April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month

This April will mark the 14th annual Oral Cancer Awareness month. Statistics have shown that nearly 42,000 people will be diagnosed with oral or throat cancer this year. Of those diagnosed, the 5 year survival rate is approximately 64%. The numbers are astounding and seem to be on rise. Most of us know or have at least heard about the normal risk factors for oral cancer. These include heavy drinking, smoking and smokeless tobacco use. A new risk factor that is on the rise is the human papilloma virus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease. This has helped open the conversation about oral cancer to all patients and not just those with the traditional risk factors.

How To Avoid Oral Cancer

The next question that usually comes to mind is how to avoid oral cancer? The obvious answer is to avoid the risk factors. The next step, as advised by the American Dental Association, is to have regular oral cancer screenings completed by a dental professional. This is the best way to detect oral cancers in the early stages, and thus saving lives. Unfortunately, head and neck cancers have often developed to advanced stages before they are visibly detectable. At Harris Dental, we take oral cancer screenings and early detection very seriously. We have recently implemented a new diagnostic tool named the OralID. The OralID implements proven fluorescence technology that uses a blue light that allows us to identify oral cancer, pre-cancer and other abnormal lesions at an earlier stage.

Oral Cancer Screenings

Another question that may come to mind is how will this affect or change my routine visits at Harris Dental? We will be providing the oral cancer screenings as part of our yearly exams. The OralID does not require any type of mouthrinse or dyes. We will provide eye protection and use the light to take a look around the oral cavity. The exam is painless and only adds an additional 2 minutes to the exam. The best part is that we will be providing this service at all 5 of our valley locations at no additional charge!

Detection & Treatment Of Oral Cancer

This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. During my residency in Mesa, Arizona I had the opportunity to work with many head and neck cancer patients prior to receiving treatment at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center. Many of the patients were healthier than I am and the cancer seemed to come out of nowhere. If the cancer could have been detected in the early stages, treatment could have been avoided and lives saved. The OralID is advancement in early detection technology and will allow the Harris Dental team a way to continue to provide the absolute best treatment to our patients. Please contact us with questions or check out www.OralID .com for more information.

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Genetic Signature May Indicate the Severity of Periodontal Disease

genetic-signatureThe severity of periodontal disease and the proper way to treat it often remained a mystery in the past until the infection’s damage progressed too extensively. It is often very aggressive and is well known to cause severe bone deterioration and tooth loss over time, but there is a new way to help dentists choose the best way to treat it. Keep reading to learn about how researchers at Columbia University Medical Center may have found the key to analyzing periodontal disease before it causes irreversible damage to tooth, gum, and bone tissue.

How Does the Genetic Signature Work?

The research team carefully thought about possible ways to predict the severity of periodontal disease as it progresses and decided that cancerous tissue analyzation methods may offer a good starting point. The team took samples of infected gum tissue from several patients to map each sample’s genetic signature. This process lead to the discovery that the genetic sequence of infected gum tissue varies in a similar manner to cancerous cells. The genetic signature of half of the samples were observed to be more aggressive than the composition of the other half.

How Can Patients Benefit from this Discovery?

This discovery will push the understanding of different types of periodontal disease forward. Dentists will soon be able to decide which treatment method will work best for each patient before the tissue destruction that accompanies gum disease is too extensive.

Keep checking Harris Dental’s blog for more information about new discoveries. Read the full article about genetic signature here.

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Dental Retainers


Having a perfect set of teeth is certainly a blessing. However not all of us are so blessed and we can have alignment problems. Dentists use retainers to help align teeth and get them back to their perfect setting.

Typically, a dental retainer is made with a wire that can be fixed or temporary, and can be attached to the back of the teeth. Sometimes retainers can be made of plastic as well. The whole purpose of wearing a retainer is to maintain the alignment of the teeth. Often they are worn after the work of the braces are complete. Retainers, which are put inside the dental arch, help to take care of the teeth even when outside factors can spoil the alignment.
Why Wear a Dental Retainer?

According to dentists, dental retainers are a boon for those with badly aligned teeth. The work of a retainer starts after the work of braces is finished. They help to stabilize any form of movement of the teeth. The length of the retainer is determined by your dentist and mostly spans the length of your teeth with a special focus on areas that have an alignment problem. These retainers are removable to allow you to easily clean your teeth as well as the retainer. Removable retainers are often worn for less than a year. On the other hand, permanent or fixed retainers often stay on the teeth for at least two years. It all depends on a case to case basis as to what kind of retainers are recommended for your particular needs.
Care for a Retainer

However, one needs to be careful with dental retainers. They can possibly break or get damaged if hit with something hard. So it is always good to be careful as to not drop them, or to avoid wearing them in any form of combat sport. There are specific retainers made specially for contact sports. Dental retainers can be maintained easily with just regular cleaning and proper handling. A little care, and they can give you back your perfect set of teeth.

