Posts for: March, 2014
Do you have gum disease? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, about half of the adults in America have a mild, moderate or severe form of this disease. But if you’re 65 or older, your chance of having it goes up to 70 percent! Periodontal (gum) disease is sometimes called a “silent malady” because major symptoms may not appear until it has reached an advanced stage. How can you recognize the early warning signs? Here are some clues to look for:
- Redness and irritation of gums. Having red, swollen or sore gums can be a sign of gum disease; however, it could also result from brushing your teeth too vigorously, or using a brush with hard bristles. That’s why we recommend using a soft-bristled brush and a gentle cleaning stroke. If you’re doing this but you still have irritated gums, it could be an early signal of gum disease.
- Bleeding when you brush. Despite what you may think, this is never a normal occurrence. If your gums regularly bleed after brushing, it’s usually an indication that gum disease is present. You should come in for an examination as soon as possible.
- Bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth. Bad breath or unpleasant tastes could be caused by what you ate last night — or they could result from gum disease. If the odor or taste is persistent — that is, if it doesn’t seem to go away over time — it could indicate a problem with your gums.
- Gum recession. When you have gum recession, the healthy, pink tissue surrounding the teeth begins to pull back, or recede. This exposes more of the tooth’s structure — even its roots — and makes teeth look longer. While gum recession is a common condition that is primarily caused by periodontal disease, many people don’t realize they have it because it occurs so gradually. They also may not realize that by the time it is noticed, some underlying bone tissue has already been lost. Gum recession is a condition you shouldn’t ignore: If left untreated, it can result in the destruction of more gum and bone tissue, and even tooth loss.
- Tooth Sensitivity or pain when chewing. Many things can cause tooth pain or sensitivity: an old filling, tooth decay, even a cracked tooth or a root canal problem. Gum disease can also cause this unpleasant sensation. Receding gums may expose the tooth’s roots, which aren’t as well protected from the mouth’s harsh environment as the chewing surfaces; this may cause a sensation of pain when chewing or brushing. If this sensation persists, it’s time for an examination to find out what’s causing it.
Gum disease is a widespread problem — but it’s also very treatable. If you would like more information, call our office to arrange a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease” and “Understanding Gum (Periodontal) Disease.”
After her husband, producer Bruce Paltrow, succumbed to oral cancer in 2002, actress Blythe Danner made it her mission to help save other families from the heartache she and her children (Jake and Gwyneth Paltrow) suffered with his loss. Now active with the Oral Cancer Foundation, Blythe uses her fame to bring awareness to the disease, which she says she and her family knew very little about before Bruce received his diagnosis.
In an interview with People magazine, Blythe said she believes her husband's cancer could have been detected earlier if the family had been alert to the symptoms.
“For months I had noticed Bruce's voice was hoarse,” she said. “I started asking him to see a doctor. But he kept saying, ‘No, no, no, I'm fine.’ ”
When a lump became visible in his neck, he did go to the doctor and found he had a tumor in his throat. The cancer eventually spread to his lymph nodes. Compounding Blythe's sadness is the feeling that she might have been able to do something to prevent her husband's death.
“I feel tremendously guilty,” she told the magazine, noting that she wishes she had simply insisted her husband get himself checked out. “Education and early detection are so important,” she said of her campaign to raise awareness. “That's why I'm doing this.”
Though Bruce Paltrow was a smoker, it's important to note that young, non-smokers comprise the fastest-growing segment of the population being diagnosed with the disease. That's because a sexually transmitted virus known as HPV16 is now a major cause of oral cancer.
Oral cancer screenings are yet another good reason to make regular semi-annual visits to the dentist. We have the training to notice oral abnormalities, and to monitor and/or biopsy any suspicious lesions. At your oral cancer screening, we will feel your neck for lumps and inspect your lips and all inside surfaces of the mouth, including the back of your throat.
Of course, if you or a loved one experience persistent hoarseness, white or red patches or other changes in your mouth or tongue that don't go away in a few weeks, please don't hesitate to come in and see us.