My Blog

Posts for: April, 2015

By Ely M. Lun-Chial, DDS
April 16, 2015
Category: Oral Health
CurtSchillingBlamesSmokelessTobaccoforHisOralCancer

For years, even as tobacco use began to decline and disappear in most settings, professional baseball seemed one of the few exceptions. Now, the tide is finally turning. Recently, the legendary right-hand pitcher Curt Schilling revealed that he had been treated for oral cancer — and said that his chewing tobacco habit was to blame. “I’ll go to my grave believing that was why I got [cancer],” Schilling told the Boston Globe.

Schilling isn’t the only former player whose oral cancer is blamed on smokeless tobacco. Tony Gwynn, Hall of Famer and beloved coach, recently passed away from oral cancer at the age of 54. His death led to players pledging to give up the habit. But many still use “dip” or “snuff,” thinking perhaps it’s not so bad after all.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. With nicotine as its active ingredient, chewing tobacco can be just as addictive as cigarettes. Not only is nicotine addictive, it also increases heart rate and blood pressure, constricts the arteries, and affects the body in other ways. In addition to nicotine, chewing tobacco contains about 30 other chemicals known to cause cancer.

Tobacco use of any kind is a major risk factor for oral cancer. While it isn’t as well-known as some other types of cancer, oral cancer can be just as deadly. About 43,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with it each year — and the 5-year survival rate is just 57%. One reason for the relatively low survival rate is that oral cancer isn’t usually detected until it has reached a later stage, when it’s much harder to treat.

What can you do to reduce your risk for oral cancer? Clearly, you should stop using tobacco products of any kind. Moderating your intake of alcohol, and eating more plant foods and less red meat can also have an impact. And don’t forget to have regular dental checkups: cancer’s warning signs can often be recognized in an oral examination — and early detection can boost survival rates to 80-90 percent.

How does Schilling feel about chewing tobacco now? “I lost my sense of smell, my taste buds for the most part. I had gum issues, they bled, all this other stuff,” he told the Globe. “I wish I could go back and never have dipped. Not once.”

If you have questions about oral cancer or cancer prevention, contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Chewing Tobacco” and “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”


CompositeResinsareaViableRestorationOptionforMildlyDefectiveTeeth

No matter how damaged or decayed your teeth may have become, there’s a restorative solution for it. From porcelain veneers that cover unattractive teeth to dental implants that permanently replace missing teeth, we have the means to give you back a beautiful, life-like smile.

But what if the problems with your teeth are relatively mild — a chipped tooth or a cavity in a highly visible place? Porcelain veneers and bridgework involve extensive tooth preparation that permanently alters the tooth. Is there a less intrusive option that still results in a life-like restoration?

The answer is yes. Composite resins are tooth-colored materials that are bonded directly to tooth surfaces. Made of a plastic-based material matrix with inorganic glass-like filler, composite resins require very little tooth preparation and are often applied in a single visit.

They’re an excellent way to address imperfections or defects with an otherwise healthy tooth, while still preserving the majority of its remaining structure. In the hands of a skilled dentist, composite resins can be used to fill, repair and reshape teeth. They’re also an ideal choice for younger patients whose dental arches are still in development — restorations that require extensive tooth preparation might compromise the tooth’s long-term health. A composite resin treatment could serve as a transitional bridge until a more extensive restoration can be performed after the patient’s mouth structure has fully matured.

Composite resins do have some disadvantages. Because the resin material isn’t as strong as the tooth structure it replaces (although there have been great improvements in the last few years in resin strength), it may not stand up to biting pressures over time if there isn’t enough remaining tooth structure available to support it. They material can also dull and stain with use.

Still, for moderate imperfections or as an interim solution until another restoration can be undertaken, composite resins are a good choice.

If you would like more information on restorations with composite resin, 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 “Artistic Repair of Front Teeth with Composite Resin.”