Posts for: September, 2013
Do you frequently experience bleeding gums during your daily brushing routine? You might assume that you are brushing too hard and that this bleeding is normal. However, you should know that any bleeding of gum tissue is abnormal and should be considered a potential sign of gum disease.
Gum tissues usually bleed because of dental plaque buildup from poor oral hygiene practices. When the plaque is left around the gum line for a long period of time, 24 hours or more, the gum tissues respond by becoming inflamed — this can quickly become a chronic inflammation.
Here are some other warning signs of gum disease:
- Bad Breath. Bad breath is one of the most common signs of gum disease. This is especially true for those who do not floss, because plaque collects in the protected areas between the teeth making them especially prone to gum inflammation. This plaque often produces a pungent smell that causes bad breath.
- Red or Sensitive Gums. If you look closely in the mirror, you might see redness of the gums. It may also seem as if your gums are swollen, and in more advanced cases, this can lead to receding gums. Finally, you might notice gum sensitivity when you brush or a sensitivity to hot and cold.
- Tooth Loss. If this disease goes untreated, over time, bone loss will cause loose teeth, movement or migration of the teeth into a new and unstable position, and ultimately tooth loss. The rate of progression will depend upon the type of gum disease that you have.
- Painful Gums. Once you start to feel acute pain and extremely sore gums, this may mean you have developed a periodontal abscess. When this happens, the bacteria are walled off inside a gum “pocket,” and since your body's defenses are overwhelmed, there is a battle between the bacteria in that pocket and your body's defense mechanisms. The result is a collection of pus and extra bone loss. Your gums will be sore, swollen, red and may even discharge pus.
As you can see, the further the disease progresses, the greater the amount of pain and damage that will occur. Therefore, upon the first sign of gum disease, such as bleeding gums, you should schedule an appointment with us immediately.
Actor Michael Douglas shocked TV audiences across the country when he announced on the David Letterman Show in 2010 that he has stage IV oral cancer. Fortunately, the cancer had not spread and his radiation and chemotherapy treatments were successful. This year, Douglas teamed up with the Oral Cancer Foundation to warn others about the dangers of the disease and the importance of early detection. In particular, he wants younger people to know that even if they don't smoke and drink a lot, as he admitted to Letterman that he did, they are still at risk.
As Douglas states in a PSA he made with the foundation, “the fastest growing segment of the people developing oral cancers are young, non smokers.” That's due to a strain of the Human Papilloma Virus known as HPV16 that can be transmitted through oral sex. So it's important to avoid risky sexual behaviors and to be screened regularly for this devastating disease that claims one life every hour in the U.S., according to the Oral Cancer Foundation.
An oral cancer screening is a simple visual and tactile exam done right here at the dental office. We will feel your neck for lumps and inspect your lips and all inside surfaces of the mouth, including the back of your throat, for any suspicious signs. If any are found, a biopsy (laboratory analysis of a tissue sample) can be ordered.
Most oral cancers are “squamous” (small scale-shaped) cell carcinomas that occur in the lining of the mouth and are often preceded by recognizable changes (lesions) of the oral membranes. White or red patches begin to form in the pre-cancerous stage, and as the cancer develops, a non-healing ulcer may appear. If you notice any such changes in your mouth, please let us know.
Michael Douglas ends his PSA with the following plea: “So please, the next time you visit your dentist or your medical doctor, ask for this simple screening. Finding oral cancer in its earliest stages may save your life.” We agree, which is why we always perform this screening during your regular dental check-up. If it's been a while since your last appointment, please come in and see us.
If you would like more information about oral cancer, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can learn more about the disease in the Dear Doctor magazine article “Oral Cancer.”