Category Archives: Good Habits

Oral Cancer Can Be Deadly

smokingOral cancer is a deadly disease with 42,000 new cases resulting the death of 8,000 Americans each year. With early detection, oral cancer is 90% curable. Dr. Hawkins exams each patient for any signs of oral cancer but we want you to know some of the symptoms.

If you or a family member shows any of these symptoms, please contact us or your doctor to schedule an exam.

• A sore or lesion in the mouth that does not heal within two weeks.
• A lump or thickening in the cheek.
• A  white or red patch on the gums, tongue, tonsil, or lining of the mouth
• A sore throat or a feeling that something is caught in the throat.
• Difficulty chewing or swallowing.
• Difficulty moving the jaw or tongue.
• Numbness of the tongue or other area of the mouth.
• Swelling of the jaw that causes dentures to fit poorly or become uncomfortable.
• Chronic hoarseness.

There are many factors that have been identified as risk factors for oral cancer but using tobacco products remains the most significant. Cigarettes, cigars, pipe smoking and smokeless tobacco products are the major contributors to oral cancer. The incidence of oral cancer increases as we age, so screening of at-risk adults is critical.

Early detection is critical to recovery. Please talk with Dr. Hawkins about your risk factors for oral cancer.

Stop Your Bad Breath Problems!

bad-breathWorried about bad breath? You’re not alone. Forty million Americans suffer from bad breath, or halitosis, according to the American Dental Hygienists’ Association. Bad breath can get in the way of your social life. It can make you self-conscious and embarrassed. But you don’t have to mask the smell. Fortunately, there are simple and effective ways to freshen your breath.

1. Brush and floss more frequently.
One of the prime causes of bad breath is plaque, the sticky build-up on teeth that harbors bacteria. Food left between teeth adds to the problem. All of us should brush at least twice a day and floss daily. If you’re worried about your breath, brush and floss a little more often.  But don’t overdo it. Brushing too aggressively can erode enamel, making your teeth more vulnerable to decay.

2. Scrape your tongue.
The coating that normally forms on the tongue can harbor foul-smelling bacteria. To eliminate them, gently brush your tongue with your toothbrush. Some people find that toothbrushes are too big to comfortably reach the back of the tongue. In that case, try a tongue scraper.

3. Avoid foods that sour your breath.
Onions and garlic are the prime offenders. Unfortunately, brushing after you eat onions or garlic doesn’t help, because the volatile substances they contain make their way into your blood stream and travel to your lungs, where you breathe them out. The only way to avoid the problem is to avoid eating onions and garlic, especially before social or work occasions when you’re concerned about your breath.

4. Kick the habit.
Bad breath is just one of many reasons not to smoke. Smoking damages gum tissue and stains teeth. It also increases your risk of oral cancer. Over-the-counter nicotine patches can help tame the urge to smoke. If you need a little help, make an appointment to talk to your doctor about prescription medications or smoking cessation programs that can help you give up tobacco for good.

5. Rinse your mouth out.
In addition to freshening your breath, anti-bacterial mouthwashes add extra protection by reducing plaque-causing bacteria. After eating, swishing your mouth with plain water also helps freshen your breath by eliminating food particles.

6. Skip after-dinner mints and chew gum instead.
Sugary candies promote the growth of bacteria in your mouth and add to bad breath problems. Instead, chew sugarless gum. Gum stimulates saliva, which is the mouth’s natural defense mechanism against plaque acids which cause tooth decay and bad breath.

7. Keep your gums healthy.
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common cause of bad breath. Bacteria accumulate in pockets at the base of teeth, creating bad odors. If you have gum disease, Dr. Hawkins may recommend a periodontist, who specializes in treating gum disease.

8. Be alert to dry mouth.
Lack of saliva promotes tooth decay and can cause bad breath. If your mouth is dry, drink plenty of water during the day. Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candy, which helps stimulate saliva. Use a humidifier at night if the air is dry. If your mouth is still unusually dry, talk to Dr. Hawkins or your doctor. Dry mouth can be a side effect of certain medications but we can help you deal with it.

9. See your doctor.
If your bad breath continues despite your best efforts, see your doctor. In some cases, bad breath can be a symptom of medical conditions such as a sinus infection, postnasal drip from allergies, lung infections, diabetes, or liver or kidney diseases.

If you are concerned about bad breath, talk to us during your next visit to Hawkins Dentistry. We’re here to help you!

