Our Blog

How Smoking Increases the Risk of Oral Cancer

November 12th, 2014

Cigarette smoke contains more than 6,000 chemicals, and at least 200 of those chemicals are known to be harmful to your health. When smoke is inhaled, moist oral tissues are saturated with excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and a host of other known carcinogens. Most oral cancers originate in abnormal squamous cell activity, which are cells found on the lips, inside the mouth, and in the throat.

How Oral Cancer Begins

Cells exposed to consistently high levels of cigarette smoke may eventually suffer abnormal mutations within their DNA. Since deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is responsible for providing cells with instructions about growth, reproduction, and death, these instructions become distorted, which causes the cells to reproduce uncontrollably.

Essentially, that is what cancer is: rapid, unchecked growth of genetically mutated cells that encourages the development of malignant tumors. Unfortunately, the chemicals in cigarette smoke are strongly associated with oral cancer.

Signs of Oral Cancer

Early-stage oral cancer is often asymptomatic, which means symptoms appear only after the cancer intensifies and spreads. Possible signs of oral cancer include:

  • Ulcers inside the mouth or on the lips that do not heal
  • White or dark red patches inside the mouth
  • Lumps inside or around the mouth (a lump could appear on your neck)
  • Bleeding, numbness, and soreness in the mouth
  • Chronic halitosis
  • Loose teeth in the absence of tooth decay

Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Cancer

Squamous cell oral cancer is the most common type diagnosed in smokers. Dr. Laura Hannon and our staff often discover squamous cell carcinoma lesions during dental examinations or cancer screenings. Depending on the stage of the oral cancer, treatment may begin with a biopsy or an exfoliative cytology procedure that involves collecting cells from the oral cavity using a scraper.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer patients may need surgery, radiation therapy, a combination of surgery and radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to eradicate oral cancer.

Smoking, Cancer, and Tooth Decay

Not only is smoking the number-one cause of cancer but it is also detrimental to the overall health of your teeth and gums. Yellow teeth, bad breath, dry mouth, and expedited tooth decay are all caused by smoking, not to mention the damage smoke does to the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

In other words, don’t smoke!

What are dental sealants, who should get them, and how long do they last?

November 5th, 2014

Dental sealants are an excellent way to protect children’s teeth from tooth decay by coating them with a thin plastic material. Their teeth look and feel like normal, but they are protected from plaque build-up and decay early on. Dr. Laura Hannon and our staff recommend sealants as a preventive measure for children before any decay appears on their teeth.

Who should get dental sealants?

Dental sealants are intended for young children as soon as their first teeth come in. Decay is most common in the molars, so taking your child to Smile Brightly for sealants right when you see the molars grow in gives your child the best chance to fight tooth decay.

A child’s first set of permanent molars grow in between ages five and seven, while the second permanent molars come in between 11 and 14 years of age. Some teens and adults who don’t have tooth decay may get sealants as well, but it is less common.

How long do dental sealants last?

Once the sealant has been placed on the teeth, it lasts up to ten years. Expect to have Dr. Laura Hannon check the sealant at every visit to our Portage, IN office, which should be twice a year. We will look at the sealant and determine if it needs to be replaced.

What is the process of getting sealants?

Applying sealants is a simple, pain-free procedure that is done quickly at Smile Brightly. There is absolutely no effect on the tooth structure from sealants.

For starters, the teeth are cleaned carefully, then dried with an absorbent material. A mild acid solution is applied to them to roughen them slightly. This is done so the sealant can bond properly to the teeth. Then the teeth are rinsed and dried, and the sealant material is painted on and dried with a special light.

Molars are susceptible to decay early on, which is why sealants are an important treatment to get for your children’s first set of teeth.

Halloween: Candy, costumes, and more!

