or not the medicine you are taking is causing other complications. Dry mouth, a condition that causes oral issues such as halitosis, fungal infection, and tooth decay, is a known side effect of hundreds of commonly prescribed medications including:

  • Painkillers
  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Antihistamines
  • Asthma Inhalers
  • Diuretics
  • Sedatives
  • Corticosteroids
  • Statins

If you’re currently undergoing medical treatment and/or using prescription drugs, be sure to have your dentist examine your mouth for any harmful side effects.

Harmful Habits

It may not necessarily mean life or death, but some habits can cause a world of trouble–and costly mouth problems are proof of that. How you sleep, for example, has a direct impact on the health of your mouth. Constantly breathing with your mouth open can cause dry mouth, and grinding your teeth overnight is a leading cause of enamel damage.

Smoking, chewing and other forms of tobacco use pose serious threats, not just to your lungs, but also to the look and health of your teeth and gums. Red flags that alert your dentist that smoking is starting to do dental damage (and possibly much worse) are the telltale yellowing of teeth, white patches along the inside lining of the mouth, persistent bad breath, and lumps that can signal oral cancer.

Finally, your mouth can offer clues about the safety and healthfulness of your diet. Severe tooth erosion and swelling of the throat and salivary glands are typical problems seen in patients with eating disorders, due to constant vomiting. Tooth decay and sensitivity can also come with excessive acid in your diet, and many times, signs and symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD” or simply, “acid reflux”) become apparent to your dentist even before your doctor. Even your breath can be telling of certain food choices, such as garlic or onions, which have long been known to cause halitosis.

Get Peace of Mind

Given everything a brief dental exam can uncover, there’s no denying the benefits of a routine checkup. More often than not, tooth, gum and other oral problems may simply be due to poor hygiene, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Remain diligent about seeing your dentist regularly, and don’t hesitate to schedule a checkup in between your typical visits if you notice anything amiss.


Sources:

Your Mouth, Your Health. (2015, July 23). Retrieved July 25, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/ss/slideshow-teeth-gums

What conditions may be linked to oral health? (2013, May 11). Retrieved July 14, 2015 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/dental/art-20047475?pg=2

Newer Lighter Filling Options

Ditch Discolored Fillings for These Newer, Lighter Options

Still flashing a bit of silver when you smile? Cavities can happen to anyone, but the whole world doesn’t have to know about them! If you’ve been living with old, discolored fillings, there’s never been a better time to have them replaced.

Find out how new fillings can benefit more than your looks, and about all the options that are now available.

Why Replace Fillings

The cosmetic reasons for replacing amalgam (often referred to as “silver”) fillings may be obvious — your smile looks better without the telltale dark spots and any associated feeling of self-consciousness goes away.

What many people don’t realize, however, is that there are also health reasons for getting new fillings. While it can be easy to forget about cavities once they’re filled, the truth is that oral health threats can re-emerge as fillings weaken over time. Constant grinding and chewing will wear down any filling, and it often only takes one particularly hard or sticky food to dislodge or crack it.

Once the protective barrier to a cavity has been lost or broken, harmful bacteria can easily seep in and continue to eat away at the tooth. In many cases — especially those where the seal has been damaged but has not completely fallen out — tooth decay under or around the filling may easily escape notice until it reaches the point where a root canal or an extraction is necessary. Being diligent about dental visits and proactive about replacing fillings can help you avoid the unnecessary pain and expense of a tooth infection.

Replacement Options

The good news about getting rid of old fillings is that amalgam is no longer your only choice. As hardy and durable as this traditional mixture of silver, mercury and other metal alloys is, it has become virtually obsolete due to more discrete options such as:

  • Composite Fillings: tooth-colored bondings primarily used for the front teeth
  • Veneers: thin, porcelain, non-staining shells affixed to the front surface of teeth
  • Crowns: complete covering for damaged teeth that a filling alone cannot repair
  • Inlays or Onlays: custom composite used to replace larger fillings in molars

Your dentist may recommend one particular treatment or a varied approach, depending on the number and type of fillings needed. Rest assured, however, that the choices at your disposal lend themselves to a more natural look than that of an amalgam filling.

