The Smiles Blog with Dr. Watkins

Your Next Best Step Beyond Oral Cancer Awareness

Awareness is a good habit. But there’s another vital step when oral cancer is the concern.

The facts about oral cancer are clear. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation thousands of deaths occur yearly as a result of the disease.

Many of those deaths could be prevented with a simple action.

A new concern

No doubt, awareness is key to confronting oral cancer. It’s impact on your mouth and general health should be your focus.

The most vulnerable areas are your mouth, tongue, and throat. Greater than 90 percent of all diagnosed cases can be traced to lifestyle issues.

The most common causes are the use of tobacco and alcohol. There’s another emerging cause that goes beyond tobacco use and those who infrequently drink alcohol.

HPV16 or the human papilloma virus is a new threat. It currently ranks as the leading source of new oral cancer cases.

It joins other noted causes that include poor oral hygiene, diet, and over exposure to ultra-violet radiation.

Changes you should be aware of

Oral cancer comes with warning signs and symptoms. Any noticeable changes in your mouth, on your tongue, or in your throat require attention.

Many symptoms can present without pain or discomfort. Give attention to any lesions or sore areas in your mouth that fail to heal after two or more weeks.

Be aware of the following symptoms:

  • Patches of red or white skin in your mouth
  • Thick skin areas or lumps in your mouth or on your tongue
  • Numbness in your face, mouth, or neck
  • Feeling as though something is caught in your throat
  • Mouth bleeding
  • A consistent sore throat

That was fast

An oral cancer screening is your best solution for early diagnosis. The screen is fast, safe, and painless and can be done as part of your next dental examination and teeth cleaning appointment.

Your oral cancer screening can pinpoint any abnormal tissue areas throughout your mouth. Any suspicious areas can be biopsied to determine if additional treatment is necessary.

Contact Dr. Watkins or Dr. Kaihara in Washington D.C. or McLean, VA about any concerns you have about oral cancer. Schedule your next dental examination and teeth cleaning and ask about an oral cancer screening.

Why Applying Fluoride to Your Teeth Makes Sense

You may have heard that fluoride is in the water you drink. And you’re correct.

The bigger questions (dentally speaking): is it necessary and is the amount you consume enough?

The reason for fluoride

Your tooth enamel is the focus of attention when discussing fluoride. More important is your desire to protect your enamel.

Tooth decay begins when your tooth enamel is weakened or unprotected. The assault occurs as result of the foods and beverages you consume daily.

Acid is the enemy. If your diet is high in acidity you can expect your tooth enamel to erode over time.

Fluoride creates a protective barrier. It protects and strengthens your tooth enamel and enables it to withstand the frontal assault of your dietary choices.

Acids have a more difficult time penetrating your tooth surface (enamel) when fluoride is “standing guard.” Fluoride restores and repairs those areas of your teeth that have been weakened.

For development purposes

Children’s tooth enamel is especially vulnerable. Fluoride application during their tooth development years is effective and recommended.

It’s essential to your dental health that you increase your resistance to common dental problems. Most are associated with having weak or eroded tooth enamel.

Fluoride is a good defense for you and your child. It can also protect your oral health if you have certain dental issues including frequent dental cavities, a history of gum disease, treatment involving dental braces, dental crowns, a dental bridge, and teeth whitening, and dry mouth.

The question about fluoride is best answered with a “Yes.” It’s an essential part of keeping your teeth and gums healthy and disease free.

Contact Dr. Watkins or Dr. Kaihara in Washington D.C. or McLean, VA to discuss fluoride. Request a quick and easy fluoride application during you and your family’s next dental examination and teeth cleaning appointment.

What to Prioritize for Improving Your Dental Health All Year

A New Year means a new beginning. Every area of your life including your dental health should get a fresh start.

Why not ride-the-wave and prioritize a few essentials for keeping your teeth and gums healthy? Don't let your lack of maintenance this year lead to unexpected costs and impacts on your time next year. Make your oral health a priority with these dental solutions that have lasting value all year.

