Ardent Care Dental

Oral Cancer & HPV Vaccines


April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. Sadly, 54,000 Americans will lose their life to this disease this year. This makes oral cancer more common than thyroid, liver, stomach, ovarian and brain cancers. The five year survival rate of oral cancer is poor, just around 60%. This means that around 40% of people diagnosed with oral cancer will not survive for more than five years. This is due in part to many oral cancers not being diagnosed until later stages and their proximity to many vital structures in the head and neck.

While tobacco and alcohol have long been risks for oral cancer, human papilloma viruses (HPV) have become the third common cause of oral cancer for the past several years. HPV is a common virus and over a hundred different varieties exist. Eight out of ten people will experience some form of this virus during their lifetime. Many are easily cleared from the body by our immune system, but some types are likely to cause oral, throat and other soft tissue cancers.

Fortunately, the HPV vaccine can prevent more than 90% of HPV-related cancers, protecting people against six different cancer types. Ideally, the vaccine is given to people between ages 9-12, as it provides the most effective immune response at those ages. It can be given to people up to age 26. The vaccine has a proven safety record and was tested in thousands of people all over the world before FDA approval was given. Like all vaccines, it is continuously monitored for safety and side effects. Nearly 200 million doses have been given with no serious safety concerns.

Signs of oral cancer include sores, colored patches or lumps in the mouth or throat that do not heal after a few weeks. Difficulty with chewing or swallowing, numbness or swelling in the mouth are also common signs. Dental professionals screen for signs of oral cancer during examinations, so see your dentist and dental hygienist regularly to help catch early signs in addition to watching your own mouth.



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Infection Control – What Happens Behind the Scene

When someone walks into one of our treatment rooms for a dental appointment, much has been happening in advance of that moment. Your dental team has prepared for your care using systems that break the chain of any infection from patient-to-patient, patient-to-provider and provider-to-patient. Some things are visible and obvious while others are not, yet all are important in keeping everyone in the room healthy.

Metal instruments such as dental handpieces (drills and polishers) and the hand instruments (such as mouth mirrors) that your dental team uses during appointments have all been cleaned in an ultrasonic tank to remove any debris and then sterilized using a steam autoclave, which uses high heat and steam to kill any microbes present on instruments. The autoclave itself is monitored with an indicator in every sterilizing cycle to make sure it reached the correct temperature. It is also tested weekly with a biologic test to make sure that difficult bacteria and viruses have been killed. Once sterilized, the instruments are kept in a clean, dry cabinet until they are set out for a procedure.

Not all items used during a dental appointment can be put through a sterilizer, so other components of care require different means to prevent cross-contamination.  Surfaces such as chairs, countertops, x-ray machines, and equipment tubing are disinfected using a hospital-grade disinfectant. Surfaces are sprayed with disinfecting solution, wiped down to removed any debris and then sprayed again. While we try to minimize single-use plastics in order to protect our environment, some equipment that is difficult to disinfect or sterilize may be covered with a plastic barrier, or itself be a disposable item that is never reused.

Of course, dental team members wear new clean, disposable gloves and masks with each patient. They disinfect their hands before and after gloving and degloving. Our HVAC system has ionic cleaners installed in the system that disinfect our air. All these measures are the basics of keeping everyone in the dental environment as healthy as possible. If you have questions about our systems, please feel free to ask us.


February is Heart Health Month

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the U.S.?  Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease shortens both our quantity and quality of life. While some risk factors are out of our control, there is much we can do to improve our odds of improving our lifespan, as well as our healthspan, a term used to describe the number of years of good health that we have.

What can we do to reduce our heart disease risks? Many things. Even if heart disease runs in someone’s family, we can develop many habits to protect ourselves.

