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Girl in pain using home remedies for tooth pain

What Are The Home Remedies for Tooth Pain That Really Work?

By Toothache, Blog No Comments

You bite down on something hard and suddenly get a shooting pain in your tooth? You try to shrug it off and tell yourself it will go away on its own, but a day later, your tooth is throbbing and the pain is so bad you can’t concentrate at work or even sleep. In an effort to put off going to the dentist a little longer, you hop on Google to find out how to stop tooth pain fast. The good news is, while, yes, you will need to seek dental care sooner rather than later, there are home remedies for tooth pain that are safe and effective to use until you can make an appointment 

Keep in mind that tooth pain is an indication that something is wrong. The earlier you see a dentist, the easier and less invasive treatment will be. Your dentist will also be able to rule out or treat things like tooth and gum infections and abscesses, which, if not addressed, can spread to the surrounding bone and tissue, or even other areas of the body, potentially causing systemic problems. 

That being said, these home remedies for tooth pain may help to reduce discomfort. They won’t eliminate pain permanently or get rid of an infection, but they can provide temporary relief. The team members here at our Naperville general dentistry, cosmetic dentistry and specialty practice are sharing some of the common causes of tooth pain and tips for keeping yourself comfortable in the short term. 

What are the Causes of Tooth Pain?

The common causes of toothaches, include:

Tooth Decay 

A cavity, or tooth decay, is the most common culprit behind a toothache. While you might not feel any discomfort at first, if not treated, a cavity will get larger and can reach the tooth’s nerve, which is one of the main causes of severe tooth pain. Tooth nerve pain is often persistent and throbbing. While pain may go away temporarily if the nerve dies, it still needs to be treated to prevent more serious infection or tooth loss. Usually, if you have a large cavity, pain will be sharp and significant enough to wake you up at night. Pain may also get worse when you’re lying down. Your best bet is to visit the dentist at the first sign of pain, before it becomes unbearable. Small to medium cavities can often be fixed with a tooth-colored filling. Larger areas of tooth decay could need a dental crown or, if it reaches the tooth’s pulp, a root canal.

Loose Crown or a Loose or Missing Filling

A loose crown or loose filling can allow bacteria and food particles to get trapped beneath them, which can lead to pain and, eventually, decay or pulpitis (inflammation of the tooth’s pulp). You may also experience sensitivity and a sensation of pressure in your tooth. If a filling falls out completely, this can leave behind a large space that gets packed with food, leading to pain when chewing or even worse tooth sensitivity. Thankfully, a loose crown or missing or loose filling is usually simple to fix if dealt with quickly. 

Dental Abscess

An untreated tooth infection can lead to a dental abscess. An abscess typically looks like a small pimple on the gums and it’s filled with pus. An abscess can cause persistent, throbbing pain, though sometimes it results in throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes. An abscess is serious and needs to be treated as soon as possible. You’ll often have a fever and can experience swelling around the tooth or even in the face. The infection can spread to other areas of the mouth and body and cause illness. 

Fractured Tooth

A cracked or fractured tooth is another of the causes of severe tooth pain. You may have pain and sensitivity when biting and chewing, and if bacteria is able to reach deep into the tooth, pain will become more persistent. Depending on how large the crack or fracture is, a dental crown could be needed to protect and strengthen the broken tooth. 

Infection

If the inside of your tooth becomes infected or inflamed, a root canal will probably be the only way to eliminate tooth pain for good. When the tooth’s pulp is infected, you’ll likely have throbbing tooth pain that comes and goes. The pain may even wake you up when you’re sleeping. You might also feel pressure in the tooth. As we said, the pain can disappear if the tooth dies (becomes necrotic) but the infection will remain, so treatment is still necessary. Gum infections don’t lead to pain inside of the tooth but the human body isn’t great at telling the difference between tooth and gum pain. So, sometimes patients who come in with toothaches actually have gum infections. In its earliest stages, a gum infection, or gum disease, is called gingivitis. Gingivitis is reversible with professional dental care and good oral hygiene practices. If not treated, gingivitis will progress into periodontitis, a more severe type of gum disease. Periodontitis can’t be cured but it can be managed. By stopping the progression and eliminating the acute infection, we can get rid of pain and prevent bone loss and tooth loss.

Trauma

Getting hit in the face or tooth can result in tooth pain. The inside of the tooth may begin to swell and as pressure builds up, the tooth will hurt. If it’s mild, tooth pain from an injury might go away on its own in a few days as the swelling goes down. However, if the pain is severe, your tooth is discolored, or the pain doesn’t disappear in a few days, visit your dentist.