Caring for Teeth with Fillings

Regardless of which replacement option you choose, a little extra care and attention can go a long way in protecting your investment. To extend the life of a newly restored tooth, consider making these changes to your everyday routine:

  • Brush and floss regularly to keep the tooth’s surface clear of tough buildup
  • Use a mouth guard at night to avoid unnecessary pressure if tooth grinding is a habit
  • Steer clear of overly hard or sticky foods that can damage the restored tooth
  • See a dentist if you notice a bad taste or dull pain that can indicate a defect or decay

Regular dentist visits can further minimize the risk of damaged filings — and help prevent the need for new ones. For questions about replacing and/or maintaining fillings, schedule an appointment with your dentist.


Sources:

Carr, A. (2014, February 8). Cavaties/Tooth Decay. Retrieved June 1, 2015 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/cavities/expert-answers/dental-fillings/faq-20058381

Slaying Dragon Breath (Halitosis) for Good

The Dirt on “Dragon Breath” And How to Slay It for Good

There’s a reason people commonly refer to halitosis as “dragon breath”: it’s a beast of an oral health problem that can put off anyone within close range! Mints and mouthwashes can mask the issue, but in order to truly defeat it, you’ll need to treat the underlying cause.

If you’ve dealt with morning breath, or struggle with bad breath throughout the day, here are some likely reasons behind it and ways to banish it once and for all.

Causes of Bad Breath

The freshness of your breath can be influenced by a number of factors, which is probably what makes it so hard to keep halitosis at bay. Perhaps the easiest way to determine the root cause (and the appropriate solution) is to ask yourself these three simple questions:

1. What have I been eating?
Not surprisingly, your food choices can have a big impact on your breath. Foods comprised of sulfur compounds in particular — such as garlic or onions — can leave a lingering odor to your breath as they are digested and absorbed into the bloodstream. Coffee is another common culprit tied to bad breath, as it can dry out the mouth and promote the growth of oral bacteria.

2. Are certain habits to blame?
If your condition seems more chronic in nature, and you’ve ruled out your diet as a possibility, chances are poor hygiene or habits could be causing your breath to smell bad. Regardless of what you eat, bad breath is sure to follow if you fail to brush and floss regularly. Food particles stuck in hard-to-reach areas will naturally give off an odor as they decompose, as can excess oral bacteria. Smoking is also linked to halitosis, leaving a stale stench on your breath from the smoke particles you inhale and the combustion of chemical compounds.

3. Could it be a side effect of another health condition?
Sometimes, bad breath is a side effect of another health issue you may be facing — whether you know about it or not. Acid reflux, bronchitis, pneumonia, diabetes and certain liver and kidney problems are just a few conditions associated with halitosis. Sleeping disorders and/or medications that contribute to dry mouth can also inhibit saliva production essential for a healthy breath.

Overcoming Bad Breath

Identifying what’s behind your bad breath situation can help you correct and/or reverse the problem, whether it be through a diet change, habit modification or doctor-prescribed treatment plan. With so many potential causes of bad breath, however, it’s easy for halitosis to re-emerge.

For long-term prevention of bad breath, here are some suggestions:

  • Quit smoking and/or the use of other tobacco products
  • Make note of medications and consult your doctor or dentist if bad breath results
  • Steer clear of problem foods that make you self-conscious of your breath
  • Promote saliva production by drinking water and chewing sugar-free gum regularly
  • Remember to brush and floss twice a day or as directed by your dentist

Seek Help from Your Dentist

Ultimately, the most important step you can take to combat bad breath is to see your dentist on a regular basis. Frequent exams can help prevent halitosis before it starts, and if you do develop bad breath despite your best efforts to avoid it, he or she can help determine the underlying cause. Be sure to ask your dentist for more information about treating and/or preventing halitosis during your next checkup, or schedule a consultation if you have any pressing questions or concerns.


