Our Blog

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 1st, 2020

Happy Oral Cancer Awareness Month! We know oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it’s worth using this opportunity to learn about the disease and spread knowledge so everyone becomes more aware. The more we know, the better we can work to prevent it!

Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, the tongue, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every  year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It’s a truly deadly disease.

The reason oral cancer scores a higher death rate than other common cancers such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it's become too advanced and has spread to another part of the body.

So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness:

  • Age: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above the age of 40. If you’re over 40, make sure your doctor checks for signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
  • Tobacco: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that’s another reason, among many, you should avoid tobacco.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages the body’s DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it even easier for tobacco to infiltrate mouth tissue.
  • Sun exposure: Your lips need SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
  • Diet: Not getting all the nutrients you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.

Obviously, many of these causes relate to lifestyle choices, which we have control over. It's all about balance, being aware, and making small tweaks to our habits if we need to.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk for oral cancer, give us a call to talk about a screening. And if you’ve been putting off a visit to our Naugatuck office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!

Good Nutrition Leads to Healthy Mouths

March 4th, 2020

At Dawn M. Mikaitis DMD, LLC, we know the most common oral health diseases are tooth decay and periodontal disease (or gum disease), and both are among the easiest to prevent. One of the most common ways we recommend to boost your oral health is by improving your diet, because you (and your mouth) truly are what you eat. A healthy diet can lead to a healthy mouth and body, while an unhealthy diet can lead to the exact opposite.

The Role Nutrition Plays

While diet is not the only factor that leads to periodontal disease, studies suggest the disease may be more severe among patients whose diets lack essential nutrients. Poor diets will generally lead to a weaker immune system, leaving your body susceptible to all kinds of ailments, including periodontal disease.

A Well-Balanced Approach

There is no “magic” diet that we can recommend to improve your oral health, but the most important thing is to seek a well-balanced approach in your eating. While fad diets that emphasize one food group over another may help you lose weight in the short-term, they probably will not provide all the nutrients your body needs in the long run.

Meals should include a balance of lean meats or other healthy protein sources, colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats. Foods containing substantial amounts of sugar and salt should be consumed in moderation.

Soda and Sugar: A Dangerous Duo

Millions of gallons of soda are consumed every day in America, but sipping a cold soft drink can be very harmful to your teeth. Many of these beverages wear down the enamel that protects the teeth, which weakens and even destroys them over time. The American Beverage Association estimates that soft drinks account for almost 30 percent of all drink consumption in the U.S., averaging an annual total of about 50 gallons per person (up from only 20 gallons in the 1970s). For healthy teeth and a healthy body overall, try to limit your soda intake.

Sugar is another ubiquitous treat in our daily lives. When we eat sugar, naturally occurring bacteria in our mouths convert it to acids that attack tooth enamel. Consuming too much sugar can swiftly lead to tooth decay, cavities, and gum diseases like gingivitis. Most people do not even realize how much sugar they consume each day. It’s important to limit your daily sugar intake by reading the labels of all the food you eat, and sticking with natural food sources that are low in sugar, especially ones that minimize added sugar, such as fruits and vegetables.

If you have questions about your diet and how it may be affecting your oral health, talk to Dr. Dawn Mikaitis about it. See you soon!

Are dental X-rays safe?

February 26th, 2020

YES! X-rays have been used in dentistry for a long time, and the amount of radiation has significantly decreased with advances in technology. While there is risk in every health diagnostic procedure at Dawn M. Mikaitis DMD, LLC, the benefits must outweigh the risks. Dental X-rays do indeed fall into this category.

X-rays are exposed to a type of film to produce an image. The amount of X-rays required to produce this image differs with film speeds. Speed E or F is highly recommended, and digital X-rays require up to 50% less than speed E or F film. The digital X-ray software can adjust the exposure to produce a quality image. Digital X-rays are becoming a new standard and are most common.

Lead aprons have been used to reduce the amount of scatter radiation. All X-ray units have a cone to focus the X-ray beam so the exposure is highly localized. Lead aprons continue to be worn as a precaution for pregnant women, and a thyroid collar should also be worn. In most cases, this is sewn into the lead apron.

We get radiation exposure from environmental factors as well as healthcare diagnostic and treatment tools. To place this in perspective, in one year a person is expected to have 360mRem per year from the sun, air etc. By comparison, a single set of bitewing X-rays is 0.3mRem. Radiation can accumulate in our body over a lifetime, and additional exposure should be avoided whenever possible.

Electric or Manual Toothbrush: Why It Does (and Doesn't) Matter

February 19th, 2020

You live in the golden age of toothbrushes. Until a few decades people used twigs or brushes made from animal hair to clean their teeth: not very soft and none too effective.

Now, you have a choice of manual brushes with soft, medium, or hard bristles. Or you might choose to go with an electric toothbrush instead.

Have you ever wondered whether manual or electric brushes provide better cleaning? Actually, they both do the job. The key is to brush and floss every day, regardless of the kind of brush you prefer.

At our Naugatuck office, we like to say the best brush is the one you'll use. So if you prefer manual, go for it. If you prefer electric, turn it on.

Both types have their advantages but both types will get the job done as far as removing plaque.

Electric Toothbrushes

  • Provide power rotation that helps loosen plaque
  • Are great for people with limited dexterity due to arthritis or other problems
  • Are popular with kids who think the electric brushes are more fun to use
  • Can come with variable speeds to help reduce pressure on sensitive teeth and gums

Manual Toothbrushes

  • Can help brushers feel they have more control over the brushing process
  • Allow brushers to respond to twinges and reduce the pressure applied to sensitive teeth and gums
  • Are more convenient for packing when traveling
  • Manual brushes are cheaper and easier to replace than the electric versions.

In many ways, the golden age is just beginning. There are already phone apps available to remind you to brush and floss. New apps can play two minutes worth of music while you brush, help you compare the brightness of your smile or help explain dental procedures. Maybe someday we’ll even have programs that examine your teeth after brushing and identify spots you might have missed.

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