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Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 3rd, 2018

We know oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it’s worth using this opportunity to learn about the disease and spread knowledge so everyone becomes more aware. The more we know, the better we can work to prevent it!

Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, the tongue, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every  year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It’s a truly deadly disease.

The reason oral cancer scores a higher death rate than other common cancers such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it's become too advanced and has spread to another part of the body.

So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness:

  • Age: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above the age of 40. If you’re over 40, make sure your doctor checks for signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
  • Tobacco: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that’s another reason, among many, you should avoid tobacco.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages the body’s DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it even easier for tobacco to infiltrate mouth tissue.
  • Sun exposure: Your lips need SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
  • Diet: Not getting all the nutrients you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.

Obviously, many of these causes relate to lifestyle choices, which we have control over. It's all about balance, being aware, and making small tweaks to our habits if we need to.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk for oral cancer, give us a call to talk about a screening. And if you’ve been putting off a visit to our Gaithersburg, MD office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!

Pick the right electric toothbrush!

March 27th, 2018

The electronic toothbrush has undergone several technological advances since the 1960s. Everything from design and bristle motions to rotation, oscillation, and sonic vibration has led to dramatic changes in this necessary tool over time.

Rotation oscillation happens when the head of the toothbrush rotates from one direction to the other. The benefit of powered toothbrushes is that they can produce 50,000 strokes per minute, compared to 300 strokes with a manual toothbrush.

When you’re thinking about brush head size, smaller brush heads are best for hard-to-reach areas and small mouths. Brush heads should be replaced every three to six months as needed. A good way to save money is to designate a brush head for each family member which can be taken on and off a shared base motor.

Having a base motor or rechargeable toothbrush can deliver enough power on a full charge for a week of brushing, which makes it convenient for travel or when life gets busy. Some toothbrushes include audible signals that let you know when to switch the area of your mouth you’re brushing or when a full two minutes has gone by.

Do you have sensitive teeth? Studies have indicated that people tend to apply more pressure on their teeth when they use a manual toothbrush. This makes an electric toothbrush a preferable option if you’re having issues with sensitive teeth or gums.

There are even electric models with pressure sensors that will stop the brush from spinning when you press too hard against your teeth!

Everyone can benefit from having an electric toothbrush. A large handle size can be taken into consideration if a member of the household is young, or has a physical disability or arthritis. They’re even recommended for children in order to maintain good oral hygiene from a young age.

Biofilm is a term used for plaque or debris that builds up in your mouth. If not properly addressed, this can cause serious bacterial infections to your gums and teeth. If you want to remove biofilm in the most efficient way, an automatic toothbrush is the way to go.

When you're ready to make your decision, make sure to consult with Dr. Dennis Stiles and Dr. Marie Stiles at our Gaithersburg, MD office to decide which electric toothbrush is right for you!

Common Wisdom Teeth Problems

March 20th, 2018

Have you ever wondered why people have wisdom teeth? These are a third set of molars that come in behind the rest of all your other teeth, usually during early adulthood. Scientists and anthropologists believe that wisdom teeth are a result of evolution, because our ancestors needed these extra teeth to handle their primitive diets. Nowadays, the average diet consists of fewer hard-to-chew foods, which renders wisdom teeth largely superfluous.

Most people begin to experience wisdom teeth pain between the ages of 17 and 25. Our ancestors nicknamed them wisdom teeth because they appeared at a time in life when we supposedly grew wiser.

If you’ve already had your wisdom teeth removed, you know how painful they can become if they aren’t taken care of promptly. If not, watch out for discomfort in the back of your mouth and let Dr. Dennis Stiles and Dr. Marie Stiles know right away if you think your wisdom teeth are coming in.

In some cases, people do not experience any problems or discomfort with their wisdom teeth. These patients may keep their wisdom teeth intact if there’s enough room in their jaw to fit them properly. But this is generally not the case, so wisdom teeth can cause several concerns, depending on which direction they grow.

Common problems include:

  • Damage to surrounding teeth due to the pressure from the emerging teeth
  • Infection that causes the surrounding gums to swell and become painful
  • Tooth decay due to the lack of room to clean the teeth properly
  • Impaction (when the tooth is unable to break through the skin)
  • A cyst that may damage the jaw, the surrounding teeth, and nerves

If you haven’t had your wisdom teeth removed yet, there are many symptoms to watch out for when they begin to grow. Symptoms may include:

  • Pain or stiffness in the jaw
  • Tooth irritation
  • Swelling of gum tissue
  • Crowding of other teeth
  • Spread of tooth decay or gum disease on nearby teeth

If you’ve noticed these symptoms, schedule an appointment at our Gaithersburg, MD office. Don’t forget: This is a common procedure that will take some time to recover from. Allow your mouth to heal, and then you’ll be able to get back to a normal routine quickly and be free from pain!

Understanding Dental Insurance Terminology

March 13th, 2018

If you have a hard time understanding your dental insurance plan, particularly the treatments and services it covers, you’re not alone. That’s why Dr. Dennis Stiles and Dr. Marie Stiles and our team have put together a cheat sheet to help you through them.

It’s common for patients to get lost in the morass of the terms and phrases that surface when you’re dealing with a dental insurance plan. Knowing the commonly used terms can help speed up the process and enable you to get the most out of your coverage.

Common Terms

Annual Maximum: The most your policy will pay per year for care at Stiles Dentistry. It is often divided into cost per individual or per family.

Co-payment: Typically, a small amount the patient has to pay at the time of service before receiving care, and before the insurance pays for any portion of it.

Covered Services: A list of all the treatments, services, and procedures the insurance policy will cover fully under your contract.

Deductible: An amount you must pay out of pocket each year before the insurance company will contribute for any treatments or procedures. The amount can vary according to your plan.

Diagnostic Services: A category of treatments or procedures that most insurance plans will cover before the deductible, which may mean services that occur during preventive appointments with Dr. Dennis Stiles and Dr. Marie Stiles, including X-rays or general screenings.

Exclusions: Dental services not covered under a dental benefit program.

In-Network: An insurance company will usually cover a larger portion of the cost of the care if you see an in-network provider for treatment.

Out-of-Network: If you visit someone who is not a part of your provider’s network, the insurance company may pay for a portion of the care, but you will be responsible for a significantly larger share out of your pocket.

Lifetime Maximum: The most that an insurance plan will pay toward care for an individual or family over the entire life of the patient(s).

Limitations: A list of all the procedures the insurance policy does not cover. Coverage may limit the timing or frequency of a specific treatment or procedure, or exclude some treatments altogether.

Member/Insured/Covered Person/Beneficiary/Enrollee:  A person who is eligible to receive benefits under an insurance plan.

Premium: The regular fee charged by third-party insurers and used to fund the dental plan.

Provider: Dr. Dennis Stiles and Dr. Marie Stiles or other oral-health specialist who provides treatment.

Waiting Period: A specified amount of time that the patient must be enrolled with an insurance plan before it will pay for certain treatments.

It’s essential to understand the various insurance options available to you. Knowing what your insurance covers can save you major costs in the future.

Dr. Dennis Stiles and Dr. Marie Stiles and our dental staff hope this list of terms will help you understand your dental insurance plan better. Be sure to review your plan and ask any questions you may have about your policy the next time you visit our Gaithersburg, MD office.

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