Westminster, MD Dentist
Gallagher & Eden Family Dentistry
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Westminster, MD 21157
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Posts for category: Oral Health

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
August 29, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   oral cancer  
OvercomeOralCancerWithScreeningsandLifestyleChanges

Baseball legend Babe Ruth, President Ulysses S. Grant and George Harrison of the Beatles — these three notable people from different backgrounds and historical eras have a sad commonality — they all died from oral cancer. They are a reminder that regardless of one’s wealth or fame, no one is immune from oral cancer and its deadly effects.

Like other cancers, oral cancer is characterized by abnormal cell growth capable of spreading into nearby tissue or other parts of the body. Although oral cancer accounts for less than 3% of all occurring cancers, it’s among the most deadly: only 58% of oral cancer patients survive five years after treatment. This is mostly due to the difficulty of detecting oral cancer in its early stages; in fact, 30% of oral cancers have already spread (metastasized) when they’re finally diagnosed.

Early detection through careful monitoring is the best strategy for defeating oral cancer. If you have a predisposing factor like a family history of oral cancer, then regular screenings during dental checkups are a must. During an exam we may be able to detect abnormalities (like unusual white spots on the gums or jaws) that may signal a cancer in a pre-cancerous or early stage. You also should be on the lookout for a persistent sore throat or hoarseness, lingering mouth pain, a painless lump in the mouth or on the neck, or ear pain on only one side.

There are also conditions or behaviors that may increase your risk for oral cancer, like using tobacco (both smoke and smokeless) or consuming alcohol. If you use tobacco you should consider quitting it altogether; you should consider cutting back on alcohol consumption if you’re a moderate to heavy drinker. You should also avoid sexual behaviors that increase your chances of viral infection — research has found a link between oral cancer and the viral infection caused by the sexually-transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV 16).

Improving your nutrition can also reduce your cancer risk. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables supplies the body with cancer-fighting nutrients, including antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by carcinogens. Studies have shown this kind of diet consistently lowers the risk of oral and throat cancer, as well as cancers of the esophagus, breast, prostate, lung and colon.

If you would like more information on oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
August 14, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: celebrity smiles   fluoride   floss  
FlossingAnImportantPartofTVDesignerNateBerkusOralHealthRoutine

As one of America's most beloved go-to guys for inspiration on the latest interior design trends, Nate Berkus has written a highly successful book, Home Rules: Transform the Place You Live Into a Place You'll Love; he is a contributing editor to O Magazine; and he is currently hosting his own television program, The Nate Berkus Show. He is also recognized for his eye-catching smile.

During a recent interview with Dear Doctor magazine, Berkus opened up about the facts behind his trademark smile. While his smile is all-natural — he never wore braces or had any cosmetic work done — he gives credit to his childhood dentist for the preventative healthcare he received as a young boy. “I'm grateful for having been given fluoride treatments and sealants as a child,” he said. Nate also shared the important flossing advice he learned from his dentist that he still follows today: “Floss the ones you want to keep.”

Why is flossing so important?

Flossing is crucial because it remains the most effective method for removing plaque from between teeth, where the toothbrush can't reach. It is also an important part of keeping your gums healthy so that you can avoid periodontitis (gum disease). You should floss at least once a day either before or after you brush your teeth. If you see blood after flossing, it may indicate that you have periodontitis, or it may mean that you are flossing too harshly. Remember, you need to use a delicate hand and a proper technique when brushing and flossing to avoid damaging your teeth and gums.

To learn more about flossing, including step-by-step instructions with photos, you can continue reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Flossing — A Different Approach.” Or you can contact us today to schedule an appointment so that we can conduct a thorough examination, review your brushing and flossing techniques, and discuss any questions you have as well as treatment options. As needed, we will work with you to teach you the proper brushing and flossing techniques so that you feel confident before you leave our office. And to read the entire interview with Nate Berkus, please see the Dear Doctor magazine article “Nate Berkus.”

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
August 01, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   nutrition  
TheSweetandLowdownonSugarSubstitutes

We’ve all heard about potentially negative health effects from the sugar that’s added to many of our favorite foods. So these days, lots of us are trying to cut down on our consumption of sugar — not only to lose weight, but also to help prevent maladies like diabetes and heart disease. We can’t help noticing those pastel-colored packets — pink, yellow and blue — on the rack of our favorite coffee shop. But now we’re wondering: Are those sugar substitutes a good alternative to natural sugar? And which one should we choose?

Artificial sweeteners have been around for decades. Six different types (including the ones in the colorful packets) are currently approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration; a couple of older ones (notably cyclamates) have been banned for many years. In addition to those zero-calorie sugar substitutes, low-calorie sweeteners called sugar alcohols (for example, mannitol and xylitol) are often used as food ingredients. So what’s the difference between them — and which one is best?