Teeth Grinding or Clenching (Bruxism)

Teeth grinding, called bruxism, or jaw clenching can cause toothaches. You might even feel a sharp bolt of pain when biting down after grinding your teeth in your sleep. Usually, you’ll feel the pain all over your mouth, or in the teeth on one side, as opposed to throbbing tooth pain in one tooth, unless your teeth grinding causes damage to a tooth’s enamel. Your Naperville dentist can teach you relaxation techniques to help with bruxism or create a custom night guard for teeth grinding and clenching that prevents damage and pain.

TMJ Disorders

You have a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) on either side of your face that connects your jaw to your head and lets you open and close your mouth. Problems with the TMJ are referred to as temporomandibular disorders (TMD) or temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJD). Sometimes, TMJ disorders can cause jaw pain that feels like severe tooth pain. Similar to the discomfort from teeth grinding, you’ll usually have pain in more than one tooth. With a TMJ disorder, the pain is often closer to the ear and may be accompanied by a clicking or popping noise in the jaw. At Naperville Dental Specialists, we have advanced diagnostics to give you an accurate diagnosis and help you find relief, whether that’s with lifestyle changes or a custom oral appliance.

Your Sinuses

Your sinuses are located right above your upper teeth. When the sinuses are inflamed or full of gunk, such as when you have a cold, seasonal allergies or a sinus infection, the pressure can cause the upper teeth to ache. When this is the case, you’ll probably have nasal congestion and several teeth in the area will hurt, instead of just one. If your sinuses don’t improve on their own, see a doctor for treatment. Once the infection is gone, you can evaluate whether or not you still have tooth pain. These are the most common causes of tooth pain, however, there could be other issues resulting in your discomfort. The only way to determine what’s behind a toothache is to visit your dentist to have it evaluated.

 

man experiencing tooth pain at home

 

Home Remedies for Tooth Pain Relief

Now, on to how to get rid of tooth pain, or at least minimize it, until your dental appointment. None of these home remedies for tooth pain will treat the underlying reason for the toothache, and if you have tooth nerve pain, getting relief can be more challenging. With that said, these methods are safe and might be worth trying:

Saltwater Rinse 

A saltwater rinse is one of the best ways to get tooth pain relief, and it can help with gum infections prior to your dentist appointment. Mix a half teaspoon of salt in eight ounces of warm water. Swish the solution around in your mouth and then spit it out – never swallow it. You might also want to try gently flossing around the tooth that hurts in case any food particles are stuck. 

Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers

When it comes to how to stop tooth pain fast, an over-the-counter pain reliever can be extremely helpful. Even if you’re experiencing severe, throbbing tooth pain, research published in The Journal of the American Dental Association in 2018 found that nonsteroidal, OTC pain relievers, with or without acetaminophen, such as ibuprofen, offered the best balance between benefits and risks for the relief of acute tooth pain as compared to opioid pain relievers. One caveat: take pain relievers orally. Putting aspirin directly on your sore tooth or gums is an old folk remedy that not only doesn’t work, but can also damage your mouth.

Rinse With Hydrogen Peroxide 

Rinsing with equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water and then spitting it out (again, don’t swallow it) may also offer some degree of tooth pain relief.

Ice

If you have a toothache after getting hit in the face or you’re experiencing facial swelling, holding an ice pack on the outside of your face can reduce swelling and some of the associated pain. Facial swelling can be a sign of an abscess, so this is a case where you should call the dentist immediately. You can also try sucking on an ice cube to numb a painful tooth. 

Over-the-Counter Anesthetics

There are plenty of over-the-counter pain-relieving liquids and gels designed to get rid of tooth pain fast. Most of them rely on benzocaine to numb the area. Apply them to the tooth and surrounding gums. These anesthetics aren’t meant for long-term use, so only use them to tide you over until your appointment with your dentist. Additionally, it’s worth mentioning, products with benzocaine shouldn’t be used on children for a toothache or as a teething remedy, particularly little ones under the age of two, as it can cause a rare but serious health condition in kids.

Clove Oil

Clove oil is frequently mentioned when talking about home remedies for tooth pain. This natural solution numbs the area, temporarily stopping discomfort. A 2006 study published in the Journal of Dentistry found clove oil to be just as effective as benzocaine as a topical anesthetic. 