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How Smiles for Life Works


Help improve a child’s life by having your teeth whitened. Sound easy? That’s because it is. The 16th annual Smiles For Life Campaign begins today, which means dental patients nationwide can brighten a child’s future just by visiting one of the 5 locations of Harris Dental. The campaign runs from March through June, and 100% of the proceeds from teeth whitening procedures done at Harris Dental are donated to worthy children’s charities, both locally and around the world. As an additional incentive, each tooth whitening patient enjoys their smile brightening procedure at a discounted rate. Patients love the unique opportunity to improve the lives of children in need while also enhancing their own smile.

Since its creation, the Crown Council’s Smiles For Life Campaign has raised over $33 million for seriously ill, disabled and disadvantaged kids. Donations from last year alone totaled $1.5 million. Smiles For Life hopes to break the $35 million mark for total collections during this year’s drive.

“Smiles For Life allows a person to help children in need by doing something that benefits them as well,” explains Greg Anderson, director of the Crown Council. “Harris Dental donates their time and expertise, while Ultradent generously provides all Opalescence whitening products. You receive a brighter smile, and, best of all, provide children with a brighter future.”

This is a wonderful and easy way for members of the community to help make a real difference in a child’s life. Harris Dental offers gift certificates for teeth whitening, making it easier than ever to give the gift of a new smile to friends and loved ones, while also giving hope to children in need.

Half of the donations raised by Harris Dental are given to Johnjay & Rich’s Christmas Wish, a local children’s charity, with the balance going to the Smiles for Life Foundation for distribution among approved charities throughout the world. Stay tuned to see how much Smiles For Life is able to raise this year. Better yet, participate!

For more information on the campaign, please visit: www.smilesforlife.org.

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Reduce Tooth Erosion and Restore Enamel


If there is a strongest substance in our body – tooth enamel it is. Not only does it keep our teeth look glisteningly white, the hard layer protects the teeth in more ways than one. But, the enamel can erodes, and teeth become sensitive and exposed to infections and other issues. Thinning, or erosion of the tooth enamel, is a phenomenon that can be mild or severe.

Tooth erosion can be attributed to diet. Consumption of too much acidic food can cause tooth erosion. Those who are in the habit of consuming sugar based foods can also be in danger of dental erosion, as the bacteria gets attracted to the sticky sugar that attaches itself to the dental enamel. Reduced saliva generation also causes a dry mouth which does not neutralize the acid production. This causes the leftover food particles in the crevices to remain in the mouth, and therefore lead to tooth erosion. There are some medical situations that can also be the cause of thinning enamel. Alcoholism, bulimia, acid reflux, heartburn and acidity can also be the cause of the problem.
Symptoms of Tooth Erosion

It is rather easy to detect dental erosion or thinning of the tooth enamel. The teeth become overtly sensitive when consuming food at extreme temperatures – like hot and cold. The teeth can look yellow as also may have some chips and cracks as well, showing the weakening of the teeth enamel. In some severe cases, tooth decay, might also be evident.
Remedies for Tooth Erosion

To begin with, it is important to focus on one’s diet. Proper dental care is the key to preventing erosion of tooth enamel. Avoid extreme sugary food and acidic ones as well. If you do have to consume acidic food that is predominantly liquid, use a straw and avoid direct contact with the teeth to the extent possible. Strengthen the enamel by using fluoride enriched toothpaste. Use a soft bristled toothbrush, so that the damage is mitigated. This will certainly help prevent erosion. At the same time if certain portions of your teeth have been affected, it may help to get a dental sealant applied to avoid further damage. It would also be necessary to set up an appointment with the dentist and get the necessary medications if needed.

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How Cheese Can Aid in Cavity Prevention

cheese can aid in cavity preventionIt is well known that dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese offer many benefits to strengthening bones and overall health, but a recent study has found that cheese can be very beneficial toward preventing cavities. Many people know that the oral bacteria which form plaque are the root cause of tooth decay, so how can a food source that is loaded with bacteria offer any benefit to dental health? Keep reading to learn about how cheese and other foods can aid in cavity prevention.

