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Early Detection is Key to Treating Oral Cancer

August 14th, 2019

Every hour of every day, someone in North America dies of oral cancer, the sixth most common diagnosed form of the disease. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved.

This grim statistic may make you think that oral cancer is a particularly deadly form, when in fact the high death rate has more to do with how late in its development oral cancer is detected. Routine screening is the key to early detection and survival, and in our continuing efforts to provide the most advanced technology and highest quality care available to our patients at Bigelow, Pastrell, Buchanan & Hartzell Dentistry, we proudly screen our patients for oral cancer.

So, who’s at risk for oral cancer?

Anyone can develop oral cancer, but some people are at a higher risk. These high-risk groups include those over the age of 50 and men, who are twice as likely as women to develop the disease. Smoking or chewing smokeless tobacco products, consuming alcohol excessively, and constant exposure to the sun at a young age are also risk factors.

How is oral cancer detected?

Drs. Greg Bigelow, Peter Pastrell, Justin Buchanan, and Chad Hartzell and our team at Bigelow, Pastrell, Buchanan & Hartzell Dentistry suggest our patients perform a monthly self-examination to check for unusual red or white patches, sores, lumps, or thickenings anywhere inside the mouth, on the lips, or in the throat and neck area.

We encourage you to give us a call at our convenient Grants Pass office if you find any of these symptoms or if you have trouble swallowing or experience a chronic sore throat and hoarseness. During your visit, Drs. Greg Bigelow, Peter Pastrell, Justin Buchanan, and Chad Hartzell will inspect the oral tissues and neck to determine if abnormalities are present.

What happens if oral cancer is detected?

If we discover abnormal tissues during your visit, a biopsy will be required. The results from the biopsy will be sent to a laboratory to determine if the cells are cancerous or precancerous. If a diagnosis of cancer is made, surgery, as well as treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation may be necessary. Drs. Greg Bigelow, Peter Pastrell, Justin Buchanan, and Chad Hartzell and our team will work closely with your oncologist and other members of your medical team to ensure that you achieve the best possible oral health care both during and after treatment.

Finding out you have oral cancer can be devastating news. If you are concerned that you might be at risk for developing oral cancer, talk to us about screenings and other things you can do to reduce your risk. Through a routine visual inspection, Drs. Greg Bigelow, Peter Pastrell, Justin Buchanan, and Chad Hartzell and our team at Bigelow, Pastrell, Buchanan & Hartzell Dentistry can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage when treatment is both less expensive and more successful, and can potentially save your life. Ask us about a screening during your next visit!

What exactly is biofilm?

August 7th, 2019

Biofilm is a protective home for bacteria that’s composed of microorganisms. Biofilm can be found in wet places such as ponds, sewers, and bathroom drains, and it also grows on metals and minerals.

But biofilm can also be found in your mouth, in either healthy or diseased form. Both are composed of the same compounds, but when they combine with certain amino acids or chemicals, diseased biofilm will begin to destroy your enamel. You might notice this as a slimy yellow buildup of dental plaque on the surface of your teeth.

Biofilm takes form when free-swimming bacterial cells land on a surface and attach in a cluster. The cells begin to multiply and form a micro-colony that promotes diverse bacterial species to grow. To prevent biofilm from settling in your mouth to begin with, make sure to keep up your daily oral routine.

Any mouth appliances you use should also be scrubbed or soaked in cleaner as often as possible. You should pick a toothpaste that has antibacterial ingredients, rinse with mouthwash, and floss daily.

There are many ways to treat diseased biofilm. One is to kill the microorganisms through the use of chlorhexidine, triclosan, and mineral agents that reduce the degree of plaque formed in your mouth.

Another way is to make sure to go to your regular cleanings every six months with Drs. Greg Bigelow, Peter Pastrell, Justin Buchanan, and Chad Hartzell. During your cleaning, we remove excess biofilm that’s accumulated on your teeth over the past six months.

Don’t forget that it’s also essential to keep a healthy amount of biofilm in your mouth, though. This type of biofilm protects your body from disease and is replicated every twenty minutes. If you have a healthy amount of good biofilm, the chances of your mouth producing harmful bacteria decreases.