  • Monitor your blood pressure and work with your physician to treat any hypertension
  • Add some colorful veggies and fruits to your meals
  • Add heart-healthy fats such as nuts, avocados and fish to your diet
  • Stay active. Regular exercise is exercise for your heart and helps manage stress
  • Get a pet! A companion animal can reduce stress and help you be more active
  • Get enough sleep. Most adults need 7 to 9 hours nightly, according to the American Heart Association
  • Consider quitting tobacco, smoking and vaping habits
  • See your dentist and dental hygienist regularly
  • Take a CPR class




February is Children’s Dental Health Month

If you have a young person in your life, starting them on the path to a lifetime of good dental health is a gift that pays benefits for years to come. Here are a few things to know about helping little ones with their teeth:

Babies will usually start to get teeth by their first birthday. If teething makes them fussy, giving them a cold washcloth or solid rubber teething ring from the refrigerator can ease their discomfort. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends a child’s first dental visit at the eruption of their first tooth, or their first birthday. This allows the dentist to check their growth and development and gets the child accustomed to the dental environment under good circumstances. The dental team works with parents and caregivers to help them establish a good routine for caring for their child’s teeth.

Primary (baby) teeth have an important job in holding space for the permanent teeth that will begin to erupt at around age six and continue until they are age 11 or 12. Keeping them healthy and free from tooth decay can be accomplished with regular brushing with fluoride toothpaste and limiting sugary drinks and snacks. A diet high in fruits and vegetables and foods rich in calcium such as lowfat dairy foods promotes dental health.  Foods that stick to teeth such as dried fruit or crackers can linger and allow decay-cusing bacteria to convert the sugars present to acid that attacks teeth.

A dentist may recommend dental sealants, a resin material bonded to the deep grooves of teeth to help reduce the risk of cavities in these vulnerable areas. Dentists also monitor the eruption of permanent teeth and may recommend orthodontic care to help guide teeth into ideal positions. Teeth that are aligned well tend to wear more evenly throughout a lifetime, are easier to clean and function well.

If a child is active in basketball, hockey, martial arts or other sports with potential for contact, an athletic mouthguard can help prevent dental damage along with concussions.

Have more questions? Visit our page on Children’s Dentistry or give us a call at 541-465-9821.

3D Technology in Dentistry

Three dimensional technology has rapidly changed many industries, including dentistry. Thanks to many of these innovations, care can be delivered to people more quickly with more accuracy and customization than ever before. Let’s look at some of the ways your dentist may be doing things now or soon in the future.

Imaging & Diagnosis

The days of using messy materials to take dental impressions for diagnosis and making appliances will likely be completely behind us within the next five to ten years. ‘Scanning’ technology is now used to capture three dimensional images of teeth for improved diagnosis and to make appliances such as orthodontic aligners, nightguards and crowns for teeth and implant restorations. A scanned image can also allow doctors and patients to view teeth with detailed magnification and track changes in a person’s bite relationship and the rate of tooth wear over time.

Computed tomography (CT) imaging may be best described as a ‘3D digital x-ray.’ It allows us to see hard tissues such as teeth and bone in all three dimensions. This gives us the ability to diagnose problems that conventional x-rays sometimes lack. We can see the precise position of teeth and structures such as nerve canals and sinuses in relation to each other and measure the dimensions of bone for placing implants. Planning for surgical procedures is  more accurate than ever before.

3D digital photography can capture images of people’s faces, smiles and teeth to be integrated with CT images. This allows a dentist to plan comprehensive treatment to improve people’s appearance, or rehabilitate a mouth that’s suffered significant damage from disease or trauma. It also can show someone a ‘preview‘ of how they would likely appear after treatment.

Printing & Milling

Much of dental treatment involves making appliances that move teeth, replace teeth and protect teeth. Increasingly dental laboratories and dentists use software and artificial intelligence to plan and design the custom appliances needed for this. Dental materials such as resins can be 3D printed and ceramics  3D milled to create dentures, mouthguards, crowns, bridges and guides for placing dental implants. This lets your dentist and their lab partners create needed appliances quickly, sometimes even the same day as  your treatment.  Digital copies of prosthetics and appliances are stored for quick replacement in case of breakage or loss.

Although the rapid changes in technology can be challenging to keep up with, the advantages allow us to provide better care more quickly to our patients than ever before.



