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How do I know if I’m at risk for oral cancer?

August 12th, 2015

Every year, over 50,000 North Americans are diagnosed with oral or throat cancer, which has a higher death rate than many other common cancers, including cervical cancer, testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and thyroid or skin cancers. The high death rate results from the fact that most oral cancers go undiagnosed until the disease is well advanced and has spread to another part of the body, most often, the lymph nodes in the neck.

Because oral cancer is typically painless in its early stages and often goes undetected until it spreads, many patients aren’t diagnosed until they are already suffering from chronic pain or loss of function. However, if detected early, Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi and our team at Southcenter Dental want you to know that early detection of oral cancer improves the survival rate to 80 percent or more.

If you visit our Tukwila, WA office regularly, you have probably received an oral cancer screening and didn’t even realize it. That’s because the exam is quick and painless; Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi and our team check your neck and mouth for signs of oral cancer such as discolorations, lumps, or any changes to your tissue. Oral cancer is typically found on the tongue, lips, gums, the floor of the mouth, or tissues in back of the tongue.

Factors that may influence your risk for developing oral cancer include:

  • Use of tobacco products. Smoking cigarettes, cigars, a pipe, or chewing tobacco all elevate risk for developing oral cancer. Tobacco use especially is a serious risk factor because it contains substances called carcinogens, which are harmful to cells in your mouth.
  • Excessive consumption of alcohol. Those who drink alcohol regularly have an elevated risk of getting oral cancer. Alcohol abuse (more than 21 drinks in one week) is the second largest risk factor for the development of oral cancer, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
  • Excessive sun exposure. Those who spend lots of time outdoors and do not use proper amounts of sunscreen or lip balm have a greater risk for developing lip cancer. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight may also cause melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer.
  • Your age. Oral cancer is typically a disease that affects older people, usually because of their longer exposure to other risk factors. Most patients diagnosed with oral cancer are over the age of 40.
  • Your gender. Oral cancer strikes men twice as often as it does women.
  • A history with viral infections, such as human papillomavirus (HPV).
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables.

In between your visits to our office, it is critical for you to be aware of the following signs and symptoms, and give us a call if these symptoms don’t go away after two weeks.

  • A sore or irritation that doesn’t disappear
  • Red or white patches
  • Pain, tenderness, or numbness in mouth or lips
  • Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking, or moving your jaw or tongue
  • A change in the way your teeth fit together when you close your mouth

During your next visit, Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi will examine your mouth for signs of oral cancer. If you have been putting off a visit to our Tukwila, WA office for your regular checkup, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits can be the first line of defense against oral cancer because we can identify early warning signs of the disease. Give us a call today!

The Evolution of the Toothbrush

August 5th, 2015

Oral hygiene has always been an important part of maintaining overall health. For thousands of years, humans have found ways to keep their teeth and mouths clean. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), “early forms of the toothbrush have existed for nearly 5,000 years.” But what exactly did the first toothbrush look like?

Toothbrush Timeline

With help from The Library of Congress, Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi and our team have compiled a timeline with some interesting details about the evolution of the toothbrush:

  • 3000 BC – Perhaps the earliest form of the toothbrush, the “chew stick” was used by Ancient civilizations. People would rub this thin twig with a frayed end against their teeth to remove food and plaque.
  • 1498 – The bristle toothbrush was invented in China and had many similarities to the toothbrushes used today. These devices were made by attaching the stiff, coarse hairs from the back of a hog’s neck to handles that were typically made from bone or bamboo.
  • 1938 – Signaling the end of the boar bristle, Dupont de Nemours introduced nylon bristles, and Americans welcomed Doctor West’s Miracle Toothbrush, the first nylon toothbrush.
  • 1960 – The Squibb Company introduced Broxodent, one of the first electric toothbrushes, to the American market.

Toothbrushes Today

Today, there are many brands of toothbrushes that often advertise different benefits. The variety of options may seem overwhelming, but the most important thing is for you to find a toothbrush that you like and find easy to use.

The ADA recommends that you choose a toothbrush that fits comfortably and allows you to effectively reach all areas of your mouth. Whether you decide to use a manual or a powered toothbrush, make sure that you thoroughly clean all surfaces of your teeth twice a day.

