During election season, you'll often hear celebrities encouraging you to vote. But this year, Kaia Gerber, an up-and-coming model following the career path of her mother Cindy Crawford, made a unique election appeal—while getting her wisdom teeth removed.
With ice packs secured to her jaw, Gerber posted a selfie to social media right after her surgery. The caption read, “We don't need wisdom teeth to vote wisely.”
That's great advice—electing our leaders is one of the most important choices we make as a society. But Gerber's post also highlights another decision that bears careful consideration, whether or not to have your wisdom teeth removed.
Found in the very back of the mouth, wisdom teeth (or “third molars”) are usually the last of the permanent teeth to erupt between ages 17 and 25. But although their name may be a salute to coming of age, in reality wisdom teeth can be a pain. Because they're usually last to the party, they're often erupting in a jaw already crowded with teeth. Such a situation can be a recipe for numerous dental problems.
Crowded wisdom teeth may not erupt properly and remain totally or partially hidden within the gums (impaction). As such, they can impinge on and damage the roots of neighboring teeth, and can make overall hygiene more difficult, increasing the risk of dental disease. They can also help pressure other teeth out of position, resulting in an abnormal bite.
Because of this potential for problems, it's been a common practice in dentistry to remove wisdom teeth preemptively before any problems arise. As a result, wisdom teeth extractions are the top oral surgical procedure performed, with around 10 million of them removed every year.
But that practice is beginning to wane, as many dentists are now adopting more of a “wait and see” approach. If the wisdom teeth show signs of problems—impaction, tooth decay, gum disease or bite influence—removal is usually recommended. If not, though, the wisdom teeth are closely monitored during adolescence and early adulthood. If no problems develop, they may be left intact.
This approach works best if you maintain regular dental cleanings and checkups. During these visits, we'll be able to consistently evaluate the overall health of your mouth, particularly in relation to your wisdom teeth.
Just as getting information on candidates helps you decide your vote, this approach of watchful waiting can help us recommend the best course for your wisdom teeth. Whether you vote your wisdom teeth “in” or “out,” you'll be able to do it wisely.
Most childhood sicknesses are highly treatable and quickly fade from memory afterward. But there's one viral infection that can reappear years later, albeit in a different form and this time it might not be as forgettable. It could even impact your dental care.
Varicella, more commonly known as chicken pox, is a viral infection that mainly affects children. Fortunately, the itchy blisters and other symptoms associated with it usually clear up on their own. But the virus itself, varicella zoster virus (VZV), can remain behind and become dormant.
Fast-forward a few decades, and the child once with chicken pox is now an adult, usually over 50. In 20-30% of former chicken pox patients, the virus reactivates as a new infection known commonly as shingles.
Shingles often begins with an itching, burning or numbing sensation on the skin that develops into a severe rash. Because of its effect on surface nerves, the rash often takes on a striped or belt-like pattern on the skin. A shingles outbreak can also cause fever, fatigue and pain, the latter of which in rare cases can be quite severe.
Shingles in its early stages is also highly contagious, transmitted easily through either physical contact with the skin lesions or through airborne secretions. This is especially troubling for certain groups: pregnant women, patients undergoing cancer or other serious disease treatment, or those with compromised immune systems. For them, shingles can pose a significant risk for complications.
Because of its easy transmission, and the danger it can pose to certain groups, dentists typically postpone treatment—even routine dental cleanings—for patients experiencing a shingles outbreak, especially a facial rash. Once their outbreak subsides, those procedures can be rescheduled.
If you develop what you think is shingles, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Certain prescribed antiviral medications can ease the symptoms and hasten recovery, but they're most effective if started within three days of the onset of the disease. There's also an effective vaccination for shingles recommended for people over 60 to help avoid the disease altogether.
One other thing! If you do develop shingles and have an upcoming dental appointment, let your dentist know. Better to reschedule your visit after you've recuperated than to put others' health at risk.
If you would like more information on shingles and dental care, 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 “Shingles, Herpes Zoster.”
Although there are several potential problems people could encounter involving their teeth, gums or mouth, most fall into three basic categories. That's the finding of a recent survey conducted by the American Dental Association of more than 15,000 U.S. adults.
These categories are a triad of symptoms, each of which could arise from a variety of causes. If you're encountering any one of these, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.
Tooth pain. A toothache—or any form of pain from the mouth—could be sign of a number of possible issues. It could mean you have a decayed tooth, especially if the pain is sharp and localized. It could also indicate a gum abscess (accompanied by red and puffy gums), a sinus or ear infection, or inflammation of the jaw joints. The intensity, duration and location of the pain are all clues to its actual cause and what treatments it might require.
