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Things to Think About This Valentine’s Day

By Pamela Li, in Articles, on February 23, 2014 | Comments (0)

Chocolates for Valentine's DayOttawa, Ontario – Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. While we’re running to get our last minute gifts, Dr. Pamela Li, an Ottawa dentist, has some tips for people to keep in mind when celebrating the holiday.

“Valentine’s Day is the day of love, and often chocolate and other sweet, delectable treats,” says Dr. Li, who has a family dentist practice. “But we also need to remember to maintain our oral health during this holiday, and not let bad habits creep in that can damage our mouths and teeth.”

Did you know that American spend roughly $345 million dollars on Valentine’s candy each year, and consume nearly 58 million pounds of chocolate on the holiday? All of that can spell disaster for your oral health!

The bacteria in plaque create acid when it comes into contact with sugar. This acid then attacks your teeth, working to destroy the protective enamel coating. The bacteria that causes cavities thrives in sweets, so it is especially important to pay close attention to your oral health when you consume sweets. And some sweets are worse on the teeth than others. Sticky treats, as well as those that dissolve slowly, such as lollipops, hard candies, toffee and taffy can wreak extra havoc on teeth. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t partake this Valentine’s Day, says Dr. Li.

“Eating candies in moderation, paired with a healthy oral care regimen, is fine,” says Dr. Li. “Always remember to brush and floss twice daily, and pay special attention to your teeth if you’ve indulged in particularly sweet or sticky treats.”

Another thing to remember is that bacteria doesn’t just come from the food and drinks we consume – it comes from other places as well, such as the mouth of our partner. And that leads us to another important dental care tip – never share your toothbrush with anyone, even your spouse or children. Just like kissing on the lips, sharing your toothbrush with others can introduce harmful bacteria to your mouth that could lead to tooth decay or other oral diseases.

There are several issues that arise when sharing a toothbrush. For some people, brushing can cause their gums to bleed. That means if you share a toothbrush with someone with bleeding gums, you are exposed to their blood and any diseases found in their bloodstream, such as hepatitis. Even if there is no bleeding, other viruses like the flu or cold sores are very contagious, not to mention the bacteria that cause cavities and periodontal disease.

Valentine’s Day is the day of love, but did you know that kissing can also introduce bacteria that can result in tooth decay? It’s true – just like sharing a toothbrush with the one you love, kissing can also introduce harmful bacteria into our mouths. To decrease the odds that harmful bacteria enters your mouth while kissing, maintain a good oral care regimen and avoid kissing on the lips while one of you is sick.

Kissing may also be a factor in spreading the most common sexually transmitted disease, the human papillomavirus, which in some cases can lead to oral cancer.

You may not realize it, but often times your dentist may be the first line of defense against serious illnesses such as cancer. In fact, checking for early signs of oral cancer is part of a regular dental check-up. During your routine visit, your dentist will check your gums, the inside of your cheeks and your tongue, as well as the roof and floor of your mouth very carefully. She is looking for the following signs that could indicate cancer:

  • Red or white patches,
  • Sores that bleed easily or do not heal,
  • Thick, hard spots or lumps,
  • Roughened or crusted areas.

Additionally, your dentist will ask if you have been experiencing numbness, pain or tenderness, or a change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite down. It is important to always disclose any issues such as these to your dentist.

Tobacco use and heavy drinking can be contributing factors to oral cancer, as can infection with some forms of HPV. HPV is a virus that infects skin and wet surfaces of the body, like the mouth and genitals. While there are more than 100 different types of HPV, the most common form appears as warts. High-risk HPV types may also cause a form of throat cancer, called oropharyngeal cancer. Studies show that nearly seven percent of the population may have oral HPV, while one percent may have the type that can result in oropharyngeal cancers.  Oral HPV is three times more common in men than in women.

There aren’t a lot of studies that have determined how people contract HPV, and the ones there are often contain conflicting information. Some suggest that HPV may be contracted during oral sex and open-mouthed kissing, however. Some experts believe that increasing numbers of people are engaging in sexual activities with multiple partners, and as a result of oral sex practices, may be contracting HPV in the head and neck region. This is then leading to an increased rate of oral cancer.

“This topic isn’t a pleasant one to talk about, especially around Valentine’s Day,” says Dr. Li. “But I take my job of screening and detecting oral cancer and other pathologies very seriously. I’m not only interested in your teeth, but in how to help you achieve and maintain optimum health in all areas of your life. While I cannot diagnose cancer, I can identify suspicious looking areas of the mouth that require further evaluation, and counsel you on life habits that may be dangerous to your health.”

Because you should see your dental care expert twice a year, he or she may be the best to locate evidence of HPV. Through a visual and tactile exam, as well as an oral history that takes into account signs and symptoms you may have experienced, he or she can determine if you may need further screening.

“HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease and is the leading cause of oropharyngeal cancers,” says Dr. Li. “It’s extremely important to maintain regular visits with your dental and health care providers, and to discuss any lingering issues with them. If you notice abnormal growths, tenderness, discoloration or bleeding, it’s important to contact me right away.”

While Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate love, it is also important to remember the dangers that can be lurking around the corner. From tooth decay to serious diseases, such as oral cancer, there are very real risks associated the day of love. If you think you may be at risk for oral diseases or especially if you fear you may have cause to be concerned about oral cancer, make an appointment with your dental or health care professional today.

© 2014 Millionairium and Dr. Pamela Li. Authorization to post is granted, with the stipulation that Millionairium and Dr. Pamela Li are credited as sole source. Linking to other sites from this document is strictly prohibited, with the exception of herein imbedded links.


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