Oral Cancer Screening at the Dentist Can Save Your Life

Statistics show that 30,000 – 50,000 Americans are diagnosed each year with some form of oral cancer. It has also been cited that only about ½ will survive longer than five years. That is unfortunate considering that there is an 80 – 90 percent survival rate when the cancer is caught early!

Oral cancer can invade any part of the oral cavity including lips, cheek, tongue, gums, throat, tonsils and palate. Early detection of oral cancer can improve the chance of successful treatment. It cannot be stressed enough, the importance of your dentist or hygienist performing an oral cancer screening on at least an annual basis. An oral cancer screening takes only a few minutes.

The ADA News announced that April is Oral Cancer Awareness Month. The American Dental Association has a website, that provides information for patients about oral

There are risk factors associated with oral cancers. The American Cancer Society says that men have a higher occurrence of oral cancer, attributed to higher usage of alcohol and tobacco. Oral cancer is more prevalent in patients 55 years and older, except in the cases of HPV-related oral cancers which occur at an earlier age.

Smoking cigarettes/pipes or chewing tobacco increases the risk of oral cancer significantly.
Smoking also increases the risk of cancer in other parts of the body as well.

According to the American Cancer Society, eight out of ten patients with oral cancer are heavy drinkers. Heavy drinking as defined by the American Center for Disease Control is two or more drinks per day for men and one or more drinks per day for women. If a patient smokes and drinks heavily, the risk is even more significant.

The human papilloma virus (HPV) is now associated with cancers of the head and neck. These cancers are found predominately in younger, non-smoking patients.

The sun is a contributing factor in oral cancer of the lips. Using a sunscreen in a lip balm can help. Believe it or not, a diet lacking in fruits and vegetables can also be a contributing factor!

Eliminating these factors can help patients to avoid oral cancers. If your dentist does not provide an oral cancer screening at your visit, ASK! It could save your life!

Dental News Tidbits

dental implants fairy - pittsburghimplantsandperio
Word is that last year’s Tooth Fairy survey, provided by Delta Dental, discovered that cash for teeth under the pillow has skyrocketed to an all-time average high of $4.66. This is an increase of $.75 from the 2015 survey. Delta Dental reports that the tooth fairy has forked out in excess of $250 million for lost teeth in 2016. This is approximately a 13.5% increase over 2015. Delta Dental emphasizes that visits from the tooth fairy can provide a great opportunity to talk to children about good oral habits, as well as lessons on finance!

In spite of a story last year questioning the benefits of flossing, the American Dental Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continue to encourage people to floss. The Los Angeles Times (2/23, Ravn) included flossing on their list of ways to help people live a healthier life. Flossing cleans between the teeth and removes build-up of plaque (bacteria) where a toothbrush cannot reach. If you think your dentist won’t notice if you don’t floss – think again!

Studies suggest that the presence of periodontal disease may be an early warning sign of type 2 diabetes. If this is indeed the case, screening for diabetes in the dental or periodontal office may be helpful in detecting diabetes and pre- diabetes. All it takes is a simple finger stick test performed at regular dental visits.

This suggests that we need to take care of our teeth to ensure its healthiness and eliminate gum problems.

Periodontal Disease: Differences between Men and Women

There is generally no argument that there are many differences between men and women, mentally, physically and behaviorally, so how do these differences relate to periodontal disease? There is evidence to support some significant differences.

The Journal of Periodontology relates that women are more proactive in maintaining their dental health than men. As a matter of fact, women are twice as likely to visit their dentist on a regular basis, and exhibit lower incidence of dental plaque than men. The Journal’s findings also suggest that women have a better overall understanding of dental health, as well as a more positive attitude when it comes to seeing the dentist.

The American Academy of Periodontology reports that women are 26% more likely than men to floss on a regular basis. 74% of women would be embarrassed to have missing teeth, compared to 57% of men.
44% of women are aware that a periodontist can help to maintain overall good health, compared to 33% of men.