1. Establish consistent preventive dentistry habits

Your teeth and gums are durable and made to last for your lifetime. Care and maintenance is vital to keeping them healthy and functioning properly.

2017 Priorities:

  • Monitor your dietary choices. Enjoy your favorite foods and beverages with an understanding of how they can impact your oral health. Learn what to do to protect your teeth and gums from damage.
  • Stick with the dental care basics. Daily brushing and flossing are essential to the health of your teeth and gums.
  • Stay consistent with you and your family’s dental examinations and teeth cleanings. Schedule them at the first of the New Year to assure you’re on track.

2. Stay informed and remain aware of gum disease

Periodontal (gum) disease begins with gingivitis. Once it progresses you risk tooth loss and a variety of health related issues including high blood pressure and heart disease.

2017 Priorities:

  • Value your dental examinations and teeth cleanings. These routine appointments two times per year provide you advanced notice of any changes to your gum tissue.
  • Be aware of the signs of infection. Inflamed or bleeding gums are an early symptom.
  • Schedule an examination and deep cleaning when you notice symptoms. Scaling and root planing go a step beyond your routine teeth cleaning to eliminate oral bacteria that can produce gum disease.

3. Treat tooth loss or tooth damage as soon as possible

Damaged or missing teeth can impact your surrounding teeth and gum tissue. Alignment, bone loss, and cavities are issues that can result from neglecting care.

2017 Priorities:

  • Ask about tooth replacement options. Dental implants, dentures, and dental bridges are common solutions for missing teeth and restoring your tooth function.
  • Schedule a dental examination when you experience tooth loss or tooth damage.
  • Treat your tooth damage with restorative dental solutions. Dental crowns, dental fillings, dental bonding, and veneers are options for restoring your health and appearance.

4. Stay up-to-date with your dental insurance coverage and benefits remaining throughout the year.

Most dental insurance plans renew annually. You have a fresh supply of benefits to use for you and your family’s oral health care.

2017 Priorities:

  • Communicate with your insurance provider. Get informed about your benefits and what’s allowed in your coverage to reduce your out-of-pocket costs for treatment.
  • Schedule your treatment. Take advantage of the benefits as they’re available to avoid having to postpone necessary treatment.

Contact Dr. Watkins or Dr. Kaihara in Washington D.C. or McLean, VA to discuss your dental health priorities. Start by scheduling you and your family’s next dental examination and teeth cleaning today.

Treat Yourself and Prevent What You Enjoy From Damaging Your Teeth and Gum

Maintaining your oral health can be easier during certain times of the year. And there are seasons when it’s more challenging.

Starting with trick-or-treat and moving into the holidays happens to be one of those challenging periods. Why?

You have more access to the sugary foods, snacks, and beverages you enjoy. But there’s less risk to your dental health if you prioritize preventive dentistry.

Designed to last

Your teeth and gums are durable. They’re made to last a lifetime.

This “warranty” of sorts will extend for many years if you’re aware of the threats. A portion of the risk includes the choices you make in your diet.

The real issue

Oral bacteria are the primary concern. They’re consistently present in your mouth but their impact increases when you let your guard down.

Bacteria enjoy sugar as much as you do. In fact, they feed on the sugary substances that are allowed to remain on your teeth and gums.

As they multiply they migrate deeper into your gum tissue. Ignore their growth there and you can experience decay, cavities, and gum disease.

Two solutions

The impact of oral bacteria that progresses with sugar consumption can be reduced and eliminated.

1-Personal awareness about the diet and dental health connection

Proper diet is an essential starting point. I realize it’s not always easy to be consistent especially during seasons with tempting food choices.

Ask your dental hygienist and me about oral hygiene solutions to safeguard your teeth and gums.

2-Lead with preventive dentistry

First, at home, brush and floss your teeth consistently and daily for optimum tooth and gum tissue health.

Next, schedule professional dental care. Routine dental examinations and professional teeth cleanings atleast two times per year will help assure that your teeth and gums are free from bacterial build-up and potential damage.