Biting difficulties. Does it hurt when you bite down? Among other things, you could have a loose tooth or one that's deeply decayed. The former could be the sign of advanced gum disease, which itself must be treated and the tooth stabilized (splinted) to other teeth. If the problem is advanced decay, you may need a root canal to remove diseased tissue from within the interior of the tooth, which is then filled and crowned to prevent re-infection.
Dry mouth. We're not talking about that "cotton mouth" feeling we all get now and then. This is a chronic condition known as xerostomia in which the mouth feels dry all the time. Xerostomia has several causes including smoking or treatments for cancer or other serious diseases. It might also be a medication you're taking, which has reduced your mouth's saliva production. Because dry mouth could lead to dental disease, you should take steps to relieve it.
Even if you're not having symptoms like these, there may still be something going on in your mouth that needs attention. That's why you should see your dentist on a regular basis, besides when you notice a problem, to keep your oral health in tip-top shape.
We all experience that unpleasant "cotton-mouth" feeling now and again. But what if it happens all the time? Chronic dry mouth is more than unpleasant—it could be a medical condition that threatens your oral health.
Chronic dry mouth is a sign you don't have enough saliva present. That's a problem because we need saliva to keep our teeth and gums healthy by neutralizing the oral acid that erodes tooth enamel. Saliva also supplies antibodies to fight infection.
A saliva deficiency could be the result of lifestyle habits like drinking alcohol or smoking, metabolic diseases or treatments like chemotherapy or radiation. More commonly, though, it's a side effect from a medication you're taking.
Given the heightened risk it causes to your teeth and gums, what can you do to alleviate chronic dry mouth?
Review your medications. If you're taking prescribed medications, talk with your pharmacist or doctor about possible oral side effects associated with any of them. If so, it may be possible to switch to an alternative medication without the dry mouth side effect.
Don't use tobacco. Regardless of whether you smoke, dip or chew, tobacco use can interfere with saliva production. Kicking the habit not only improves saliva flow, it may further reduce your risk for oral diseases, especially oral cancer.
Drink more water. Saliva is mainly composed of water—so, be sure your body has plenty of it to facilitate saliva production. It's a good idea to sip extra water throughout the day, and especially before and after you take medication.
Practice oral hygiene. As a general rule, brushing and flossing every day is pivotal in preventing dental disease—but it's especially important with dry mouth. Be sure, then, to brush twice and floss once every day. You should also see your dentist at least every six months for dental cleanings and checkups.
Chronic dry mouth could be setting you up for future dental disease. But taking steps to alleviate it while practicing daily dental care could help you avoid that unhappy outcome.
If you would like more information on alleviating chronic dry mouth, 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 “10 Tips for Dealing With Dry Mouth.”
British pole vaulter Harry Coppell had an unpleasant mishap right before the Tokyo Olympic games. During a training vault, Coppell glanced the top bar to loosen it, which then fell on top of his face on the mat. The impact broke one of his front teeth nearly in two and severely damaged others.
Coppell posted the accident on Instagram, along with a photo of the aftermath. "I hope @tokyo2020 has a good dentist around," he quipped in the caption. Alas, after several hours with a dentist, one of the injured teeth couldn't be saved, although the chipped tooth remained. Needless to say, the Olympian's smile took a beating along with his teeth.
Fortunately, through the marvels of cosmetic dentistry, Coppell can eventually regain his attractive smile. Still, though, his experience is a blunt reminder that sports and other physical activities do carry some risk for dental injury, especially for active young adults and children.
A chipped tooth is the most common outcome of a traumatic dental injury, but not the only one: you might also suffer from a displaced, loosened or even knocked-out tooth. And, even if the teeth don't appear injured after face trauma, there could be underlying gum and bone damage that requires prompt emergency care from a dentist.
Of course, preventing a dental injury is far better than treating one that has occurred—and wearing an athletic mouthguard is your best bet for dodging such a bullet. A mouthguard's soft plastic helps absorb the force of a hard impact so that the teeth and gums don't. This important protective gear is a must for anyone who plays sports like football or basketball, or enjoys physical activities like trail biking.
When it comes to mouthguards, you have two general categories from which to choose. The first is called a "boil and bite," often found online or in sporting goods stores. These usually come in general sizes that can be customized further by softening in hot water and then having the wearer bite down while it's soft (hence the name). This personalizes the guard to fit the individual wearer.
The other category is a custom mouthguard created by a dentist from an impression of the wearer's mouth. Because of this specialized fit, custom mouthguards aren't usually as bulky as boil and bites, and are typically more comfortable to wear.
The key point, though, is that a mouthguard can help you avoid a serious dental injury, regardless of which category you choose. It could mean the difference between a forgettable incident or dental damage that could impact your life for years to come.
If you would like more information about preventing and treating dental injuries, please contact us or schedule a consultation. To learn more, read the Dear Doctor magazine article “Athletic Mouthguards.”
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