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How do I know if I’m at risk for oral cancer?

October 19th, 2018

Every year, over 50,000 North Americans are diagnosed with oral or throat cancer, which has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body, most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

Because oral cancer is typically painless in its early stages and often goes undetected until it spreads, many patients aren’t diagnosed until they are already suffering from chronic pain or loss of function. However, if detected early, Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser and our team at Erskine Family Dentistry want you to know that early detection of oral cancer improves the survival rate to 80 percent or more.

If you visit our South Bend, IN office regularly, you have probably received an oral cancer screening and didn’t even realize it. That’s because the exam is quick and painless; Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser and our team check your neck and mouth for signs of oral cancer such as discolorations, lumps, or any changes to your tissue. Oral cancer is typically found on the tongue, lips, gums, the floor of the mouth, or tissues in back of the tongue.

Factors that may influence your risk for developing oral cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco products. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, or chewing tobacco all elevate risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco use especially is a serious risk factor because it contains substances called carcinogens, which are harmful to cells in your mouth.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol. Those who drink alcohol regularly have an elevated risk of getting oral cancer. Alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks in one week) is the second largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Excessive sun exposure. Those who spend lots of time outdoors and do not use proper amounts of sunscreen or lip balm have a greater risk for developing lip cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may also cause melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
  • Your age. Oral cancer is typically a disease that affects older people, usually because of their longer exposure to other risk factors. Most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40.
  • Your gender. Oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women.
  • A history with viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables.

In between your visits to our office, it is critical for you to be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and give us a call if these symptoms don’t go away after two weeks.

  • A sore or irritation that doesn’t disappear
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

During your next visit, Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our South Bend, IN office for your regular checkup, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits can be the first line of defense against oral cancer because we can identify early warning signs of the disease. Give us a call today!

Make Your Smile Dazzling For Your Wedding!

October 12th, 2018

Planning a wedding can be a highly stressful time. Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser and our team want to support you in this process by helping you achieve a beautiful, bright smile. Wedding days entail a lot of photographs that will last a lifetime. We know how crucial it can be that you have a smile that makes you feel confident throughout this memorable day.

Whether you’re the bride or groom, a member of the wedding party, or just a guest, a teeth-whitening treatment from Drs. Bonni Boone, Susan Cocquyt, and Lori Risser can give you extra confidence. Even when you’ve made the proper effort to keep up your oral health routine, staining still can appear on your teeth from foods and beverages over time. You can do several things to make sure your smile is in top shape before a wedding.

Our in-office whitening treatment is a good option if you’re looking for an investment that can last. If you’ve tried whitening kits on your own, you may have noticed they have to be used frequently to maintain the bright smile you desire.

Professional whitening treatments done by Erskine Family Dentistry are quite comfortable and have long-lasting effects. You can also use whitening toothpaste and mouthwash to keep your teeth bright between in-office whitening treatments.

Our staff can also provide helpful advice on how to avoid staining between your whitening treatment and the big day. If you’re concerned that you may have to hold back your smile on your wedding day or some other pending event, contact our South Bend, IN office and ask about our whitening treatment options.

How Tooth-Colored Fillings Improve Your Smile

October 5th, 2018

Today’s crowns, veneers, and tooth colored fillings are very natural looking compared to early counterparts. There was a time when dentists placed silver fillings exclusively. This material is still used, however the most common material used today in fillings is composite, tooth-colored fillings. Composite fillings can be made to match any shade of tooth and even let light travel through them like natural enamel.

Composite fillings are great in many different scenarios. The most obvious reason is when a cavity is present. This is an excellent way to seemingly erase the imperfection that once was. It is almost as if the cavity was never there.

Placing composite fillings to reshape teeth can also minimize excessive spacing. In the case of a diastema, (a large space between the two front teeth) composite material is a non-invasive and cost-effective choice that provides instant results. It can be an alternative to braces.

Mottled enamel is a symptom of fluorosis, which causes discoloration and imperfections in the enamel. Composites are the material of choice for masking this condition.

Composite fillings are easy to place, easy on the eyes, and easily repaired. With skill and good composite material, a filling can be easily disguised. This look is desired most in our society today, where dental perfection is now standard.

In conclusion, your smile is in good hands with composite fillings. There are some great materials that give a near perfect match to the appearance of natural tooth enamel. Smile with confidence knowing no one ever has to know. Your secret is safe with us at Erskine Family Dentistry!

Fluoride Treatment: Do You Need One?

September 28th, 2018

Over the past decade, most people have been ingesting less and less fluoride. This is not such a great trend, since fluoride has a history of successfully reducing tooth decay and promoting good dental health. Most of us drink bottled water now, so many children and adults are not getting the optimum amount of fluoride they need. Of course, dental needs vary, depending on such factors as age, tooth sensitivity, medical conditions, and risk for cavities, but there are several ways to make sure you get the proper amount of fluoride.

Fluoride can be applied in the form of foam, varnish, or mouthwash. For children, topical fluoride can be useful in the early stages of development to ensure the future strength of enamel. For people who have a dry mouth as the result of medication to treat anxiety, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, or high cholesterol, a daily fluoride rinse is recommended, as well as a varnish treatment. 

If you’ve received or are receiving any form of cancer treatment, that could be affecting your dental health. If such is the case, fluoride varnish treatments are recommended prior to, during, and after chemotherapy. Getting an oral infection during cancer treatment can be especially harmful, so it’s worthwhile to do as much as you can to prevent that.

If you suspect you might be in need of a fluoride treatment or have any questions about the treatments Erskine Family Dentistry offers, please feel free to give our South Bend, IN office a call!

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