Health Risks of Poor Oral Hygiene

Did you know that brushing and flossing your teeth on a regular basis does much more than keep your teeth and gums healthy? Good oral hygiene habits also helps to prevent serious illness that you may not have even known could be caused by poor dental care.

Ali Ghahary - GingivitisGingivitis, for example, is the leading cause of bleeding gums, and it affects as many as 1 out of every 2 Canadians. Gingivitis is most commonly caused by lack of oral hygiene – such as daily brushing and flossing. By brushing and flossing regularly, you remove the build-up of plaque. Failure to remove plaque then leads to the gums becoming red, sore and inflamed.

The first step in treating gingivitis is to get a thorough teeth cleaning done by a hygienist. A hygienist has proper dental tools to be able to remove the build-up of plaque that you may not be able to remove yourself by simply brushing. To continue your care and ensure your gums are on a healthy path, the hygienist will usually go over proper brushing and flossing techniques with the patient. Gargling with a warm salt-water rinse or antibacterial mouthwash may also be recommended by your hygienist or dentist, as well as more frequent teeth-cleaning appointments.

By leaving gingivitis untreated, you are at a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. This is due to the fact that gingivitis can also cause infection of the gums, and the bacteria as a result of the infection can enter into the blood stream, travel directly to the arteries in the heart, and cause a condition known as atherosclerosis – commonly referred to as hardening of the arteries, which can block the body’s blood flow. Bacteria from infected gums can also enter the brain through certain nerve channels or via the blood stream, which can then lead to the development of dementia. You can also develop respiratory infections after a prolonged period of time, and even complications of diabetes. Individuals with diabetes are much more susceptible to dental disease such as gingivitis, so proper dental care is especially important in those with pre-existing health conditions such as this.

Ali Ghahary - Dental Extraction

As mentioned in Dr. Ali Ghahary’s earlier article, lack of oral hygiene can also lead to tooth decay, which can then lead to potentially requiring a root canal – or, if the tooth cannot be saved, extraction. Dental extractions can be hard on the body, and the recovery process isn’t always a fun one. For instance, dry socket (also known as alveolar osteitis) is a common but extremely painful condition that can happen after dental extractions. Dry socket occurs when a blood clot does not properly form (or is lost) in the area of the extraction, leaving underlying nerves exposed, thus causing pain. In order to treat dry socket, your dentist will first clean the area and then place a special dressing in the extraction site to help speed up the healing process, though it can take several days for the pain of dry socket to diminish.

As with any dental procedure, always follow any post-op instructions given to you by your dentist and be sure to see them for a follow-up appointment if you have any concerns or questions. If you are experiencing pain and are unable to make an appointment with your dentist, try using over-the-counter analgesics such as Advil or Tylenol. Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician practicing at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby, may also be able to make recommendations until you are able to see your dentist. To see Dr. Ali Ghahary, no appointment is necessary; you can view his walk-in schedule by visiting alighahary.ca/schedule. If the pain becomes unbearable then a visit to the emergency room may be warranted.

Prevention of Pancreatic Cancer

Ali Ghahary - Prevention of Pancreatic CancerPancreatic cancer affects as many as 5,000 Canadians each year and is one of the deadliest forms of cancer that an individual can be diagnosed with. Because of the way in which the pancreas is positioned in the body (deep in the abdomen and in front of the spine), symptoms of pancreatic cancer will often be silent until the cancer itself has metastasized, which makes it a difficult cancer to treat.

Once the cancer has metastasized, signs and symptoms that a patient might experience include abdominal pain that radiates to the back, lack of appetite, weight loss that is unintended, fatigue, and jaundice (yellowing of the skin). With pancreatic cancer it is also not uncommon to develop a new-onset of diabetes, blood clots, and even depression. As many other health conditions can cause similar symptoms, it is still important to book an appointment with your family doctor. If your family doctor is unavailable, Dr. Ali Ghahary welcomes walk-in patients at Brentwood Medical Clinic in Burnaby.

While survival rates of pancreatic cancer have increased over the years, it is still considered to be a form of cancer that is predominantly incurable. Currently, the one-year survival rate of patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer is 20%, while the five-year survival rate is just 7%.

