Posts for category: Oral Health
Discovering how pain and anxiety complicated disease care, many ancient civilizations turned to natural substances like root herbs or alcohol to ease their effect. Today, we've developed more effective agents, which enable patients to undergo many treatments they would otherwise be unable to endure.
There's been immense progress in particular in methods for reducing patient anxiety during dental treatment. In contrast to physical pain, anxiety is more aptly defined as mental discomfort. Dental anxiety, the apprehension a person feels at the prospect of dental care, can be serious enough that a person avoids dental care altogether, even with serious teeth or gum issues.
Adages like "Just suck it up and get through it" can be hollow words to someone with serious dental anxiety. Today's dentist understands that anxiety is very real and a serious impediment to care. Fortunately, modern dentistry has effective measures to alleviate it.
This commonly involves an approach with two phases. In the first, the patient takes an oral sedative an hour or so before the appointment to produce an initial calming effect. In the second phase at the appointment, the dentist initiates intravenous or IV sedation, a deeper application that continues throughout the treatment session.
With IV sedation, we deliver the sedative medication through a small needle inserted into a patient's vein, placing the patient in a highly relaxed state. Unlike general anesthesia, which renders a patient unconscious, sedated individuals remain somewhat awake, often able to respond to verbal commands or physical stimuli.
In further contrast to general anesthesia, IV sedation doesn't require assisting patients with breathing or circulation. Even so, one of the treatment staff will continue to monitor vital signs while the patient is sedated.
Since the introduction of Pentothal in the 1930s, the first sedative used for medical and dental procedures, we've developed other safe and effective sedatives that flush from the body quickly and have few after-effects. Many have an amnesiac effect, so that the patient remembers little or nothing at all about the procedure.
Sedation therapy can accomplish two things. First, an anxious patient can have a more positive experience during dental treatment. And, as these positive experiences accumulate, a patient prone to anxiety may develop a readiness to receive treatment before a problem goes too far.
If you would like more information on dental sedation techniques, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “IV Sedation in Dentistry.”
Gum disease's impact goes well beyond your teeth and gums—other aspects of your health can suffer too. Here's why.
Gum disease targets the gums, connective tissues and bone that support the teeth. These bacterial infections arise mainly from dental plaque, a thin biofilm that builds up on tooth surfaces. The risk is higher if you're not adequately cleaning your teeth of dental plaque every day with brushing and flossing.
As the infection ravages through your periodontal structures, you could eventually lose affected teeth. But two important aspects of gum disease also increase the risk of harm to other parts of your body.
For one, gum infections contain high levels of harmful bacteria and toxins. As periodontal tissues break down, these toxins can enter the bloodstream and spread infection to other parts of the body.
In the second aspect, inflammation normally occurs in diseased gum tissues in response to the infection. Although a crucial part of the body's defense mechanism, inflammation that becomes chronic (as it often does with gum disease) can itself become harmful.
Some research seems to show that gum inflammation might also influence other inflammatory diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease or arthritis to make them worse. Conversely, these conditions could also elevate your risk for a serious gum infection.
Gum disease can also affect pregnancy, and vice-versa. Because of hormonal changes, pregnant women have a higher risk for developing gum infections. And an active gum infection and its associated bacterial load could likewise affect the overall health of both mother and unborn child.
In light of its potential impact on your whole body and not just your mouth, it's prudent to prevent gum disease or promptly treat it should it occur. As previously mentioned, daily oral hygiene is foundational to dental disease prevention, with regular dental cleanings and checkups further reducing your risk of infection.
You should also watch for signs of infection, including swollen, reddened or bleeding gums. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, make a dental appointment as soon as possible. The earlier we can identify gum disease and begin treatment, the less damage it will cause your gums—and the rest of your health.
If you would like more information on how your oral health can impact your well-being, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Good Oral Health Leads to Better Health Overall.”
During the time it might take you to eat a meal, meet someone for coffee or watch your favorite television show, someone in the U.S. will die from oral cancer. Nearly 10,000 people in the U.S. succumb annually to the disease—about one every hour, every day of the year.
While other cancers may have higher occurrence rates, few have oral cancer's dismal 5-year survival rate of 57%. To put it into perspective, only a bit more than half of the 54,000 Americans diagnosed this year will still be alive in five years. That's why we're recognizing April as Oral Cancer Awareness Month—to put a spotlight on this dangerous and deadly disease.
So, why is the disease's fatality rate so high? For one thing, it's been perennially difficult to diagnose oral cancer early, which could increase a patient's survival odds. This is because the lesions produced by various forms of oral cancer can mimic other types of benign sores. It's easy to dismiss what might be pre-cancerous or cancerous tissue as a simple mouth sore.
