Online Dental Education Library
Our team of dental specialists and staff strive to improve the overall health of our patients by focusing on preventing, diagnosing and treating conditions associated with your teeth and gums. Please use our dental library to learn more about dental problems and treatments available. If you have questions or need to schedule an appointment, contact us.
Teeth Whitening - Brighter, whiter...
The subconscious impact of a white smile is radiant health, happiness, warmth and invitation. This phenomenon has been reinforced with the spread of American culture worldwide, where an especially white smile has even been coined a "Hollywood smile". Today brighter, lighter, whiter teeth have become a norm. Tooth whitening by bleaching is a successful, conservative, relatively inexpensive and safe alternative... Read Article
Smile Design with Porcelain Veneers
In part two of the series on Smile Design, Dear Doctor takes an in-depth look at Porcelain Veneers, a superior yet minimally invasive technique for smile enhancement. We'll explain not only when they're appropriate, but also when they're not... Read Article
Porcelain Veneers – Without A Drill
No drilling — reality or ridiculous? A no-drill technique requires a second look, as new materials and concepts have created new esthetic possibilities. Reactions and opinions among dentists have ranged from absolute disbelief to moderate acceptance. This article gives hope and reasons for patients to get excited about this conservative drill-free cosmetic technique... Read Article
Cosmetic Dentistry - A Time For Change
Join us as we review the myriad of possibilities available to you for cosmetic dental change. But the biggest part is not just how your smile looks, it's how you feel when you show it... Read Article
Dental Implants - Your Third Set of Teeth
A discovery fifty years ago paved the way for one of dentistry's most exciting, natural looking and successful tooth replacement systems. Learn how dental implants might just possibly change your life... Read Article
What is Tooth Decay?
Tooth Decay is an infection, and many people don't realize that it is preventable. This article is the first in a series about tooth decay, perhaps the number one reason children and adults lose teeth during their lifetime. Explore the causes of tooth decay, its prevention and the relationship to bacteria, sugars and acids... Read Article
Don't wait for cavities to occur and then have them fixed — stop them before they start. Modern dentistry is moving towards an approach to managing tooth decay that is evidence-based — on years of accumulated, systematic, and valid scientific research. This article discusses what you need to know to assess your risk and change the conditions that lead to decay... Read Article
The Beauty of Tooth Colored Fillings
The public's demand for aesthetic tooth colored (metal free) restorations (fillings) together with the dental profession's desire to preserve as much natural tooth structure as possible, has led to the development of special "adhesive" tooth colored restorations... Read Article
Wisdom Teeth – To Be Or Not To Be
Facts you need to know about these curiously named teeth. They are so-called because a moderate amount of wisdom is supposedly achieved at about the same time these teeth typically make their appearance. This article will review the problems associated with wisdom teeth and whether or not they should be removed... Read Article
Oral Hygiene - Dental Health for Life
The best tools for maintaining your oral health and minimizing dental problems are a quality toothbrush, toothpaste, a roll of dental floss, approved mouthwash and good diet. This article cuts through the confusion with a winning game plan for oral health... Read Article
Understanding Gum Disease
Have your gums ever bled when you brushed or flossed? This most commonly overlooked simple sign may be the start of silent (periodontal) disease leading to tooth loss. Learn what you can do to prevent this problem and keep your teeth for life... Read Article
The Impact of a Smile Makeover
Americans are catching on to the emotional and social importance of a healthy, beautiful smile, and they're seeking out ways to improve their smiles. Learn why and what a change could mean for you...Read Article
The orthodontic treatment using clear aligners consists of a series of aligners that you change about every two weeks over a course of treatment lasting six to eighteen months depending on how much movement is needed... Read Article
This article may just save your life. Learn how to notice any unusual lesions (sores or ulcers) anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two-three weeks. Early detection is key... Read Article
Implant overdentures represent a major change for the dental profession and the public. The lower jaw two-implant overdenture may be considered a more appropriate starting point over regular dentures... Read Article
TMD – The Great Impostor
This “chameleon” of dental disorders manifests in a variety of ways, including joint pain, sinusitus, ear pain, tooth and headaches. The causes of TMD, its signs and symptoms and what can be done to treat this common disorder... Read Article
Lasers Shine a Light on Dentistry
Lasers have revolutionized medicine and now they're beginning to blaze a new trail in dentistry. Today, at the dawn of the 21st century there are a variety of dental uses for lasers, from diagnosing cavities and the removal of gum and tooth structure to the treatment of disease... Read Article
Oral Sedation Dentistry
Step out from under the shadow of fear and into the calm of sedation dentistry. There are safe and time-tested options available to ensure that you have a positive and painless dental experience. Your apprehension and hypersensitivity to pain melt away, yet you remain awake and in control... Read Article
Sleep Disorders and Dentistry
If my partner snores loudly, should I be concerned and what can be done to alleviate the problem? Why does my sleeping partner have lapses in breathing while sleeping and is it dangerous? Why do I wake up exhausted even though I get up to 10 hours sleep at night? The answers to these and more questions and how dentistry can help all revealed within... Read Article
About Dear Doctor Dentistry Magazine
Dear Doctor - Dentistry & Oral Health is a dental magazine written for the education of the general public. Dear Doctor provides information that is accurate, authoritative, and trustworthy on all aspects of dentistry and oral health including teeth whitening, porcelain veneers, dental implants, cosmetic dentistry, smile makeovers and more.
