Fans of the legendary rock band Steely Dan received some sad news a few months ago: Co-founder Walter Becker died unexpectedly at the age of 67. The cause of his death was an aggressive form of esophageal cancer. This disease, which is related to oral cancer, may not get as much attention as some others. Yet Becker's name is the latest addition to the list of well-known people whose lives it has cut short—including actor Humphrey Bogart, writer Christopher Hitchens, and TV personality Richard Dawson.

As its name implies, esophageal cancer affects the esophagus: the long, hollow tube that joins the throat to the stomach. Solid and liquid foods taken into the mouth pass through this tube on their way through the digestive system. Worldwide, it is the sixth most common cause of cancer deaths.

Like oral cancer, esophageal cancer generally does not produce obvious symptoms in its early stages. As a result, by the time these diseases are discovered, both types of cancer are most often in their later stages, and often prove difficult to treat successfully. Another similarity is that dentists can play an important role in oral and esophageal cancer detection.

Many people see dentists more often than any other health care professionals—at recommended twice-yearly checkups, for example. During routine examinations, we check the mouth, tongue, neck and throat for possible signs of oral cancer. These may include lumps, swellings, discolorations, and other abnormalities—which, fortunately, are most often harmless. Other symptoms, including persistent coughing or hoarseness, difficulty swallowing, and unexplained weight loss, are common to both oral and esophageal cancer. Chest pain, worsening heartburn or indigestion and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can also alert us to the possibility of esophageal cancer.

Cancer may be a scary subject—but early detection and treatment can offer many people the best possible outcome. If you have questions about oral or esophageal cancer, call our office or schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”


You’re considering dental implants and you’ve done your homework: you know they’re considered the best tooth replacements available prized for durability and life-likeness. But you do have one concern — you have a metal allergy and you’re not sure how your body will react to the implant’s titanium and other trace metals.

An allergy is the body’s defensive response against any substance (living or non-living) perceived as a threat. Allergic reactions can range from a mild rash to rare instances of death due to multiple organ system shutdowns.

A person can become allergic to anything, including metals. An estimated 17% of women and 3% of men are allergic to nickel, while 1-3% of the general population to cobalt and chromium. While most allergic reactions occur in contact with consumer products (like jewelry) or metal-based manufacturing, some occur with metal medical devices or prosthetics, including certain cardiac stents and hip or knee replacements.

There are also rare cases of swelling or rashes in reaction to metal fillings, commonly known as dental amalgam. A mix of metals — mainly mercury with traces of silver, copper and tin — dental amalgam has been used for decades with the vast majority of patients experiencing no reactions. Further, amalgam has steadily declined in use in recent years as tooth-colored composite resins have become more popular.

Which brings us to dental implants: the vast majority are made of titanium alloy. Titanium is preferred in implants not only because it’s biocompatible (it “gets along” well with the body’s immune system), but also because it’s osteophilic, having an affinity with living bone tissue that encourages bone growth around and attached to the titanium. Both of these qualities make titanium a rare trigger for allergies even for people with a known metal allergy.

Still, implant allergic reactions do occur, although in only 0.6% of all cases, or six out of a thousand patients. The best course, then, is to let us know about any metal allergies you may have (or other systemic conditions, for that matter) during our initial consultation for implants. Along with that and other information, we'll be better able to advise you on whether implants are right for you.

If you would like more information on the effects of metal allergies on dental implants, 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 “Metal Allergies to Dental Implants.”

By R. Scott Beavers, D.D.S.
February 13, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral health   oral cancer   tobacco  

Chewing tobacco is as much a part of our sports culture as the national anthem. What once began as an early 20th Century baseball player method for keeping their mouths moist on dusty fields has evolved into a virtual rite of passage for many young athletes.

But the persona of “cool” surrounding smokeless tobacco hides numerous health threats — including disfigurement and death. What isn’t as widely recognized is the degree to which chewing tobacco can adversely affect your teeth, mouth and gums.

Need more reasons to quit? Here are 4 oral health reasons why you should spit out smokeless tobacco for good.

Bad breath and teeth staining. Chewing tobacco is a prime cause of bad breath; it can also stain your teeth, leaving your smile dull and dingy, as well as unattractive from the unsightly bits of tobacco between your teeth. While these may seem like superficial reasons for quitting, a less-than-attractive smile can also have an impact on your self-confidence and adversely affect your social relationships.

The effects of nicotine. Nicotine, the active ingredient in all tobacco, absorbs into your oral tissues and causes a reduction in blood flow to them. This reduced blood flow inhibits the delivery of antibodies to areas of infection in your mouth. This can cause…

Greater susceptibility to dental disease. Tooth decay and gum disease both originate primarily from bacterial plaque that builds up on tooth surfaces (the result of poor oral hygiene). The use of any form of tobacco, but particularly smokeless, dramatically increases your risk of developing these diseases and can make treatment more difficult.

