What to expect during an oral cancer exam

The statistics on oral cancer are frightening: More than 7,500 people will die this year from oral cancer, and another 35,000 people will be diagnosed, according to the National Institutes of Health. Even more, the five-year survival rate for patients diagnosed with oral cancer is only 60 percent, and experts warn that the disease can spread throughout the body at a fast pace. For this reason, early diagnosis and treatment is crucial. At your regular appointment, your dentist may conduct an exam to check for the presence of cancer. Read on to learn what to expect.

Before the exam, your dentist will ask you to remove any dentures and relax so your face, neck, lips, and mouth can be checked. The dentist will then use his hands to feel for any lumps under your jaw or along the side of your neck. He will also look at your tongue and the inside of your cheeks and lips for any noticeable signs of cancer, including red and white patches, swelling, or an abnormal texture. Next, the dentist will use gauze to gently move your tongue so he can see the underside and base of the tongue. Finally, the roof and floor of your mouth, as well as the back of your throat, will also be examined.

The entire exam takes only a few minutes and is entirely painless. Fortunately, this simple procedure can also help save your life. To learn more about the risks and symptoms, or request an oral cancer screening, talk to a dentist on your True Dental Discounts – dental plan.

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What to expect after your root canal

Endodontic treatments – better known as root canals – have a bad reputation. But thanks to modern medicine, anesthetics can be applied before the procedure to eliminate a patient’s pain. Once patients get home, though, it is up to them to be aware of important practices that will help ensure the health of their teeth and a quick recovery.

According to the American Association of Endodontists, treated teeth may be sensitive for a few days after the procedure. This is particularly true for teeth that were painful prior to the treatment. Fortunately, most discomfort can be relieved with a simple over-the-counter pain medication or prescription drug. Be aware that the affected tooth may feel different for awhile; however, if you have long-lasting severe pain, it is important to schedule an appointment with your dentist for an exam.

Remember: Root canal treatments require a second appointment to fully repair the tooth with a crown or other restoration. Until you have completed this process, do not chew or bite with the untreated tooth, as it is at increased risk of fracturing. In most cases, teeth that undergo endodontic treatment are fully restored and will last as long as natural teeth. Rarely, teeth may need additional treatment if they become deeply decayed or experience another trauma. For more information about root canals, talk to a dentist on your True Care Advantage plan. He or she can evaluate your teeth and recommend the appropriate procedure to protect your oral health.

Have you heard? You can save on Hearing Care

People aren’t the only ones with interesting hearing mechanisms and facts. Check out these random tidbits about animal hearing from the Better Hearing Institute, Teachers Domain, and the University of Washington:

  • Snakes do not have ears, but their tongues are sensitive to sound vibrations.
  • Owls distinguish sound directions partly by measuring the difference in time it takes the sound to reach each ear. This difference is typically less than 200 millionths of a second!
  • Cicadas have hearing organs in their stomachs
  • Crickets have hearing organs in their knees; sound waves cause a thin membrane on the cricket’s legs to vibrate
  • It is thought that owls can create an image of the world around them based only on sound, much like humans do with their eyes
  • Although fish do not have ears, they can hear pressure changes through ridges on their bodies
  • Dolphins can hear frequencies up to at least 100,000 Hz.  Compare this to a dog’s ability to hear up to 40,000 Hz and a person’s 20,000 Hz
  • During World War I, the military kept parrots on France’s Eiffel Tower because their extra-sensitive hearing allowed them to warn of incoming enemy aircraft before any person could hear it
  • All mammals have external ears, but many can move them to help pinpoint the direction of sounds. Some animals, like elephants, can even use their ears to stay cool by waving them like fans. And you thought you could twitch your ears!

Save money on all your hearing care issues with True Dental Discounts hearing plans.