Sources:

Dental Health and Bad Breath. (2014, June 23). Retrieved June 1, 2015 from http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/bad-breath

Dove, L. (n.d.). 10 Tips to Cure Bad Breath. Retrieved June 1, 2015 from http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/hygiene-tips/6-tips-to-cure-bad-breath.htm

Lift Your Smile with Tooth Reshaping

Tooth Reshaping: The Easy, Inexpensive Way to Lift Your Smile

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Straightening and whitening your teeth can transform your smile, but sometimes, it takes one final step to get those pearly whites looking perfect. It’s called tooth reshaping (or dental contouring), and the good news is, it’s a quick, painless and cost-effective cosmetic procedure. If a chipped, pointed, overlapping or uneven tooth stands between you and the smile you’ve always wanted, find out why tooth reshaping may be the answer you’ve been looking for.

What Is Tooth Reshaping?

Tooth reshaping is an in-office dental procedure that typically involves the removal of enamel to even out the surface of a tooth. Using a headpiece, the dentist sculpts and/or polishes off rough or pointed edges, and can even trim down the length of a tooth if it appears larger than its neighbors. Usually, anesthesia is not required, unless work is close to the root of the tooth.

If the problem is a chipped tooth, or a tooth that appears smaller than its counterparts, reshaping involves the addition of an enamel-like resin in a similarly straightforward procedure called “bonding”. Holes and gaps are sealed by polishing the substance onto the surface of the tooth, or in some cases, the resin may be shaped to match the size of neighboring teeth in advance, and then applied to the problem tooth. Your dentist may recommend wearing a night guard to protect your teeth and prevent future recurrent damage.

Why Get Tooth Reshaping

The cosmetic reason for tooth reshaping may be obvious, but contouring your teeth could also provide additional oral health benefits, such as:

  • Improved bite: Evening out the teeth can help aid chewing and speech
  • Less risk of future damage: Cracks, holes and gaps are fixed before they grow worse
  • Lowered risk for tooth decay and gum disease: Even surfaces are easier to clean
  • Less irritation: Pointed teeth can aggravate the inner lining of the mouth

In certain cases, tooth reshaping may even save patients the cost of orthodontic treatment, if misalignment is due to something minor such as overlapping teeth.

Potential Drawbacks

While tooth reshaping is a simple, straightforward process, it is not for everybody. Here are some important things to know if you’re considering this cosmetic procedure:

  • There is a risk for damage and tooth sensitivity, if too much enamel is removed
  • It may not be recommended for those with root canals, tooth decay or gum disease
  • The results are subtle, and more work may be advised to improve your smile

Getting teeth contoured and/or bonded does not preclude additional cosmetic procedures or restorative dental work, but it’s best to consult with your dentist about all of your dental goals beforehand to help ensure an efficient treatment plan.

More Ways Your Dentist Can Help

In addition to determining whether it is tooth reshaping, other cosmetic work, or a combination of treatments that will really help your smile, your dentist may be able to suggest ways to prevent future problems by addressing potential pitfalls that may have caused issues in the first place. More often than not, frequent dental visits and better hygiene can help you avoid unnecessary wear and tear on the teeth. Schedule a consultation with your dentist to go over both preventative and corrective courses of action to achieve your dental goals.

