Every career has frustrations and dentistry has its share!
One of my biggest frustrations is convincing patients of the importance of dealing with infections in their mouth.
In these COVID-19 times, where people with co-morbidities are more susceptible to poor outcomes from the virus, treating oral infections is more important than ever.
In this spotlight, I am going to talk about two basic kinds of infections – cavities and gum disease. Oral cancer, and the importance of regular screening, will be addressed in another article.
Basically, a cavity is an infection in the tooth.
Those of us who are middle aged and older probably remember a dentist saying that he would “watch” a small cavity.
I can tell you that, in the majority of cases, “watching” a cavity means watching the cavity get bigger and possibly cause significant problems.
As cavities grow the problems start.
Over time the infection can move through the tooth enamel into the pulp (causing pain and requiring root canal therapy).
From there, the infection can travel through the gums and bone, into the sinus cavity and, in extreme cases, into the brain.
About 25 years ago, a new tool became available that helps me convince patients who have early decay that they have a problem.
The intra-oral camera became an invaluable tool in making the infection real to the patient, despite the lack of pain.
I believe the advent of the intra-oral camera significantly improved the oral health of many patients.
Some outward symptoms of gum infections (periodontitis) are puffiness, redness, bad breath, and bleeding of the gums.
It is never ok to have a gum infection for a simple reason – there is no wall between your mouth and the rest of your body!
The same “bugs” (germs) that cause your gum disease can travel throughout your body.
Much has been written and documented about the definitive relationship between gum disease, heart disease, and other illnesses.
Early gum disease often can be effectively and easily treated in the general dentist office.
More frequent cleanings, as well as the application of medications, are some options.
Your dentist may refer you to a periodontist for more aggressive treatment.
Any infection in your body is bad – whether it is in your big toe or your mouth.
The big difference, however, is that your oral cavity is very close to your heart – and your brain! Please take care of yourself – be proactive in confronting oral infections.
PHOTO CAP: The Weathervane Commons in Richboro is home to BCDD