Cavity Prevention with Cheese?

The results of a recent study found that eating cheese causes the body to release more alkaline saliva which has a high pH level. This alkaline saliva helps the body regulate plaque accumulation which leads to tooth decay. The researchers also discovered that cheese leaves a protective coating on teeth when it is chewed which can help block the destructive acids oral bacteria produce resulting in cavity prevention.

Other Foods That Can Help Prevent Tooth Decay

Fibrous foods such as fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains are all great choices for anyone who wants to follow a healthy diet while also fending off tooth decay. These types of food cause the mouth to salivate which helps regulate dental plaque.

Try eating more of these food types to help improve your oral health and help with cavity prevention while also visiting Harris Dental for routine oral health examinations.

Photo credit: Christian Bauer

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Periodontitis & Peri-Implantitis – What’s the Difference?

There are some dental problems that are common and affect the majority of people around us. While it can be attributed to bad oral habits, there can be other related reasons as well that could be the cause of dental problems. In addition, there are periodontal problems that are commonly seen.

Periodontitis 101

Periodontitis is the most common form of periodontal disease. Almost 80 percent of the people around us are affected by periodontitis, irrespective of their gender, sex, or age. In common parlance, periodontitis is caused by inflammation and infection of the gums and is manifested by bone loss around the teeth. Over a period of time this takes a serious turn and slowly eats away at the jawbone. This is turn weakens the area around the teeth and loosens them completely, resulting in possible tooth loss. This will increase the possibility of plaque. Dental sockets or loosed areas get infested with plaque. The entire dental zone gets weakened to the point where other infections can start nesting and cause more harm than can be comprehended.


Types of Periodontitis

There are different kinds of periodontitis. Chronic, aggressive periodontitis, Necrotizing Ulcerative periodontitis, to name a few. Most of these are symptomized by loosened teeth, very sensitive dental zones, swollen and discolored gums, bad breath, and bumps around the gums.

Treatments for Periodontitis

When one is affected by periodontitis it entails deep cleaning. Just brushing and flossing does not help. Scaling and root planing is necessary to remove the plaque and other infections that have set in. It is also necessary to visit your dentist. If the condition is too serious, often bone surgery is recommended.

Peri-Implantitis 101

Peri-Implantitis, on the other hand, is a localized lesion involving bone loss around an implant. It is serious condition. Normally implants are known to last a lifetime. Peri-Implantitis causes premature disintegration and loosens the implants. It comes to a point where the implants have a tendency to come off. The area gets inflamed along with occasional bleeding. The symptoms are similar to that of periodontitis. The treatment procedures are also very similar to that of periodontitis, but more intense and often surgery based. Peri-Implantitis cannot be cured just by good oral hygiene or external treatments, and entails surgical procedures.

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How Sleep Apnea is Linked to Dentistry


Sleep apnea is one of the most common sleep disorders, and it is caused by irregular breathing patterns during the course of one’s night time sleep cycle. Given that the REM stage is the most crucial for physical and mental recovery and that the frequent episodes (some patients experience multiple each night) of sleep apnea interrupt the process; most people suffer from extreme fatigue during their waking hours.

It is worth pointing out that this condition can also be potentially life-threatening, as it restricts precious airflow. Since sleep apnea only occurs at night, a majority of individuals are never aware they even have it. Oftentimes a spouse will be the one to notice the symptoms, but you may want to see your doctor if you are feeling more tired than usual. A simple sleep test will reveal whether you have the disorder, and your doctor will take the appropriate measures to counteract its effects.

How Sleep Apnea and the Dental Field are Connected

Despite being a medical condition caused by a malfunctioning throat tissue, the treatment methods for sleep apnea entail the use of dental devices. Two options are available to treat the disorder, and those are oral appliances (OAs) and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Patients who are suffering from mild to moderate sleep apnea are generally prescribed OAs, especially if the individual’s condition does not improve with the use of CPAP.

Though simple in design, an OA (a device resembling an oral retainer or mouth guard) can work wonders for people who are diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Why? The custom fit mold works to keep the patient’s tongue and soft tissues responsible for restricting air flow from collapsing during the night. This means there are no interruptions in your sleep cycle and that you are getting adequate amounts of oxygen.

All About OAs

While you can purchase over the counter oral appliances, these are typically not recommended as they are manufactured in only one size; the mold may be loose and not properly prevent the tissues from closing. If you have sleep apnea, the best option is to get a custom-fit device directly from your dentist.