A biopsy, removing some of the questionable tissue and viewing it under a microscope, is the best way to confirm whether the area is cancerous. But although biopsies are the diagnostic "gold standard" for oral cancer, they're costly and not particularly pleasant for patients to undergo. Usually reserved for the most suspicious cases, biopsies would increase exponentially if we scrutinized more general mouth sores for cancer.
But not all is gloom and doom regarding over oral cancer: Recent years' survival statistics have shown some modest improvement. That's due not only to greater awareness and efforts to improve early detection, but better success in preventing oral cancer development in the first place.
Dedicated oral hygiene, a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle all help lower your risk of oral cancer. Concerning the latter, you can drastically reduce your risk by avoiding tobacco and lowering your alcohol consumption.
Although taking care of both your oral and general health are your best means for preventing oral cancer, it won't eliminate your risk entirely. You may need to add oral cancer screenings to your regular dental visits as you get older or if you have a family history of the disease.
Pay attention as well to any suspicious mouth sores, especially any that don't seem to clear up within a few weeks—sufficient reason to have your dentist examine it. Taking this proactive approach to your oral health can help you get out ahead of this dangerous disease—or avoid it altogether.
In one respect, celebrities are no different from the rest of us—quite a few famous people love to collect things. Marie Osmond collects dolls (as well as Johnny Depp, reportedly); Leonardo DiCaprio, vintage toys. And, of course, Jay Leno has his famous fleet of cars. But Victoria Beckham's collection is unusually "familial"—she's kept all of her four children's "baby" teeth after they've fallen out.
Best known as Posh Spice of the 1990s group Spice Girls and now a fashion designer and TV personality, Beckham told People Magazine that she has an "entire bucket" of her kids' primary teeth. And, she recently added to it when her nine-year old daughter lost another tooth earlier this year.
You may or may not want to keep your child's baby teeth, but you'll certainly have the opportunity. Children start losing their first set of teeth around age 6 or 7 through early puberty. During the process, each tooth's roots and gum attachment weakens to the point that the tooth becomes noticeably loose. Not long after, it gives way and falls out.
Although a baby tooth doesn't normally need any help with this, children (and sometimes parents) are often eager to accelerate the process. A loose tooth can be annoying—plus there's often a financial incentive via the "Tooth Fairy!"
First off, there's not much harm in a child wiggling a loose tooth—it may even help it come out. It's also possible to help the tooth safely detach sooner by taking a small piece of tissue, folding it over the tooth and giving it a gentle downward squeeze. If it's loose enough, it should pop out.
If it doesn't, don't resort to more forcible measures like the proverbial string and a door—just wait a day or two before trying the gentle squeeze method again. Once the tooth comes out, the empty socket may bleed a bit or not at all. If heavy bleeding does occur, have the child bite down on a piece of clean gauze or a wet tea bag until it stops. You may also have them eat softer foods for a few days to avoid a resumption of bleeding.
Beyond that, there's little else to do but place it under your child's pillow for the Tooth Fairy. And if after their "exchange" with that famous member of the Fae Folk you find yourself in possession of the erstwhile tooth, consider taking a cue from Victoria Beckham and add it to your own collection of family memories.
It's common for people to sip freshly brewed coffee or take a bite of a just-from-the-oven casserole and immediately regret it—the searing heat can leave the tongue and mouth scalded and tingling with pain.
Imagine, though, having the same scalding sensation, but for no apparent reason. It's not necessarily your mind playing tricks with you, but an actual medical condition called burning mouth syndrome (BMS). Besides scalding, you might also feel mouth sensations like extreme dryness, tingling or numbness.
If encountering something hot isn't the cause of BMS, what is then? That's often hard to nail down, although the condition has been linked to diabetes, nutritional deficiencies, acid reflux or even psychological issues. Because it's most common in women around menopause, changes in hormones may also play a role.
If you're experiencing symptoms related to BMS, it might require a process of elimination to identify a probable cause. To help with this, see your dentist for a full examination, who may then be able to help you narrow down the possibilities. They may also refer you to an oral pathologist, a dentist who specializes in mouth diseases, to delve further into your case.
In the meantime, there are things you can do to help ease your discomfort.
Avoid items that cause dry mouth. These include smoking, drinking alcohol or coffee, or eating spicy foods. It might also be helpful to keep a food diary to help you determine the effect of certain foods.
Drink more water. Keeping your mouth moist can also help ease dryness. You might also try using a product that stimulates saliva production.
Switch toothpastes. Many toothpastes contain a foaming agent called sodium lauryl sulfate that can irritate the skin inside the mouth. Changing to a toothpaste without this ingredient might offer relief.
Reduce stress. Chronic stress can irritate many conditions including BMS. Seek avenues and support that promote relaxation and ease stress levels.
Solving the mystery of BMS could be a long road. But between your dentist and physician, as well as making a few lifestyle changes, you may be able to find significant relief from this uncomfortable condition.
If you would like more information on burning mouth syndrome, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Burning Mouth Syndrome: A Painful Puzzle.”