In order to diagnose pancreatic cancer, your physician may order a blood test. Blood testing can check the levels of certain proteins in your blood. If these are elevated, it may be an indicator of pancreatic cancer. Imaging tests such as CT scans, MRI’s and ultrasounds may also be used, and a biopsy may also need to be performed in order to further test certain cells and tissus.

Ali Ghahary - Blood Test for Pancreatic Cancer

There is no definitive way to stop a patient from being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. However, there are certain preventative measures a patient can take in order to help prevent and lower their risk of developing pancreatic cancer in the future, such as making certain lifestyle changes.

One of the biggest causes of pancreatic cancer is smoking. Quitting smoking can significantly lessen the risk of pancreatic cancer, and it can also have a positive impact on many other aspects of your health. For some helpful information on smoking cessation, visit Dr. Ali Ghahary’s article on Medium.com.

It’s also important to stay at a healthy weight. Individuals who are obese are at an increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, although it can still affect individuals of all shapes and sizes and is a type of cancer that does not discriminate one way or the other. Dr. Ali Ghahary shares insightful tips on the importance of healthy eating, and even recommends specific low-carb diets, which you can read more about on his blog on WordPress.com.

Lastly, limit alcohol intake. Heavy consumption of alcohol can lead to cirrhosis – a degenerative disease of the liver, which can increase the risk of pancreatic cancer.

Cancer Detection and Treatment

Ali Ghahary, a family doctor in Vancouver who currently practices at Burnaby’s Brentwood Medical Clinic, recommends patients have annual check-ups with their physician. Regular exams are a helpful way for your physician to keep your medical records current, ensuring your immunizations are up to date, and reviewing any health concerns you might have.

The most common type of tests that Dr. Ali Ghahary will refer patients for include blood testing to check hormone levels, thyroid function, and even diabetes, in addition to recommended preventive screening tests as outlined by the Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care, such as screening for prostate cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer. When it comes to a cancer diagnosis, early detection plays a pivotal role in getting effective treatment.

Cancer Detection and Treatment

For those who are newly diagnosed with cancer, it can be an overwhelming and life-altering event, and the biggest question that one may have is “What next?” That is where physicians like Dr. Ali Ghahary come in. General practitioners such as himself will often act as the middleman between patients and their cancer care team, which includes oncologists, in-home nursing care, as well as simply being there as part of the patient’s general support system and answering any questions a patient or their families might have in relation to the diagnosis. Dr. Ali Ghahary may also recommend that patients seek outside help in effort to better cope with their diagnosis. This can be done by referring the patient to outpatient mental health facilities for counselling, or by recommending support groups that are in or near the patient’s community. It is a good idea for the patient to include their loved ones when going through this kind of therapy. Click here for a list of support programs offered by the BC Cancer Agency.

When it comes to managing cancer, treatment is individualized specifically to the patient and is dependent on the type of cancer that they have and the stage of which it’s in. Below, Dr. Ali Ghahary outlines the different types of cancer treatments that are available and what the patient can potentially expect in terms of different side effects.

ChemotherapyChemotherapy
This is a common method of cancer treatment, and may be used as a standalone choice of treatment or in conjecture with radiation therapy. Chemotherapy works by stopping or slowing down the growth of cancer cells, and it is also often used to shrink tumours prior to the patient receiving radiation therapy. When it is used for this purpose, this is known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy comes in many different forms. The most common ways in which chemotherapy is administered is via injection, intravenously, and even orally.

While chemotherapy slows down or kills off cancer cells, it can also lead to the destruction of your body’s healthy cells, such as cells in your intestines, mouth, and even the cells that cause your hair to grow, thus making hair loss a common side effect of cancer treatment. When healthy cells become damaged you may also experience other side effects such as mouth sores and nausea.

To combat the symptoms associated with chemotherapy, Dr. Ali Ghahary will typically recommended anti-emetic drugs, such as Ondanestron – a drug that is commonly prescribed to cancer patients. While it may take a bit of time before you are feeling better, these side effects do tend to go away all together once the chemotherapy treatment has been completed.

