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HPV and Oral Cancer

August 31st, 2022

Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is best known as a sexually transmitted infection. In the United States, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, with 79 million Americans currently infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In addition to increasing risk for cervical cancer, HPV is a contributing factor in some cases of oral cancer. Each year an estimated 1,700 women and 6,700 men develop oropharyngeal cancer, which affects the tongue and throat.

Connection between HPV and oral cancer

There are more than 40 strains of HPV that live in the skin and mucosal areas. Some of these affect the genitalia, while others are found in the mouth and throat. Of the strains of oral HPV, only one, called HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer, the Oral Cancer Foundation reports. A retrospective study conducted found that oral cancer developed an average of 15 years after exposure to HPV, making it a relatively slow-growing form of cancer.

In general, 80% of Americans will have an HPV infection at some point in their lifetimes, while 99% develop no ill effects. Getting oral HPV is associated with multiple sexual partners and engaging in oral sex; however, even some individuals who have been with only one partner may contract the infection. Although overall risk of oral cancer from HPV infection is low, it is essential to be proactive about oral health.

How to prevent HPV-related oral cancer

Scientists continue to study how HPV infections lead to oral cancer, so little is known about the progression of the disease. However, one recent study found that poor oral health, including gum disease and poor oral hygiene, is associated with oral cancer risk. Thus, being vigilant about brushing and flossing your teeth regularly may reduce HPV-related oral cancer. Getting the HPV vaccine also protects against the oral form of the virus.

Another key way to reduce mortality from oral cancer is to have regularly scheduled appointments with at Mendes Family Dentistry. Having Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes examine your mouth at least two times a year increases the likelihood that a sign of oral cancer, such as a sore or patch, will be detected. If you’re concerned about HPV-related oral cancer, please give us a call at our Saint Paul office for advice about oral hygiene and disease prevention.

Are baby teeth really that important?

August 24th, 2022

Your infant’s first teeth will begin to appear around six to 12 months of age. You might wonder how important these primary teeth really are. After all, baby teeth are destined to fall out within a few years and be replaced by a full set of permanent teeth. However, baby teeth have important functions, and proper care can set the stage for excellent oral and overall health.

Promote Better Nutrition

The appearance of your baby’s primary teeth around six to 12 months of age coincides with changes in your infant’s nutritional needs. Beginning at six months, exclusive breastfeeding is no longer nutritionally sufficient; this is the age at which you should introduce solid foods.

At six to eight months, when your baby can start to chew, strained or pureed fruits and vegetables are appropriate. As your little one’s teeth grow in and chewing abilities progress through 12 months of age, you can gradually add cereal, bread, cooked meats, and other adult foods to his or her nutritious diet.

Increase the Life Expectancy of Baby Teeth

Although baby teeth are inevitably going to fall out and be replaced by permanent ones, making baby teeth last serves an important role that can have benefits into the future. Baby teeth serve as placeholders for permanent teeth. If they decay and fall out too soon, permanent teeth are more likely to grow in crooked.

How to Take Care of Baby Teeth

Your baby’s primary teeth are already in his or her mouth at birth; they are just invisible because they have not broken through the gums. Since they are already present, your baby can get cavities if you do not practice proper oral hygiene from the beginning.

  • Do not let your baby fall asleep with a bottle in his or her mouth.
  • Brush your child’s baby teeth twice a day as soon as they come in.
  • Floss your child’s teeth as soon as he or she has two teeth that touch.
  • Visit Mendes Family Dentistry for your baby’s first checkup when the first tooth arrives.

Toothache: A dentist or the emergency room?

August 17th, 2022

Emergency care dentists are equipped to handle any tooth emergency. Seeing us first takes less time than having to sit in a hospital emergency room, only to be told to see a dentist. When dental emergencies occur, seek emergency care with Mendes Family Dentistry as soon as possible. We are prepared and equipped for any type of dental emergency: day or night, seven days a week, we stand ready to advise and treat you with great dental care.

There are several types of dental emergencies, but only one or two should require a hospital emergency room visit. If you suspect you have a broken jaw or nose, emergency medical attention is required. For pain associated with teeth and gums or injury to a tooth, Mendes Family Dentistry is the better choice. Dental pain almost always becomes worse without treatment, and can create other serious health issues.

