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Curious Tongue, teeth and music.

My previous blogs discussed the meaning of “Curious Tongue”, the prevalence of periodontal disease (periodontitis), a disease that affects the gums, results in bone loss and causes teeth to loosen and fall out or have to be taken out, and that having periodontitis makes an individual more prone to cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, and even Alzheimer’s disease.  Recently a study showed that people with CVD and periodontal disease who contracted the COVID virus had more severe disease than those with CVD and no periodontal disease. 

Treatment of periodontitis can vary from just improving a patient’s home care (tooth brushing, flossing, using a water irrigator etc., going to the dentist for regular maintenance (cleaning) visits or in some cases requires periodontal surgery.  The latter is usually performed by a dentist or more often a periodontal specialist (Periodontist) and is done in office under local anesthesia (the injections you get to numb an area of the mouth which usually wear away in 1-2 hours following treatment).

I’ve performed thousands of patients and most had minimal discomfort afterward, were able to save their diseased teeth, and were happy with the results.  For some we use nitrous oxide (laughing gas) to make them more relaxed and take their minds off the surgery.  For almost all I play music during the procedure, again to take their minds off any noise they hear related to surgery.  I also encourage patients to bring in their own music.  However, let me relate a story that occurred with one patient, a male in his late twenties (27), who asked me if he could bring in his own music (I usually play classical music i.e., Mozart or Beethoven).  I said, “sure but the earphones you wear may bother you or fall out when you turn your head during surgery”.  He said, “I’ll bring in a CD so you can play it over the speakers as you do with “your music”.  So, he bought in a CD, and after he was numb and I was ready to start the procedure, my assistant put “his” CD, into our office CD player.  Just as I was ready to start, out came the song “Seek and Destroy” by Metallica, loud, booming and fast.  I stopped what I was doing, excused myself, leaving the patient and two assistants in the room, went to the CD player and replaced Metallica with Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto.  When I got back into the room (after putting on a new surgical gown, a new hat, mask, shield and gloves, he said to me “what’s that” pointing to the ceiling but meaning the music.  I said it’s “Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto”.  He said, “Where’s my music”?  I said, “your music made me nervous”.  He said, “well this music makes me nervous”.  I said, “Im doing periodontal surgery on you today to save your teeth, who would you rather be nervous you or me”?  After a slight pause he looked me in the eyes and said, “play what you want doc”.

He also had a curious tongue so my assistant, using a mouth mirror, kept his tongue away from the surgery, which was completed in 32 minutes just as Beethoven’s piano concerto ended.  He healed, with very little discomfort his teeth were saved, and he regularly comes in for recall and maintenance (cleanings) every 3 months. He’s now 57 and been a satisfied patient of mine for about 30 years. 

He hasn’t lost a tooth, has no gum recession, no bad breath, and is happy with his smile.

He has also become a fan of Beethoven.

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As explained in a previous blog, Curious Tongue becomes an important consideration when treating a dental patient for caries (cavities), laminates or veneers, root canal treatment, implant placement and especially periodontal (gum) disease.


Curious tongue is a term I coined while I was a dental student.