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The Causes of Sensitive Teeth and How Your Dentist Can Help

By | Blog, Dental | No Comments

Does eating ice cream send blinding pain through your teeth? Do you avoid drinking coffee and tea because hot beverages makes you want to scream? You’re not alone — you’re likely one of the 40 million Americans who suffer from tooth sensitivity. The good news is that tooth pain is totally curable, as long as you visit your dentist as soon as possible.

At Naperville Dental Specialists, we aim to treat the underlying cause of tooth pain — not just the symptoms. We’re experts in diagnosing, treating and managing tooth sensitivity safely and efficiently. Here are some common causes of sensitive teeth and how we, your general dentists in Naperville, can help you get back to living your best life.

Causes of Sensitive Teeth

Your sensitive teeth could be caused by a number of different things. The cause depends on the type of pain you’re experiencing. Some causes of tooth sensitivity are more serious than others — but if you’re having any kind of discomfort with your teeth, it’s important to see your dentist to find out what’s behind the pain.

Why Are My Teeth Sensitive to Air?

If your teeth are sensitive air, it could mean you have an exposed root. This can happen simply because of aging, or there could be something more serious going on that’s wearing down your enamel. Gum disease, aggressive brushing, grinding and malocclusion (misaligned jaw) can all lead to root exposure, causing extreme sensitivity to air, as well as hot or cold foods. Since exposed roots lack the protective enamel that keeps infections and pain at bay, they can also contribute to further dental problems, such as root cavities or a root canal infection.

Why Are My Teeth Sensitive to Pressure?

If pressure on your teeth is causing you pain, it’s likely due to one of two causes. Constant tooth sensitivity to pressure is a sign of an infection, while intermittent pain usually means you have a cracked tooth. Both need to be treated immediately by your dentist to reduce complications or further damage.

Why Are My Teeth Sensitive to Cold or Heat?

Are your teeth super sensitive to cold or heat? You may have an infection or it could be a sign of deep tooth decay. Sensitivity to heat is of particular concern — it means your tooth has likely been deteriorating for a while and you will probably need a root canal to remove the infection.

No matter what’s causing your sensitive teeth, your dentist can help. If tooth pain arises, be sure to visit your dentist immediately to avoid potential risks.

Treatment for Sensitive Teeth

Treatment for sensitive teeth typically involves a trip to the dentist. Depending on the underlying cause of your pain, you may be able to use a home remedy for sensitive teeth. More serious issues, like deep infections, will require intervention with antibiotics or surgery. Remember: your dentist always knows best. They’ll be able to recommend the best course of action to treat your tooth pain. Here are the most common ways to treat sensitive teeth.

Use Toothpaste for Sensitive Teeth

For mild tooth sensitivity, a desensitizing toothpaste could be all you need. These toothpastes contain special compounds that block pain-causing stimuli, helping you return to a pain-free life. It usually takes a few uses for desensitizing toothpaste to take effect, so be patient and make sure to use it every time you brush.

Get a Fluoride Treatment

For issues related to weakened enamel, your dentist may advise a fluoride treatment to reduce your tooth sensitivity. Fluoride treatments are typically done in-office by applying fluoride gel to your sore teeth to help strengthen the enamel. In some cases, your dentist may be able to prescribe an at-home fluoride treatment.

Cover Up Exposed Roots

Exposed roots are one of the most painful kinds of tooth sensitivity. Treatment usually involves the application of bonding agents to conceal and protect the root surface.

Get a Surgical Gum Graft

In the case that your tooth root has lost gum tissue, a surgical graft may be your best option. This in-office treatment takes gum tissue from elsewhere in the mouth and uses it to regenerate the affected tooth.

Get a Root Canal

If your pain is severe or your haven’t found relief with other treatments, you will likely need to have a root canal procedure. A root canal addresses the source of your pain by treating your tooth’s core. In this procedure, your dentist will remove the nerve and dental pulp, and clean and reseal your tooth. Root canals are the most effective treatment for tooth pain.

