Tag Archives: cancer

Smart & Safe Dental X-Rays

digital_radsAbout a year ago, researchers established a possible link between routine dental x-rays and cancer (intracranial meningioma in particular) – more reason why, as we mentioned, x-rays in our office are never “routine.”

Since then, there have been more studies – and ongoing debate about what the research means for dentists. The latest is a paper in the Annals of Oncology, which ultimately gives a more nuanced view. While the relation between brain tumors and x-ray frequency persists, a key difference was found.

According to the study authors, “multivariable unconditional logistic regression analysis showed that the risk of BBT [benign brain tumor] increases as the frequency of received dental diagnostic x-ray increases.” However, they found no significant association between malignant brain tumors and dental diagnostic x-ray exposure.

The study abstract is available here.

For a long time, ADA recommendations were just for a full mouth series of x-rays for first time patients, then bitewings at intervals ranging from every 6 months to every 3 years, depending on the patient’s age and risk of decay or gum disease. Late last year, however, they updated their guidelines, saying that

dental X-rays help dentists evaluate and diagnose oral diseases and conditions, but the ADA recommends that dentists weigh the benefits of taking dental X-rays against the possible risk of exposing patients to the radiation from X-rays, the effects of which can accumulate from multiple sources over time.

And we think that’s as it should be: patient health and safety first. It’s why our office practices mercury-free, mercury-safe dentistry. It’s why we insist on using only biocompatible materials. And it’s why we use digital imaging, which lowers radiation exposure by as much as 90% while offering superior quality, and only take them when needed for an accurate diagnosis.

For x-rays remain an important diagnostic tool, letting us see what the naked eye cannot – inside the tooth and gums – so problems can be identified (or ruled out) and a plan of action made to solve them efficiently and safely.

Image via Medgadget

Comments Off on Smart & Safe Dental X-Rays

Filed under Dentistry, General Health

Coffee & Cancer: Java to the Rescue?

Some research can’t help but be greeted with a yawn, “duh!” or rolling eyes – like the obesity study done a couple years ago at Tel Aviv University. Participants sat around doing nothing more than eating, playing games and reading. The conclusion? Relaxing can make you fatter. (There’s actually a rationale for such “duh” studies, which you can read about here.)

coffee_greenAt the other end of the spectrum are studies that surprise, such as the one on oral and throat cancer published last month in the American Journal of Epidemiology. Analyzing data from a 26 year span of the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study II, researchers found that people who drank four cups of caffeinated coffee a day were at a 49% lower risk of death from throat or oral cancer as those who occasionally or never take coffee. (Full research article here)

This isn’t to say coffee is a magic bullet against these cancers. Far better to start by eliminating risk factors such as tobacco and heavy alcohol use, a poor, sugar-rich diet and unsafe sexual practices. (As mentioned, the virus responsible for the recent rise in oral cancer rates – HPV – is most often sexually transmitted.)

Yes, moderation and healthy living may sound less adventurous than whiling away the bohemian hours at your favorite hip coffee shop, but they’re your health’s most reliable friend.

Because oral and throat cancers can be hard to see in their early – and thus, easiest to successfully treat phase – it’s also important to see your dentist regularly for screening. Here in Dr. Erwin’s office, all adult patients are screened annually with VELscope. This device uses a blue excitation light to identify tissues that need a closer look. If any are found, we go to the next step: a CDX brush test, which is likewise painless and non-invasive.

Oral Cancer Screening at a Glance

And then there’s coffee – perhaps – with its beneficial effects. The current belief is that these come courtesy of phytochemicals. These are naturally occurring compounds in plants that often have antioxidant properties, and a number of those found in coffee may contribute in the fight against cancer.

Now the bad news: Coffee is also one of the top causes for tooth enamel damage. Not only does it stain, but it makes the oral cavity temporarily more acidic, giving a boost to some of the bacteria that want nothing more than to leave you in dentures. If you do drink coffee, be sure to wait 20 to 30 minutes before brushing your teeth afterwards. This gives your saliva time to neutralize those acids. Brushing while conditions are still acidic further raises risk of enamel erosion.

Stains, we can remove. Once enamel’s gone, it’s gone.

Learn more about oral and throat cancers

Image byTakkk, via Wikimedia Commons

Comments Off on Coffee & Cancer: Java to the Rescue?

