CURIOUS TONGUE/PERIODONTAL DISEASE

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. Periodontal disease has two forms: gingivitis which is an inflammation of the gums (gingiva) and periodontitis where not only are the gums inflamed but the jawbone that supports the teeth is progressively lost. Most patients, when they go to a dentist, focus on their teeth which may have caries, on may require fillings or crowns, or have an unaesthetic appearance and require “whitening” or laminates (veneers). However, periodontal problems are far more prevalent and in most cases the patient doesn’t feel pain, so they rarely seek dental care, and the disease often goes untreated. However, a National Health and Nutrition Examination survey (2009-2012) reported that 46% of US adults (representing 64.7 million people) aged 30 years and older had periodontitis with 8.9% having severe periodontitis. In a more recent study (2021) it was reported that the prevalence of periodontitis in the study population was 61.9% and that of severe periodontist 16.8%. Age was found to be the most significant risk factor. In a study on tooth loss, it was found that among 20–30-year old’s 51.4% of extractions were due to dental caries. In patients > 40 years of age periodontal disease accounted for 54.11% and dental caries only 29.11% of tooth loss. Thus more teeth were lost due to periodontal disease in patients >40 years of age. In fact periodontitis can be called “a silent disease” (like cancer or high blood pressure) because there may be advanced destruction of the bone supporting the tooth with minimum or no pain. It is therefore important for the patient to go for regular checkups to monitor any periodontal or tooth disease present and schedule regular maintenance (tooth cleanings.) Signs of periodontal disease can vary from bleeding on brushing or flossing to gum recession (gum shrinking) which causes the root of the tooth to be exposed. Bad breath (halitosis) maybe another sign of gum disease. Now that people have been wearing masks to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus more of them are smelling their own breath and are beginning to become aware of halitosis. All of this can be treated and eliminated by a dental specialist (periodontist) or a general dentist. The treatment can be as simple as a good teeth cleaning and improvement in home care or can become more complicated requiring various forms of surgery. However, any type of treatment requires the dentist to deal with the “Curious Tongue”. You’ll learn more about periodontal disease, its danger to the teeth and body and warning signs you may have in my next blog. References available if requested.

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CURIOUS TONGUE

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

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