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Early Detection is Key to Treating Oral Cancer

October 13th, 2021

Every hour of every day, someone in North America dies of oral cancer, the sixth most common diagnosed form of the disease. The five-year survival rate is only 50 percent, and oral cancer is one of the few cancers whose survival rate has not improved.

This grim statistic may make you think that oral cancer is a particularly deadly form, when in fact the high death rate has more to do with how late in its development oral cancer is detected. Routine screening is the key to early detection and survival, and in our continuing efforts to provide the most advanced technology and highest quality care available to our patients at First Impressions Dental Care, we proudly screen our patients for oral cancer.

So, who’s at risk for oral cancer?

Anyone can develop oral cancer, but some people are at a higher risk. These high-risk groups include those over the age of 50 and men, who are twice as likely as women to develop the disease. Smoking or chewing smokeless tobacco products, consuming alcohol excessively, and constant exposure to the sun at a young age are also risk factors.

How is oral cancer detected?

Dr. Sherman and our team at First Impressions Dental Care suggest our patients perform a monthly self-examination to check for unusual red or white patches, sores, lumps, or thickenings anywhere inside the mouth, on the lips, or in the throat and neck area.

We encourage you to give us a call at our convenient Issaquah office if you find any of these symptoms or if you have trouble swallowing or experience a chronic sore throat and hoarseness. During your visit, Dr. Sherman will inspect the oral tissues and neck to determine if abnormalities are present.

What happens if oral cancer is detected?

If we discover abnormal tissues during your visit, a biopsy will be required. The results from the biopsy will be sent to a laboratory to determine if the cells are cancerous or precancerous. If a diagnosis of cancer is made, surgery, as well as treatment such as chemotherapy or radiation may be necessary. Dr. Sherman and our team will work closely with your oncologist and other members of your medical team to ensure that you achieve the best possible oral health care both during and after treatment.

Finding out you have oral cancer can be devastating news. If you are concerned that you might be at risk for developing oral cancer, talk to us about screenings and other things you can do to reduce your risk. Through a routine visual inspection, Dr. Sherman and our team at First Impressions Dental Care can often detect premalignant abnormalities and cancer at an early stage when treatment is both less expensive and more successful, and can potentially save your life. Ask us about a screening during your next visit!

TMJ demystified and your treatment options

October 24th, 2019

Recently, I called our local oral surgeon/orthognathic surgeon, Dr. A, to ask about possible solutions for severe TMJ symptoms.  In the 29 years that I have been in practice, there has seemed to be very limited resources and solutions to this common affliction. Sure, we suggest the conservative treatment of wearing a Night Guard, facial massage, heat/cold therapy, and in severe cases, maybe a muscle relaxant. However, what happens if all else fails, and the symptoms persist or worsen?

Rarely, have I run into a patient who said that they had surgery to correct their severe TMJ problem. Why is it that there are so few written articles in dental journals mentioning TMJ surgery as a solution? This was Dr. A’s response:

 “TMJ surgery is typically a final stage last resort after failed attempts at conservative therapy have been exhausted. The reason there are not many surgeons performing TMJ surgery is because it is technically difficult and the success rates are not great. There are some conservative minimally invasive procedures like arthroscopy and arthroplasty that can help certain patients. These procedures have less risk and better outcomes than TMJ replacement surgery. We have a local surgeon in our area who is proficient at TMJ surgery. He is at Swedish First Hill.”

So, it appears that with all the medical advancements that have come to the forefront in today’s new age, a TMJ resolution from interventional surgery, simply has not kept up with the times. We can replace a hip, a knee, a shoulder and we are home that same day from a day procedure, but TMJ remains a bit of a mystery.

If your symptoms are severe and you're worried about your future in terms a worsening TMJ problem, please contact me so that I can pass on a referral.

I'm always here if you need me.

 Fondly, Dr. Ron


Ask More Questions

February 13th, 2019

With 29 years of practicing dentistry under my belt (and planning another 10 more!), I have seen the world of dentistry change and evolve. Dentistry has developed substantially from the little bald dentist on the corner block, whom you’ve seen since well before you could remember,  to a style closer aligned to corporate America. A practice that fuels its decisions and relationships based on its bottom line and profit over the close relationship between doctor and patient. 

