Common Cold Weather Problems: Top 3 Oral Health Issues

‘Tis the season! While we’re past the holidays and a few weeks into the New Year, we’re still experiencing the magic of winter. Fortunately, in Houston, it doesn’t get too frosty, but it’s still notably chillier than our balmy summers. However, along with soft sweaters, warm fires, and the comforting sound of occasional rainfall, colder weather brings with it certain oral health concerns. Dr. Craig Armstrong and our team are here for you all four seasons. If you know which winter dental issues you’re likely to face, you can notice and treat them quickly, or even prevent them from occurring altogether! Read on to learn about the top 3 common cold weather conundrums.

1. A sore jaw.

Have you ever noticed your jaw aching in cooler temperatures? This is actually quite a common symptom. Dr. Manny tackles this widespread issue Fox News explains in his article, “Why does my jaw hurt in cold weather?” He explains: “Studies have shown that changes in barometric pressure that often accompany a drop in temperature can trigger pain by causing air pockets throughout your body to expand and/or shrink, putting pressure on the nerves.” This explains why joint pain generally worsens during cold weather. Many of us are familiar with this uncomfortable phenomenon.

What you might not have realized, however, is that your jaw literally hinges on a very important and sensitive joint: your temporomandibular joint, which runs from your temple to your chin, allows you to move your mouth. Dr. Manny writes: “temporomandibular joint disorders, or TMD, are…common in adult women,” and cold weather can exacerbate these. He describes the common symptoms: “earaches, headaches, chewing pain, difficulty opening your mouth, [and] clicking or grating sounds in the joint.” Chatting your teeth on brisk winter walks or “shivering in cold weather can cause the muscles in your jaw to constrict or spasm.”

Dr. Armstrong and our team can perform diagnostic assessments to determine if you suffer from TMD. Once we’ve diagnosed your condition, we offer a variety of treatments to help you restore your joint health.

2. Dry mouth.

Technically known as “xerostomia,” this condition affects many Americans every year. Dry mouth can strike during any season, but it may be more likely to affect you in cold weather because the atmosphere is dryer, and using a heater in your house can remove even more moisture from your surroundings. You may also think less about drinking enough water during the winter than you do during the summertime, when you probably sweat more. In addition to being uncomfortable and unhealthy in its own right, xerostomia can be a gateway to other oral health issues if left untreated. For example, improper saliva flow can leave your mouth more vulnerable to cavities and gum disease, since your spit contains decay-fighting enzymes.

How can you tell if you suffer from dry mouth? Mayo Clinic provides a helpful list of common symptoms:

  • “Dryness in your mouth or throat
  • Saliva that seems thick and stringy
  • Bad breath
  • Difficulty chewing, speaking, and swallowing
  • A changed sense of taste
  • Problems wearing dentures
  • More frequent tooth decay
  • Gum irritation and gum disease.”

If you’re experiencing any of the above, you should come see Dr. Armstrong for an examination. He can help catch any decay or gingivitis, as well as provide suggestions for treating your dry mouth. This could be as simple as drinking more water or using a humidifier in your home.

3. Tooth sensitivity.

Winter is full of wonderful warm treats, like tea and soup, as well as cooler delights, such as ice cream. With family dinners and coffee dates in abundance, it’s in many ways the worst time of the year to suffer from tooth sensitivity, but this condition is also prevalent in cold weather. Colgate Oral Care Center notes: “that surge of pain you feel when biting into cold foods might seem to be ever-present during the cold winter months. Cold temperatures and wind could leave your teeth feeling sore, even when you take measures to avoid foods that have these abrasive qualities.” If your teeth get particularly touchy, even just going out on a gusty day could be uncomfortable.

If you’re suffering from tooth sensitivity, Dr. Armstrong can help you identify the source of your symptoms. Common causes range from cavities (which would need to be remedied with fillings) to excessive tooth whitening, which can weaken your enamel (in which case, we can offer you a more optimal customized whitening solution). Each person’s tooth sensitivity situation is different, so Dr. Armstrong will thoroughly examine your teeth and determine the best treatment option for your particular smile.

Is Colder Weather Dampening Your Smile?

If you’ve been dealing with one of the above issues, or even a different winter oral health conundrum, we’d be delighted to see you this winter at our Houston dental practice. To find out more and schedule your next appointment, contact us today.

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Why Do the Corners of My Lips Crack?