Contending with Canker Sores

Canker sores are a small yet painful problem for some people. They are small, pale-colored ulcerations that can occur on the inside of our mouth. They are not contagious and most of the time will go away on their own. While we don’t know the exact cause, researchers suspect that our immune system, genetics, and viruses and bacteria may all play a part. They can arise spontaneously or be triggered by stress or minor trauma.

We do know that some people suffer from canker sores more frequently and that a family history can increase someone’s risk, due to genetics or shared environmental causes. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a common ingredient in dental care products can prolong them. Hormones, allergies, vitamin deficiencies and food sensitivities are also thought to contribute to outbreaks. While minor sores will usually resolve in 1-2 weeks, large lesions may take several weeks to heal and can cause scarring.

What can be done?  First, switch toothpaste and mouthrinses to products without SLS and continue to follow good oral hygiene habits. Avoiding spicy, crunchy or acidic/citrus foods may help. If a sore is not healing after two weeks, accompanied by a fever, or seems to be enlarging or worsening, contact your dentist. Laser treatment can help lessen pain and speed healing. In more severe cases, your dentist can prescribe medications to help lessen the pain and help sores heal.


4 Tips for Keeping Your Mouth Healthy When You’re Sick

Colds and the flu have been less prevalent the past few years due to the coronavirus, but sometimes germs still find us and temporarily keep us under the weather. While these illnesses run their course, here are some easy ways to make sure your dental health doesn’t suffer:

  1. Choose sugar-free products  Sucking on sugared cough drops, rehydrating with electrolyte drinks, juice or tea with lemon and/or honey can all increase our risk for cavities. Water is the most tooth-friendly beverage and will help dilute acids after consuming products with sugar and/or acids. If you’re using other beverages, sweeteners such as stevia, sucralose and sugar alcohols (sorbitol, mannitol and xylitol) won’t put your teeth at risk.
  2. Stay hydrated  Decongestants and antihistamines in cold medications dry up not just a runny nose and watery eyes, but also our mouth. A dry mouth is uncomfortable and increases our risk for cavities as saliva protects our mouth from decay. Again, water or tea without sugar can provide needed fluids without dental side effects
  3. Rinse after vomiting  If you’ve got a stomach flu, the instinct can be to brush your teeth after throwing up. Avoid this, as stomach acid contacting teeth will weaken tooth enamel and the abrasion of toothpaste can ‘brush away’ tiny layers of it.  Instead, rinse with baking soda and water (1/2 t. in 1 c. water) to neutralize acid and brush an hour later.
  4. Clean or replace your toothbrush Even when you not feeling well, make sure to maintain your dental care routine. Caring for ourselves by brushing our teeth can often make us feel a bit better. Because damp toothbrushes can harbor bacteria, some powered brushes come with a built-in UV light disinfectant compartment. After brushing, store your brush in a dry area away from other airborne microbes. Toothbrushes should be replaced every 3-4 months, or when bristles start to get bent. If the brush is in good shape, running it though a kitchen dishwasher on a heated dry cycle will disinfect it.

Tips for Fitting Dental Care Into Your Budget

As we approach the end of the year, people’s thoughts turn to holidays…and the upcoming year’s health coverage. Individuals and employers need to make decisions about next year’s medical and dental benefit plans and we get questions from patients about coverage and changes. Often people don’t plan for dental expenses, but may be faced with them at any point during the year. Here are some tips to consider whenever you’re looking at managing dental expenses.

1. Take advantage of any workplace opportunities for flexible benefit plans or health savings accounts to use pre-tax money for your care. These plans allow people to set aside pre-tax dollars from their paycheck for healthcare expenses and save you from paying taxes on that money.

2. Ask your dental office’s business team for an estimate of what your yearly upcoming costs may be. Even if you have dental benefits, you may still have a deductible and copayments for any care beyond basic exams, x-rays and preventive cleanings.

3. If you don’t have any dental benefit coverage, you can still ask for an estimate of what your exams, x-rays, cleanings and any other recommended treatment may cost. You may want to set aside funds for this in your own savings account on a regular basis.

4. If you don’t have workplace benefits, you can ask if your dental office gives any discounts for people without coverage. No dental coverage will mean less work for your dental business team in submitting claims and bookkeeping. Our office offers a Membership Plan to help people stay on track with their basic care and then get a discount on any additional treatment needed.

