Smokeless Doesn’t Mean Harmless

As we near the end of April, which just so happens to be Oral Cancer Awareness Month, the team at our Boerne dental office thought we should talk a bit about the oral health concerns associated with smokeless tobacco. Some individuals may assume that since it’s smokeless, chewing tobacco isn’t as harmful as smoking cigarettes. However, even though there isn’t any smoke accompanying chewing tobacco, there are still health risks associated with the habit.

How Smokeless Tobacco Affects Oral Health

Just like cigarettes, smokeless tobacco is addictive, which makes quitting difficult. The longer someone uses chewing tobacco, the more they’re exposed to the dangers of it. This increases their chance of experiencing any of the numerous issues that can occur as a result:

Yellowing TeethUsing smokeless tobacco can cause tooth discoloration, making your pearly whites not so white. While smile whitening may be able to help a little bit, staining caused by tobacco typically requires a form of cosmetic dentistry, like veneers, to get your teeth back to their white appearance.

Receding GumsChew can cause gums to recede and expose the tooth roots. Once roots are left open, the chance for cavities greatly increases. The roots also contain nerves, which, if uncovered, can make teeth sensitive to heat and cold.  

Oral CancerThe most serious concern of using any type of tobacco is the increased risk for oral cancer. In fact, tobacco is the top risk factor for developing oral cancer. If it’s not caught early, oral cancer can be deadly.

Know the Signs of Oral Cancer

Everyone should be aware of the signs of oral cancer because even though the risk of the disease is greater in tobacco users, the truth is, oral cancer can happen to anyone. The signs of oral cancer can easily be misdiagnosed as something minor, so if you notice any of the symptoms below, call your dentist in Boerne as soon as you can.

  • A white, scaly patch on the inside of the cheek or lip
  • Sores or lumps in the mouth or throat
  • Trouble chewing, swallowing, or speaking
  • Sensation of something being stuck in your throat

If you use tobacco of any kind, it’s incredibly important for you to see your dentist at least twice a year to keep an eye on your oral health and identify any potential problems early. Don’t have a dentist? Give our dental office in Boerne a call to schedule an appointment today.

What’s a Frenectomy and Do You Need One?

There are times when the team at our dental office in Boerne may recommend a frenectomy for a patient. But we understand that many patients aren’t exactly sure what a frenectomy is and why one may be needed. So we’d like to cover the basics to help all of our patients stay properly informed.

A Little About Anatomy

Before we can dive into the treatment itself, we need to talk a bit about the mouth’s anatomy. The mouth has two thin muscular attachments called frenum that can inhibit normal function of the mouth. One of these is the tight muscle found under the tongue that connects the tongue to the lower part of the mouth (called the lingual frenum). The other connects the top lip to the gum tissue above the top teeth (called the maxillary labial frenum). When either one of these effects tongue function or proper tooth placement, a frenectomy may be appropriate.

What’s a Frenectomy?

Simply put, a frenectomy is the removal or shortening of a frenum. A frenectomy is usually recommended if the frenum is clearly causing pain or hindering proper function.

Why Are Frenectomies Important?

The benefits behind a frenectomy depends on which frenum needs treatment.

  • Lingual Frenum Frenectomy

When the lingual frenum is too long and extends to the tip of the tongue, it can directly affect tongue function. Most common in children, a lingual frenum frenectomy can help restore proper tongue function and can make swallowing, eating, and talking easier.

  • Maxillary Labial Frenum Frenectomy

A large maxillary labial frenum or one that attaches close to the teeth can create a gap in between the two front teeth. Occasionally this type of frenectomy is recommended by your Boerne dentist following orthodontic treatment that initially closed the gap but has since reopened.

How is a Frenectomy Performed?

We understand that the procedure may sound scary, but it’s actually quite simple. Treatment always begins by numbing the area. Then the frenum is cut away from the either the floor of the mouth or the gum line. Following a few stitches, the treatment is complete. Depending on the technology offered by your dental office, a laser may also be used.

If you have more questions, we welcome you to call our Boerne dental office. We’re always happy to help.