We all want to start the New Year off with a smile, but you might be embarrassed to show yours off if the corners of your lips are cracked. In addition to making you self-conscious about your mouth, having cracked corners can be uncomfortable. At our Houston dental practice, Dr. Craig Armstrong and the rest of our team want everyone to enjoy healthy, beautiful smiles! We’ve made it our mission to assist patients with all sorts of oral health concerns. We understand the importance of keeping your smile in top shape, and we’re here to answer any question you might have about your mouth. In the following blog, find out why the corners of your lips might be cracking and how we can help you remedy this.

Basic Symptoms

Many people have cracked lip corners. According to Dr. Jacqueline C. Doley’s article on Dear Doctor, “Cracking in the corners of the mouth is a common condition that is frequently seen in both the offices of dermatologists and dentists. It is known as perleche or angular cheilitis (‘angular’—angles; ‘cheil’—lip; ‘it is’—inflammation). Perleche is derived from the French word, ‘lecher,’ meaning to lick.’” You may be suffering from this condition if:

  • The outer edges of one or both sides of your mouth are chapped.
  • You notice red, white, or yellow lines at the edges of your mouth, which may become more visible when you smile or open your mouth.
  • Stretching your lips to speak, sip, eat, laugh, brush, floss, or perform other activities causes the corners of your lips to sting or appear open.
  • Your lips are generally chapped, but this symptom worsens at the edges of your mouth.
  • The corners of your lips feel very dry or even bleed when you open your mouth or smile too widely.
  • You often feel the need to lick your lips, “either as a result of irritation or because of it,” as Dr. Doley explains.

If you are struggling with any of the above symptoms, it’s a good idea to come and see us for an examination. We can determine what might be the source of your cracked corners and provide treatments to help you overcome this.

Common Causes

There are many possible reasons the corners of your lips could crack. Some of the most likely sources include:

  • Dehydration. Sometimes the simplest answers actually are the most accurate. Especially in dry, cold winter weather, it is important to make sure you drink enough water.
  • A virus. In his piece, “Ask the doctor: Why do the sides of my mouth keep splitting?,” Dr. Martin Scurr writes: “If it’s only one side of the mouth that’s affected, the cause is likely to be herpes simplex virus…(On the lips, it’s known as a cold sore.)” Basically, if this virus is dormant in your system, whenever you’re ill, it will “recur at that spot” where it “has gained entry” initially.
  • Drooling. In her Buzzfeed News article, “Here’s How to Deal With This Insanely Annoying Mouth Issue,” Caroline Kee describes: “it’s usually caused by an infection of fungi or yeast from excess saliva trapped in the cracked corners of mouth.” First, dehydration creates little grooves in your lip skin. Then, either by licking your lips too much or as you drool (usually in your sleep), “moisture builds up in a warm closed area [the crack]” and makes your split sides that much worse: “it’s easy for yeast and fungi to grow and lead to an infection,” as can “bacteria like staphylococcus.” These can “cause inflammation” and crack your lip corners even more.
  • Vitamin deficiencies. Advice columnist, Alice, explains on Go Ask Alice that “B-vitamin deficiencies [or] iron-deficiency anemia” can cause angular cheilitis. Cracked Corners Mouth’s article, “How to clear up angular cheilitis” also suggests that vitamins A and C could be deficient.
  • An allergic reaction. Your lips might be reacting to that new scented or flavored lip balm you’ve been using, or perhaps to a treatment you’ve been applying to your face. Alice notes that “even dental care/oral hygiene products, such as toothpaste” could be to blame, if your skin is intolerant to them.
  • Denture dilemmas. Dr. Doley explains that failing to take out and clean your dentures often enough could cause “dryness and subsequent chronic yeast infections [to] develop.” This is called “denture stomatitis.” Similarly, if you’re missing teeth but have yet to restore them, this could be the source. Dr. Doley writes: “a lack of teeth, especially the back teeth that support the face, cheek, and lips, can lead to a bite collapse with the subsequent cracking or fissuring at the corners of the mouth.”

Many people with cracked lip corners can probably trace their condition to one of the above causes, but Dr. Armstrong can help you identify the source of your splitting mouth skin, even if it doesn’t fall into one of these categories.

Treatment Options

Dr. Armstrong’s treatment approach will depend on the origin of your condition. First, he will assess your mouth and perform any necessary tests to provide a diagnosis. Then, we’ll create a customized treatment plan for you. Your remedy could be a medicated lip cream, if you suffer from a fungal infection, for example. We might also recommend you take certain vitamins, try to avoid potential allergens, and stay hydrated. If denture issues appear to be the source of your condition, we may fit you for a new partial or complete denture.

Are Your Lip Corners Cracked?

You don’t have to deal with this troublesome symptom any longer! Dr. Armstrong and the rest of our team can help you figure out why this is happening and assist you in fixing it. Contact our Houston dental practice today to learn more and schedule your next appointment!

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