Society has come a long way since the days of the chew stick, but one thing that remains the same is the importance of consistent and effective personal oral hygiene.

Solutions for Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)

July 29th, 2015

Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is a common side effect of many medications. It can also be a side effect of cancer treatments, or the result of certain auto-immune diseases. Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi and our team at Southcenter Dental will tell you that for most people, discontinuing their medication isn’t an option. The solution is two-fold: find ways to increase saliva production and eliminate specific things that are likely to increase dryness in the mouth.

Lack of saliva creates a situation in the mouth that allows harmful organisms such as yeast and bacteria to thrive. It may also make it difficult to swallow food, create a burning feeling in your mouth, or cause bad breath, among other problems.

Medications that are known to cause dry mouth include:

  • Anti-depressant drugs
  • Anti-anxiety medications
  • Drugs for lowering blood pressure
  • Allergy and cold medications — antihistamines and decongestants
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Medications to alleviate pain
  • Drugs used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease

Saliva helps people digest their food. It also functions as a natural mouth cleanser. Xerostomia increases the risk you will develop gum disease or suffer from tooth decay.

Solutions for dry mouth

  • Carry water wherever you go, and make a point of taking regular sips.
  • Avoid oral rinses that contain alcohol or peroxide.
  • Chew sugarless gum or suck on sugarless hard candies that contain xylitol.
  • Limit your consumption of caffeine, carbonated beverages (including seltzer and sparkling waters), and alcoholic beverages.
  • Brush your teeth at least twice a day, and use dental floss or other inter-dental products to remove food particles that get stuck between your teeth.
  • Look for oral rinses and other oral hygiene products that bear the American Dental Association (ADA) Seal of Approval.
  • Brush your teeth and use oral rinses that contain xylitol. Certain gels and oral sprays are equally helpful. Biotene is one over-the-counter brand that makes products designed to treat dry mouth.
  • Make sure you get your teeth checked and cleaned twice a year. Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi will be able to examine your mouth for problems and treat them before they turn into something more serious.

You may not be able to solve your dry mouth problem altogether, but you’ll be able to deal with it by following these recommendations. You’ll be able to increase saliva production while reducing your risk of more serious dental problems. To learn more about preventing dry mouth, or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi, please give us a call at our convenient Tukwila, WA office!

What is CEREC® and what are its benefits?

July 22nd, 2015

When you are having trouble with your teeth, one of the worst parts of the experience can be making multiple trips to the dentist instead of getting everything done in one trip. CEREC allows you to save time and get better results by taking advantage of advanced technology to restore your teeth with a crown, inlay, or onlay.

What is CEREC?

CEREC is the short term for Chairside Economical Restoration of Esthetic Ceramics, or CEramic REConstruction. CEREC uses CAD/CAM (computer aided design/computer aided manufacturing) technology to take impressions quickly and generate a precisely fitted filling so you can leave Southcenter Dental sooner.

How can CEREC help you?

One of the biggest advantages of CEREC is its convenience. If you need a crown, inlay, or onlay, you can get your teeth restored during a single trip to Southcenter Dental. Traditionally, these procedures require two trips to the dentist.

During the first, the dentist cleans the tooth, makes a mold, and places a temporary restoration onto the tooth. In a couple of weeks, after the permanent restoration is ready, you need to return to the office so that the dentist can remove the temporary fix and place the permanent one.

The CEREC process lets you receive your permanent restoration right here in our Tukwila, WA office, so you do not have to live for weeks with a temporary fix and schedule another appointment. In addition, Dr. Jerome R. Baruffi and Dr. Austin J. Baruffi and our team use digital impressions to make a mold for the filling. This is more comfortable and accurate than traditional impressions with plaster.

Another benefit of CEREC is that it uses a single block of solid ceramic materials instead of pressed ceramic and metal. CEREC restorations are able to withstand moderate chewing so yours will last for years. The lifespan of a CEREC restoration is longer than similar work with traditional methods. In addition, the color of CEREC ceramic is closer to the color of your natural teeth, which will make your restoration virtually unnoticeable.

For more information about CEREC single-visit restorations, contact Southcenter Dental.

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