October 29th, 2014

All Hallows' Eve, more commonly known as Halloween, is a yearly event celebrated on October 31, and one that is anticipated by the young and young at heart all over the world. Some scholars claim that Halloween originated from Celtic festivals that honored the dead or that celebrated the harvest, while others doubt that there's any connection at all to Samhain (a Gaelic harvest festival.) Regardless of its origin, our team at the dental office of Dr. Laura Hannon hopes that Halloween is fun and enjoyed by all of our awesome patients!

Trick or treat?

In North America, Halloween is predominantly celebrated by children who dress up in costumes, which range from scary to cute, who then go around the neighborhood knocking on doors asking "trick or treat", and they are given candy in return. Trick-or-treating is a time honored tradition, and though many parents groan at the pounds and pounds of candy collected by youngsters and fear for the health of their teeth, there are a few things you can do to help their teeth stay in great shape until the candy is gone:

  • Limit the amount of candy they can consume each day
  • Have them brush their teeth after eating candy
  • Avoid hard, chewy candies as they can stick in hard to brush places
  • Keep candy out of sight to reduce temptation
  • Don't buy candy too far in advance to limit pre-Halloween consumption
  • Help or encourage your children to floss

Halloween Fun

Halloween isn't just about gorging on candy; there are other events associated with this festive day including carving jack-o'-lanterns, painting pumpkins, decorating sugar cookies, bobbing for apples, going to haunted houses, or just curling up on the couch with a bowl full of popcorn and watching some classic, scary movies.

Halloween Around the World

Some countries, like Australia, frown upon Halloween, claiming it is an American event and not based in Australian culture, while others like Italy have embraced the fun and celebrate much as Canadians and Americans do. Mexicans have been celebrating this fun day since around 1960, and it marks the beginning of the Day of the Dead festival. Some countries in Europe have come late to the party, but since the 1990s, countries like Sweden, Norway, and Germany have started celebrating Halloween as well, and finding children in costumes or having ghosts hanging in windows has become commonplace.

Halloween is about fun; stepping outside our normal lives and donning a costume or gathering with friends to knock on doors and ask for candy is as much a part of our culture as hot dogs and barbecue on Labor Day. Have a safe and happy Halloween from the team at Smile Brightly!

How Sedation Dentistry Can Help You Overcome Dental Anxiety

October 22nd, 2014

Putting off your dental visit to Smile Brightly because of fear or anxiety only increases the potential for tooth decay or gum problems. At our office, Dr. Laura Hannon and our team offer solutions that allow you to relax, without any pain, so you can keep your mouth healthy. Our solutions can help with many different anxiety issues for both adults and children.

Help with minor anxiety

Nitrous oxide is an excellent choice for most patients. Sometimes referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide can be regulated to provide you with the amount of sedation you need. When used before a local anesthetic, the injection will not be uncomfortable and you should not notice any pain during your procedure.

If you plan to use nitrous oxide, you can drive yourself to your appointment. In most cases, you will be fine to drive after your treatment: the sedation wears off quickly. Nitrous oxide can also be used along with other sedation techniques to produce a higher level of sedation.

Oral sedatives are available in a liquid or pill form. If you experience moderate anxiety levels, you can be given a tablet to take before your appointment. This type of sedation will be beneficial in relieving the anxiety that can build before your procedure. However, if you choose this method, you cannot drive yourself to your appointment.

Help with major dental anxiety

If you experience extreme levels of stress and anxiety about dental treatment, you may wish to discuss deep sedation or general anesthesia. With these techniques, you will be barely conscious or unconscious during your procedure. You will not feel discomfort or pain. Once you have experienced dentistry with a sedation technique, your anxiety level may decrease on its own.

People are not born with the fear of a dental exam. Unfortunately, most anxiety issues are due to a bad dental experience or childhood trauma. Sometimes anxiety comes from listening to the tales of others, who may have exaggerated their story. Talk to Dr. Laura Hannon and our team about your dental concerns or fears. Let us help you so you can get the dental care you need for a healthy mouth for life.

For more information about overcoming dental anxiety, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Laura Hannon, please give us a call at our convenient Portage, IN office!

Back to Top

FIND US