Sources:

Jaret, Peter. (2012). Make thee Most of Your Mouth. Retrieved July 14, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/oral-health/healthy-mouth-14/beautiful-smile/enamel-shaping-facts

Sellers, Jennifer. (2011, Oct. 16). Can big teeth be shaved down? Retrieved July 16, 2015, from http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/oral-care/procedures/can-big-teeth-be-shaved-down1.htm

Sheehan, Jan. (2009, August 19). Tooth Reshaping and Dental Contouring. Retrieved July 21, 2015, http://www.everydayhealth.com/dental-health/cosmetic-dentistry/tooth-reshaping.aspx

Dental Problems Parents Pass Down to Children

Nature vs. Nurture: Dental Problems Parents Pass Down To Children

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Parents, in particular, want to know: does DNA predetermine dental health? It’s the classic nature vs. nurture question that dentists get asked often, but the answer doesn’t simply boil down to one or the other. The scary truth is that many dental problems are indeed “inherited”–but not from genetics alone! Harmful habits that run in the family can also play a huge role in the health of your child’s smile. Find out which oral issues you could be passing down, and what you can do about them.

DNA-Driven Dental Issues

Even before birth, the stage has already been set for certain aspects of your child’s oral health. Ultimately, your child’s genes dictate the likelihood for common issues such as:

  • Jaw-related Disorders: The size and position of one’s jaws, as well as overall facial structure, are hereditary traits that can cause a number of bite complications (or “malocclusions”). Overbites or underbites caused by uneven jaws can lead to chewing and speech difficulties, and result in chronic pain and/or Temporomandibular Jaw Disorder (“TMJ”) if left untreated.
  • Tooth Misalignments: Spacing problems, either due to missing or overcrowded teeth, are oral issues that have been hardwired in a person even before the emergence of teeth. Cases where people lack some (“Anodontia”) or all (“Hypodontia”) permanent teeth can threaten gum and jaw health, as can instances of “supernumerary” teeth, in which extra teeth erupt.
  • Weak Tooth Enamel: Though rare, it is possible for tooth enamel to be defective, or develop abnormally. Dentin, which makes up the protective enamel covering of teeth, may not be produced or mineralize at normal levels, leaving teeth vulnerable to decay, sensitivity and damage.
  • Predisposition To Oral Cancer: Genetic mutations and the presence of oncogenes, a type of gene that transforms healthy cells into cancerous ones, can increase the risk for cancer by interfering with the body’s ability to metabolize certain carcinogens.

From serious conditions such as a cleft palate, to occasional aggravations like canker sores, many other oral issues may be linked to genetics. Keeping track and sharing the family’s health history with your child’s dentist can help detect and treat inherited conditions as early as possible.

Behavioral Risks

DNA may deal your child some unavoidable complications, but when it comes to tooth decay and gum disease, learned habits and tendencies shoulder much more of the blame, including:

  • “Oversharing”: Harmful oral bacteria from a loved one can easily colonize and overtake your little one’s mouth from something as simple as sharing food, utensils, or kissing. The inadvertent swapping of saliva can put your child at increased risk for cavities and gingivitis.
  • Diet Choices: Satisfying that sweet tooth with sugary, refined treats, or turning to soda and juice for refreshment can create an unhealthy addiction that’s as dangerous to the mouth as it is to the waist. Sugar and acid can eat away at the tooth enamel, causing cavities and tooth sensitivity. Exposure to certain chemicals and ingredients can also cause discoloration.
  • Bad Hygiene: Last, but certainly not least, lacking a good dental routine can wreak havoc on teeth and gums. Failing to follow through on brushing and flossing twice a day (or as recommended by the dentist) can create a haven for cavities and periodontitis, not to mention halitosis.

Leading by example is an easy, effective way to teach your child the importance of oral health while benefitting the whole family.

Stay One Step Ahead

Every parent wants the best for his or her child–including a healthy smile. With so many potential problems that can be passed down, protecting your child’s oral health is not easy, but you don’t have to do it alone. Seek the help of your child’s dentist for optimal professional and at-home dental care. Treating existing issues early on and teaching your child to make dental-friendly decisions can provide lifelong benefits to his or her health.