Certain hormonal fluctuations for women throughout life stages can affect their periodontal health. They may be, at times, more susceptible to periodontal disease, including:

1. Puberty: Studies indicate that the increase in hormone levels may lead to an increase in
sensitivity to gum inflammation and can cause the gum tissue to become swollen, red and tender.
2. Menstruation: During menstruation, some women may exhibit gingivitis, which may cause bleeding
gums, redness and inflammation of gum tissue between the teeth.
3. Menopause: Hormonal changes at this time may cause mouth pain including a burning sensation in
the gum tissues or mouth sores.

Men also have certain issues in regard to periodontal health. Studies have shown that men with gum disease are more likely to develop:
1. Kidney cancer
2. Pancreatic cancer
3. Blood cancer
4. Prostate cancer

Men and women alike should strive for good periodontal health by brushing twice a day, flossing once a day and visiting their dentist every year. Visit for more information on health and gum disease.

Marijuana – Another Risk Factor in Gum Disease


The AAP Journal is reporting a connection between gum disease and frequent use of marijuana.

Cigarettes and cigars are not the only culprits! Research has shown that regular smoking of recreational cannabis, (marijuana, hashish and hash oil), may elevate the risk of gum disease. It appears that even use of marijuana once a month for a year will increase indicators of mild, moderate and severe periodontal disease.

In studies of the relationship between frequent use of cannabis and gum disease, users demonstrated a significant increase in pocket depths. Pockets are the measurement of the space between a tooth and surrounding gum tissue. Pocket depths in healthy individuals should measure 4mm or less. Measurements exceeding 4mm indicate the presence of infection, and can range from moderate to severe. Studies done by the American Academy of Periodontology and the Center for Disease Control have shown that nearly half of all U.S. adults, age 30 and above have some level of periodontal disease.

Now that many states are considering legalization of marijuana, users need to be aware of the possible effect it can have on their periodontal health. Patients should inform their dentist and periodontist about their use of cannabis.

Gum disease is caused by inflammatory response to bacteria below the gum line. It can cause bleeding, swelling of the tissues, bad breath, recession and ultimately tooth loss. The best defense against gum infection is effective brushing and flossing on a daily basis, regular dental or periodontal checkups, and eliminating or limiting the use of cannabis products. Following these preventive measures can protect the health of the gums and teeth and add years of life to a healthy smile. Fortunately, periodontal disease is treatable and often reversible with appropriate care at the periodontist.

For more information on the relationship between cannabis and gum disease, visit the AAP at

Your Smile

“Smile in the mirror. Do that every morning and you’ll start to see a big difference in your life”.
~Yoko Ono


A smile can show the world a person’s happiness, contentment, sincerity, confidence or even love. When you look in the mirror and smile, do you like what you see? Many people don’t and often refrain from smiling or cover up their smiles because they are self-conscious about what they see in the mirror.

Some common concerns are:
• Gummy smile
• Missing teeth
• Recession
Fortunately, periodontists can work in conjunction with your dentist to offer solutions to these and other cosmetic issues.

The Gummy Smile
Sometimes a person’s teeth appear to be too short or like baby teeth. The teeth may actually be the appropriate length, but they are buried in too much gum tissue. The periodontist can correct this by doing a procedure called Cosmetic Crown Elongation. Crown elongation exposes more of the natural tooth and can make a world of difference!


Missing Teeth
Missing teeth can cause more issues than just black spaces in the smile. When a tooth is lost and not replaced, other teeth can start to shift in the mouth. This can change not only the appearance of teeth, but also the bite. The jawbone will also start to melt away if there is no tooth root in a space. Bone loss can change the overall facial structure as well.

Partials and bridges are options for tooth replacement, but both neither of these options prevents bone loss. A partial often contributes to loosening of other teeth or to dental decay. In order to place a bridge, healthy teeth have to be cut down to nubs and crowned to support the bridgework. The most effective and conservative way to replace teeth today is with Dental Implants. Dental implants look, feel and function like natural teeth. And they will never decay!


Gum recession is most often caused by overly vigorous brushing! A periodontist can fix this problem with Root Coverage Grafting. Tissue from the roof of the mouth or from a donor source can be used to cover the receded area, restoring a natural gumline as well as providing protection from root decay. You may have heard the expression “long in the tooth” referring to the cosmetic changes we see with recession.




