Posts for: October, 2016
Some things in life look worse than they really are. A condition known as “geographic tongue” is a good example: while it may look serious, it’s not a cause for real concern.
If you’ve never heard of geographic tongue it’s because it’s not a common ailment: it only affects one to three percent of the population. The name comes from patches of redness on the top surface of the tongue surrounded by grayish white borders, which gives the red patches a look similar to land masses on a map.
It’s known formally as “benign migratory glossitis,” which tells us more about the condition: “benign” means the patches aren’t cancerous; “migratory” indicates the patches tend to move and take different shapes along the surface of the tongue. In fact, it’s possible for them to appear, disappear, and then reappear over the course of a few days.
The exact causes of geographic tongue haven’t been fully substantiated. Researchers believe emotional stress, psychological problems or hormonal disturbances (especially women during pregnancy or ovulation) could be triggers for its occurrence. Certain dietary deficiencies like zinc or vitamin B, or acidic foods are also believed to be factors.
While geographic tongue isn’t painful, it can leave your tongue feeling more sensitive with a mild burning or stinging sensation. If you’re prone to having geographic tongue, there are some things you can do to reduce the irritation. Try to avoid eating acidic or spicy foods like tomatoes, citrus fruits or mint, as well as astringent substances like alcohol or certain mouthwashes. We may also prescribe anesthetic mouthrinses, antihistamines or steroid ointments to help ease any discomfort.
The good news, though, is that this harmless condition is more irritating than anything else. With a little care and forethought you won’t even know you have it.
If you would like more information on geographic tongue, 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 “Geographic Tongue.”
Did you see the move Cast Away starring Tom Hanks? If so, you probably remember the scene where Hanks, stranded on a remote island, knocks out his own abscessed tooth — with an ice skate, no less — to stop the pain. Recently, Dear Doctor TV interviewed Gary Archer, the dental technician who created that special effect and many others.
“They wanted to have an abscess above the tooth with all sorts of gunk and pus and stuff coming out of it,” Archer explained. “I met with Tom and I took impressions [of his mouth] and we came up with this wonderful little piece. It just slipped over his own natural teeth.” The actor could flick it out with his lower tooth when the time was right during the scene. It ended up looking so real that, as Archer said, “it was not for the easily squeamish!”
That’s for sure. But neither is a real abscess, which is an infection that becomes sealed off beneath the gum line. An abscess may result from a trapped piece of food, uncontrolled periodontal (gum) disease, or even an infection deep inside a tooth that has spread to adjacent periodontal tissues. In any case, the condition can cause intense pain due to the pressure that builds up in the pus-filled sac. Prompt treatment is required to relieve the pain, keep the infection from spreading to other areas of the face (or even elsewhere in the body), and prevent tooth loss.
Treatment involves draining the abscess, which usually stops the pain immediately, and then controlling the infection and removing its cause. This may require antibiotics and any of several in-office dental procedures, including gum surgery, a root canal, or a tooth extraction. But if you do have a tooth that can’t be saved, we promise we won’t remove it with an ice skate!
The best way to prevent an abscess from forming in the first place is to practice conscientious oral hygiene. By brushing your teeth twice each day for two minutes, and flossing at least once a day, you will go a long way towards keeping harmful oral bacteria from thriving in your mouth.
If you have any questions about gum disease or abscesses, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Periodontal (Gum) Abscesses” and “Confusing Tooth Pain.”
For millions of Americans, sleep apnea is a serious health condition. Not only can it impair your day-to-day living, you might be more susceptible to high blood pressure, heart disease or stroke.
Sleep apnea occurs when you stop breathing for short periods while asleep. When blood oxygen drops too low, your body automatically wakes you to take a breath. This can disrupt your sleep several times a night. Chronic symptoms like drowsiness, irritability or headaches during the day, or indications you're a loud snorer, are all possible signs of sleep apnea.
Fortunately, we can treat sleep apnea. One way is continuous airway pressure therapy (CPAP), a pump device that supplies pressurized air through a mask to keep the airway open during sleep. Although CPAP is effective, some people find it uncomfortable to use.
There's a more comfortable option for sleep apnea caused by mouth structures like the tongue or tonsils obstructing the airway. It involves a custom-fitted oral appliance worn while you sleep that moves these structures out of the way.
Such appliances come in two basic types. One type fits over the upper and lower teeth and uses tiny metal hinges to move the lower jaw and tongue forward away from the airway. The other fits around and presses the tongue down like a tongue depressor to move it forward.
Before starting treatment, we need to first find out if you actually have sleep apnea and what's causing it (some cases may be more acute and require advanced treatments like jaw surgery). We'll need to perform medical and oral exams and take a history, and we'll likely refer you to a sleep medicine specialist for further testing.
If you have obstructive sleep apnea, a custom-fitted appliance could be a good solution. We'll create and adjust it according to your particular mouth and jaw contours for maximum comfort. Besides the appliance, you might also lose excess weight, adjust your sleep position, seek treatment for allergies, and quit smoking. All these could help reduce sleep apnea.
In any event, your first step is to find out if you have sleep apnea. From there we'll help you find the right treatment to improve your overall health and well being.
If you would like more information on treatments for sleep apnea, 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 “Sleep Disorders & Dentistry.”