Our Blog

Heart Disease and Oral Health

October 17th, 2018

According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, more than 200 million Americans suffer from some degree of inflammation of the gums. Over the past decade, researchers have published studies that link the bacteria involved in periodontal disease to cardiovascular disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have connected oral infections to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and low birth weights.

Studies suggest bacteria that cause periodontal disease are also responsible for causing a thickening of the carotid arteries, which increases the chance of a heart attack or stroke. Further research is being conducted to understand the link between oral health and heart disease better.

What is periodontal (gum) disease?

Dr. Baker and Dr. Graham and our team at Baker & Graham Dental hear this question all the time. Periodontal disease is an infection. Our mouths are filled with bacteria, and this bacteria forms plaque. If the plaque is not removed through brushing, flossing, and regular cleanings at the dentist, it hardens into tartar. If gingivitis (gum inflammation) is not treated early, it can advance to periodontitis. Bacteria get under the gum tissue and erode it as well as the bone that supports the teeth. The gums eventually pull away from the teeth, and infected pockets form.

Proving that periodontal gum disease is connected to heart disease has been difficult for researchers. However, there are two theories about to what might connect the processes.

  • Bacteria are released in the bloodstream through chewing and tooth brushing. The same species of bacteria that causes gum disease has been discovered in the plaque in arteries in the heart.
  • Inflammation in the mouth is a catalyst for inflammation throughout the rest of the body.

Practice good oral health habits

While the link between periodontitis and heart disease is not yet fully understood, you can prevent the possibility of health complications by practicing good oral health. It’s recommended that you brush and floss twice a day, as well as visit your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and exam. Oral health should not be taken for granted. By preventing oral diseases, you’re also minimizing the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

To learn more about the connection between heart disease and oral health, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Baker and Dr. Graham, please give us a call at our convenient Hattiesburg, MS office! A clean mouth leads to a happy heart!

Is Your Broken Tooth An Emergency?

October 10th, 2018

When you chip a tooth badly, it can be a very nerve-wracking situation. Dr. Baker and Dr. Graham and our team want to provide you with some information that can help if you ever suffer a chipped or broken tooth. The most common ways people break their teeth are by biting down on something hard, getting hit in the mouth, falling down, or developing cavities that weaken the tooth and allow it to be broken easily. There are a few things you can do if you find yourself in this situation, however.

First, we recommend that you investigate whether the tooth is partially chipped or completely broken. Unless you are experiencing a lot of pain or bleeding, this should not be treated as an emergency. You may call our office and we will try to schedule an appointment with you as soon as possible. Once we have evaluated the tooth during your appointment, we can start to treat it. For minor chips or cracks, we may simply smooth out the area or fill in the space so the crack doesn’t spread.

If your teeth show severe damage such as a serious break, split tooth, split root, or a decay-induced break, Dr. Baker and Dr. Graham may need to take more time to fix the problem. If you need emergency dental care because a tooth has fallen out, call our practice immediately to schedule an appointment for that day. If you’re waiting for an emergency appointment, you can rinse your mouth with warm salt water and apply slight pressure to the area to stop the bleeding. We recommend using an ice pack to reduce swelling, but do not take any aspirin because that may increase the bleeding.

If your tooth has completely fallen out of the socket, hold it by the crown and rinse it under running water. Do not let the tooth become dry; instead, place it in salt water or milk until you get to our office. Dr. Baker and Dr. Graham will determine whether the broken tooth can be salvaged or will need to be completely replaced.

We know how upsetting it can be to chip or break a tooth, which is why we want to guide you through this process. Most chipped teeth are usually just cosmetic problems, fortunately, but we know that dental emergencies can come up rather suddenly. Be sure to schedule an appointment at our Hattiesburg, MS office as soon as an emergency situation occurs.

What to Expect if You Haven’t Been to the Dentist in Forever

October 3rd, 2018

It’s easy to miss a dental appointment. Life and duties intervene, and suddenly you have to push your appointment back once, then again, or forget about it.