How to Prevent Sensitive Teeth

If you’ve ever suffered from tooth pain, you know that it can be extremely disruptive to your quality of life. It’s important to take care of your teeth at home to prevent sensitivity before it starts (and avoid excessive trips to the dentist!). Do these things every day to keep tooth pain away:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day using a soft-bristled brush
  • Use fluoridated toothpaste to help strengthen your enamel
  • Floss every day
  • Be gentle when you brush; vigorous brushing can cause abrasions
  • Use a mouthguard if you grind your teeth
  • Limit your consumption of acidic liquids (ie. carbonated drinks, citrus, wine)

No one should ever have to suffer from sensitive teeth. Fortunately, tooth pain is avoidable when you practice proper dental hygiene at home. In the case that infection or tooth pain does arise, call Naperville Dental Specialists for an appointment. We’ll examine your teeth, diagnose the cause of your pain and offer the best options for treatment. Our goal is to help our patients live their lives to the fullest — that to us, that starts with happy, healthy teeth.

happy man in dental chair

How to Overcome Your Fear of the Dentist

By | Blog, Dental | No Comments

Dental anxiety is extremely common with the majority of adults experiencing some level of apprehension about going to the dentist. However, for others, dental anxiety is serious enough that it impacts their ability to seek out care. According to Peter Milgrom, director of the Dental Fears Research Clinic at the University of Washington in Seattle, for about 20% of people, the anxiety is enough that they only get care when it’s absolutely necessary, meaning they skip important routine check-ups and cleanings. For between 5% and 8% of Americans, their severe fear qualifies as a true dental phobia and they avoid dentists altogether to the detriment of their oral and overall health. To avoid letting the anxiety take over, here are some ways to manage a fear of the dentist:

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Bulimia and Teeth: Side Effects, Considerations and Treatments

By | Bulimia, Bulimia and Teeth, Eating Disorders and Teeth, Oral Health, Tooth Decay | No Comments

Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder that involves a cycle of binging and purging, which refers to binge eating followed by using compensatory behavior, such as self-induced vomiting, laxative use, excessive exercise, fasting or using diet pills or diuretics to rid the body of calories. It’s a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that can affect all aspects of your health, including your oral health, particularly if you practice self-induced vomiting. While the effects of bulimia on the teeth can be significant, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it. Today we’ll be covering everything you need to know about bulimia and teeth from the oral health side effects of the disorder to the treatment options available to restore your smile.
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Everything You Need to Know About Oral Cancer and How to Prevent It

By | Health Issues and Teeth | No Comments

At Naperville Dental Specialists, we take a comprehensive approach to care that goes beyond just making sure our patients have beautiful smiles. What you may not know is that a dentist isn’t only responsible for looking for cavities and gum disease; we also screen for oral cancer and evaluate your overall oral health. Early detection of oral cancer is extremely important and it can save your life. In conjunction with a visual examination, our Naperville dentists utilize VELscope, a handheld, non-invasive oral cancer-screening device that uses a safe, blue-spectrum light to reveal oral abnormalities before they can be seen by the naked eye. Read on to find out everything you need to know about oral cancer and ways you can fight it before it even starts.

What is Oral Cancer?

Oral cancer, or mouth cancer, includes cancer of the tongue, lips, gums, inner lining of the cheeks, roof the mouth and floor of the mouth and oropharyngeal cancer involves the oropharynx (the part of the throat right behind the mouth). Oral cancer makes up nearly 85% of cases in the larger category of head and neck cancers, though brain cancer is its own category. Just as with any cancer, it’s when cells grow uncontrollably and have the potential to invade and damage surrounding tissues and other parts of the body.

Unfortunately, according to the Oral Cancer Foundation, about 49,750 Americans will be diagnosed with oral and oropharyngeal cancer this year and it will result in approximately 9,750 deaths. How fast does oral cancer spread? Well, the majority of oral cancers are a kind called squamous cell carcinoma, which does spread rapidly, and can be deadly. Before you panic, oral cancer survival rates are high when detected early. The five-year survival rate for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx is 83% for cancer that hasn’t spread, 62% when it has spread to lymph nodes nearby and 38% when the cancer has spread to distant areas of the body. The oral cancer life expectancy statistics do vary slightly depending on where the cancer occurs, for example tongue oral cancer versus lip oral cancer, but, overall, the prognosis is good when it’s treated while in the local stage. Oral cancer isn’t inherently more dangerous than all other types of cancer. The issue is, that it’s often detected after the cancer has metastasized because the symptoms may go unnoticed.

These statistics highlight the importance of early detection, knowing the signs and getting routine oral cancer screenings. Don’t skip those regular visits to your dentist and if you suspect your dentist isn’t evaluating your mouth for oral cancer, ask them to do so. Book an oral cancer screening in Naperville at our office today or if you don’t live in the area, schedule an appointment with your dentist.

