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Gallagher & Eden Family Dentistry
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Westminster, MD 21157
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Posts for tag: 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 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.
February 21, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   saliva  
SalivaisaKeyIngredientinOralHealth

When you think of saliva, the word “amazing” probably doesn’t come to mind. But your life and health would be vastly different without this “wonder” fluid at work in your mouth.

Saliva originates from a number of glands located throughout the mouth. The largest are a pair known as the parotids, located just under the ears on either side of the lower jaw, which produce a thin and watery liquid. The sublingual glands under the tongue produce thicker saliva with a mucous secretion; the saliva from the submandibular glands located under the lower jaw has a consistency somewhere between that of the parotids and the sublingual glands. All these different consistencies of saliva combine to produce a fluid rich in proteins, enzymes, minerals and antibodies.

Saliva performs at least five basic functions in the mouth. First, it washes away food particles after eating and reduces the amount of sugar available for decay-causing bacteria to consume. It protects and disinfects the mouth with antibodies, proteins and enzymes that fight against and help prevent the growth of bacteria. Saliva neutralizes high acidity levels in the mouth, necessary to prevent enamel erosion from acid; and when enamel has softened due to acidity (de-mineralization), the calcium and other minerals in saliva help restore some of the enamel’s lost minerals (re-mineralization). Saliva also aids in digestion by lubricating the mouth and helping the body break down starches in food with its enzymes.

In recent years, scientists have also gained insight into another property of saliva that promises better disease diagnosis in the future. Like blood and urine, saliva contains biological markers for disease. As more diagnostic machines calibrated to these specific markers are developed and used, it could signal a more effective way to identify conditions from saliva samples that are easier to collect than other bodily fluids.

Its less than glamorous image aside, your mouth would be quite a different (and unhealthy) place without saliva. And, developments in diagnostics could make this unsung fluid even more valuable in maintaining your health.

If you would like more information on the importance of saliva to oral health, 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 “Secrets of Saliva.”

By Dr. Patrick Gallagher, D.D.S.
December 24, 2013
Category: Oral Health
GrandpaKnowsBestHowKristiYamaguchiManagesHerKidsOralHealth

When Olympic figure skater Kristi Yamaguchi wanted to help her kids develop good oral health habits, the gold-medal-winner made good use of a family connection: Her father Jim Yamaguchi is a practicing dentist in the San Francisco Bay area who treats her entire brood. As she said in a recent interview, when she suspects the kids may be spending a little less effort on oral hygiene than they should, she playfully admonishes them: “You've got to brush your teeth better than that. Papa-san is going to know!”

Not all kids are lucky enough to have a grandpa who's a dentist — but every child can learn how to help take care of his or her oral health with age-appropriate techniques, plus plenty of parental guidance and encouragement. What's the best way to help your kids develop good oral hygiene routines? We're glad you asked!

Through babyhood and the toddler years, parents have the main responsibility for keeping kids' teeth clean. But as they begin to put away pacifiers and cease sucking thumbs — around ages 2 to 4 — children can also begin to help with their own oral hygiene routine. By then, kids will probably be used to the feel of gentle brushing, and may be eager to try it themselves.

A soft-bristled brush with a pea-sized dab of toothpaste is all they need to get started… along with a good dose of parental patience. Show them how to wiggle the brush back and forth from the gum line, and all around the upper and lower teeth, both in front and in back. At first, they will probably need plenty of help. But after the age of 6 or so, as their manual dexterity increases, so will their ability to get the job done.

You'll still have to check their work periodically — but you can also teach them how to do it on their own: Have your child run his or her tongue over the tooth surfaces. If they feel smooth and silky, they're probably clean too. If not… try, try again. This test is a good guideline to brushing effectiveness — but if you want to know for sure, use a temporary dye called a disclosing tablet (available at many drugstores) to reveal unseen buildups of plaque bacteria.

What else can you do to give your children the best chance at keeping a healthy mouth and sparkly teeth? Set a positive example! Make sure you (and your kids) eat a healthy diet, get moderate exercise, limit between-meal treats — and visit the dentist regularly. The encouragement you'll get after having a good dental checkup will make you feel like a gold medalist — even if the praise isn't coming from grandpa.

If you would like more information on how to help your child develop good oral health habits, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dentistry & Oral Health For Children” and “How to Help Your Child Develop the Best Habits for Oral Health.”