An Apple a Day

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We all grew up hearing “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” and guess what?  It’s true!  Recent studies show that apples do, in fact, have many health benefits. With 4 grams of soluble fiber and loads of antioxidants, apples are a delicious treat to enjoy every day!

Top 15 Benefits From Eating Apples

1. Get whiter, healthier teeth:

An apple won’t replace your toothbrush, but biting and chewing an apple stimulates the production of saliva in your mouth, reducing tooth decay by lowering the levels of bacteria.

2. Avoid Alzheimer’s

A new study performed on mice shows that drinking apple juice could keep Alzheimer’s away and fight the effects of aging on the brain. Mice in the study that were fed an apple-enhanced diet showed higher levels of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and did better in maze tests than those on a regular diet.

3. Protect against Parkinson’s

Research has shown that people who eat fruits and other high-fibre foods gain a certain amount of protection against Parkinson’s, a disease characterized by a breakdown of the brain’s dopamine-producing nerve cells. Scientists have linked this to the free radical-fighting power of the antioxidants contained therein.

4. Curb all sorts of cancers

Scientists from the American Association for Cancer Research, among others, agree that the consumption of flavonol-rich apples could help reduce your risk of developing pancreatic cancer by up to 23 per cent. Researchers at Cornell University have identified several compounds—triterpenoids—in apple peel that have potent anti-growth activities against cancer cells in the liver, colon and breast. Their earlier research found that extracts from whole apples can reduce the number and size of mammary tumors in rats. Meanwhile, the National Cancer Institute in the U.S. has recommended a high fibre intake to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.

5. Decrease your risk of diabetes

Women who eat at least one apple a day are 28 percent less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who don’t eat apples. Apples are loaded with soluble fiber, the key to blunting blood sugar swings.

6. Reduce cholesterol

The soluble fiber found in apples binds with fats in the intestine, which translates into lower cholesterol levels and a healthier you.

7. Get a healthier heart

An extensive body of research has linked high soluble fiber intake with a slower buildup of cholesterol-rich plaque in your arteries. The phenolic compound found in apple skins also prevents the cholesterol that gets into your system from solidifying on your artery walls. When plaque builds inside your arteries, it reduces blood flow to your heart, leading to coronary artery disease.

8. Prevent gallstones

Gallstones form when there’s too much cholesterol in your bile for it to remain as a liquid, so it solidifies. They are particularly prevalent in the obese. To prevent gallstones, doctors recommend a diet high in fiber to help you control your weight and cholesterol levels.

9. Beat diarrhea and constipation

Whether you can’t go to the bathroom or you just can’t stop, fiber found in apples can help. Fiber can either pull water out of your colon to keep things moving along when you’re backed up, or absorb excess water from your stool to slow your bowels down.

10. Neutralize irritable bowel syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome is characterized by constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and bloating. To control these symptoms doctors recommend staying away from dairy and fatty foods while including a high intake of fiber in your diet.

11. Avert hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are a swollen vein in the anal canal and while not life threatening, these veins can be very painful. They are caused by too much pressure in the pelvic and rectal areas. Part and parcel with controlling constipation, fiber can prevent you from straining too much when going to the bathroom and thereby help alleviate hemorrhoids.

12. Control your weight

Many health problems are associated with being overweight, among them heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. To manage your weight and improve your overall health, doctors recommend a diet rich in fiber. Foods high in fiber will fill you up without costing you too many calories.

13. Detoxify your liver

We’re constantly consuming toxins, whether it is from drinks or food, and your liver is responsible for clearing these toxins out of your body. Many doctors are skeptical of fad detox diets, saying they have the potential to do more harm than good. Luckily, one of the best—and easiest—things you can eat to help detoxify your liver is fruits—like apples.

14. Boost your immune system

Red apples contain an antioxidant called quercetin. Recent studies have found that quercetin can help boost and fortify your immune system, especially when you’re stressed out.

15. Prevent cataracts

Though past studies have been divided on the issue, recent long-term studies suggest that people who have a diet rich in fruits that contain antioxidants—like apples—are 10 to 15 per cent less likely to develop cataracts.

Brushing is Your Duty!

drwestad2-tbn1During World War II our soldiers were required to brush their teeth daily, something most  Americans did not do. At the same time the Dupont de Nemours company introduced the first toothbrush with nylon bristles, Dr. West’s Miracle-Tuft Toothbrush. Their ad campaign “Your American Duty…” encouraged all Americans to brush daily. When the soldiers came home, they kept up this very  excellent routine, and their families joined in.  Today, we recommend brushing twice a day and flossing daily – maybe not your American duty but certainly a great habit!