Oral Cancer Risk Factors

Researchers haven’t been able to pin down an exact cause of why cells mutate leading to oral cancer but they have identified a number of risk factors for developing the disease. It’s twice as common in men and a large percentage of people with oral cancer are over the age of 40, though it’s now occurring in younger people due to the human papilloma virus (HPV). In addition to age and sex, oral cancer risks factors include:

  • Tobacco use – This is the leading risk factor of developing oral cancer and it’s entirely preventable. Cigarette, pipe and cigar smokers are about six times more likely to be diagnosed with oral cancer than nonsmokers. Users of smokeless tobacco products (i.e., chewing tobacco, snuff, dip, etc.) are 50 more times likely to develop oral cancer of the lips, gums and cheeks.
  • Heavy alcohol use – Men and women who drink heavily are more likely to develop oral cancer.
  • Excessive sun exposure – Frequent and prolonged exposure to the sun has been shown to cause lip cancer.
  • Human papillomavirus – Certain strains of the sexually transmitted disease, HPV, particularly HPV16, have been tied to oral cancer.
  • Family history of cancer – While environmental factors, like smoking and heavy drinking, are the predominant risk factors, genetics can play a role too. This is why, even if you don’t smoke or drink, it’s still important to get screened for oral cancer.
  • A weakened immune system
  • A diet low in fruits and vegetables

There has been some debate about whether poor oral hygiene, mouthwashes with alcohol and chronic rubbing from dentures or rough teeth can also be risk factors of oral cancer. However, there hasn’t been definitive evidence to support these theories.

Oral Cancer Symptoms

Patients often want to know what does oral cancer look like? In some cases, it is visible and will show up as a white or red patch. Other signs and symptoms of oral cancer are:

  • A sore that bleeds and doesn’t heal
  • A lump, growth or thickening of the lining or skin in the mouth
  • A rough or crusted area in the mouth
  • A change in the way your teeth come together when you bite or in how your dentures fit
  • Tongue pain
  • Loose teeth
  • Jaw stiffness or pain
  • A persistent sore throat
  • Numbness in the mouth
  • Pain or difficulty when swallowing or chewing

If the symptoms last for more than two weeks or you’re bothered by them, make an appointment with your dentist or doctor.

Oral Cancer Treatment

If your dentist finds signs of oral cancer, a biopsy is usually performed to diagnose it. Oral cancer is treated in the same way as other types of cancer and typically involves removing the cancer with surgery followed by radiation or chemotherapy.

Can You Prevent Oral Cancer?

There isn’t a guaranteed way to prevent oral cancer but there are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing it such as:

  • Quit using tobacco and if you’ve never used it or already quit, don’t start or pick up the habit again. People often think smokeless tobacco is safer and while it might not be as likely to cause lung cancer, it’s actually more likely to cause oral cancer. Avoid tobacco in all of its forms.
  • Drink alcohol in moderation. While not drinking at all is certainly a way to reduce your risk, there’s nothing wrong with having a glass of wine or a beer here and there. However, moderation is key. Drinking heavily can irritate the cells in the mouth and make them susceptible to oral cancer. The Mayo Clinic recommends that women don’t drink more than the equivalent of one drink a day and men limit themselves to no more than two per day.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Avoid prolonged, regular sun exposure to your lips. UV rays can penetrate clouds, so wear a lip product with a broad-spectrum SPF every day, rain or shine. Sporting a wide-brimmed hat is helpful as well. Try to stay in the shade when you can.
  • Eat a balanced, healthy diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables. Opt for vegetables in a variety of colors and be sure to get all of your necessary vitamins and minerals. The antioxidants in fruits and veggies may help reduce the risk of cancer.
  • Do a self-exam once a month. Use a flashlight and a mirror to check out the inside of your mouth. Be sure to look and feel your lips, gums, the inside of your cheeks, your tongue and the floor and roof of your mouth. Shine the light on the back of your throat and feel around your lower jaw and neck for swollen lymph nodes or lumps. If you see anything concerning or notice something different, call your dentist.
  • Visit your dentist regularly and ask for an oral cancer screening. Your dentist can see things you won’t be able to see by looking in the mirror and they have the knowledge to identify signs of oral cancer.

With a healthy lifestyle, you can lower your risk of developing oral cancer. However, there’s no way to prevent cancer entirely and it really boils down to early detection, which is where your dentist comes in. The team at Naperville Dental Specialists knows what to look for and by catching cancer while it’s still local, the chances of successful treatment are excellent. As a practice that uses VELscope technology, we can even further improve the odds of finding abnormalities in the earliest stages. Schedule a visit and an oral cancer screening at Naperville Dental Specialists online or by calling us at (630) 848-2010. Let’s work together to ensure you maintain amazing oral health for life.