You could have a dental infection and and not even know it!

A dental infection in the root of a tooth can increase your chances of heart disease, even if you don’t have any symptoms. These types of hidden dental infections are extremely common. Infections often go undetected until routine dental x-rays are taken and the infection is apparent. Most commonly, a root canal is indicated. Sometimes, the tooth is beyond repair and is recommended for extraction.

Dr. John Liljestrand, from the University of Helinski reports that “acute coronary syndrome is 2.7 times more common among patients with untreated teeth in need of root canal treatment than among patients without this issue.” This study was done at the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Diseases of the University of Helsinki and published in the Journal of Dental Research.

Cavities are the most common culprit in tooth root infection or infection of the dental pulp. Researchers are finding more and more evidence that connects dental infection to other chronic systemic disorders. For example periodontitis is an inflammatory disease causing low-grade inflammation. This inflammation is considered a risk factor for diabetes, coronary artery disease, low-weight births, rheumatoid arthritis and even certain types of cancer. Root tip infections in teeth appear to cause low-grade inflammation as well. Root canal treatment can eliminate the infection and hence the inflammation.

Heart disease causes more that 30% of deaths world-wide. With a healthy diet, exercise, weight control and not smoking, heart disease may be prevented. Treating oral infections can also add to this preventive regimen. Seeing your dentist on a regular basis and review of full mouth x-rays every 3-5 years can also be added to this preventive approach.

If you are seeing a physician for heart issues or planning for any kind of surgery, make sure you have clearance from your dentist or periodontist ruling out any evidence of dental infection. Often, doctors will delay surgery until any or all dental infections are cleared up.

Flossing Doesn’t Work? Says Who?


If flossing has been recommended by dentists and hygienists for years, why isn’t there proof that flossing works? Recently, the newspaper, the internet and the TV have been blasted with articles claiming that “there is little proof that flossing works”. This statement was inappropriately fed to the media and will likely have a negative effect on the dental health of many people.

Every periodontal office sees the benefits of flossing on an hourly basis. People that don’t floss routinely wind up in the periodontal office with gum disease. People that have periodontal treatment and don’t floss after their treatment typically need to be retreated. People that floss correctly tend to stay healthy.

Why is there a lack of studies to support the benefit of flossing? Studies cost money and most studies are funded and supported by businesses. Big business companies are not going fund research on “preventive measures” that essentially would diminish their profitability. Therefore, to date there have only been a handful of studies and those studies are not necessarily noteworthy.

All scientists know that a study is only as good as it is designed. Scientific evidence is gathered through lengthy investigations with specific parameters and controls. If evaluated, the studies from which this information was prepared would not meet the appropriate criteria.

Another critical factor noted by supporters of flossing – did the participants in the research floss correctly? Most people that come to our periodontal office are very surprised to learn that although they may have been flossing they have been ineffective in their efforts. After coaching each patient individually to enhance their flossing technique, they can achieve excellent results and are able to maintain good periodontal health long- term.

The media articles also mentioned that flossing can occasionally cause harm, exhibited by floss cuts or even recession. This can happen when people floss too frequently or too vigorously. Again, instruction is essential. Unfortunately, insurers do not pay dentists or hygienists to spend time instructing their patients on how to floss. We include this coaching in every treatment plan we do, because our practice is prevention-focused. Insurance simply doesn’t pay for prevention.

So, to floss or not to floss? If you choose not to floss…travel at your own risk. Chances are much more likely we’ll be seeing you soon!



Probably the last thing on the mind of an expectant mother is gum disease. However, the truth is that pregnancy can have a significant effect on the gums. Most commonly, pregnancy can cause “pregnancy gingivitis”. Pregnancy gingivitis is exhibited through red, swollen, tender and bleeding gum tissues.

