Our Blog

HPV and Oral Cancer

July 29th, 2020

HPV, or human papillomavirus, is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. There are over 100 strains of HPV, and, while most of these infections leave our systems on their own with no long-term ill effects, some cancers have been linked to certain “high risk” strains of the virus. One of these strains, HPV16, increases the risk of oral cancer.

HPV-related oral cancer most often appears in the oropharynx. This area of the mouth includes:

  • The base, or back, of the tongue
  • The soft palate
  • The tonsils
  • The back and sides of the throat

While HPV-related oral cancers can appear in other parts of the oral cavity, they most typically occur at the back of the throat and tongue and near the folds of the tonsils. Because of this location, oropharyngeal cancer can be difficult to detect. This is one more important reason to maintain a regular schedule of dental exams. Our examination doesn’t focus only on your teeth and gums. We are trained to look for cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth, head, and neck to make sure you have the earliest treatment options should they be needed.

If you discover any potential symptoms of oropharyngeal cancer, call us for a check-up. These symptoms can include:

  • Trouble moving the tongue
  • Trouble swallowing, speaking, or chewing
  • Trouble opening the mouth completely
  • A red or white patch on the tongue or the lining of the mouth
  • A lump in the throat, neck, or tongue
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Ear pain
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Coughing up blood

Not every symptom is caused by cancer, but it is always best to be proactive. HPV-related oral cancer is rare, but it is on the increase. While HPV-positive oral cancers generally have a better prognosis than HPV-negative oral cancers, early diagnosis and treatment are still essential for the best possible outcome.

Finally, if you are a young adult or have an adolescent child, talk to Dr. John Zarrella and Dr. Peter C. Rider and to your doctor about the HPV vaccine, which is effective before exposure to the virus occurs. Most HPV vaccines, while not designed specifically to prevent oral cancer, prevent the HPV16 strain from infecting the body—the very same strain that causes the majority of HPV-related oral cancers.  Although no studies have shown definitive proof yet, there is strong feeling in the scientific community that these immunizations might protect against HPV-positive oral cancer as well as cervical, vaginal, and other cancers. It’s a discussion worth having at your next visit to our Ashland office.

Healthy Gums and Older Adults

July 15th, 2020

One of the most important parts of staying healthy as we grow older is being open to learning new ways of staying healthy! While worrying about braces or wisdom teeth might be a thing of the past, there are new dental concerns that come with mature years. Taking care of our gums is one way to maintain not only our dental health, but to look out for our overall health as well.

  • Periodontal disease is preventable for older adults

While gum disease is all-too-common among older adults, it isn’t really a result of the aging process itself. If you have been keeping a regular schedule of brushing and flossing (two minutes twice a day), and have been making routine visits to our office for exams and cleaning, you probably have avoided gum disease. But if you have been neglecting your dental care, gingivitis and periodontitis are conditions that only become more serious over time.

The first symptoms of gingivitis include puffy, swollen gums that may bleed easily. Persistent bad breath and changes in the bite or the fit of dentures are also indications of gum disease. As gum disease progresses it leads to periodontitis. The gum tissue pulls away from the teeth, leaving deep pockets of tissue where plaque can collect and infections can develop. Infection, left untreated, can lead to loose teeth and even bone and tooth loss.

The good news? It is never too late to treat gum disease. Most gingivitis is reversible, and modern periodontal treatment makes use of deep cleaning, antibiotics, and even gum surgery to restore gum health. Don’t let past neglect lead to future tooth loss. We are happy to see you any time to treat your gums and teeth and to let you know ways to protect them for a happy, healthy future.

What new concerns do we face as we age?

  • Our gums recede.

This natural recession can lead to the exposure of the root areas of the teeth, which are more vulnerable to cavities. It’s very important to keep up with brushing, flossing, and regular check-ups to catch potential small problems before they become big ones.

  • Old fillings and dental work can break down.

Call our Ashland office any time you notice a problem with a filling, and keep up with exams, where we can pinpoint fillings that need replacement and detect cavities that can develop near the edges of old work.

  • Medications can cause side effects that affect our gums.

Some medications cause the growth of puffy gum tissue. Some can cause dry mouth, which can lead to gum disease. Always let us know about any health conditions you have or medications you may be taking. We can suggest a number of options to reduce or eliminate effects on your mouth and gums.

  • Gum health and our overall health—what’s the connection?

While no one has discovered an absolute relationship between gum disease and other health problems, there is growing evidence that higher rates of diabetes complications, heart disease, and stroke are linked to higher levels of gum disease. Make your medical and dental health a priority.

  • Smoking risks increase with age.

