After her husband, producer Bruce Paltrow, succumbed to oral cancer in 2002, actress Blythe Danner made it her mission to help save other families from the heartache she and her children (Jake and Gwyneth Paltrow) suffered with his loss. Now active with the Oral Cancer Foundation, Blythe uses her fame to bring awareness to the disease, which she says she and her family knew very little about before Bruce received his diagnosis.
In an interview with People magazine, Blythe said she believes her husband’s cancer could have been detected earlier if the family had been alert to the symptoms.
“For months I had noticed Bruce’s voice was hoarse,” she said. “I started asking him to see a doctor. But he kept saying, ‘No, no, no, I’m fine.’ ”
When a lump became visible in his neck, he did go to the doctor and found he had a tumor in his throat. The cancer eventually spread to his lymph nodes. Compounding Blythe’s sadness is the feeling that she might have been able to do something to prevent her husband’s death.
“I feel tremendously guilty,” she told the magazine, noting that she wishes she had simply insisted her husband get himself checked out. “Education and early detection are so important,” she said of her campaign to raise awareness. “That’s why I’m doing this.”
Though Bruce Paltrow was a smoker, it’s important to note that young, non-smokers comprise the fastest-growing segment of the population being diagnosed with the disease. That’s because a sexually transmitted virus known as HPV16 is now a major cause of oral cancer.
Oral cancer screenings are yet another good reason to make regular semi-annual visits to the dentist. We have the training to notice oral abnormalities, and to monitor and/or biopsy any suspicious lesions. At your oral cancer screening, we will feel your neck for lumps and inspect your lips and all inside surfaces of the mouth, including the back of your throat.
Of course, if you or a loved one experience persistent hoarseness, white or red patches or other changes in your mouth or tongue that don’t go away in a few weeks, please don’t hesitate to come in and see us.
That “squeaky clean” feeling on your teeth might be the most noticeable result of a professional cleaning performed by a dental hygienist. Rest assured, though, there’s more to it — regular professional cleanings yield long-term benefits to your oral health.
A basic procedure known as coronal cleaning removes plaque (bacteria and leftover food deposits) on the crowns, the visible portion of the teeth. If you are showing signs or are at risk for gum disease (a bacterial infection of the gum tissue) your hygienist may also initiate cleaning below the gum line with a procedure called scaling. This common technique removes plaque and tartar (hard deposits) above and below the gum line using either a traditional set of hand instruments (known as curettes) or an ultrasonic scaler, a device that uses vibrations from ultrasonic frequencies and water to remove plaque and tartar.
Root planing takes the cleaning even deeper, using curettes to remove plaque and tartar adhering to tooth roots. This is typically necessary for patients with advanced gum disease, and may need to be repeated over a number of visits as inflammation subsides.
Polishing is another common hygienic procedure performed both above and below the gum line. It’s the procedure you most associate with that feeling of smoothness after a cleaning. The hygienist will typically apply to the teeth polishing paste held in a small rubber cup attached to a motorized device. As the motor rapidly rotates the rubber cup, the paste works into the teeth to remove surface stains and bacterial plaque. While it’s considered a cosmetic procedure, it’s more accurately defined as a prophylaxis, a dental term derived from the Greek meaning to guard or prevent beforehand.
Professional cleaning performed by a dental hygienist is only one half of an overall hygiene plan; the other half is your own daily habit of brushing and flossing. Both your daily hygiene and regular dental checkups and cleanings will go a long way toward preserving your teeth as they were meant to be — for a lifetime.
If you would like more information on teeth polishing, 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 “Teeth Polishing.”