In some instances, this irritation can actually lead to what is called “pregnancy tumors”. Fortunately, they are benign and painless and they usually go away after completion of the pregnancy. Occasionally, they do not go away and have to be removed by a periodontist. The best way to avoid pregnancy gingivitis is to visit your dentist if you are thinking about getting pregnant, or if you do become pregnant

Your periodontal health can affect the pregnancy and ultimately the health of your baby. Mothers that exhibit gum disease during the pregnancy may be twice as likely to develop preeclampsia, which is high blood pressure with the presence of protein in the urine. Studies have also shown that periodontal disease can lead to premature birth or low birth weight babies. Both prevention and treatment of periodontal disease can reduce these risks.

If you are considering pregnancy, it is a good idea to talk to your dentist or periodontist. A periodontal evaluation can be a smart part of your prenatal care!

What You Should Expect at a Dental Examination

Your first visit to a new dental office is an extremely important visit for you. The first visit is also important to the dentist. This visit will pave the way for all future visits and the future health of your mouth. There are so many dentists to choose from! Whether you look online, in a phone book or even as you drive down the road and see signs, you can see that there is no shortage of dentists. And guess what…all of them are different! Some dentists are highly trained and perform very complex dentistry. They love doing this kind of dentistry and they get great results. Others prefer doing basic dentistry, they love doing just that and they do it well. Unfortunately, there are some dentists that advertise that they are trained to do complex dentistry, but they are not. For the patient that just needs fillings and cleanings, most any dentist will suffice. However, if you need more complex dental work, you need to do some investigating to find a dentist who can provide you with quality, long-lasting dentistry. Here are some clues that you can use in your investigation:

1. The Examination
Your exam should include an assessment of not just your teeth, but your gums as well. (Would a home inspector not look at the foundation of a house during an inspection?) The appearance or esthetics should be considered. Do you like the way your teeth look when you smile? Would you like them to be straighter? Whiter? Do you have a “gummy” smile? Are any of your teeth mobile? Do any need root canals?
2. X-Rays
X-rays are a critical part of diagnosing dental disease. Diagnosing dental problems without x-rays is like working in the dark with your eyes closed. Of course nobody wants to be exposed to radiation more than necessary, but today’s x-rays allow us to see much more with much less radiation than years ago. Digital x-rays on the computer screen are enhanced and provide critical information. Cone Beam CT scans provide a three dimensional view of teeth and bone and are critical in the placement of dental implants, as well as helping to detect infections or other pathology that doesn’t show up on conventional x-rays.
3. Bite Evaluation
The way that teeth meet is a critical issue in your ability to chew and in keeping the dentition healthy long term. Often times, it is essential to get impressions for study models to best assess the bite situation.
4. Consultation
A two-way discussion with your dentist is so important. This lets the dentist know what your goals and desires are in regard to the future of your mouth. Time should be provided to ask any and all questions that you may have. This way, the dentist can formulate a treatment plan that will give you the results you are looking for. It is important to know what to expect from each visit.
If you make sure that none of these key points are missing from your dental visit, you and your mouth are more likely to have a healthy and long-lasting relationship with your dentist.

Dental Implants: Are They Always the Best Solution?

bridge supported by dental implants

Dental Implants: Are They Always the Best Solution?

At Greater Pittsburgh Dental Implants & Periodontics in Allison Park we have been placing dental implants for over 30 years. Even so, Dr. Weingarden and Dr. Bakuri will tell you that dental implants are not always the best treatment option. There are many factors that determine when a tooth should be extracted, and whether or whether not the best option for replacing them is the dental implant option.

We’ve all seen advertisements for “same day, low cost, made affordable” dentures, and certainly these “denture mills” serve a purpose for people who have no other options for saving their teeth. As a matter of fact, patients often say to us, “Just take them all out”. Sometimes that is the only solution, when teeth have reached the point of no return. Then maybe full-mouth extractions with implant-supported dentures are the way to go. But what if some of the teeth are treatable? There may be other options that would provide a more comfortable and possibly even less costly plan than full-mouth extractions.

But how does a patient know which treatment option will provide the most predictable, long-lasting results for them? If you are frustrated with your dental situation or need help in finding out the best answer for you, consult with a good periodontist. They will assess your situation and discuss ALL treatment options. From there you can make an informed decision and one that you can live with for many years to come.