Garlic

Proponents of natural tooth pain remedies claim if you crush a garlic clove, the oily, disease-fighting liquid, known as allicin, that it releases can help with tooth pain. Studies haven’t proven whether or not this is really effective, but it’s safe and worth giving a go if nothing else is working. You can either chew a clove of garlic or put some minced garlic bits on your aching tooth. 

Use Wax or Gum

If you have a broken tooth or your filling has fallen out, you can temporarily cover the exposed area with softened, sugarless chewing gum or dental wax. This can reduce sensitivity and pain. For a loose filling or crown, gum or wax may help hold it in place, though there is also temporary cement you can purchase at the drugstore to secure your restoration.

Tea

Peppermint tea has a numbing effect that may provide tooth pain relief. Once your tea cools, you can swish it around in your mouth. The tannins in black tea have astringent properties, which is why some folk remedies claim you should place a warm, wet black tea bag on your sore tooth for short-term pain reduction. Alternatively, you can brew up some peppermint or black tea, dip a clean cotton ball in the tea and hold the cotton ball against your tooth. 

Wheatgrass

Wheatgrass isn’t just a superfood for better overall health; it can enhance your oral health too. There are a number of benefits of wheatgrass for teeth, in general, and you can also use wheatgrass for a toothache. It’s rich in chlorophyll, which boats antibacterial properties and helps to stop the growth of cavity-causing bacteria. This antibacterial effect even reduces halitosis, or bad breath. Aside from the benefits of wheatgrass for teeth, it also contains antioxidants, minerals and vitamins that support periodontal (gum) health and reduce inflammation. All of these properties are thought to be helpful for alleviating tooth pain. When using wheatgrass for a toothache, swish an ounce of the juice in your mouth, just as you would with a mouthwash. 

These home remedies for tooth pain are safe and some have been proven effective for temporarily relieving certain types of toothaches. If you’re experiencing discomfort, try a few of the suggestions until you’re able to visit the dentist. Again, severe, throbbing tooth pain requires immediate care. Yet, even minor pain should be checked out since the earlier the underlying problem is dealt with, the easier and more affordable treatment will be. 

Our Naperville dentists always prioritize patients in pain and we’ll get you in for an appointment right away. We use the latest technology and tools to quickly and accurately pinpoint what’s causing your tooth to hurt and give you effective, quick relief. Don’t put off your dental visit if you’re in pain. Book your appointment at Naperville Dental Specialists today! 

what-your-tongue-can-reveal-about-your-health

What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

By Oral Health, Blog No Comments

When it comes to oral health, we tend to focus on our teeth and gums. Yet, the tongue plays a number of roles, including helping us speak and eat. What you may not know is that it also reveals a lot about our oral and overall health. Its appearance and, sometimes, sensations (i.e., feeling sore) can give you important information. A healthy tongue is pink in color and covered in tiny bumps (papillae). Changes in how it looks or any pain can indicate a concern and you should schedule a visit with your Naperville dentist to have it checked out. To illustrate just how powerful simply looking at your tongue can be, we’re sharing some of the clues you can gain from its appearance. 

Key Highlights:

  • Changes in your tongue’s appearance or tongue discomfort could indicate a health concern.
  • Why is my tongue white? A white, coated tongue can be a sign of a number of different conditions, though it’s not usually anything serious. A black, hairy tongue is also not typically a cause for alarm.
  • A strawberry tongue, as well as a lump on the tongue, could signal potentially serious health problems. 
  • It’s always a good idea to bring up changes in the color of your tongue with your dentist. 

A White Coating or White Spots on Tongue 

Patients often ask, why is my tongue white? A white, coated tongue or white spots on the tongue can be alarming but it’s not usually a sign of a serious condition. Here are a few reasons you may have a white tongue:

  • Not Brushing Your Tongue A coated tongue could just be due to a buildup of bacteria and debris. If the white coating brushes away, that’s probably the case. As for how to get rid of a white tongue, in this instance, simply brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth to keep it clean. As a bonus, this will help fight bad breath too.
  • Oral Thrush – A white, coated tongue or white patches can be a sign of oral thrush, which is a yeast infection. It’s caused by Candida yeast (fungus). While we all have Candida in our mouths, when it becomes overgrown, it causes an issue. It’s most common in infants, the elderly, especially those who wear dentures, and people with weakened immune systems. It can also be the result of taking oral or inhaled steroids or antibiotics. Your dentist or doctor may recommend an antifungal treatment, which can come in mouthwash form. 
  • Oral lichen planus – This type of white tongue looks kind of like you have lace on your tongue and features white lines. Oral lichen planus is a chronic inflammatory condition. It’s not contagious and usually goes away on its own.
  • Leukoplakia – Leukoplakia causes white spots on the tongue and inside of the mouth. It crops up when the cells in the mouth grow excessively and it can happen if the tongue gets irritated, such as from drinking alcohol or smoking. It’s not dangerous in and of itself but sometimes it can be a precursor to mouth cancer, so you should schedule an evaluation with your Naperville dentist.

