Many people view the dentists at the Sacramento Dentistry Group simply as dedicated people who fix teeth, but as discussed in a previous article, dentists are actually full-fledged doctors specializing in oral health. Therefore, it is important to recognize that besides caring for your teeth, a dentist is also here to help you identify and cure diseases that can affect your mouth, throat and body. Previously, we discussed the threats of oral cancer, human papilloma virus (HPV) and herpes and how the Sacramento Dentistry Group detects and controls these diseases and their symptoms. It is also important to recognize the role of dentists in identifying infection with other diseases, specifically sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
Identifying Oral Infection with Gonorrhea
Both HPV and herpes are potentially STDs, depending on the specific type of microorganism infecting the patient. Gonorrhea is strictly a STD, caused by a bacterial infection. Besides considering the condition of your teeth and gums, during any dental exam our dentists and hygienists also look for unusual growths (signs of oral cancer) and unexpected lesions or patches on oral tissues. This inspection may lead to the discovery of gonorrhea.
With gonorrhea, the oral symptoms are similar to those caused by strep throat and it may be mistaken for that. A swab of the affected tissue must be cultured to determine the actual cause, but truthful answers to questions about the patient’s lifestyle can quickly determine potential sources. Incidences of oral gonorrhea have increased throughout the world, chiefly due to unprotected oral sex. While treatment with antibiotics is possible, resistant strains of gonorrhea now exist. Left untreated, the disease can spread from the throat to the entire body.
Identifying Oral Infection with Syphilis
Although more rare than gonorrhea, cases of syphilis have also increased steadily during the last decade. The painful sores, or chancres, found on the lips, tongue, gums and back of the mouth near the tonsils, readily identify this STD. The sores start as red patches that then burst and stay red, or turn yellow or grey.
A diagnosis of syphilis is confirmed after completing a biopsy of tissue taken from a sore. Immediate treatment is necessary to prevent the spread of the disease to the heart and brain. Again, honest answers to lifestyle questions help direct the efforts of our oral doctors to assist you.