Ask about biofilm during your next appointment at our Grants Pass office if you’ve noticed any irregular yellow-colored buildup on your teeth. Drs. Greg Bigelow, Peter Pastrell, Justin Buchanan, and Chad Hartzell will make sure your mouth has a healthy balance of biofilm.

The best way to create a healthy environment in your mouth is to stay on track with your oral health regimen. Prevention is the best method when it comes to your dental hygiene and fighting diseased biofilm.

 

Post-Procedure Care

July 17th, 2019

As with any surgery, post-procedure care is of utmost importance after getting periodontal surgery. Bleeding, pain, swelling, and other sensations are common and should be expected to a degree. This can manifest as small amounts of blood in your saliva, pain after anesthesia wears off, and swelling around the lips and cheeks. However, these symptoms should start improving after a several days.

Below you'll find recommendations from Drs. Greg Bigelow, Peter Pastrell, Justin Buchanan, and Chad Hartzell on what you should do to make your post-procedure experience as quick and painless as possible:

Don't smoke - After your surgery you should definitely not smoke. Smoking will inhibit your body's ability to heal the surgical site.

Don't drink alcohol - If you are taking prescription or over-the-counter pain relievers, don't drink alcohol. And it is a good idea in general to avoid alcohol after surgery, since excess alcohol consumption suppresses immune system function and slows the healing process.

Take pain medication as prescribed or an alternative - Pain is to be expected for at least the first week after your procedure. If you choose to take the prescription medication that is prescribed to you, do so as directed. However some patients have found over-the-counter pain medication works for them. You may also consider natural herbs instead of pharmacological solutions. Try turmeric, arnica, or white willow bark (which is what aspirin is derived from, so the same warnings for aspirin apply to white willow bark.)

Eating with your surgical site in mind - It is best to chew on the other side of your mouth for the first several days so as not to irritate the surgical site. Avoid overly cold or hot foods as well. Softer foods like mashed potatoes, oatmeal, and fruit will be more comfortable to chew.

Avoid brushing the surgical site - You can start brushing and flossing your teeth the day after the procedure but avoid the surgical site.

Don't rinse for the first 24 hours - After the first day has passed you can rinse with a mild mouthwash to keep your mouth, dressing, and surgical site clean.

We're here to answer any questions you have after your procedure and will help you as best we can. Pay special attention to any excessive bleeding or discomfort. Contact our Grants Pass office immediately if you have tried addressing the issue on your own but are still having trouble.

I’ve lost a filling; now what?

July 10th, 2019

Dental fillings usually protect our teeth, but sometimes they need to be protected, too. If you lose a filling, contact our Grants Pass office immediately and let us advise you on the next steps to take.

Fillings serve an important function in oral health by preserving the structural integrity of your tooth. With the materials we use today, dental fillings usually last for many years, but they are subjected to the same stresses as your natural teeth are.

You can wear down, chip, crack, or break your fillings by eating, clenching, and grinding, and sometimes they can fall out completely. While you may not notice normal wear and tear, you should not ignore any fillings that loosen or fall out. Contact us as soon as possible so we can advise you about whether you need to be seen immediately.

If your fillings get damaged or fall out, a timely response can be important. There may be gaps or holes in your tooth which provide an easy access point for bacteria. Once bacteria begin working into your tooth structure, your tooth could become damaged even worse. Since cavities usually form in hard-to-reach places, it will be difficult for you to remove these bacteria through brushing alone.

When is a lost filling an emergency?

A lost or cracked filling is usually not an emergency unless you are in great pain or are bleeding excessively. In that case, contact our office immediately so we can schedule an emergency appointment. Otherwise we will schedule a regular appointment to evaluate and repair your filling. Before coming in for your appointment, try to avoid chewing on that side of your mouth, rinse with warm salt water, and be sure to brush and floss thoroughly after every meal.

Once you come to our office, Drs. Greg Bigelow, Peter Pastrell, Justin Buchanan, and Chad Hartzell will examine your tooth, assess the situation, and advise you of your options. We may be able to replace the filling and can discuss whether an amalgam or composite material would be the best for your teeth. If the filling was large, a root canal or a dental implant and crown may be necessary.

A lost or cracked filling may not always pose a dental emergency, but it’s always important to contact us so our team can help you take the proper action to preserve your oral health.

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