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

November 8th, 2017

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, Dr. Laura Hannon and our team at Smile Brightly want you to know that early detection of oral cancer improves the survival rate to 80 percent or more.

If you visit our Portage, 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; Dr. Laura Hannon 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, Dr. Laura Hannon will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our Portage, 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!

Alleviate Tooth Sensitivity

November 1st, 2017

If a sip of ice water, spoonful of ice cream, or piping hot latte is enough to send shivers up your spine from tooth sensitivity, be assured you are not alone. It’s estimated that as many as one in eight adults suffers from tooth sensitivity.

What causes sensitive teeth?

Some of the causes of tooth sensitivity include brushing too hard, a cracked tooth, receding gums, periodontal disease, tooth bleaching, or other conditions that expose the sensitive roots of your teeth. For example, brushing too aggressively can injure your gums, and lead to exposed roots and tooth sensitivity.

When the enamel on the outside of the tooth or tissue located between the teeth breaks down or wears away, nerves inside the tooth trigger sensitive teeth that are particularly noticeable when you drink or eat anything hot or cold.

How to alleviate tooth sensitivity

Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do, both at home and at the dental office, to reduce the discomfort of sensitive teeth. Brushing with desensitizing toothpaste is one of the ways to reduce tooth sensitivity: it works well for many patients, and is typically the first course of action.

  • Brush with toothpaste specifically designed for sensitive teeth.
  • Change the way you brush by using a soft toothbrush and not brushing too aggressively.
  • Avoid brushing teeth after consuming acidic foods and beverages, like orange juice and pickles.
  • Drink water or milk after eating or drinking acidic foods or beverages.
  • Sip through a straw when you drink acidic beverages.
  • Wear a mouthguard at night to prevent teeth grinding that wears down teeth.
  • Ask Dr. Laura Hannon about fluoride dental treatments or plastic resin.

For moderate-to-serious cases of tooth sensitivity, more invasive professional dental treatments are available. These include a bonding agent designed to seal/cover the exposed root, obtaining new gum tissue through graft (for receding gums), fillings, crowns, inlays, or bonding. When tooth sensitivity is persistent and results in hypersensitivity, endodontic treatment in the form of root canal may be recommended.

To learn more about tooth sensitivity, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Laura Hannon, please give us a call at our convenient Portage, IN office!

My mouth is dry. What can I do?

October 25th, 2017

Nobody likes a dry mouth. It is an uncomfortable and sometimes oddly unexplainable sensation that most people like to avoid. It is not a condition that automatically sends you into a panic about your health, however, a dry mouth can be a bother and something you certainly want to change if possible. So, if you find yourself in the unpleasant position of having a dry mouth, here is what you can do.

Chew Sugar-free Gum: Chewing sugar-free gum will stimulate saliva in your mouth. The chewing motion of your jaw and teeth should take care of at least some of your dry mouth problem.

Suck on Sugar-free Candy: Similarly to chewing sugar free gum, if you suck on sugar free candy it should create more saliva in your mouth and moisturize it in the process.

Cut out the Caffeine:Caffeine can contribute to a dry mouth so by limiting, or eliminating your intake all together, you may find that your dry mouth is no more.

Stop Using Tobacco Products: Tobacco is another cause of dry mouth. Whether it is smokeless tobacco products or cigarettes, if you stop using them your dry mouth will likely improve. And not to forget, these products are exceedingly bad for your oral health to begin with, so you will be doing your mouth a favor even more so.

Drink Lots of Water: It may seem obvious, but drinking lots of water will likely improve your dry mouth. This is because dry mouth is usually a sign of dehydration, so plenty of fluids will surely help.

Dry mouth can be unpleasant, but it is often easily solved by either drinking more water, or trying one of the previously mentioned techniques. If the problem still persists you can always visit our Portage, IN office to see Dr. Laura Hannon. More often than not, doing one of the above will leave your mouth more moisturized than it was previously, and hopefully it will be long-lasting as well.

Oral Health for the Young Adult

October 18th, 2017

Young adults often have the reputation of not taking good care of themselves. You may feel invincible, and not realize how much your behaviors now can affect your health later in life. Oral health is one area that is easy to neglect now, but that can lead to serious financial and quality of life consequences later.

Follow a Good Oral Care Regimen

If you don’t already do so, it’s time to brush, floss, and rinse as Dr. Laura Hannon taught you. Brush at least twice a day or after meals, and floss your teeth every day. If recommended, use mouthwash to kill germs in your mouth. If you are not able to brush your teeth after eating, swish water around in your mouth to remove the food from your teeth. Leaving carbohydrates in your mouth allows bacteria to ferment it and produce acid, which can destroy your tooth enamel and put you at risk for decay.

Visit Our Office Regularly

Young adulthood can be a challenging time when it comes to medical care. Your parents are no longer paying for your health insurance or taking you to your appointments. You may not worry much about getting regular cleanings and exams, especially if you’re paying for them yourself.

However, young adults have a lot to gain from visiting our Portage, IN office regularly. We can check for signs of problems and fix them early, which can save thousands of dollars and, ultimately, your teeth. These are some examples of what Dr. Laura Hannon and our hygiene team can do for you.

  • Get rid of plaque so it does not develop into tartar and cause periodontitis.
  • Identify and fill small areas of tooth decay to prevent it from progressing.
  • Examine your gums for signs of gingivitis, or early gum disease.

Consume a Tooth-Healthy Diet

A nutritious diet is not just for preventing heart disease and diabetes later in life. It also supports your teeth. Make sure to get plenty of calcium, such as from dairy products, canned fish, and leafy green vegetables to allow for strong teeth. Also, limit sticky foods and sugary sweets.

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