Childhood Chicken Pox Could Affect Oral Health Years Later

February 20, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment


You may recall as a child catching the itchy red rash, chicken pox. The unsightly infection was caused by the varicella zoster virus and was responsible for nearly 4 million cases each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), until a vaccine introduced in 1995 reduced that number by 83 percent. Yet, if you were among those that suffered from chicken pox, the varicella zoster virus may still be present in your body and could lead to serious (and irreversible) oral health problems such as herpes-type lesions and severe bone damage to the jaws.





Varicella zoster can lie dormant in the body for decades, and if activated can lead to herpes zoster (HZ), more commonly referred to as shingles, according to a study that appeared in General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry’s (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal.




Affecting nearly 1 million Americans each year, 50 percent of all new cases of herpes zoster occur in individuals over the age of 60.





“Herpes zoster manifests as painful blisters that erupt along the sensory nerves usually on one side of the body or face,” according to co-author of the study, M.A. Pogrel, DDS, MD. “It can be a debilitating disease that can lead to osteonecrosis of the jaw and vision loss in addition to a prolonged painful syndrome.”




Osteonecrosis is a condition in which bone in the lower or upper jaw becomes exposed. As a result, the jaw bone suffers severe damage and/or death, eventually leading to tooth loss.




While the exact reason for tooth loss is unknown, it has been noted that restricted blood flow and inflammation may be a cause.




However, AGD spokesperson, Laura Murcko, DMD, notes that, “Your dentist can help detect early signs of osteonecrosis of the jaw by checking for loose teeth, detached gums as well as taking dental x-rays.”





Dr. Murcko encourages patients who may have signs of or are suffering from osteonecrosis to visit their dentist regularly and practice good oral hygiene. She recommends that patients consume 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, add vitamin D to their diet, exercise and weight train, quit smoking and decrease caffeine and alcohol intake.




Symptoms of osteonecrosis:

  • Pain, swelling or infection of the gums




  • Loosening of teeth




  • Poor healing of the gums




  • Numbness or the feeling of heaviness in the jaw

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Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.

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The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) is a professional association of more than 35,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up-to-date in the profession through continuing education. Founded in 1952, the AGD has grown to become the world’s second largest dental association, which is the only association that exclusively represents the needs and interests of general dentists. More than 786,000 persons are employed directly in the field of dentistry. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patients’ oral health needs. Learn more about AGD member dentists or find more information on dental health topics at http://www.agd.org/public/.





Note: Information that appears in General Dentistry, the AGD’s peer-reviewed journal, AGD Impact, the AGD’s newsmagazine and related press releases do not necessarily reflect the endorsement of the AGD.





Source: Stefanie Schroeder


Academy of General Dentistry

[Via http://www.medicalnewstoday.com]

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