Sources:

CDC Oral Cancer Background Papers. (n.d.) Retrieved July 9, 2015, from http://www.oralcancerfoundation.org/cdc/cdc_chapter3.php

Rondon, Nayda. (n.d.) Genetic Dental Abnormalities: Type and Symptoms. Retrieved July 10, 2015, from http://www.yourdentistryguide.com/genetic-abnormalities/

Smokeless Tobacco Still Means Trouble

Let’s Clear The Air: Smokeless Tobacco Still Means Trouble!

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Chew it, dip it, suck it or “snuff” it–there’s no smoke involved with many forms of tobacco, but no matter how you use it, you’re still playing with fire! While cigarettes catch a lot of heat for causing lung cancer, many don’t realize that other types of nicotine use can be just as damaging to your general and oral health. Before reaching for the stuff, get a closer glimpse at what you’re really being sold and why it might be more harmful than you think.

Types of Smokeless Tobacco

Cigarettes have long dominated the market, but tobacco comes in countless shapes and sizes. Their novelty may tempt your curiosity, but just one try can put you on the path to addiction and some serious throat and mouth problems. Here are just a few examples of common smokeless tobacco products you’d be wise to avoid:

  • Chewing tobacco: loose leaves (often in pouch form) for placement inside the cheeks
  • Snuff or “Dip”: ground or shredded tobacco stored in tins for sniffing or chewing
  • Snus: a pasteurized form of snuff that doesn’t require spitting
  • Tobacco lozenges: powdery, tobacco-infused candies that dissolve in the mouth

Other variations include plugs, twists and bricks, but risks are the same regardless of their appearance. It’s also worth noting that regulations may differ by country, so the lack of clear warnings doesn’t mean that the product is any less toxic.

Oral Health Risks

Virtually every aspect of your oral health is affected by tobacco use, and it doesn’t take much for nicotine to do its damage. Telltale signs you may notice immediately include:

  • Stained teeth, from frequent contact with tobacco juice
  • Periodontitis, as prolonged exposure to tobacco can irritate the gums
  • Bad breath, when tobacco particles mix with your saliva and other food particles
  • New cavities, due to the sugar often used to sweeten tobacco products

Tooth sensitivity, enamel erosion and a decrease in your sense of taste and smell are other possible side effects. As costly as these dental complications may be, it pales in comparison to the lethal threat of cancer.

Symptoms Of Oral Cancer

Given that smokeless tobacco contains well over 20 carcinogenic chemicals, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that its use can result in cancer of the mouth, lip, tongue and throat (in addition to many other cancers of the body). Clear warning signs of oral cancer include white or red lesions inside the mouth (typically referred to by dentists as “leukoplakia”) that fail to heal over time, but not all symptoms are easily detected without the professional help of your dentist.

Tackling Your Tobacco Problem

Seeking professional help is your best bet both to kick your nicotine habit to the curb, as well as to prevent lasting and potentially irreversible damage to your health. Quitting tobacco use likely won’t happen overnight, but your dentist can most certainly offer guidance and point you to effective treatments and/or alternatives. Although it may be difficult to share your struggles, being open about the problem with your dentist and seeing him or her frequently is critical to minimizing the risk for oral cancer and other serious health problems.

Sources:

It may be smokeless, but it’s still tobacco. (2011 May). Retrieved July 22, 2015, from https://www.deltadentalins.com/oral_health/smokelesstobacco.html

Katz, Harold. (2011, March 5). Chewing Tobacco Can Cause Bad Breath, and Worse. Retrieved July 14, 2015,from http://www.therabreath.com/articles/news/oral-care-industry-news/chewing-tobacco-can-cause-bad-breath-and-worse-3329.asp

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2014, November 15). Chewing Tobacco: Not Safer than Cigarettes. Retrieved July 16, 2015,from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/quit-smoking/in-depth/chewing-tobacco/art-20047428?pg=1

5 Ways to Maximize Your Dental Benefits Plan

With terms like PPO, HMO, in-network, and out-of-network to describe dental benefits, it’s no surprise that many don’t understand how to make the most of their plan. This means you may be overlooking benefits that are critical to maintaining your oral health.