Filed under Oral Health

All Dental X-rays Are NOT Created Equal

“Information overload” isn’t a new concept or phenomenon, but it is a more common one in our hyper-connected world.

As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are connecting to the Internet to conduct their own research and are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites….This flow has created a new life where we are now in danger of becoming dependent on this method of access to information. Therefore we see an information overload from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.

Another consequence is greater competition for attention. It’s one reason why we see the kinds of headlines we do – sometimes promising practical, helpful content to come, but more often striving to shock, surprise or otherwise arouse curiosity. More than ever, it’s important that we read beyond them and really grasp what’s being said.

Consider, for instance, this post on Dr. Mercola’s site yesterday:

Now, if you were to just read the headline and first bit of content, you couldn’t be faulted for thinking that dental x-rays are horrible, dangerous and something to avoid at all costs. But that’s not what the article actually says. The risk suggested by the research discussed involved only routine and conventional x-rays. It also has significant limitations, which Dr. Mercola points out. And his ultimate recommendation?

My personal recommendation is to find a dentist that uses digital X-ray equipment that does not use film but a sensor to capture the image. This type of equipment typically generates 90 percent less radiation and is far safer. The dentist I see uses this type of X-ray equipment.

It’s the type of equipment I use, as well (as do many other dentists, conventional and holistic alike). For x-rays remain an important diagnostic tool, not something that should be “routine.” Taking digital x-rays – and then, only when needed – keeps risk as low as possible. (Another benefit to digital imaging: You don’t need to have all those chemicals – a potential source of toxic exposure – to process the film. No chemicals, no fumes to permeate the office environment!)

And truth be told, most biological dentists use digital imaging for the exact same reasons. It’s safe and lets us see below the surface so we can correctly diagnose your dental situation. It helps us provide you with the best biological dental care, fixing any problems early – and biocompatibly.

That level of care and safety is one thing that should be routine. X-rays? No, and especially if they’re conventional film.

More about why x-rays matter

More on information overload in the digital age

Image by a440, via Flickr

Comments Off on All Dental X-rays Are NOT Created Equal

Filed under Biological Dentistry, Dentistry

Gum Disease & Cancer, Cancer & Smoking, Smoking & Tooth Loss

Over the past year or so, there’s been a lot more talk in conventional dental circles about the relationship between oral health and physical health, much of it focusing on the demonstrated links between periodontal (gum) disease and inflammatory conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. One of the links we’ve heard less about – at least in the popular media – is that between oral health and cancer.

A little over a year ago, a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention cast some light on this relationship, looking to the effect of chronic periodontitis on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). As gum disease in its most severe form leads to bone loss in the jaw, researchers measured the amount of alveolar bone loss. (This is the bone that secures the teeth in their sockets.) Even after adjusting for factors such as smoking, alcohol use and missing teeth, they found that for each additional millimeter of bone loss, an individual’s risk of developing HNSCC increased by more than four fold, with the strongest association occurring in the oral cavity. The scientists concluded that chronic gum disease may well be an independent risk factor for HNSCC. Smoking may raise the risk even more, considering that it aggravates alveolar bone loss.

Because the alveolar bone is the fundamental structure that keeps teeth in the mouth, as it erodes, the individual becomes more susceptible to losing their teeth. There’s simply not enough bone to hold them in place. This is something we’ve known about for some time, but there’s continued interest in understanding the progress of gum disease, as well as the impact of risk factors such as smoking even after the the person has quit.

Along these lines, a sobering study was just published in the Journal of the American Dental Association, in which researchers looked at the long term effects of smoking and tooth loss among older adults. Unsurprisingly, current and former smokers both showed a much higher rate of tooth loss than those who had never smoked. Surprisingly, though risk declined significantly once individuals quit smoking, their risk remained elevated even after 30 smoke-free years.

For those who still think smoking makes you look cool or sexy, you might want to think about how cool you’d look without teeth or how sexy when taking out dentures each night before going to bed.

Yet another reason to quit the smokes – or never start in the first place.

 

Image via foldedspace

 

Bookmark and Share

Comments Off on Gum Disease & Cancer, Cancer & Smoking, Smoking & Tooth Loss

Filed under Dentistry, Periodontal health