THE TRUTH ABOUT SOME COMMON DENTAL MYTHS

The profession of dentistry has experienced an amazing evolution over its lifetime. References to tooth decay can be found in various ancient texts. At one time, a local barber would provide haircuts and pull troublesome teeth in the same shop. Dentistry evolved from these humble beginnings to what we know today: a structured medical discipline where patients benefit from evidenced-based care. Oddly enough, though, several oral health myths and misconceptions have failed to fade away....

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SIMPLE STEPS TO MAINTAIN YOUR ORAL HEALTH

On the list of common reasons people avoid the dentist, cost is usually near the top. It is a fact — some dental treatments are expensive. However, you have some control in working to avoid pricey dental procedures. Two of the best ways to avoid needing expensive dental treatments are to visit a dentist regularly for an exam and cleaning and following proper dental hygiene advice every day.

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COMMON SLEEP DISORDER WREAKS HAVOC ON THE BODY

The National Sleep Foundation estimates over 18 million adults in the United States, or about one in every 15 people, suffer from sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that interrupts breathing, resulting in disruptive sleep. Individuals suffering from obstructive sleep apnea will experience a repetitive (partial or complete) airway collapse throughout their sleep, which prevents air from reaching the lungs.

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RISK FACTORS AND SYMPTOMS OF ORAL CANCER


Individuals should be aware of factors and work to limit behaviors that increase their risk of developing oral cancer, including:



It’s important to note, however, that 25 percent of people who develop oral cancer report not smoking and only drinking occasionally. Everyone should be on the lookout for oral cancer symptoms and speak with a healthcare provider if they have concerns.


Earlier this year, with the support of a $1 million grant from the United Health Foundation (UHF), the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry (UKCD) was able to launch its “Eradicate Oral Cancer in Eastern Kentucky” project. This effort targets the counties of Harlan, Letcher and Pike because the prevalence of oral cancer in these areas is as much as 54 percent higher than the state average. The three-year project seeks to raise public awareness of the symptoms of oral cancer and its links to heavy alcohol and tobacco use, provide oral cancer screenings in partnership with local health departments and help connect patients who need additional care to cancer specialists in Lexington. By encouraging residents in these areas to be screened, UKCD hopes to catch potential issues earlier while also educating participants and encouraging them to speak with friends and family about risk factors for oral cancer.


A portion of the grant funding has been set aside to use for financial assistance for individuals needing help with travel expenses and for health   care services related to oral screening findings, regardless of an individual’s insurance coverage. Findings from the project will be shared in presentations to state and national organizations, along with guidance on how the program could be replicated or adapted in other communities.


With each oral cancer screening session conducted, participants are asked a short set of survey questions. While many participants have indi- cated knowledge of tobacco as a possible risk factor for oral cancer, survey findings demonstrate work is still needed in helping underscore the poten- tial impact of other risk factors, such as HPV, alcohol consumption and sun exposure.

DR. MELVYN YEOH

Dr. Melvyn Yeoh is an assistant professor and chief of the Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Division at the University of Kentucky College of Dentistry. More information about UK Dentistry is available at www.ukhealthcare.uky.edu/dentistry.

more articles by dr Melvyn Yeoh

The American Cancer Society estimates roughly 53,000 people in the United States will develop oral cancer in 2019. That’s about 145 new cases confirmed each day. More troubling still, Kentucky has one of the nation’s highest incidences of oral cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health.


While fatalities from this type of cancer have decreased over the past 30 years, early detection of oral cancer is still crucial in order to achieve positive treatment outcomes. When healthcare providers detect oral cancer in its earliest stages, individuals have an 80-percent to 90-percent chance of surviving longer than five years following diagnosis. Unfortunately, these odds decrease for cases that are not diagnosed early.


Oral cancer can affect the lips, gums, tongue, floor of the mouth, hard palate or roof of the mouth, cheek area and throat area. Regular visits to the dentist offer one way to detect issues in these areas earlier and begin treatment if needed. Left unchecked, oral cancer can spread to other parts of the mouth and then go beyond to the head, neck and other areas of the body.


SYMPTOMS OF ORAL CANCER

Talk with a healthcare provider if you notice any of these symptoms persist longer than 14 days: