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Oral Health

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What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

By | Blog, Oral Health | 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 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 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 white tongue could just be due to a buildup of bacteria and debris. If the white coating on your tongue 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 coating or white patches on the tongue 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. 

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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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.

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.

abscessed-tooth-is-pulled-blog

Should I expect complications when my abscessed tooth is pulled?

By | Oral Health, Root Canal Treatment

I had a horrible toothache for about 5 months and finally went to the dentist. Well I went to an emergency dentist because I don’t have a regular dentist. She said that I had an abscess but she couldn’t get me numb to get the tooth out. I have antibiotics and another appointment late next week. I am worried that she won’t be able to get the tooth out even if she can get me numb. Should I expect complications my abscessed tooth is pulled? Janele

Janele – An abscess is a pocket of pus caused by an infection. A tooth abscess occurs in or around a tooth root.  It may or may not be painful.

If a tooth is injured, has a cavity, or experiences trauma, an infection can occur. When the pulp, or soft tissue inside the tooth, becomes infected and inflamed, the infection can spread to the tooth root, and an abscess will form.

Properly Treating an Abscessed Tooth

Instead of extracting an infected tooth, an abscess is commonly treated with a root canal treatment. The infection is removed from the tooth, the space is filled with a special dental filler material, and the tooth is sealed. A dental crown may be required to protect the tooth.

On rare occasions, root canal treatment isn’t enough to save your tooth, and endodontic surgery is required. A specialist can locate hidden canals in your tooth that may still harbor the infection. He or she will determine which methods are best to preserve your tooth.

And that’s the goal—tooth preservation. Based on the information you provided us, we don’t understand why there are plans to extract your tooth. We recommend that you receive a second opinion from an experienced dentist who will examine, and likely x-ray your tooth, to determine the best treatment.

Extracting a tooth leads to other issues, including bone shrinkage in the area of the missing tooth, adjacent teeth start to drift into the position of the missing one, and your bite may be affected and eventually cause jaw and facial pain. When a tooth is extracted, for optimum oral health, it will need to be replaced. No form of tooth replacement is as good as a natural tooth.

You would benefit if you take the time to receive a second opinion to find out if your tooth can be preserved.

This post is sponsored by Naperville Dental Specialists.

My son’s gums bleed when he brushes his teeth

By | Gum Disease, Oral Health, Pediatric Dentist

I finally got our 4 yr old into brushing his teeth twice a day. He actually started liking it. I was surprised. 2 weeks ago he was brushing and I was helping and his gums started bleeding. I had him rinse his mouth and everything was okay. I figured maybe he was brushing too hard, so I told him to do it softly. That seemed to work until last week. He was brushing his teeth on 2 different occasions and the gums started bleeding again. I am trying to be calm about this because he is just comfortable with brushing his teeth and I don’t want him to freak out or think that brushing teeth means bleeding gums. I know that he isn’t brushing too hard any more. Does he have gum disease at 4? Thanks. Tuscany

Tuscany – There are several possible causes of your son’s bleeding gums. For an accurate diagnosis, though, schedule an appointment with your son’s pediatric dentist.

One possible cause is dry mouth. Does your son breathe with his mouth open? Does he drink plenty of water daily? Or is he taking medication that has dry mouth as a side effect? Any of these factors can cause the gums to become tight, dry, and more likely to bleed.

Vigorous brushing is another cause of bleeding gums, but you have mentioned that your son isn’t brushing his teeth tooth hard. Continue to monitor him to ensure that he isn’t brushing aggressively. A soft-bristled toothbrush should be used.

There are certain medical conditions, including some auto-immune conditions that can cause gums to bleed easily. Bleeding gums may be related to the beginning stages of periodontal (gum disease).

Again, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with your son’s pediatric dentist for accurate diagnosis and treatment. If you have already seen a pediatric dentist about the issue, consider getting a second opinion and speaking with your medical doctor about it.

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

Why does my 5 yrs old’s breath smell so bad?

By | Oral Health, Pediatric Dentist

My 5 yr old daughter has horrible breath. It even takes my breath away sometimes when I smell it. It’s not an oral hygiene thing. At least I don’t think it is. I floss and brush her teeth morning and night. I also make a little baking soda mouthwash for her to gargle with every day but it doesn’t help. When I take her to the dentist, even she talks about brushing out the ‘bad breath monsters’. Really I have done all that I know to do. I asked the pediatric dentist and she keeps saying that I should brush and floss my daughter’s teeth. I do that already. This is really bothering me and I know that eventually my daughter will start being teased because the smell of her breath is really horrible. I am wondering what else I can do or what can be causing the problem. thank you – Oksana

Oksana – You can start by having a conversation with your daughter’s dentist. Let the dentist know your daily routine for your daughter’s oral hygiene. Then ask the dentist for an exam to help determine what’s causing the bad breath. Also ask if the dentist has any ideas for what is causing the problem. If you don’t get a satisfactory response, you may need to choose a new dentist.

Also, ask your family doctor or pediatrician about the problem. At times, there are medical factors that can cause bad breath in children. We are by no means diagnosing your daughter’s case, but listed below are some causes of bad breath in children.

  • A medical condition – Allergies, sinus issues, tonsillitis, or other medical conditions can cause bad breath.
  • Dry mouth – Certain medications can cause dry mouth, and so can a lack of saliva production. Ensure your child drinks plenty of water to keep his or her mouth moist.
  • Oral infection – Cavities or a mouth sore can cause bad odor.
  • Food – Certain foods have odors that linger, including garlic and onions.
  • Bacteria on the tongue – It’s important to gently brush the tongue, too. A buildup of bacteria on the tongue will cause a foul odor. A tongue scraper can be carefully used.
  • Breathing through the mouth – This will quickly dry out the mouth and cause odor. If your child breathes through his or her mouth due to sinus or allergy issues, addressing the issue can make breathing with the mouth closed much easier. Give your child plenty of water to drink.

The above causes are possibilities. An examination from your child’s pediatric dentist and medical doctor will help identify the cause, as well as the best treatment.

 

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