Dentistry Tips & Info

The Misunderstood Disease

The dentist is the oral health expert. Dental Healthcare Professionals understand how the health of teeth, gums and the mouth relate to. general overall health.

One serious link with oral health is the “Common Cold Sore”. 30% – 40% of all dental patients have cold sores an average of three to four times a year, many having much more depending on what triggers their outbreaks.

Contrary to common perceptions, cold sores are not a trivial condition. The cold sore virus is especially contagious due to the sores weeping fluids saturated with the virus. An active cold sore causes pain, irritation and itching, often resulting in the patient touching or scratching at the lesion. While touching the cold sore these virus saturated fluids are easily picked up by the hands or spread to other people through physical contact.

Patients should never touch a cold sore and then rub their eyes. The cold sore virus is the leading cause of non-impact blindness in the United States; a condition known as Herpes Keratitis. 1.5 million new cases occur each year, with 40,000 of them resulting in the loss of sight. The cold sore virus can also spread to other parts of the body in a condition known as Herpes Whitlow.

Dental professionals are at an elevated risk of contracting Herpes Whitlow and should never touch an active cold sore. In one specific case a dental professional who was working on a patient with an active cold sore contracted Herpes Whitlow while scratching an itch on her neck even though she was properly gloved and masked. In another case, Herpes Whitlow was contracted by a hygienist when using ultrasonic scaler which aerosolized the virus and contaminated her eye, resulting in Keratitis.

In a surprising recently published clinical study, the cold sore virus has been shown to significantly accelerate the replication of HIV Aids virus In addition, links have also been identified between the cold sore virus and the onset of Alzheimer’s and about 1,250 incidents of Encephalitis, also caused by the cold sore virus, occur each year which can cause severe mental impairment in new born infants.

Professionals need to help the public understand the significance of cold sores and prevent the spread and duration of the disease. The dental office is known for motivating patients to better oral health. While the patient is thinking about their mouth, it is a perfect time to help them understand the potential danger and seriousness of the cold sore virus. A visit to the Dentist or hygienist is the perfect time to educate the patient on this this misunderstood disease.

Gum Chewing: Helpful or Harmful?

Chewing GumWhile there is no question that regular chewing gum promotes tooth decay, there is clinical evidence that demonstrates just the opposite for sugar-free gum. Studies have shown that using sugar-free chewing gum after meals and snacks, especially when toothbrushing at those times is impractical, helps reduce the acid level and its potential detrimental effect on the enamel. Its mechanism of action is the stimulation of 10 times the normal rate of salivary flow due to both the act of chewing and the flavor of the artificial sweetener (sorbitol or xylitol). The saliva washes away food particles and acid produced by bacteria in the plaque and neutralizes the acid because of increased concentration of bicarbonates. Chewing sugar-free gum is not intended to replace toothbrushing and flossing. Sugar-free gum is also recommended for people with xerostomia (dry mouth) to stimulate increased salivary flow, along with drinking greater amounts of water (6-8 glasses a day). However, those experiencing TMD (temporomandibular joint disorder) symptoms should refrain from chewing any gum.