Studies have shown smokers have not only a greater risk of gum disease, but more severe gum disease as well. Your risk of developing oral cancer also increases with every year you smoke. It is never too late to quit! Talk to us about suggestions for breaking the habit once and for all, and be sure to keep up with regular checkups for early detection and treatment of any oral diseases caused by smoking.

Please let us know any changes that have taken place in your dental habits, medical condition, or medications. Talk to us about any periodontal concerns you may have, or the latest dental procedures we offer for gum care and treatment. We can let you know about products that can make brushing and flossing easier as you age.

It’s never too late or too early to think about taking care of yourself. We are happy to offer suggestions for maintaining or restoring your dental health that will serve you well in any chapter of your life.

Antibiotic Prophylaxis or Pre-Medication

July 8th, 2020

At Zarrella Dentistry, we know the human mouth contains a lot of bacteria. A bacterium can travel through your body with routine activities that are a normal part of daily living. You spread bacteria when you brush or floss your teeth, when you chew, and when you swallow.

For most people, bacteria don’t cause any problem. For some people, however, especially those who have chronic medical conditions, specific cardiac conditions, or whose immune systems are compromised, bacteria that spreads throughout the bloodstream can lead to much more serious bacterial infections.

The goal of pre-medication or antibiotic prophylaxis, Dr. John Zarrella and Dr. Peter C. Rider will tell you, is to prevent bacterial endocarditis, a serious infection of the endothelial heart surfaces or the heart valves. The condition is also called infective endocarditis. A small population of people with certain health problems has a high risk for contracting this potentially deadly bacterium.

The American Heart Association states that people at greatest risk for contracting bacterial or infective endocarditis are:

  • Patients who underwent cardiac valve surgery in the past
  • Those who have suffered past incidents of infective endocarditis
  • Patients who have mitral valve prolapse, resulting in or causing valve leakage
  • People who have had rheumatic fever or any degenerative cardiac condition that produces abnormalities in cardiac valves
  • Patients who suffer from certain congenital heart diseases

For these patients, any dental procedure may cause bleeding, and prophylactic antibiotic administration is recommended as a preventive measure.

Other patients who require prophylactic antibiotics

The American Association of Endodontists extends recommendations to patients who have undergone joint replacement surgery within the past two years, suffer from type 1 diabetes, or have immune deficiencies from diseases such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or HIV; cancer patients whose immune systems are suppressed because of radiation or chemotherapy; people who have had organ transplants; and hemophiliacs.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry also includes people who suffer from sickle cell anemia, as well as patients who suffer from conditions that require chronic steroid therapy.

Typical endodontic procedures for which antibiotic prophylaxis is recommended include root canal therapy (when it involves going deeper than the root apex), surgical tooth extractions, and any other dental, endodontic, or periodontal procedure during which the doctor anticipates bleeding.

Although different medical societies and organizations offer these guidelines as a way of identifying patients for whom prophylactic pre-medication is essential prior to dental procedures, dentists will take each patient's medical history and personal risk factors into consideration. Some doctors may choose to administer antibiotics following a procedure, especially for patients who have previously suffered from oral infections either as a result of dental procedures or that necessitated oral surgery.

For more information about antibiotic prophylaxis, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. John Zarrella and Dr. Peter C. Rider, please give us a call at our convenient Ashland office!

Happy Fourth of July!

July 1st, 2020

Happy Independence Day from Dr. John Zarrella and Dr. Peter C. Rider and team! The Fourth of July celebrations in America may have changed a lot over the years, but there is no doubt that we Americans love to celebrate the anniversary of our country's independence! Today we're devoting the Zarrella Dentistry blog to some fun facts about the Fourth!

  • My, how we have grown! This year the United States Census Bureau estimates that our country has 313.9 million residents celebrating the Fourth of July this year, but back in 1776 there were just 2.5 million members of the country.
  • Our country loves to show how proud that we are of our independence. Did you know that there are 31 United States places with the word “Liberty” in their names? The state of Iowa actually has four towns with the word Liberty in the name: Libertyville, New Liberty, North Liberty, and West Liberty.
  • The United States loves Fourth of July food! It is expected that around 150 million hot dogs are eaten on the Fourth each year. One of the Fourth's most popular sides, potato salad, goes just perfectly with the hotdogs and hamburgers that are standard Fourth of July fare. Some people choose potato chips instead, but we wouldn't have such a plethora of potatoes if not for the prodigious production of the states of Idaho and Washington -- they provide about half of all the potatoes in the United States today!
  • Americans love celebrating the Fourth outdoors: About 74 million Americans fire up their BBQ grill every Fourth of July.
  • The Chinese contribution: Did you know that Americans have spent more than $211 million on fireworks that were imported from China?

No matter how your family chooses to celebrate the Fourth, stay safe, take precautions, and don't forget to brush after your fabulous Fourth feast!

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