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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 Burke office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!

Periodontics and Pregnancy

February 26th, 2020

Periodontal health — which refers to the condition of the structures that support your teeth — is an important part of your oral and overall health. However, periodontal health becomes even more important when you're pregnant. Bad oral health can have detrimental effects on the health of your unborn child and can lead to low-birth weight babies and giving birth to a pre-term baby, according to reports by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP), the European Federation of Periodontology (EFP), and several research studies.

Periodontal disease (gum disease) is a set of chronic, bacteria-induced, inflammatory diseases that attack the gum tissue and in more severe cases, the bones supporting the teeth. Early signs of periodontal disease usually include tenderness, swelling, and redness. Symptoms can also include bleeding gums when flossing or brushing, receding gums, loose teeth, and bad breath. These signs shouldn't be ignored, especially if you're pregnant.

Prevention is the best tool you have to fight periodontal disease. Here are some steps you can take to keep your gums in tiptop shape:

  • Brush your teeth properly twice a day – angle your toothbrush at the gum line to help disrupt the bacterial growth that eventually leads to periodontal disease, and make sure you don't brush too hard.
  • Floss daily and clean behind the back molars on the top and bottom of your mouth.
  • Use antiseptic mouthwash to rid your mouth of the bacteria that can cause gum disease.
  • Get regular checkups at our Burke office to ensure you have no signs of periodontal disease and that your oral hygiene habits are effective.

Drs. Medhat Ghannam and Paola Annoni Patel and our team urge women to care for their periodontal health during pregnancy to avoid complications. If you have any questions regarding periodontal health and how it affects you and your baby's overall health, please contact our Burke office for more information.

Water: It’s Not Just for Brushing!

February 19th, 2020

We turn on the tap and it comes rushing out. We walk down the hall at work or school and stop at the fountain without even thinking about it. It’s the one item on the menu we most likely won’t have to pay for. Let’s face it—we’re probably taking water for granted. So let’s take a moment and look at the many wonderful things that drinking water does for our teeth and dental health!

  • Cleaning Our Mouths

We can’t always brush right after eating to get rid of food particles. Bacteria feed on the sugars and starches left behind, and produce acids that lead to tooth decay and gum disease. Drinking water with our meals washes away lots of this food residue and dilutes the amount of acid our teeth are exposed to. 

  • Protecting Our Teeth

Water helps with saliva production, and saliva distributes important minerals such as fluoride and calcium to our teeth. This process helps strengthen enamel that might have been eroded by acidic foods and bacteria and makes our enamel less vulnerable to cavities.

  • Preventing Cavities and Dry Mouth

Fluoride is a mineral that strengthens the structure of our teeth. Because so much of our water is fluoridated, you can get this essential mineral with every glass. If you don’t have access to fluoridated water, or if you tend to drink only bottled water (which may or may not have fluoride), please talk to Drs. Medhat Ghannam and Paola Annoni Patel about the best way to strengthen and your teeth and help prevent cavities.

Drinking the recommended amount of water per day also helps prevent dry mouth, a condition caused by decreased saliva production. Saliva not only helps remineralize our teeth, as mentioned above, but also works to wash away bacteria and acids that lead to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath. Luckily, we can help ourselves stay hydrated with most liquids, as well as fruits and vegetables that are rich in water content. But the easiest, most effective and often least expensive way to hydrate is with water.

Water just can’t be taken for granted. It’s a marvel of cleaning, protection, and prevention—and it’s calorie-free!

Choose Chocolate on Valentine's Day

February 12th, 2020

From a student handing out sweets for her classmates to an older married couple exchanging boxes of candy, Valentine’s Day is the time of year when people like to show affection by gifting sugary treats to their loved ones. Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of Valentine’s Day candy, you can celebrate the holiday in a healthier way by making dark chocolate your confection of choice.

Contribute to Your Health

According to the Cleveland Clinic, studies have shown that the cocoa beans used to make chocolate contain flavonoids, which can help protect the body against damage from various toxins. Flavonoids may also help lower blood pressure and improve blood flow to the heart and the brain. Dark chocolates typically contain a higher amount of flavonoids than other types, making them a great choice for chocolate lovers. However, you should keep in mind that many companies produce chocolate that is so heavily processed that the flavonoids are largely eliminated. Your best bet is to look for high-quality dark chocolates and cocoa powders that have undergone minimal processing.

Protect Against Cavities

If you think there’s no way candy could ever be beneficial for your teeth, think again. The Texas A&M Health Science Center has reported that the tannins present in cocoa beans may actually help prevent cavities by interfering with bacteria’s harmful interaction with teeth. Just like with flavonoids, tannins have been found to be present more often in dark chocolates, rather than milk chocolates, giving you another great reason to choose the richer, sweet varieties.

Avoid a Sticky Situation

One more benefit of choosing chocolate over other candies is that it is less likely to get stuck in the crevices and spaces between teeth. Gooey sweets like taffy can stay lodged in the mouth for longer periods of time, putting you at a greater risk for developing cavities. When you choose your chocolate, be sure to avoid types that also contain sticky ingredients like caramel or marshmallow, and instead opt for the plain varieties.

Remember that the health benefits you can receive from dark chocolate are largely based on eating the candy in moderation. With that being said, it’s easy to make this delicious and health conscious switch when you’re out shopping for your sweetheart, friends, loved ones, and yourself. Have fun satisfying your sweet tooth this year and Happy Valentine’s Day from all of us at Artisan Dental!