I am more shocked than ever at how the general public, still see dentistry. The days of a true family dentist are becoming more of a memory because he or she is existing less and less, leaving dentistry for good. We are seeing an increase in young dentists with insurmountable graduate school debt in addition to the debt that comes with the purchase of their first practice. Even seasoned dentists earn their share of speculation, especially when their physical practice is too small to accommodate all of their patient’s needs.  Typically, in smaller practices, dentists will save their chair time for insurance companies that reimburse more than others. If you have 2 restorative chairs and you have 3 patients with needs, you save the chair time for the best reimbursing insurance companies and tell the last patient that their teeth “look fine” even if they don’t. Really, they don’t even want you in their practice in the fear that you will take up their valuable chair time.

How can you get around these new issues confronting dentistry? Here are a few suggestions.

    1. Pick a practice of decent size in terms of chairs, because they can afford for you to sit in them. I’m not suggesting being a part of a “mill”, but if you think about the logistics and the physical properties of a dental facility, this all begins to make more sense.
    2. Pick a “seasoned” dentist who has no bills or debt to pay off. In a practice like ours, we don’t need for you to be here unless you want to be here and can afford to be here.
    3. Make sure that your dentist offers you options. Nobody has to have a crown or an implant to survive. Not having a permanent fix may cause you to need more later, but remember, for some, later may be a better option.
    4. Find a dentist who guarantees their work. Just now we had a patient call from Hawaii who lost a crown done in 2014 and is a good standing cash patient. I don’t think it’s the patient’s fault that the crown came off, and from a dental perspective, even the best of dentists has an occasional crown come off. My point is, it is our responsibility to stand behind our work and our decisions and it’s easy to replace at no additional fee to our patient. Own your issues as well as your successes.

Keep Flossing,

Dr. Ron Sherman

Dental Insurance: Use it or Lose it!

September 5th, 2018

Don’t toss away good money by neglecting to use services you’ve already paid for. Your dental insurance plan works best for you when you put it to work on a regular basis. Your Dentist in Issaquah-Sammamish, Dr. Ron Sherman will explain how.

Smart Questions to Ask

You literally could save hundreds of dollars by using your dental benefits before the end of the year! This is because most dental insurance plans run on a calendar year that resets January 1st.

Step 1: Contact your insurer to ask what benefits you’ve already used, and what you still have available for the year. Also ask, “Are any benefits being cut or reduced in next year’s policy?” Typically, preventative procedures like dental cleanings, x-rays, exams are covered. But, will they cover veneers, teeth whitening, or braces?

Step 2: Call our dental office and schedule an appointment right away for any eligible family member to ensure you beat the December 31st coverage deadline.

4 Reasons to Act Now

1) Yearly Limit: Most insurance companies will pay out around $1,000 (double-check your policy) per person, per year, for dental treatments. If you haven’t used it by year-end, there is no rollover. It is gone-gone. Note: Some restorative treatments are more costly and require several phases, ask us to help you schedule this so some portions will fit in this year’s insurance budget while the rest falls in next year’s.

2) Deductibles/Premiums: Your dental insurance company likely sets a dollar amount that you must spend before their coverage “kicks in.” Once you’ve paid that deductible, it’s good for the year—but only that calendar year. You’re paying premiums to save you money, so take advantage of it and actually save yourself that money by using the benefits. Even if you don’t need extensive treatment, always have regular cleanings and check-ups.

3) Rate Increases: As the cost of living, materials, and equipment constantly inflate, dental practices sometimes must increase the price of treatments. If this were to happen, most likely it’s implemented at the beginning of a new year. Coverage of certain treatments are sometimes cut from insurance policies too, so grab it while it lasts!

4) Prevent Paying for Procrastination: Delays in putting your dental insurance to work can turn what may be a simple cavity now, into a root canal later. Avoid these more extensive and expensive treatments by utilizing your dental insurance for cleanings and check-ups.

The moral of the story: Benefit from your benefits! Dr. Sherman, your Dentist in Issaquah-Sammamishwill help you take advantage of those lingering benefits. The clock on this year is ticking, so make your appointment with us now!

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