Agree to the treatment that’s recommended. Treatment will preserve your oral health and save you costs on further dental procedures.

Contact your Washington D.C. or McLean, VA dentist about the essential diet and dental health relationship. Schedule you and your family’s next dental examination and teeth cleaning.

What You Need to Know About Dental Care During Pregnancy

When you’re pregnant “everything” matters. What you eat, doctor appointments, exercise, and your dental health.

The connection of your dental health to your overall health is heightened when you’re expecting a baby. The less health complications you encounter the better it is for your child


No doubt, your body is changing. And those changes can often trigger certain oral health conditions you might not otherwise encounter.

Three to watch

Hormones are the culprit. They can increase your blood flow and with that deliver more risks to your teeth and gum tissue.

Gingivitis can occur during pregnancy. Red, swollen gums, and an increased risk for bleeding can occur to you as it commonly does for approximately 50% of pregnant women.

Pregnancy tumors or gum growths are an irritation caused by gingivitis and dental plaque build-up on your teeth. These harmless, non-cancerous growths will disappear after you give birth.

Periodontal (gum) disease can result from gingivitis during pregnancy. This infection attacks your gum tissue with an increased risk of entering your bloodstream.

What to do and when

The good news is that you can protect yourself from the three dental health risks during pregnancy. It’s vital to maintain your oral hygiene routine when you’re pregnant by brushing and flossing to remove the harmful dental plaque from your teeth and gum tissue.

Morning sickness impacts your teeth also. Stomach acid affects your tooth enamel so it’s essential to rinse your mouth with water following an episode of sickness.

A dental healthy diet is effective too. Baby teeth can form in utero making it important to eat for their development as you would the health of your teeth.

And about your dental appointments…

Preliminary appointments during the pregnancy planning phase are recommended. These would include your teeth cleaning and any restorative dental treatment that’s pending.

Communicate with your dentist prior to any dental procedure. Inform us about the specific trimester you are in and we will delay treatment or make you aware of the best time for a specific procedure during pregnancy.

A dental emergency should receive attention as soon as possible. It’s common to avoid dental x-rays during pregnancy but if necessary precautions can be taken to assure your baby’s health.

Your pregnancy routine matters to your baby and your health as the mother. Contact your Washington D.C. or McLean, VA dentist about your dental care during pregnancy.

Improve Your Smile and Look Younger - By Dr. Benjamin Watkins

Dr. Benjamin Watkins The mirror doesn’t lie. Your reflection tells the truth about your appearance.

Products and procedures promise to reduce the signs of aging. Anti-wrinkle gels, cosmetics, skin treatments, facelifts, and day spas help you look your best.

And what about your teeth?

There’s a fast and easy way to enhance your overall appearance and especially your smile. Teeth whitening and other cosmetic dental procedures are now a more convenient and cost-effective solution.

You have two options for achieving whiter teeth with a whitening or bleaching treatment. Choose the convenience of an at-home whitening kit or the fast and noticeably effective in-office professional teeth whitening treatment.

Beware of substitutes

Over-the-counter whitening methods are popular. They are less costly but the results are less effective than what you can experience in our dental office.

You don’t have to look older when you smile

Your teeth age naturally. Certain lifestyle choices can also add years to your smile.

Coffee, tea, red wine, smoking, and normal wear on your tooth enamel affect the appearance of your teeth.

Even dentures can yellow or appear grey. In fact, your dentures can actually stain and show wear faster than your natural teeth.

It’s recommended that your dentures be evaluated if you’ve worn them for longer than six years. New dentures should be made and fitted every six to ten years and relined every three to five years.

Improve your smile and look younger

Bleaching is a common first step to achieving a more youthful looking smile. The treatment brightens your teeth and significantly improves their appearance.

The improvements to your tooth enamel will be noticeable following a bleaching procedure. If you choose, porcelain veneers can completely transform the color, shape, and appearance of your teeth.

Contact our Washington, DC or McLean dental office about teeth whitening and other cosmetic dentistry solutions. Schedule a consultation to discuss your treatment options.