Copyright © 2012 Dear Doctor, Inc. All rights reserved. Copying or reproducing any text or graphics is strictly prohibited.
When you come into the dental office for an examination, you might assume that the focus is on your teeth. That's often correct — but don't forget that there are a number of other parts of the oral and facial anatomy that are examined as well. These include areas around and inside the mouth (such as the lips, gums, hard and soft palate, and the tongue) as well as outside the mouth (the skin, muscles and glands in the neck, and the temporomandibular joint). In fact, when it comes to detecting certain oral or systemic (whole-body) diseases, a thorough dental exam may be your first line of defense.
How are diseases in the mouth discovered? Most of the time, it's simple: You will be asked about any changes you have noticed, or symptoms you may be experiencing. Your face, mouth, and neck will then be visually inspected, and certain areas may be palpated (gently touched or pressed with fingers) or probed (touched with a small instrument). If needed, additional tests or diagnostic imaging (X-rays or other methods) may be used to aid in diagnosis.
Occasionally, an abnormality such as a lesion (an unusual localized change in your tissues) is found that needs to be examined further. Lesions may resemble white or red spots or lumps (tumors), but they are typically benign. However, it is often better to err on the side of caution and perform a biopsy to be sure. This may involve making a small incision and removing a part of the suspicious area. The tissue sample will be sent to a pathologist, who examines it under a microscope for signs of disease.
Some Oral Diseases To Look For
Oral cancer is perhaps the most significant disease to look for in an examination — both because it can be life-threatening, and because early detection is proven to increase the survival rate. But it's important to remember that a large majority of unusual growths are found to be benign. Some other oral diseases that may be screened for include:
- Fibroma, a thickened mass that may feel like a lump in the lining of the mouth.
- Leukoplakia, a condition that causes white patches to form inside the mouth. While usually benign, the lesions may be precancerous and are often biopsied.
- Lichen Planus, an inflammatory disease that sometimes causes discomfort.
- Mucous Membrane Pemphigoid, an autoimmune disease that may cause oral lesions, but is not life threatening.
- “Pregnancy Tumors,” benign red swellings that may form on gum tissue of pregnant women due to hormonal changes.
In addition, some systemic diseases (such as diabetes, Crohn's disease, and heart disease) may produce effects that can be observed in the mouth. We are always on the lookout for signs of these potentially serious conditions.
When a Biopsy Is Needed
Although the majority of oral lesions are benign, if there is any possibility that the growth could be cancerous or pre-cancerous, it's likely that a biopsy will be performed. Depending on how much tissue needs to be removed, this may be a simple in-office procedure, or it may be done in a hospital setting. Typically, the procedure requires only local anesthesia, and it doesn't take long. If incisions are made, they are often closed with self-dissolving sutures (stitches) that don't need to be removed.
Because the oral tissues are rich in blood vessels, some bleeding is normal for a period of time afterward. You will be given follow-up instructions as needed, including how to manage swelling and discomfort, when to take medication, and what to eat and drink. Getting some rest and maintaining good oral hygiene will also help you get back to normal as quickly as possible. When the pathology report is complete (usually in a few days), you will be given the results.
Oral Cancer This article may just save your life. Learn how to notice any unusual lesions (sores or ulcers) anywhere in your mouth that do not heal within two-three weeks. Early detection is key... Read Article
Common Lumps and Bumps in the Mouth As most of us know, the soft tissues of the cheeks, lips and tongue occasionally get in the way of our teeth and — chomp! If the same sore spot gets bitten repeatedly, a knot of fibrous tissue can develop. These lumps and bumps can easily be removed, and are often biopsied as a routine precaution... Read Article
Cold Sores Cold sores are a vexing problem for many. They are caused by a highly contagious strain of the herpes virus that can sometimes thwart the body's immune system. The resulting blisters can be uncomfortable and unsightly. Over the past two decades, antiviral medications have been developed to help prevent outbreaks and speed healing... Read Article