Tips on How to Apply eye drops correctly

It’s no secret that severely dry or irritated eyes can be very uncomfortable. In many cases, an eye doctor will prescribe eye drops to help soothe a patient’s eyes and relieve any pain or discomfort. Before your eyes can heal, however, you must know the proper way to apply these drops.  The Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the following steps:

  1. Wash your hands thoroughly.
  2. Remove the cap without touching the dropper tip.
  3. Tilting your head back slightly, use your index finger to gently pull your lower eye lid away from your eye to form a pocket.
  4. With your other hand, tilt the dropper over the pocket.
  5. While glancing upward, squeeze the bottle and release the correct number of drops into the pocket. Do not allow the bottle to touch either your eye or eyelid to avoid contamination.
  6. Once drops are in place, close your eyes without blinking.
  7. Apply pressure to “the point where your lids meet your nose” and hold for approximately two to three minutes, or as instructed by your eye doctor.
  8. Before opening your eyes, wipe any extraneous drops from your eye lid with a tissue.
  9. Open your eyes. If using more than one prescription, wait at least five minutes before applying the second dose.

The most important thing to remember is to follow your eye doctor’s instructions precisely. Ask an ophthalmologist on your vision plan if you have any questions regarding your use of eye drops or their possible side effects.

Are you a good candidate for contacts

The popularity of contact lenses has skyrocketed over the last decade. It is not unusual to be unaware that someone you work with – or even one of your friends – has corrective lenses. But contacts are not for everyone. Many factors go into the decision to wear contacts, so be sure to talk to an eye doctor on your discount vision plan about your individual situation. In general, the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests that people who have the following issues may not be a good candidate for contact lenses:

• Severe allergies
•Frequent eye infections
• A dusty work environment
• Dry eyes that are resistant to treatment
• An inability to handle or properly care for the lenses

If you do get contacts, it is important to learn the proper method of cleaning and disinfecting the lenses. Dirty contacts can increase your chance of getting an eye infection, so make sure to thoroughly clean both the lenses and their cases. Also, anytime a lens is removed from the eye, it should be cleaned again before being reinserted. If your eyes become irritated while wearing contacts, talk to your eye doctor and find a way to alter your routine. The fix could be something as simple as changing your wetting drops or, in some cases, it might be best to stick to wearing glasses. Your doctor will let you know which option is healthier for your eyes.

Dangerous hearing situations

You know that extended exposure to loud sounds can cause permanent hearing damage. But do you know how to tell if a situation has escalated to that level? The Better Hearing Institute suggests four signs that should tip you off that your environment is dangerous to your hearing:

  1. You have pain in your ears after leaving a noisy area. Any amount of pain is an indicator that the noise level is much too loud. This should be a given, but many people ignore it or brush it off.
  2. You cannot hear someone who is three feet away from you. If you have to shout over the noise to talk to someone about an arm’s length away, you’re probably in a dangerous hearing situation.
  3. You have ringing or buzzing sounds in your ears after leaving the area. Symptoms of tinnitus are clear indicators of over-exposure to noise. This is common after walking away from a rock concert or other event, especially if you were standing close to the stage.
  4. You suddenly have trouble understanding what the people around you are saying after being exposed to loud noises. In these cases, you may be able to hear that the people are talking, but you can’t understand them. Like the other three indicators, this is a serious sign that the noise is too loud.

Remember: It is important to remove yourself from situations that you feel might be dangerous to your hearing. It is impossible to reverse the damage, so wear protection or leave the area if at all possible. Foam ear plugs or special ear muffs are a good option, particularly if you work in a consistently noisy environment. Ask your True Dental Discounts audiologist for more suggestions to keep your hearing healthy and intact.

See better with Vitamin C

You might have grown up hearing that eating carrots is a good way to sharpen your vision, but research is showing another excellent way to boost your eye health: Vitamin C. According to the American Optometric Association, nearly all cells in the body rely on Vitamin C to stay healthy, particularly those in the eyes. Research shows that Vitamin C is critical to the health of ocular blood vessels and can reduce the risk of cataracts by more than 50 percent. In addition, studies show Vitamin C, when taken in combination with other nutrients, and can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness for people over 55. Unfortunately, the body does not produce Vitamin C on its own, so people need to make a conscious effort to get enough of this valuable antioxidant.