Higher risk of oral cancer. Besides nicotine, scientists have found more than 30 chemicals in tobacco known to cause cancer. While oral cancer constitutes only a small portion of all types of cancer, the occurrence is especially high among smokeless tobacco users. And because oral cancer is difficult to diagnose in its early stages, it has a poor survival rate compared with other cancers — only 58% after five years.

The good news is, you or someone you love can quit this dangerous habit — and we can help. Make an appointment today to learn how to send your chewing tobacco habit to the showers.

If you would like more information on the effects of chewing tobacco on general and oral health, 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 “Chewing Tobacco.”

By R. Scott Beavers, D.D.S.
January 29, 2018
Category: Oral Health
Tags: nutrition   sugar  

It's easy to go overboard with sweets during the holiday season. But overconsumption of sugar, month after month, can jeopardize your oral and general health. A sugary diet nourishes the bacteria that cause tooth decay. Eating too much sugar over time also promotes general health problems such as diabetes and excessive weight gain.

The beginning of a new year is a great time to bring your diet back into balance. But if you really want to cut down on sugar, you'll need to be aware that there is a lot of sugar hiding in foods you where wouldn't normally suspect it. Here are some examples:

Ketchup. Do you like ketchup on your burger and fries? For every tablespoon of ketchup you use, you'll be adding about 4 grams of sugar (one teaspoon). That can add up pretty quickly into a significant amount of sugar!

Canned tomato soup. Read the label of your favorite brand and you might see as much as 12 grams of sugar per half-cup serving. That equals three teaspoons of sugar in every half cup of soup—even more in a full bowl!

Granola. You may think of granola as a healthy choice for breakfast. Yet you're likely to see sugar listed as the second ingredient on many favorite brands—right after oats. This typically adds up to 15 grams of sugar per serving. That's almost 4 teaspoons, in a food promoted as healthful!

Yogurt. Here, the amount of sugar varies widely among brands and flavors. One container of vanilla yogurt might contain 3 or more teaspoons of added sugar. Put that on a breakfast serving of granola, and your first meal of the day has already topped the 6-teaspoon daily limit recommended by the World Health Organization.

So, to prevent sugar from sneaking up on you, it's important to read those labels! And if you have any questions about sugar and oral health, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “The Bitter Truth About Sugar” and “Nutrition and Oral Health.”


Once upon a time, celebrities tried hard to maintain the appearance of red-carpet glamour at all times. That meant keeping the more mundane aspects of their lives out of the spotlight: things like shopping, walking the dog and having oral surgery, for example.

That was then. Today, you can find plenty of celebs posting pictures from the dentist on social media. Take Julianne Hough, for example: In 2011 and 2013, she tweeted from the dental office. Then, not long ago, she shared a video taken after her wisdom teeth were removed in December 2016. In it, the 28-year-old actress and dancer cracked jokes and sang a loopy rendition of a Christmas carol, her mouth filled with gauze. Clearly, she was feeling relaxed and comfortable!

Lots of us enjoy seeing the human side of celebrities. But as dentists, we’re also glad when posts such as these help demystify a procedure that could be scary for some people.

Like having a root canal, the thought of extracting wisdom teeth (also called third molars) makes some folks shudder. Yet this routine procedure is performed more often than any other type of oral surgery. Why? Because wisdom teeth, which usually begin to erupt (emerge from beneath the gums) around age 17-25, have the potential to cause serious problems in the mouth. When these molars lack enough space to fully erupt in their normal positions, they are said to be “impacted.”

One potential problem with impacted wisdom teeth is crowding. Many people don’t have enough space in the jaw to accommodate another set of molars; when their wisdom teeth come in, other teeth can be damaged. Impacted wisdom teeth may also have an increased potential to cause periodontal disease, bacterial infection, and other issues.

Not all wisdom teeth need to be removed; after a complete examination, including x-rays and/or other diagnostic imaging, a recommendation will be made based on each individual’s situation. It may involve continued monitoring of the situation, orthodontics or extraction.

Wisdom tooth extraction is usually done right in the office, often with a type of anesthesia called “conscious sedation.”  Here, the patient is able to breathe normally and respond to stimuli (such as verbal directions), but remains free from pain. For people who are especially apprehensive about dental procedures, anti-anxiety mediation may also be given. After the procedure, prescription or over-the-counter pain medication may be used for a few days. If you feel like singing a few bars, as Julianne did, it’s up to you.

If you would like more information about wisdom tooth extraction, please call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Wisdom Teeth” and “Removing Wisdom Teeth.”

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