That’s not so easy to answer. If you have a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria, you should avoid aspartame (the blue packet), because your body can’t process the substance. Otherwise, the choice may come down to a matter of taste. Even though they are FDA-approved, some controversy (both fact-based and far-fetched) remains about the long-term safety of sugar substitutes, and their usefulness in preventing obesity and other diseases.

Yet it’s clear that for some people, the consequences of consuming too much sugar could be much worse. So if you’re at risk for diabetes or certain other diseases, sugar substitutes can be an important tool in maintaining a healthier diet. They also have another health benefit: sugar substitutes don’t cause cavities. Further, some sugar alcohols (xylitol in particular) have the property of stimulating saliva flow, and have been shown to actually impede the formation of cavities. Oral health is an important (if sometimes overlooked) component of your general well-being, and several studies have pointed to a link between oral and systemic diseases — for example, diabetes and heart disease.

As with so many aspects of our health, there seems to be no “magic bullet” to cure all our diet-related problems. But used in moderation, artificial sweeteners can be a valuable part of the effort to improve our overall health and well-being. For more information on this topic, see the Dear Doctor article “Artificial Sweeteners.”

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
July 15, 2014
Category: Oral Health
FlorenceHendersonTalksAboutPreventativeDentistry

Florence Henderson, star of one of television's most beloved situation comedies, is still actively engaged in a variety of projects at 75-plus years of age. Her bright smile was part of her character as Carol Brady in The Brady Bunch, a popular sitcom that played for five seasons from 1969 to 1974. Though the show was discontinued, syndicated episodes continue to play in the U.S. and 122 other countries.

“I played Carol as the mother I always wished I had,” she told Dear Doctor magazine. Her portrayal of mother and wife in a blended family with six children won her the Smithsonian Institution's TV Land Pop Culture Icon Award, which is on display in the National Museum of American History in Washington, DC.

After her successes on Broadway and in television, she was selected for numerous product endorsements, and The Wall Street Journal ranked her #5 in their top ten television endorsers based on viewer satisfaction. One of the products she endorsed was Polident, a brand of denture cleaners and adhesives. However, Henderson has revealed that she has her own natural teeth and does not wear dentures. Her advice to others who want to keep their natural teeth is to pay attention to prevention. “I think the most important thing one can do as with any health issue is prevention,” she said. “Flossing, brushing, and regular dental checkups are vitally important if you want to keep your natural teeth.”

When she was 22, she says, she had four impacted wisdom teeth removed at the same time. This experience made her aware of the importance of dental care, and since then she has had a checkup every six months. Wherever she travels, she says that she always has mouthwash, dental floss, toothpaste, and a toothbrush on the set.

Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your questions about tooth care. You can learn more about Florence Henderson by reading the Dear Doctor magazine interview “Florence Henderson, America's Favorite TV Mom Has Many Reasons to Smile.”

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
May 12, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: herbal remedy  
HerbalRemedyHelpsAlleviatePainandSwellingAfterDentalProcedures

Alternative medicines — also known as herbal or homeopathic remedies — have grown in popularity in recent decades. Because they don’t think of these remedies as “medicines,” many people will try them based on their friends’ advice or an internet search — with or without a doctor’s advice. Any herbal remedy, though, should be viewed as a real drug with real, and often significant, side-effects.

With that said, many of these alternative treatments are safe and effective if taken in an appropriate manner. Arnica Montana, a member of the daisy family, is a good example: various preparations of this herb have been found to reduce pain and inflammation caused by sprains or bruising, as well as control infection by killing bacteria. It’s also one herbal application that’s finding a home in the field of dentistry.

You can find many products containing Arnica, particularly topical applications made from the herb’s roots and dried flowers. It’s common to find Arnica in tinctures (the herb mixed in with a gel), tea infusions and a variety of ointments; the best-selling topical product is a gel containing 8% of the Arnica herb.

Many dentists are now prescribing Arnica to patients following invasive procedures like gum surgery, root canal treatment, implant surgery or wisdom teeth extraction to help reduce swelling and bruising. In this case, topical applications won’t work: directly applying a topical treatment to open mouth wounds can cause mucositis (an irritation of the lining of the mouth) and reactions in people with allergies to plants related to daisies. Dentists prescribe a programmed capsule regimen taken orally for four days after the procedure. This has been shown to lessen the length and degree of recovery time.

Any medicine, whether traditional or non-traditional, can have unintended consequences. Know the facts about what you’re taking, and be sure you consult with your doctor or dentist before trying any herbal remedy.

If you would like more information on Arnica Montana and similar remedies, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies.”