AAP Recommends Fluoride to Prevent Cavities

Reprinted from American Academy of Pediatrics, www.aap.org

For Release:  Aug 25, 2014

boy-brushing-teethDental caries – or tooth decay — is the most common chronic disease in children in the U.S., a silent disease that disproportionally affects poor, young, and minority populations. In a new clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) “Fluoride Use in Caries Prevention in the Primary Care Setting,” published online Aug. 25 in the September 2014 Pediatrics, the AAP states that fluoride is effective for cavity prevention in children. The AAP is issuing the following new recommendations:

Fluoridated toothpaste is recommended for all children starting at tooth eruption, regardless of caries risk. A smear (the size of a grain of rice) of toothpaste should be used up to age 3. After age 3, a pea-sized amount may be used. Parents should dispense toothpaste for young children and supervise and assist with brushing.

Fluoride varnish is recommended in the primary care setting every 3–6 months starting at tooth emergence. Over-the counter fluoride rinse is not recommended for children younger than 6 years due to risk of swallowing higher-than-recommended levels of fluoride.

Because fluoride is available in many sources, including food and tap water, and may be administered at home and professionally applied, pediatricians should be aware of the risks and benefits of various fluoride modalities to appropriately advise families to achieve maximum protection against dental caries, and to help counsel patients about proper oral health.

If you have any questions, please ask Dr. Hawkins and our staff during your next visit to Hawkins Dentistry.

Good Habits For Healthy Teeth

dental8While the habits we preach daily is “brush twice a day, floss once a day” there are other good habits that can make a big difference in the health of your teeth. Here are some we want to share:

Thumbs Down on Thumb Sucking

Children who still suck their fingers or thumbs after their permanent teeth start coming in — usually around the age of 5 or 6 — could be causing permanent changes that affect tooth and jaw structure. Specifically, thumb sucking can cause a misalignment of teeth. This misalignment can lead to a number of issues, including difficulty chewing and breathing problems. During your child’s visit to Hawkins Dentistry we can discuss any concerns you have. In general though, it’s a good idea to help wean your child off his thumb.

Lay Off the Lemons

Sometimes kids pick up little habits that seem innocent enough but can cause problems. Sucking lemons is one of those things. People who suck lemons may be putting their dental health in jeopardy.  According to Dr. Hawkins,  the acidity in lemons corrodes the enamel of teeth. With repeated exposure to acidic substances you can cause permanent damage to tooth enamel which can lead to tooth decay and discomfort.

Don’t Brush Too Hard

Brushing your teeth regularly is part of good oral hygiene, but if you brush too vigorously, you can cause more harm than good. Brushing your teeth too hard can wear down enamel, irritate your gums, make your teeth sensitive to cold, and even cause cavities. To avoid these problems, Dr. Hawkins recommends using a soft bristled toothbrush.

Refrain From Jaw Clenching and Tooth Grinding

For some people, stress can trigger frequent clenching of the jaw or grinding of the teeth. “There is a severe amount of pressure on your teeth when you do that, and you can get microfractures or actual fractures in your teeth,” warns Dr. Hawkins. Microfractures are weakened areas in your teeth that puts them at risk for further damage. Jaw clenching or tooth grinding can also damage dental work.

Your Teeth Are Not a Tool

Many people use their teeth to break off a tag on clothing, rip open a package of potato chips, or even unscrew bottle tops. But according to Dr. Hawkins, teeth are meant to help us do three things: chew food, speak properly, and look better when we smile. “Teeth are not pliers, teeth are not hooks,” he says. Using your teeth as a tool is a threat to dental health and can damage dental work or cause your teeth to crack.

Don’t Park Your Pencil Between Your Teeth

Some people have a habit of holding objects — such as pens, pencils, or eyeglasses — between their teeth when concentrating on a difficult task. But they might not realize how much pressure they’re placing on their teeth as they bite down on a non-food object. Biting on a pen or a similar object can cause your teeth to shift or even crack. It can also damage existing dental work like veneers and crowns.

Boycott Nail Biting

Biting your nails doesn’t just harm the appearance of your hands — it can also damage your teeth and become an oral hygiene issue. “People who bite their nails usually do it chronically,” notes Dr. Hawkins. Regularly biting your nails can cause your teeth to move out of place. In addition, nail biting could potentially cause teeth to break or tooth enamel to splinter.