If a tooth has been traumatized or knocked out of your mouth, our team can treat the sensitive nerves and tissues that could be damaged. If you can replace the tooth quickly enough, chances are it can be saved. There are certain precautions to take during a dental emergency that could help preserve a tooth until you can see our professional dentists for emergency dental care.

Call our Saint Paul office at the first onset of pain. If you have lost a tooth, crown, or filling, try to keep the tooth or restoration moist. Teeth are strong, but they will crack and shift after an injury or the loss of a bridge or crown. If the crack extends to the root, or the loss of a tooth or crown leaves sensitive tissue or nerves exposed, the pain can be excruciating. Our emergency care dentists will always treat your pain immediately upon examination, and fix the problem or advise you of a plan to address the cause of the pain.

Make your appointment immediately if you have suffered an accident-causing tooth injury. If the pain is the result of decay or cavities, medication for infection may be necessary. Depending on the extent of the decay, a filling, extraction, or root canal may be recommended. These treatments are not available in a hospital emergency room, but can be completed quickly and comfortably at Mendes Family Dentistry .

Root Cavities

August 10th, 2022

When we don’t keep up with our dental hygiene, plaque buildup can result in three kinds of cavities. Pit and fissure cavities are found on the tops of molars, where food particles get stuck in the irregular surfaces. Smooth surface cavities are located on the smooth sides of teeth.

Wait. Top, all around the sides—what’s left for plaque to attack?

Our roots. The roots of our teeth are generally protected by their concealed position in the jaw. Sitting securely in alveolar bone, held firmly in place by connective tissue, with gum tissue snugly surrounding them, roots are generally not cavity prone.

But these cozy conditions can change. Due to gum disease, abrasive habits, or simply the passage of time, gums can recede and expose root surfaces. And this exposure can lead to root cavities.

If you look at a complete tooth, it looks like enamel is covering the entire tooth surface. In fact, enamel, the strongest substance in the body, only covers the visible part of the tooth, called the crown. The roots are covered by a substance called cementum, which is softer than enamel. And if enamel can’t stop decay, cementum is even more vulnerable when it’s exposed to plaque, bacteria, and acidic foods.

How do we protect our roots from decay? Protecting our gums is the first line of defense.

  • Gum Disease

Receding gums caused by periodontitis can be treated by Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes. Deep cleaning procedures such as scaling and root planing can remove accumulated plaque and tartar, and help gum tissue reattach to teeth. For serious recession, gum grafts can replace lost tissue.

Early treatment can prevent recession. If you notice any signs of early gum disease, including bleeding, swelling, tenderness, or persistent bad breath, it’s time for a visit to our Saint Paul office.

  • Gum Abrasion

It’s not just gum disease that can lead to gum recession. Some personal habits are hard on gums and teeth, and can leave roots exposed. If you bite your nails, grind your teeth, irritate your gums with oral piercings, you are at risk for gum recession. Talk to Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes about preventing abrasive damage.

A surprising cause of receding gums? Over-vigorous brushing. Use a soft-bristled brush—and don’t use a heavy hand when brushing—to protect your delicate gum tissue.

  • Aging

As we age, our gums recede. So it’s no wonder that older adults are especially at risk for root cavities. That’s why it’s very important to keep up with brushing (at least two minutes twice a day) and flossing (once a day, or more often if needed) to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar.

And it’s more important than ever to schedule regular dental exams and cleanings. Drs. Charles and Paul Mendes can help stop small problems from becoming major ones, and suggest brushing and flossing techniques, fluoride treatments, or other procedures to encourage gum and dental health.

If a cavity develops, no matter what kind, it should be treated as soon as possible. And time is especially important for a root cavity.

Because cementum is weaker than enamel, cavities can progress more quickly in roots. A cavity which has reached pulp tissue might require a root canal and a crown to restore tooth function. Serious decay could lead to extraction.

Don’t let root cavities undermine your dental health. If you notice any sign of gum disease or recession, it’s time for a visit to our Saint Paul office. After all, even though they go unnoticed, strong roots are the foundation of a healthy, attractive, life-long smile.

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