Posts for: December, 2013
It’s time for your semi-annual visit to our office. As we prepare for your examination and teeth cleaning, we may also take a moment to check your blood pressure.
No, you’re not in the wrong office. The fact is, blood pressure screenings in dental offices are becoming more prevalent. The reason is twofold: as one of your healthcare providers, we may be able to identify a problem with your blood pressure that has previously gone unnoticed; and hypertension (chronic high blood pressure) and any drugs you may be taking for it can affect your dental health and how we provide treatment.
Hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure, is usually regarded as any sustained pressure greater than 125/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). It’s been identified as a major cause of cardiovascular disease, a family of heart-related diseases that affect an astounding 80 million people in the United States. Chronic hypertension has gained a reputation as “the silent killer” — many people are unaware they have it and if left untreated can lead to more serious conditions such as stroke or heart attack. It’s also a symptom of diabetes, even in the absence of other symptoms.
As part of your healthcare team, we’re in a good position to screen for hypertension and other general health problems. At the same time, hypertension is an important factor in dental care, especially if you are on regulating medication. Many anti-hypertensive drugs have side effects, such as dry mouth, that can affect your oral health. Your pressure status and medications may also affect the types and dosages of local anesthetics we would use during procedures; many of these constrict blood vessels (known as vasoconstrictors), which can elevate blood pressure.
A simple blood pressure check could reveal a health problem you didn’t even know about. It also helps us provide you with better and safer dental care.
If you would like more information on the effects of high blood pressure on your dental health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Monitoring Blood Pressure.”
Actor Michael Douglas shocked TV audiences across the country when he announced on the David Letterman Show in 2010 that he has stage IV oral cancer. Fortunately, the cancer had not spread and his radiation and chemotherapy treatments were successful. This year, Douglas teamed up with the Oral Cancer Foundation to warn others about the dangers of the disease and the importance of early detection. In particular, he wants younger people to know that even if they don't smoke and drink a lot, as he admitted to Letterman that he did, they are still at risk.
As Douglas states in a PSA he made with the foundation, “the fastest growing segment of the people developing oral cancers are young, non smokers.” That's due to a strain of the Human Papilloma Virus known as HPV16 that can be transmitted through oral sex. So it's important to avoid risky sexual behaviors and to be screened regularly for this devastating disease that claims one life every hour in the U.S., according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
An oral cancer screening is a simple visual and tactile exam done right here at the dental office. We will feel your neck for lumps and inspect your lips and all inside surfaces of the mouth, including the back of your throat, for any suspicious signs. If any are found, a biopsy (laboratory analysis of a tissue sample) can be ordered.
Most oral cancers are “squamous” (small scale-shaped) cell carcinomas that occur in the lining of the mouth and are often preceded by recognizable changes (lesions) of the oral membranes. White or red patches begin to form in the pre-cancerous stage, and as the cancer develops, a non-healing ulcer may appear. If you notice any such changes in your mouth, please let us know.
Michael Douglas ends his PSA with the following plea: “So please, the next time you visit your dentist or your medical doctor, ask for this simple screening. Finding oral cancer in its earliest stages may save your life.” We agree, which is why we always perform this screening during your regular dental check-up. If it's been a while since your last appointment, please come in and see us.
If you would like more information about oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about the disease in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”