4 Common Causes of Dry Mouth (xerostomia) and What Can Be Done About It

By | Dry Mouth | No Comments

No matter how much water I drink, my mouth is always dry. I work out a lot and sweat, but I don’t think that’s causing it. I don’t drink coffee or alcohol. It seems that I have to suck on cough drops all day just to keep some moisture in my mouth. I hate that because of the sugar in the cough drops, but I don’t want chemical sweetener either. What’s causing my dry mouth? Thanks. Katia

Katia,

Dry mouth occurs when your salivary glands don’t work properly and the amount of saliva in your mouth is decreased.

What are some of the causes of dry mouth?

  • Prescription medication – This is the most common cause of dry mouth. More than 400 prescription medications can contribute to dry mouth. Some of them are antihistaimes, antidpressants, antihypertensives, painkillers, diuretics, and tranquilizers. Check the list of common side effects for your medication to see if it may contribute to decreased saliva production.
  • Radiation therapy or chemotherapy – Radiation therapy—particularly to in the areas of the head and neck—can damage salivary glands and result in a decrease of saliva production. The glands may partially recover in about a year after the therapy is complete. Some types of chemotherapy can damage salivary glands. Glands often recover in about three months after chemotherapy ends.
  • Hormonal changes – Hormonal changes and the medication taken to combat them can result in decreased salivary flow.
  • Diseases such as AIDS, Sjögren’s Syndrome, and diabetes can affect the salivary glands and decrease saliva production. Alzhiemer’s disease and stroke patients may also experience dry mouth.

Dry mouth and your oral health

Decreased saliva can make speaking, chewing, and swallowing more difficult. Saliva reduces the amount of cavity-causing bacteria in your mouth and helps prevent tooth decay. It also keeps oral tissue healthy. Without saliva, your teeth will decay faster, and you will be more likely to lose teeth. Your teeth will need to be restored with composite fillings, dental crowns, or dental implants.

If you are experiencing dry mouth, pay close attention to the symptoms associated with it, and tell your dentist about it. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. You can also chew sugar-free gum. Your dentist may prescribe mouth rinse or saliva-producing medication.

Remember that persistent dry mouth should not be ignored.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

Three Things You Should Know about Dry Mouth

By | Oral Health

Dry mouth (xerostomia) has several causes. If your mouth is consistently dry, the symptoms can be annoying or startling. In addition to having a dry mouth, you might experience the following signs and symptoms:

Dry Mouth Signs and Symptoms

  • Bad breath
  • Burning sensation in the mouth
  • Choking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Difficulty talking
  • Gasping for air
  • Sensitivity to acidic or spicy foods
  • Swollen glands

Oral Examination

Depending on the results of your examination, along with your symptoms, two different tests can be performed.

Saliva production test

Your dentist can provide an oral examination to determine your saliva production. You will be asked to spit into a cup over 5 to 15 minutes. Or a suction device will be used to extract saliva from your mouth.  If your saliva production is below average, another test might be scheduled.

Salivary gland function scan

The medical term for the scan is parotid gland scintigraphy. The scan is performed in a hospital imaging department or an out-patient facility. What’s involved?

  • You will receive an injection of low-level radioactive tracer.
  • You’ll sit in front of a gamma scintillation camera, which will detect the progression of the radioactive marker in your glands and take pictures of the glands.
  •  After 45 minutes, you’ll be given a lemon drop or something similarly sour that will cause your salivary glands to empty.
  • After your glands empty, more images will be taken.

The scan will find the cause of decreased saliva production, including these possibilities:

  • Inflammation
  • A tumor
  • A cyst
  • An infection
  • A blocked salivary duct
  • Sjögren’s syndrome

Other Causes of Dry Mouth

In addition to the causes listed above, dry mouth can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

  • Breathing through your mouth
  • Cancer treatment – particularly head or neck radiation therapy
  • Certain medications prescribed for:
    • Acid reflux or stomach acid
    • Acne
    • Allergies
    • Anxiety
    • Asthma
    • Convulsions
    • Depression
    • High blood pressure
    • Muscle cramps
    • Parkinson’s disease
    • Sleep disorder
  • Dehydration
  • Diabetes
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Hypertension
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Smoking

Are You Experiencing Dry Mouth?