Don’t settle for just what you understand as part of your coverage. Read on for 5 simple tips to take advantage of everything your plan has to offer.

Tip #1: Take Time to Understand Your Plan

The best way to take advantage of your plan is to ensure you know the type of plan it is and its deductibles, copayments, and annual maximums.

There are two main types of dental plans:

    • HMO Plans – With an HMO, you’ll be required to choose a dentist in your primary network to handle most of your needs. You are charged a relatively low co-payment for office visits, procedures, etc. There is no coverage if you visit an out-of-network provider. HMOs typically have no deductible or maximum.
  • PPO Plans – With a PPO, you have the option to see both in-network and out-of-network providers, but coverage is better if you stay in network. Once you hit your deductible, you are reimbursed for a percentage of office visits, procedures, etc. The percentage may vary depending on the treatment and is much higher if you see an in-network dentist.

Key things to understand about your plan are its:

    • Deductible – The dollar amount you must pay for covered services prior to claiming benefits under your plan.
    • Copayment – A fixed dollar amount you must pay when you visit your dentist. Some plans with copayments don’t have a deductible whereas others may have both.
  • Annual Maximum – The maximum amount a plan will pay for dental care for an individual or family during a specific benefit period (often, benefit periods last for 12 months).

Tip #2: Take Advantage of All Benefits Covered Under Your Plan

In addition to understanding the basics of your plan, it is important to explore all of the associated benefits.

Most individuals are aware of and will use diagnostic and preventative services for professional cleanings every 6 months. These services are often covered in full by HMO plans and between 80% and 100% by PPO plans.

However, there are other benefits that should be included both in your plan booklet and online. These benefits may cover restorative care (like fillings), major restorative care (like crowns and bridges), as well as orthodontic care. By doing your research, you can determine what procedures are covered, what limitations each procedure has, and if there are any exclusions.

Tip #3: Use a Dentist in Your Network

One of the most significant challenges for many individuals is determining whether or not a dentist is in their network. This can be particularly difficult for plans that have multiple networks because dentists may participate in all or some of them.

If you choose a dentist that is out of your network, the amount of insurance coverage you receive for your treatments will vary. As such, seeing an in-network dentist allows you to maximize your benefits.

Coverage will differ if you go out of network on either type of dental plan:

    • HMO Plans – If you visit a dentist other than your primary or a referred specialist, your services won’t be covered (even if that dentist is also in your network).
  • PPO Plans – PPO plans allow you to visit any licensed dentist and you will still be covered. However, choosing a dentist in your network offers top savings (allowing you to maximize your benefits and coverage).

Tip #4: Control Expenses with Treatment Plans

To maximize your benefits, it is best to schedule treatments in advance to align with your annual maximum. In many cases, you can strategically plan multi-stage treatments with your dental professional to minimize your costs as much as possible. Of course, it is also important to be prepared for unforeseen dental emergencies.

Tip #5: Track Claims and Remaining Benefits

Track claims as you receive treatment so you are aware of when you are approaching your annual maximum. After each appointment, review your treatment summary to see what your carrier covered. Then, subtract this amount from your annual maximum to calculate your remaining coverage for the given benefit period.

Get What You Pay for by Maximizing Your Benefits

You sign up for dental insurance for the benefits and you should receive what you paid for. By utilizing each of the tips above, you can make the most of all your benefits and keep your smile looking great.


Sources:

10 Tips to Maximize Dental Benefits. (2014, February 14). Retrieved July 2, 2015 from https://www.dentalinsurance.com/blog/?post_type=resources&p=1554

Maximizing a dental benefits plan: 6 easy tips. (n.d.). Retrieved July 2, 2015, from https://www.deltadentalins.com/administrators/guidance/maximizing-a-dental-benefits-plan.html