My Blog

Posts for: August, 2014

By Dr. James Merlo and Dr. Mary A. Merlo-Murison
August 29, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: oral cancer   oral health  
OvercomeOralCancerWithScreeningsandLifestyleChanges

Baseball legend Babe Ruth, President Ulysses S. Grant and George Harrison of the Beatles — these three notable people from different backgrounds and historical eras have a sad commonality — they all died from oral cancer. They are a reminder that regardless of one’s wealth or fame, no one is immune from oral cancer and its deadly effects.

Like other cancers, oral cancer is characterized by abnormal cell growth capable of spreading into nearby tissue or other parts of the body. Although oral cancer accounts for less than 3% of all occurring cancers, it’s among the most deadly: only 58% of oral cancer patients survive five years after treatment. This is mostly due to the difficulty of detecting oral cancer in its early stages; in fact, 30% of oral cancers have already spread (metastasized) when they’re finally diagnosed.

Early detection through careful monitoring is the best strategy for defeating oral cancer. If you have a predisposing factor like a family history of oral cancer, then regular screenings during dental checkups are a must. During an exam we may be able to detect abnormalities (like unusual white spots on the gums or jaws) that may signal a cancer in a pre-cancerous or early stage. You also should be on the lookout for a persistent sore throat or hoarseness, lingering mouth pain, a painless lump in the mouth or on the neck, or ear pain on only one side.

There are also conditions or behaviors that may increase your risk for oral cancer, like using tobacco (both smoke and smokeless) or consuming alcohol. If you use tobacco you should consider quitting it altogether; you should consider cutting back on alcohol consumption if you’re a moderate to heavy drinker. You should also avoid sexual behaviors that increase your chances of viral infection — research has found a link between oral cancer and the viral infection caused by the sexually-transmitted human papilloma virus (HPV 16).

Improving your nutrition can also reduce your cancer risk. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables supplies the body with cancer-fighting nutrients, including antioxidants that protect cells from damage caused by carcinogens. Studies have shown this kind of diet consistently lowers the risk of oral and throat cancer, as well as cancers of the esophagus, breast, prostate, lung and colon.

If you would like more information on oral cancer, 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 “Oral Cancer.”


By Dr. James Merlo and Dr. Mary A. Merlo-Murison
August 13, 2014
Category: Dental Procedures
JamieFoxxGetsIntoCharacterWithHelpFromHisDentist

If you were a well-known actor, how far would you go to get inside the character you’re playing in a movie? Plenty of stars have gained or lost weight to fit the role; some have tried to relate to their character by giving up creature comforts, going through boot camp, even trying out another occupation for a time. But when Jamie Foxx played a homeless musician in the 2009 film The Soloist, he went even further: He had part of his front tooth chipped out!

“My teeth are just so big and white — a homeless person would never have them,” he told an interviewer. “I just wanted to come up with something to make the part unique. I had one [tooth] chipped out with a chisel.”

Now, even if you’re trying to be a successful actor, we’re not suggesting you have your teeth chipped intentionally. However, if you have a tooth that has been chipped accidentally, we want you to know that we can repair it beautifully. One way to do that is with cosmetic bonding.

Bonding uses tooth-colored materials called “composite resins” (because they contain a mixture of plastic and glass) to replace missing tooth structure. The composite actually bonds, or becomes one, with the rest of the tooth.

Composite resins come in a variety of lifelike tooth shades, making it virtually impossible to distinguish the bonded tooth from its neighbors. Though bonding will not last as long as a dental veneer, it also does not require the involvement of a dental laboratory and, most often, can be done with minor reshaping of the tooth.

Cosmetic Bonding for Chipped Teeth
A chipped tooth can usually be bonded in a single visit to the dental office. First, the surface of the tooth may be beveled slightly with a drill, and then it is cleaned. Next, it is “etched” with an acidic gel that opens up tiny pores. After the etching gel is rinsed off, the liquid composite resin in a well-matched shade is painted on in a thin layer, filling these tiny pores to create a strong bond. A special curing light is used to harden this bonding material. Once the first layer is cured, another layer is painted on and cured. Layers can continue to be built up until the restoration has the necessary thickness. The bonding material is then shaped and polished. The whole procedure takes only about 30 minutes!

If you have questions about cosmetic bonding, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Repairing Chipped Teeth” and “Artistic Repair of Chipped Teeth With Composite Resin.”


By Dr. James Merlo and Dr. Mary A. Merlo-Murison
August 01, 2014
Category: Oral Health
Tags: dentures  
DIYDentureRepair-DontTryThisatHome

At first glance, you might think at-home denture repair belongs in the same category as Do-It-Yourself brain surgery and cloning your pet in the kitchen sink. But the fact is, you can actually buy a variety of DIY denture repair kits on line, send for them through the mail, even pick them up at some drug stores;you can even watch a youtube video on how to do your own denture repair. So if you’re feeling like Mr. (or Ms.) Fix-it, should you give it a whirl?

Absolutely not! (Do we even have to say this?) Repairing dentures is strictly a job for professionals — and here’s why:

First off, dentures are custom-fabricated products that have to fit perfectly in order to work the way they should. They are subject to extreme biting forces, yet balance evenly on the alveolar ridges — the bony parts of the upper and lower jaw that formerly held the natural teeth. In order to ensure their quality, fit and durability, dentures are made by experienced technicians in a carefully controlled laboratory setting, and fitted by dentists who specialize in this field. So just ask yourself: What are the chances you’re going to get it right on your first try?

What’s more, the potential problems aren’t just that DIY-repaired dentures won’t feel as comfortable or work as well. Sharp edges or protruding parts could damage your gums, make them sore or sensitive, or even lacerate the soft tissues. And even if these problems don’t become apparent immediately, they may lead to worse troubles over time. Dentures that don’t fit properly can cause you to become more susceptible to oral infections, such as cheilitis and stomatitis. They may also lead to nutritional problems, since you’re likely to have difficulty eating anything but soft, processed foods.

Finally, the kits themselves just don’t offer the same quality products you’d find in a professional lab. That means whatever repairs you’re able to make aren’t likely to last very long. Plus, they contain all sorts of substances that not only smell nasty, but can quickly bond your fingers to the kitchen counter — or to the broken dentures. (Imagine trying to explain that at the emergency room…)

So do yourself a favor: If your dentures need repair, don’t try and do it yourself. Bring them in to our office — it’s the best thing for your dentures… and your health.

If you would like more information about dentures or denture repair, please call our office to schedule a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Loose Dentures” and “Removable Full Dentures.”