If you’re experiencing the symptoms of dry mouth, schedule an appointment with your dentist for an exam and the first stage of testing. Your dentist and medical doctor will work together to find the cause and appropriate treatment.

 

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

Is surgery usually recommended for gum disease?

By | Gum Disease, Oral Health

I have 4 crowns that I got in 2002. My gums are inflamed around all of the crowns. The inflammation became noticeable in January. My dentist has tried antibacterial liquid. She asked me to start flossing 2 times a day. The gums around my natural teeth are fine. It’s just the teeth that have crowns that are presenting the problem. My dentist is suggesting gum surgery to trim my gum tissue. She says it might not work but if there is a problem with the way the crowns fit, trimming my gums will help. I’m wondering why after 15 years there would be a problem with the way my gums fit. For some reason, after examining my teeth and gums my dentist is confident that I don’t have gum disease. That’s somewhat of a relief but I am wondering what’s going on. If she isn’t sure that gum surgery will work, why is she recommending it? Is this normal procedure? Thanks. Norm

Norm – Gum inflammation that is around teeth with crowns, but not around your natural teeth, can result from several issues.

Some possible causes are listed below, but in each case, the reaction would be immediate. It wouldn’t take 15 years to surface:

  • The area around the crowns wasn’t thoroughly cleaned and left free of cement.
  • The crowns don’t fit correctly.
  • The crowns fit too deeply below the gumline.

Other possibilities that are not necessarily immediate include:

  • Metal sensitivity to porcelain-fused-to-metal crowns.
  • Periodontal (gum disease) that can be related to your oral health or your general health.

If you have gum disease, the treatment includes regular, deep cleanings to remove plaque and bacteria from the pockets between your teeth and gums. Gum surgery is not the first resort. If your dentist doesn’t understand how to address the problem, you should be referred to a periodontist—a specialist in gum tissue.

Your dentist hasn’t referred you to a periodontist, so it’s probably best to find one on your own. You can look for online reviews or call other dentists’ office to ask which periodontists they use for their own patients. Don’t allow your dentist’s lack of understanding to delay you from getting help.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

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Can I sue the dentist for cutting my tongue?

By | General Dentistry, Oral Health

I’m not a person who just walks around looking to sue a dentist. I’ve never filed a lawsuit and I’m not hurting for money. I’m just considering it based on principle and rudeness and the fact that I can’t think of another way to help this from happening to another patient.

I went to an oral surgeon yesterday to get a bottom right molar pulled. The tooth was impacted and partially sideways so I was sent to this guy. I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be cared for properly. He rushed me through my consultation and made little eye contact with me. My dentist recommended him so I moved forward.

So yesterday while the dentist was pulling out my tooth, he cursed. I felt pain underneath my tongue and when I said something like, “Ouch! What’s going on?!”, the dentist said I had a soft tissue tear. Then he told me he would stich it up right away. I could tell by the look on his assistant’s face that he did something careless. She looked at me like, ‘shame on him’, but she didn’t say anything to either of us. She just patted by hand.

So when the tooth was out and everything was done I asked to look at my tongue. I could tell that he cut my tongue and it wasn’t a random tear. So as asked the dentist if he cut my tongue and his reply was, “It has 8 secure stitches and in a few weeks you won’t notice it at all.” Then he left the room. Jerk.

I’m angry that he was careless, didn’t apologize and wasn’t really truthful about what happen. I am definitely reporting this to a dental board or wherever I need to report it. I’m thinking that my report will get swept under the table and I really need to sue this dentist so that he will think twice about being rude to other patients or treating them like I was treated. What do I need to document to make sure this jerk doesn’t do this again? Thanks. Brooke

Brooke – Based on your comments, it does sound like the dentist was careless and rude. Your cut sounds like it was deep or long—eight stitches!

Even the most skilled dental surgeon can make a mistake though, and it sounds like he took immediate action to repair the damage to your tongue. It also sounds like it’s really his attitude and chairside manner that are really making you angry and feeling like suing the dentist. Additionally, the dentist’s failure to apologize and failure to tell you what really happened seemed to be adding to your frustration.

We’re not defending the oral surgeon’s attitude or response, but when lower molars are worked on, it’s easy to injure the tongue. A metal retractor can be used to hold the tongue away from the extraction site and prevent injury. Perhaps it wasn’t used and your tongue was accidently cut. The surgeon might have been embarrassed and too proud to apologize.