5. Ask about financing. If you’re faced with a larger expense, ask your dental office if they offer any financing options. We accept CareCredit, which offers 0% financing.

6. Prioritize prevention. Avoiding regular low-cost diagnostic procedures like x-rays and exams and waiting until something breaks or hurts can mean a more extensive and costly repair in the long run, and poorer health. Recommendations may include special products for your specific needs or a nightguard to protect teeth from damage due to clenching or grinding. Ask your dental team what you can do to minimize future needs, we love to help people achieve better health!

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How to Know When It’s Time for Dentures

While dentistry has made it possible for more people than ever to keep their teeth for their lifetime, there are still times when a denture may be the best solution for someone’s needs. Here are three situations that may justify making the transition from natural teeth to complete replacement of teeth:

  1. Extensive Tooth Decay

Tooth decay can be a complex disease. How many cavities someone gets is influenced not just by how well they clean their teeth. Our general health and genetics also affect our dental health. People who have medical conditions or take medications that dry their mouth are more prone to dental decay. This can make it difficult to keep teeth healthy despite their best efforts. Teeth that have been fixed many times and have minimal structure remaining may have a poor long-term outlook. If most remaining natural teeth need extensive repairs and will still be at high risk for future cavities, removing them can be the best option.

  1. Advanced Gum Disease

Periodontal (gum) disease is the loss of bone support around the roots of our teeth. This chronic infection can be hard to control and is often worsened if people smoke, have diabetes, or genetics that make them prone to the disease. The chronic inflammation present in active gum disease increases our risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. If advanced disease is present, removal of the teeth will result in the infection going away and overall improved health.

  1. Extensive tooth wear

Teeth clenching and/or grinding over many years can wear teeth down to near the gumline. Dental erosion caused by dietary acids or acid reflux disease can also leave teeth with minimal tooth structure to work with and restore. In these scenarios, removing the teeth may be a more practical option.

If you think that it may be time for dentures, your dentist can perform an evaluation and talk with you about the options available for your situation. While dentures are always an option, solutions may exist that allow you to avoid full dentures. If dentures will be the most practical solution, it is also worth considering the use of dental implants to help improve the stability and retention of dentures.  Your dentist can develop a plan to transition you from natural teeth to replacement teeth. For people who have suffered for years with extensive problems and poor dental health, it is often a relief to be out of pain and be able to smile confidently.

Wisdom Teeth

Is keeping your wisdom teeth a smart thing to do? It depends. Our ‘wisdom’ teeth, or third molars, usually erupt between the ages of 15-25. If they are positioned at an angle in someone’s jaws, they may not erupt fully, or at all. While our ancestors may have had adequate room for these teeth, often today we do not. The decision to keep or remove them at any point in our life is  made with several considerations.

Often when wisdom teeth begin to erupt, bacteria and debris can become trapped under the gum tissue around the tooth, causing pain and infection. If this occurs or it appears there isn’t enough space in someone’s mouth to accommodate the teeth, removal may be recommended. Sometimes wisdom teeth may be ‘impacted,’ or trapped under the gum, bone, or adjacent teeth due to their position. In these situations, removal may also be recommended to reduce the risk of future problems. Cysts, decay and other infections, and resorption of the adjacent tooth can all be reasons for removal of an ‘impacted’ tooth.

Some people’s third molars erupt in a normal position and they have adequate space in their mouth for them. Because they can be difficult to keep clean, the teeth can get decay and/or gum disease and this can affect the molars in front of them. If people have most of their other teeth present, removing wisdom teeth may be recommended.

If removal is recommended, the ideal time to do this is often when people are in their teenage years, before the roots are fully formed. This reduces the risk of root fracture andnerve damage during surgery. The most predictable bone healing afterward also occurs in teens and young adults. While we can wait until later adult years to have them removed if problems arise, the teeth can be more difficult to remove and bone healing is not as predictable. Your dentist can discuss the benefits and risks of the procedure with you and recommend what is best for your situation.