It may cost more up front, but you will know that it is working. Due to the many variables at work, the evaluation process can take some time. It may take a few weeks or months before you can get the appliance, in which case your dentist will prescribe other treatment methods for your sleep apnea.

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Tips for Parents When Bringing Children to the Dentist


What is it about the dentist’s office that strikes fear into the heart of children? Ok, this may be a stretch, but I certainly remember never wanting to go when I was a kid. Perhaps it was the thought of all those metal trinkets and tools that made me feel uncertain, and not knowing what they would be used for. Though there are some similarities about having to go to the doctor, the experience is a bit different.

Tackling Your Child’s Fear of the Dentist

While getting a shot is no fun, children can better understand the need to visit a medical clinic. They actually feel sick when they go to the doctor, which makes them more apt to get well. It is hard to explain to a child the concept of preventative maintenance that the dentist’s job is to keep their mouth healthy.

As a parent, I fully appreciate and understand the frustration associated with having to convince your son or daughter that they do not need to be afraid of the dentist. Here are some tips to help ease your child’s concerns and get them excited about the experience.

4 Tips for Parents to Make Your Little One Enjoy Visiting the Dentist

  • Bring them in as early as possible
  • The younger your child is when he or she visits the dentist, the less likely they will be to be afraid. They will learn early on that the dentist is there to help them and that the office is not a scary place. It is recommended to take your son or daughter for their visit check-up or wellness visit when they turn one, or when their first tooth becomes visible.

  • Don’t discuss the details, but also don’t lie
  • This can be a tricky topic, especially if your child is old enough to make sense of the experience. Instead of telling them exactly what is going to happen (no kid wants to hear they are going to have a cavity removed or have their teeth probed with a metal pick), keep the conversation brief and say that the dentist is going to check their mouth and clean their teeth. To avoid giving them a false sense of security, you also should not say nothing is going to happen, because that may not necessarily be true.

  • Take your child with you to your visit
  • Not only will this establish a sense of trust (seeing mom or dad get their teeth cleaned can give them confidence), it will also give your son or daughter the opportunity to see exactly what to expect. A pretend visit can alleviate a lot of their apprehension and concern. However, only do this if you yourself are not afraid to go, as your child will likely detect these feelings.

  • Be there for them
  • Holding your child’s hand or just being in the room when they are getting their teeth cleaned is enough to keep them calm. Being in a room with strangers (especially ones will strange outfits) can be understandably scary. Make sure to praise them after the appointment is over and tell them how proud you are. Encouragement is the best way to improve their self-esteem.

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Uneven Gums and the Benefits of Contouring

A smile makes your day. However a smile is made of things like even gums and the perfect set of teeth. Dental problems could effect your ability to smile thereby making you more self-conscious. One of the problems is that of uneven gums.

How Receding and Uneven Gums Happens

Uneven or receding gums is a common problem. Rightly said, it is more of a cosmetic problem than anything else that is commonly seen amongst adults 40 years and over as well as some teenagers. Some children may be born with uneven gums, while for those over a mature age it has been something that has happened over a period of time. Uneven gums or a receding gum line can be attributed to various factors. Dental hygiene being one of them, the other causes may be attributed to a bad lifestyle.

  • Brushing hard and recklessly
  • Incorrect brushing and flossing techniques
  • Smoking and chewing tobacco
  • Grinding teeth
  • Piercing of oral parts
  • Chemical sensitivity
  • Movement and shifting of teeth amongst adults
  • Periodontal disease


Picture above: Uneven gums before and after contouring.

Symptoms of Uneven Gums

The symptoms of uneven gums are manifested by sensitive teeth and gums. The teeth feel uneven at the gum line and often the beginning of the root is visible. The gums and teeth are often discolored. They look out of shape and large in comparison to the gums.

Though an uneven gum line is not painful, it can be esthetically painful and unpleasant to look at. It makes the teeth look larger than they naturally should, the gum line thinner and the lips relatively thinner as well. Often dentists refer to this as a “gummy smile”. This can be corrected with the help of gum contouring.

What is Gum Contouring?

Gum contouring is easy these days as it is done with the help of laser therapy. It is virtually painless with little or no bleeding. Using a gum contouring laser treatment, the dentist sculpts and reshapes the gums and brings them to the desired length as would be needed by the patient. The process is usually done with the help of local anesthesia and the patient is conscious during the process.

Before you know it, uneven gums will look natural again and brings back that wonderful smile.

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