You can report the incident to the dental board, but it might not result in any reprimand—and not the kind you might be hoping for—unless there are multiple complaints in the dentist’s file. We’re not aware of any disciplinary action of a dentist or surgeon for rudeness.

An attempt to sue the dentist probably won’t go far. Your cut was an accident that doesn’t seem to indicate intentional negligence that wasn’t properly cared for.

What you can do is let your general dentist know about the incident, in case he or she has received repeated complaints from other patients about this surgeon. We’re sorry that you had this negative experience and hope for a better outcome if you need an oral surgeon in the future.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.

Will gum disease prevent me from getting dental implants?

By | Dental Implants, Gum Disease, Oral Health

I have gum disease and I’m losing teeth. I want dental implants to replace them but my dentist tells me that he has to get my gum disease under control first. It was February of 2016 when he first told me I have gum disease and it seems like it hasn’t gotten any better. I’m not sure what is taking so long to get it straightened out. I don’t want to keep losing teeth while he tries to get things under control. Can I get dental implants from another dentist or do I have to wait for my dentist to figure out what he is doing? Thanks. Karmin

Karmin – Dental implants are the best option to replace teeth that are loose or missing due to periodontal (gum) disease. Before you receive implants, periodontal disease should be under control. If it’s been a year, and your dentist isn’t able to control your gum disease, it might be time to visit a periodontist—a specialist in diseases of the gum tissue.

How Periodontal Disease Can Affect Dental Implants

Dental implants are most successful in people with sufficient bone density and healthy gum tissue. Here’s why periodontal disease should be controlled first:

  • Advanced periodontal disease damages gum tissue and bone. Bone and gums should have a snug fit around tooth roots or dental implant fixtures.
  • If gum disease has caused your gums to recede, the base of your dental implants will be exposed. It will be challenging to keep the exposed area clean and free of plaque buildup.
  • Thin or receding gums around an implant fixture are unattractive. Either the fixture will show through thin gums, or be completely exposed if your gums recede.

We recommend that you have a consultation with an experienced prosthodontist. After an examination, 3-D x-rays, and a review of your medical history, he or she will let you know if you are a candidate for this treatment.

The prosthodontist will also determine if your gums are healthy enough and thick enough to support dental implants. Bone grafting and gum tissue grafting might be needed to ensure stability and success of your implants. In several months, the grafts will heal, and the implant fixtures will be surgically placed in your jawbone.

After your periodontal disease is controlled, if you receive dental implants, your oral health will likely improve. The fixtures stimulate bone grown and promote healthy gum tissue.

This post is sponsored by Naperville board-certified prosthodontist Dr. Anthony LaVacca

Will the bleeding around my tongue piercing stop or should I call a dentist?

By | Oral Health, Tongue Piercing

I have had a tongue piercing for about 2 years. 3 weeks ago the area near the piercing started to itch. Then it became swollen. I have been rinsing my mouth with sea salt water and it calms it down again but only for a little while. This past Sunday I noticed that the area was bleeding. It isn’t a lot of blood but I can taste it and see it. I don’t have a regular dentist. My schedule is just too busy and I’m rarely at home. I’m a freelance artist and I travel a lot. Should the salt water help with the healing? Is there something over-the-counter I can buy to calm it down, or do I need to see a dentist? Thanks Cherise

Cherise – Yes, you should see a dentist. Itching for a few days is normal for a new tongue piercing while the area is healing, but not for a piercing that you’ve had for two years.

When an Established Tongue Piercing Is Bleeding

Bleeding around the piercing is a problem and it probably is a sign of an infection. Our tongues are covered with bacteria. Tongue piercing can introduce the bacteria into the bloodstream. Tongue jewelry—particularly if it is metal based—can cause an accumulation of bacteria that leaves you at risk for infection. It can also damage your teeth.

Unfortunately, if an infection occurs, it is not necessarily confined to the tongue. Infection can spread to other oral tissue and into your bloodstream. It can even lead to more serious conditions, such as hepatitis.

Although salt water rinses may give you some relief, don’t depend on them to heal your tongue—particularly if it’s infected. Make an appointment with a dentist right away. You can do an online search for an emergency dentist in your area. Be certain to explain that there is blood around the piercing. The dentist will see you promptly.

The dentist will have to remove the piercing to examine your tongue. If there is an infection, he or she will recommend that you not wear the piercing while your tongue is healing. Protect your oral and overall health by closely following the instructions for recovery.

This post is sponsored by Naperville dentist Dr. Anthony LaVacca.