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Posts for category: Oral Health

By O'NEILL FAMILY DENTISTRY
February 21, 2020
Category: Oral Health

Are you a smoker? Over the age of 40? Diagnosed with HPV? If so, you may be at increased risk for oral cancer.

While oral cancer is also more common among men, heavy drinkers, and unhealthy eaters, it can still develop in almost anyone. That means even the healthiest among us should keep up with regular oral cancer screenings.

Here at O'Neill Family Dentistry in Columbia, SC, your dentist, Dr. Kris O'Neill, offers oral cancer screenings that are quick, painless, and accurate, allowing you to feel at ease during the screening and confident in your results.

What are the signs of oral cancer?

Oral cancer can develop in both the throat and mouth, and can develop symptoms such as bleeding patches, lumps, red/white spots, and numbness or pain when eating. Additional signs include loosening teeth, a hoarse voice, jaw swelling, mouth ulcers, sores, and/or a swollen jaw.

Why is an oral cancer screening so important?

Oral cancer patients who are diagnosed early have a far greater survival rate than those whose cancer is discovered in later stages. If a screening at our Columbia, SC, office comes back with positive results, our dentist can develop an appropriate treatment plan to address your specific case.

What happens during an oral cancer screening?

Your dentist will use a small apparatus with an angled examination mirror to check all areas of your mouth, including the palate, tongue, and pharynx. We will also look for discolorations, sores, protrusions, or other abnormalities. If an issue is found, we will send a tissue sample to a lab for further diagnosis. Your dentist may also feel your neck for any unusual lumps.

Your screening should be fairly quick, and can generally be performed during your regular checkup and dental exam.

Concerned? Give us a call

If you haven't undergone an oral cancer screening before, or are due for one of these life-saving examinations, make an appointment here at O'Neill Family Dentistry in Columbia, SC, by dialing (803) 988-1070.

By O'Neill Family Dentistry
January 22, 2020
Category: Oral Health
TakingtheRightStepstoPreventEarlyToothDecayinChildren
TakingtheRightStepstoPreventEarlyToothDecayinChildren

While the prevention and treatment of tooth decay has improved dramatically over the last half century, it continues to be a major health issue, especially for children. One in four children 5 and younger will develop some form of the disease.

Although tooth decay in children stems from the same causes as in adults — the presence of decay-causing bacteria in plaque, unprotected teeth and the right mix of carbohydrates like sugar left in the mouth — the means by which it occurs may be different. We even define tooth decay differently in children as Early Childhood Caries (ECC), “caries” the dental profession’s term for tooth decay.

ECC highlights a number of cause factors specific to young children, such as: continuous use of a bottle or “sippy cup” filled with juice or other sweetened beverages; at-will breast-feeding throughout the night; use of a sweetened pacifier; or regular use of sugar-based oral medicine to treat chronic illness.

If you noticed sugar as a common denominator in these factors, you’re right. As a primary food source for bacteria, refined sugar is a major trigger for the disease especially if it constantly resides in the mouth from constant snacking or sipping. In fact, it’s the primary driver for a particular pattern of decay known as Baby Bottle Tooth Decay (BBTD). This pattern is specifically linked to sleep-time bottles filled with juice, milk, formula or other sweetened beverages, given to an infant or toddler to help soothe them through the night or during naps.

All these factors cause a cycle of decay. To interrupt that cycle, there are some things you as a parent should do: perform daily hygiene with your child to reduce decay-causing bacteria; reduce the amount and frequency of carbohydrates in the diet, particularly sugar; and protect the teeth by having us apply fluoride or sealants directly to the teeth.

Early tooth decay could affect your child's oral health for years to come. With a little care and vigilance, you improve your chances of avoiding that encounter.

If you would like more information on preventing tooth decay in children, 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 “Dentistry & Oral Health for Children.”

By O'Neill Family Dentistry
January 12, 2020
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral cancer  
TobaccoOneBaseballTraditionWeCanDoWithout

While sports like football, basketball and soccer have exploded in popularity over the last few decades, many Americans still have a soft spot for the granddaddy of them all: baseball. While technology has changed many aspects of the game, many of its endearing traditions live on.

Unfortunately, one baseball tradition isn’t so endearing and definitely hazardous to health—tobacco, primarily the smokeless variety. Players and coaches alike, even down to the high school level, have promoted or at least tolerated its use.

But there are signs this particular baseball tradition is losing steam. Not long ago, the San Francisco Giants became the first major league baseball team to prohibit tobacco in its home stadium—on the field as well as in the stands. The move was largely in response to a law passed by the City of San Francisco, but it does illustrate a growing trend to discourage tobacco use in baseball.

While smoking, chewing or dipping tobacco can certainly impact a person’s overall health, it can be especially damaging to the teeth, gums and mouth. Our top oral health concern with tobacco is cancer: Research has shown some correlation between tobacco use (especially smokeless) and a higher risk of oral cancer.

