Q. Why should I wear sunscreen if I’m only going outside for a little while?
A. It is important to wear sunscreen any time you will be outside to guard against UVR exposure that can cause skin cancer. Typically, skin cancer can be divided into two categories: nonmelanoma and melanoma. The most common type of nonmelanoma skin cancer is Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), followed by Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC). You may think you don’t need protection if you are just running in and out of your office a few times a day, but even low dose repetitive exposure can cause skin cancer.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there are three things that your sunscreen should do:
- Sunscreen should protect against both UVA and UVB rays
- Sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30
- Sunscreen should be labeled “water-resistant”
Regular daily use of sunscreen reduces the risk of developing SCC by about 40% and the risk of developing melanoma by 50%.
Q. My father had a stroke last year and now has difficulty coming up with words sometimes. Is this something that will fix itself over time?
A. Stroke can cause a language impairment called aphasia, which affects a person’s ability to retrieve words. The prognosis of your father’s aphasia is dependent on the initial severity of the disorder and the size and location of the brain lesion. Other factors include age, gender, education, and other current medical conditions. If your father is experiencing depression and social isolation related to the stroke or onset of aphasia, this may also affect his prognosis. A person with aphasia can benefit from compensatory strategies such as describing the word and using word associations or synonyms to get his ideas across. Writing, using gestures, and pointing to picture or word choices can also improve communication. Your father could benefit from speech therapy, which is individualized to address specific needs. Participation in support and communication groups can continue the gains once speech therapy has ended.
Q. My gums are starting to recede, do I have gum disease?
A. It depends. Sometimes you lose visible gum and bone support due to periodontal (gum) disease. However, gum recession can also be caused by a number of different things. Hard toothbrushing is a common culprit. Scrubbing your teeth too hard can actually push the gum line away from the tooth. Excess pressure and force from your bite can also cause gum recession. Patients with clenching and grinding habits often have gum recession because the pressure overload causes the gums and bone to shrink away. Patients with thin gum tissue are at a higher risk for having gum recession than patients with thicker gum tissue. Gum recession can be treated with several procedures including gum tissue grafting and gum repositioning.
Q. Anytime I eat or drink something cold, my teeth hurt. What causes this sensitivity and how can I get rid of it?
A. Sensitivity to cold is a very common problem. Most often it is caused by destruction and wear of the protective layers called enamel and cementum. The loss of tooth structure can be caused by certain foods and drinks, clenching and grinding, and brushing too hard. To help with the sensitivity, try a desensitizing toothpaste, soft bristled toothbrush, fluoride paste and mouthwash, and a nighttime mouth guard. Also, avoid acidic foods. Sometimes the sensitivity can be caused by a crack or cavity in the tooth, which will need treatment from a dentist. It is always a good idea to have any sensitivity evaluated by your dentist.
Q. From time to time, my heart feels like it flutters or skips a beat. Is this cause for concern?
A. The sensation of “fluttering” or a “skipped beat” is a common symptom for individuals of all age groups. While the majority of these symptoms are not life threatening, patients can gain peace of mind from a physician’s evaluation. The symptoms of skipped beats in the heart are primarily due to extra beats originating in various locations in the heart. Although extra beats can cause symptoms, they are relatively benign.
There are many different types of heart rhythms that can cause a person to feel fluttering. One common type is called supraventricular tachycardia (SVT). This is a group of different heart rhythms that occur in the top, smaller chambers of the heart. While they show symptoms, few are life threatening. A less common cause of fluttering, which is potentially life threatening, is ventricular tachycardia (VT). Anyone who has symptoms of fluttering and passes out should be evaluated immediately.