We get that. These days, we all have a lot going on. But what we don’t want is for a lengthy absence to make you anxious about returning. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been, we always love to see you! So let’s take a moment to explain what you can expect when you pay us a visit.

Your appointment will last roughly 60 to 90 minutes, so keep that in mind when you schedule it and plan accordingly. Dr. Baker and Dr. Graham and our team want you to feel comfortable.

One of the first things we will ask is the reason for your visit. You’ll have the opportunity to let us know about any concerns or questions you may have. No question is too small, so ask away!

Next, we will go over your medical and dental history to make updates to your file as necessary. This will usually be followed by X-rays to give us a better idea of what is currently happening with your teeth. We will finish with a screening for oral cancer and periodontal disease. If you haven’t visited us in a while, we want to make sure nothing serious is going on.

After that, you will undergo a cleaning with one of our hygienists. Your teeth will be cleaned and checked for such things as broken fillings, cracked teeth, or active decay. Finally, Dr. Baker and Dr. Graham will come by for a final look and a rundown of your dental needs.

Then you’re ready to go! On your way out, you’ll discuss options for scheduling your next appointment, insurance coverage, and payment plans if applicable. You will also receive a goodie bag with a new toothbrush, floss, and toothpaste to get you started (and motivated) on the path to great dental health!

We always want our patients’ experience to be as comfortable and as easy as possible. From the moment you pick up the phone to make your appointment, our team is here to make sure we always meet your needs.

No matter how long it’s been since your last visit, we hope you’ll give us a call to make your next appointment at our Hattiesburg, MS office.

How Smoking Increases the Risk of Oral Cancer

September 26th, 2018

Cigarette smoke contains more than 6,000 chemicals, and at least 200 of those chemicals are known to be harmful to your health. When smoke is inhaled, moist oral tissues are saturated with excessive amounts of carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and a host of other known carcinogens. Most oral cancers originate in abnormal squamous cell activity, which are cells found on the lips, inside the mouth, and in the throat.

How Oral Cancer Begins

Cells exposed to consistently high levels of cigarette smoke may eventually suffer abnormal mutations within their DNA. Since deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is responsible for providing cells with instructions about growth, reproduction, and death, these instructions become distorted, which causes the cells to reproduce uncontrollably.

Essentially, that is what cancer is: rapid, unchecked growth of genetically mutated cells that encourages the development of malignant tumors. Unfortunately, the chemicals in cigarette smoke are strongly associated with oral cancer.

Signs of Oral Cancer

Early-stage oral cancer is often asymptomatic, which means symptoms appear only after the cancer intensifies and spreads. Possible signs of oral cancer include:

  • Ulcers inside the mouth or on the lips that do not heal
  • White or dark red patches inside the mouth
  • Lumps inside or around the mouth (a lump could appear on your neck)
  • Bleeding, numbness, and soreness in the mouth
  • Chronic halitosis
  • Loose teeth in the absence of tooth decay

Diagnosis and Treatment of Oral Cancer

Squamous cell oral cancer is the most common type diagnosed in smokers. Dr. Baker and Dr. Graham and our staff often discover squamous cell carcinoma lesions during dental examinations or cancer screenings. Depending on the stage of the oral cancer, treatment may begin with a biopsy or an exfoliative cytology procedure that involves collecting cells from the oral cavity using a scraper.

According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, oral cancer patients may need surgery, radiation therapy, a combination of surgery and radiation therapy, or chemotherapy to eradicate oral cancer.

Smoking, Cancer, and Tooth Decay

Not only is smoking the number-one cause of cancer but it is also detrimental to the overall health of your teeth and gums. Yellow teeth, bad breath, dry mouth, and expedited tooth decay are all caused by smoking, not to mention the damage smoke does to the heart, lungs, and kidneys.

In other words, don’t smoke!