You need look no further than the highest ranks of baseball itself to notice a link between tobacco and oral cancer. Although from different eras, Babe Ruth and Tony Gwynn, both avid tobacco users, died from oral cancer. Other players like pitcher Curt Schilling have been diagnosed and treated for oral cancer.

Cancer isn’t the only threat tobacco poses to oral health. The nicotine in tobacco can constrict blood vessels in the mouth; this in turn reduces the normal flow of nutrients and disease-fighting immune cells to the teeth and gums. As a result, tobacco users are much more susceptible to contracting tooth decay and gum disease than non-users, and heal more slowly after treatment.

That’s why it’s important, especially in youth baseball, to discourage tobacco use on the field. While most of baseball’s traditions are worthy of preservation, the chapter on tobacco needs to close.

If you would like more information on the oral health effects of tobacco, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation.

By O'NEILL FAMILY DENTISTRY
December 30, 2019
Category: Oral Health

Millions of Americans have gum disease. Do you?

Gum disease is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults and, unfortunately, most people don’t even know that they have this serious oral issue. It’s important to recognize the warning signs so that you can turn to our Columbia, SC, dentist, Dr. Kris O’Neill, right away for treatment.

Gum Disease Has Different Stages

There are three main stages of gum disease: gingivitis, periodontitis, and advanced periodontitis. During the beginning stage, also referred to as gingivitis, you may barely notice any changes to your gums; however, our Columbia, SC, dentist will be able to spot even the slightest changes during a routine cleaning. Therefore, even if you think your teeth and gums are healthy, you should still visit your dentist every six months for checkups.

Sometimes gingivitis causes gums to bleed when you brush and floss. This is a classic and more common symptom of early gum disease. The gums may also be puffy, red, and tender to the touch. If gingivitis isn’t treated it can progress to periodontitis.

Periodontitis results in pockets of infection within the gums that begin to pull the gums away from the teeth. Gums provide the teeth with support, so as the infected pockets grow bigger this destroys the fibers, causing receding gums, and loose teeth. It’s important that you see your dentist right away if you are experiencing,

  • Bleeding gums
  • Gums that are inflamed and swollen
  • Sore gums
  • Gums that recede or teeth that suddenly appear longer
  • Loose teeth
  • Changes in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
  • Tooth loss

Preventing Gum Disease

Fortunately, keeping your gums healthy really isn’t that difficult. Along with visiting your dentist twice a year, maintaining good oral hygiene will ensure that you keep your teeth and gums as healthy as possible. This means brushing twice a day and flossing daily. Flossing is crucial to removing plaque and food from between teeth and along the gumline where your toothbrush can’t reach.

Flossing before you brush can also help dislodge food particles and plaque from between teeth so that toothpaste can easily get into those crevices and provide a more thorough cleaning.

Need Dental Care? Give Us a Call

Whether you are noticing changes in your gums or you are looking for a family dentist in Columbia, SC, who can provide you with the routine checkups and cleanings you need for healthy teeth and gums, call our practice today at (803) 988-1070 to schedule your upcoming visit.

By O'Neill Family Dentistry
December 13, 2019
Category: Oral Health
Tags: toothache  
WhatsCausingYourThrobbingToothache

There are few more painful experiences than a toothache. You can't ignore it: it's as if your mouth is screaming for relief.

But while the throbbing pain can tell you something's wrong, it may not be clear exactly what's wrong. There's more than one possibility — it could be with the tooth itself, the gums around the tooth or a combination of both.

In the first case, a toothache could be a sign of severe tooth decay within the tooth's innermost layer, the pulp. The pain you feel comes from the nerves within the pulp under attack from the infection.

For this level of decay there's one primary way to save the tooth and stop the pain: a root canal treatment. In this procedure we remove all the infected and dead tissue from the pulp and fill the empty chamber and root canals with a special filling. We then seal and crown the tooth to prevent further infection.

Another source of toothache happens when your gums have become painfully inflamed due to infection. This is usually caused by periodontal (gum) disease, triggered by a thin film of bacteria and food particles on tooth surfaces known as plaque. In this case, we must remove all plaque and calculus (hardened plaque deposits) from tooth and gum surfaces, including on the roots. Your gums can then heal and return to health.

But your situation could be more complex. Untreated tooth decay can advance to the roots and subsequently infect the gums. Likewise advanced gum disease can pass the infection from the gums to the root and into the pulp.  For such cases you may need a specialist, either an endodontist specializing in root canal issues or a periodontist specializing in the gums.  They can better diagnose the origin and extent of the problem and offer advanced techniques and treatments to deal with it.

It's possible in these more complex situations your tooth has become diseased beyond repair and must be replaced. It's important, then, that you see us if you experience any significant tooth pain, even if it seems to go away. The sooner we diagnose and begin treating the cause of your pain, the better your chances of regaining your dental health.

If you would like more information on treating dental disease, 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 “Confusing Tooth Pain.”