Radiation Therapy

Radiation
Similar to that of medical imaging such as an X-ray or CT scan, radiation therapy kills cancer cells by exposing them to high doses of radiation – and continues to kill those cells for weeks, even months, after radiation treatment has ended.

The most common type of radiation therapy that is given is known as EBRT, or External Beam Radiation Therapy, which is done through a machine that aims its radiation at your cancer. The way in which the radiation procedure is performed is dependent on where your cancer is. As opposed to chemotherapy, which circulates throughout your body’s bloodstream, radiation will only be given to the specific area in your body that is affected – for example, if you have lung or breast cancer, the radiation will only go to your chest.

Similar to chemotherapy, patients who undergo radiation therapy may exhibit the same symptoms – with nausea and hair loss being the most common, as well as fatigue and swelling or scarring of the treated areas – which is also known as radiation dermatitis. If you experience scarring or burning as a result of radiation, it is important to keep your skin moisturized by using fragrance-free products. Your doctor may be able to recommend a good ointment to use for sensitive skin, or may refer you to a dermatologist for treatment. It is also important to bathe with lukewarm water rather than scalding hot water, do not use heating pads, and do not wear tight clothing on or around the affected areas. Instead, opt for looser fitting, comfortable clothing. It’s also crucial that you do not expose the areas to the sun while you are still undergoing treatment, as the sun’s UV rays can lead to further damage of the skin.

You can find more cancer resources by following Dr. Ali Ghahary on Twitter at @DrAliGhahary or by visiting his website at alighahary.ca.

Childhood Cancer

Childhood CancerChildhood cancer accounts for less than 1% of new cancer diagnoses in Canada. In comparison to adult cancer, it is relatively uncommon; however, it is still the leading cause of death in children between the ages of 6 months and 14 years (though its incidence is at its highest during the first 5 years od a child’s life) and 1 in every 5 children will succumb to the disease. An estimated 1 out of every 250 adults between the ages of 20 and 39 are survivors of childhood cancer. More cancer statistics can be found on Dr. Ali Ghahary’s Blogspot page by clicking here.

Leukemia, lymphomas and cancers of the brain and/or the CNS (Central Nervous System) account for the majority of malignant childhood cancers.

Unlike certain types of cancers that are found in adults, the cause of childhood cancer is relatively unknown. A definitive link to any specific factors – such as environmental or lifestyle factors – has not been fully established. In adults, some of these factors that can contribute to cancer include whether or not the patient is a smoker, overexposure to radiation/carcinogens, hormones, obesity, chronic inflammation, and other viruses. Adults will also usually be at an increased risk of developing cancer if there is a family history of it.

While some children may be too young to discern the diagnosis that they are facing, others will, and it can oftentimes be an overwhelming and undoubtedly scary process. When talking to a child about how to cope with cancer, Dr. Ali Ghahary says it is important to be as open and honest as possible, while ensuring you’re using terms that the child is able to understand. For example, rather than using words like “oncologist,” “radiation,” or “chemotherapy,” use words that the child is already familiar with, such as “doctor” and “medicine.” Children will often wonder what they did to deserve being diagnosed with cancer and may feel a sense of blame, so it is also important to reassure them that such a diagnosis is not their fault. As cancer can disrupt a child’s routine, explain to them that they may not be able to do the things they are used to doing – such as going to school or seeing their friends – but try to implement different ways for them to do that, such as communicating with friends via telephone calls, and incorporating at-home activities into their routine, such as colouring. Having a sense of normalcy may better help the child feel more at ease despite the difficult diagnosis.

BC Children's Hospital - Support for ChildrenWhen a child is diagnosed with cancer, they will usually be referred for treatment at a children’s facility – such as BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. These types of hospitals are specifically specialized in diagnosing and treating children with cancer and other childhood-related illnesses and diseases, and they provide comprehensive care in addition to support for children and their families. Together, the Michael Cuccione Childhood Cancer Research Program and BC Children’s Hospital work fervently in performing cutting-edge research to inaugurate enhanced methods of treatment for childhood cancer. In addition, the hospital holds various fundraisers, including the annual Miracle Weekend, which raised $20,300,680 this past May, making the total amount raised since 1987 a historic $300 million.