Friday, September 5, 2014

If You Have White Spots on Your Gums…

In the last 30 years, major advancements have been made in the field of dentistry that allow for the early detection of a number of diseases and conditions. Thanks to these forms of early detection, millions of patients have been saved from life-threatening illnesses that were first discovered during a routine dental exam

One alarming development patients often report is the occurrence of white spots on the gums. Although it is certainly no cause for immediate alarm, your dentist should definitely check out any abnormality or discoloration. Several scenarios are typical, including, friction from dental appliances, ill-fitting dentures, a toothbrush that is too firm, or irritation caused by some foods or beverages-especially alcohol. The most serious indication when white spots develop on the gums is gum cancer. Since an exam is necessary for an accurate diagnosis, an oral exam should be scheduled immediately.

The medical term for white spots on the gums is "leukoplakia". The spots may appear on the gums, inner cheeks, and tongue. Sometimes, they may only be visible through an oral exam. This is another reason why annual checkups are so important!

Although the immediate cause of this condition is unknown, some form of irritation, such as those already mentioned usually brings it on. Pipe smoking seems to be a big risk factor. Older adults are also more prone to developing leukoplakia.

The good news is that such white spots on the gums are usually harmless and go away after a few days or weeks. If they are present, avoid alcohol and stop all tobacco use, including cigarettes, cigars, pipes, and chewing tobacco. If you think dental work is irritating your gums or mouth, or if the white spots on your gums are especially painful or prevent you from eating, talking, or wearing your dental appliances, schedule an appointment with your dentist immediately.

Even though many dental health websites suggest waiting and watching the condition in hopes that it will go away on its own for several days to two weeks maximum-it is best to play it safe and schedule an appointment for a thorough oral exam. Of course we encourage you to make regular appointments for cleanings and exams by calling Dr. Simon Melcher and his experienced team: 919-782-0548.

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