A Hairy, Black Tongue

A hairy, black tongue sounds like something out of a horror movie but it’s actually not usually anything serious. Those tiny bumps on the tongue, or papillae, grow throughout your life. Sometimes, they can get really long, and look almost hair-like. Additionally, when they’re overgown, they tend to accumulate bacteria. The bacteria may look black or dark. The entire tongue can be black or it can start as black spots on the tongue.  In most cases, a black, hairy tongue is from poor oral hygiene, but it can also occur due to diabetes, chemotherapy or taking antibiotics. 

A Red Tongue or Strawberry Tongue

If your tongue is red or you have a strawberry tongue where it’s swollen, red and bumpy, it could indicate a number of conditions:

  • Folic Acid or B-12 Deficiency – If you have a folic acid or vitamin B-12 deficiency, it could result in a red tongue. Bloodwork can confirm if you’re lacking either vitamin. If you’re deficient, changing your diet and/or taking supplements could help you get the necessary vitamins and get rid of a red tongue. 
  • Kawasaki Disease – A sign of Kawasaki disease is a strawberry tongue (red and bumpy). The disease, which usually occurs in children under five, causes inflammation in the arteries. A strawberry tongue could be accompanied by high fever, a rash, peeling skin, and red eyes. It’s a serious condition, so if your child has these symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible. 
  • Scarlet Fever – Scarlet fever is a bacterial infection that leads to a strawberry tongue. Sometimes, strep throat can turn into scarlet fever. In addition to a bumpy, red tongue, other symptoms include a red rash over most of the body, high fever, sore throat, headache, flushed skin, and red lines in the folds of the skin. It’s most common in children and teenagers. Call your doctor or pediatrician if you or your child has these symptoms because antibiotics will likely be needed to treat it. 
  • Geographic TongueGeographic tongue gets its name because it’s characterized by a map-like pattern. You may have smooth, red, irregularly shaped spots on the surface of the tongue that can have a white border around them. You might also have pain or a burning, especially when eating spicy or acidic foods. The lesions will usually heal and then move to another area of the tongue. Fortunately, the geographic tongue is not serious and it will go away on its own. 
  • Food or Drug Allergies – Occasionally, a red tongue or strawberry tongue can be from taking a medication or eating a food you’re allergic to. A doctor may give you antihistamines to alleviate the swelling and redness. 

A Sore Tongue or Bumps on Tongue 

There are a variety of things that can lead to a sore tongue or bumps on the tongue, such as:

  • Trauma – If you ever wake up wondering, why does my tongue hurt? You could be grinding or clenching your teeth in your sleep, which can irritate the tongue and cause pain. At Naperville Dental Specialists, we can create a custom nightguard to help with teeth grinding and alleviate tongue pain. A sore tongue can also be the result of accidentally biting it or eating something really hot. In severe cases, eating something scalding could lead to blisters on the tongue. Your tongue will stop hurting once the damage heals. 
  • Canker Sores – A canker sore on the tongue, or anywhere in the mouth, is painful. This type of tongue ulcer isn’t contagious and it’s thought that stress can bring them on. Canker sores on the tongue tend to heal on their own and should go away in a week or two. 
  • Smoking – Smoking can irritate your tongue. It can also lead to a yellowish tongue. If it bothers you, use it as motivation to quit! 
  • Oral Cancer – If you have a lump or sore on your tongue that doesn’t improve within two weeks, even if it doesn’t hurt at all, it could be a sign of oral cancer. You should have it evaluated by your dentist. The early it’s treated, the better. 

These are just some of the many clues your tongue can reveal about your oral and overall health. If you notice any concerning changes in your tongue, schedule a visit at Naperville Dental Specialists. Our expert Naperville dentists can determine what’s causing any issues and, if necessary, create a personalized treatment plan to restore your oral health. 

couple eating ice cream in the sun

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.

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How to Overcome Your Fear of the Dentist

By Blog, Dental No Comments

Dental anxiety is extremely common and hard to overcome 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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Woman rinsing her mouth with mouthwash

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.

sue-dentist-cut-tongue-blog

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.

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