The FDA suggests that males need 90 mg/day, while females need 75 mg/day. To give you a frame of reference, one medium orange is approximately 70 mg. Other great sources of Vitamin C include fruits such as grapefruits, tomatoes, bananas, apples and peaches. The most concentrated doses of Vitamin C come from the juices of such fruits as oranges and grapefruits – one cup of orange juice has a whopping 124 mg! An optometrist on your True Dental Discounts vision plan can give you more detailed information about sharpening your vision with Vitamin C. It’s easy to integrate antioxidants like Vitamin C into your diet if you have a little help and encouragement, so be sure to ask about it at your next appointment.

Does your child need braces?

One of the benefits of taking your child to see the dentist regularly is that he or she can monitor your child’s teeth and alert you to the need for orthodontic treatment. Parents can also look for warning signs so they are prepared to ask the dentist about any problematic teeth or mouth structures. The American Association of Orthodontists suggests all children should be evaluated by the age of 7 to determine the need or timeline for orthodontic treatment. It is important to talk to your child’s dentist about your options if you notice any of the following signs:

  • Crowded/overlapped teeth or highly separated teeth
  • Upper and lower teeth do not touch when chewing
  • Upper front teeth fall behind the bottom teeth when chewing
  • Upper front teeth extend too far over the bottom teeth when chewing, or protrude at an odd angle
  • Lower jaw shifts to one side when chewing

In addition, if your child still sucks his or her thumb after age 6 or so, there may be an increased risk for crooked teeth. The same goes for people who experience early or late loss of baby teeth and consistently breathe through their mouths. Ask your child’s dentist if it’s time for an orthodontic review. By staying aware of these signs and communicating with your dentist, you can make sure your child gets the treatment she needs at the correct time.

Navigate the sweets-trap this holiday season

With Thanksgiving and Christmas just around the corner, people across the country are preparing to enjoy delicious meals and even more scrumptious desserts. Contrary to popular belief, you can indulge in a few holiday treats without doing damage to your teeth – as long as you know a few helpful tips, of course. According to the American Dental Association, one of the key factors in tooth decay is the amount of time food stays in your mouth. For example, a sticky candy cane is far more likely to cause plaque and decay than a piece of holiday chocolate because the hard candy tends to stay around your teeth for much longer. As that candy sits in the crevices of your teeth and gums, its sugars and acids begin to attack your teeth until it is either washed or brushed away.

For this reason, the American Dental Association suggests that people eat any sugary foods with meals. Eating increases the production of saliva and helps rinse sugary particles away more quickly. If you must consume sugary candies or foods between meals, consider chewing sugarless gum afterward. Like eating, chewing gum also increases the flow of saliva. Along the same lines, drinking fluoridated water can also help eliminate sugary residue, so it’s a good idea to increase your water intake over the holidays, as well. Finally, it may be common sense, but many people forget to brush their teeth at least twice a day.

This habit is especially important during the holiday season when sweet treats are abundant and busy schedules make people forgetful. For more information and advice specific to your individual life, talk to your True Dental Discounts  membership plan dentist. It is possible to enjoy the holidays – and the desserts – that you are accustomed to without sacrificing your oral health.

Retinal examinations

Eye exams can include many different vision tests that measure the health and functioning of your eyes. One of these tests is a retinal examination, which looks at the retina, optic disk, and blood vessels in the back of your eye. According to the Mayo Clinic, eye doctors may use one of three techniques to look at the back of your eye. First, however, he will likely need to dilate your pupils with eye drops that may give you a slight stinging sensation. After the drops are in place, he may conduct a direct examination, an indirect examination, or a slit-lamp examination. In a direct examination, a beam of light is shined through the pupil so that the doctor can view the back of the eye with an ophthalmoscope. This exam may cause you to temporarily see afterimages once the light is gone.

For an indirect examination, the patient usually lies down on a chair while the doctor shines a light strapped to his head into the patient’s eye. This technique allows the doctor to see the eye in three dimensions and is also likely to result in temporary afterimages. Finally, the slit-lamp examination has the ability to show the doctor the most detail about the back of the eye. In this exam, the doctor uses the slit lamp as well as a condensing or contact lens. Each of these three exams takes only about five to 10 minutes, but depending on the use of eye drops, your vision will likely be blurry for several hours. Before your appointment at your True Dental Discounts vision plan doctor, ask someone to drive you home and make any necessary arrangements at work.