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Health Q&A

Posted December 19, 2012 in Advice Column, Winterset

Q: What is an abscessed tooth, and how to I treat it?

A: An abscessed tooth is a dead tooth that has become infected. Well then, how does a tooth die? The part of a tooth that is actually alive, the pulp, can die for many reasons. Some of those reasons include the tooth having a cavity or a crack, gum disease surrounding the tooth and any trauma that may involve the head and neck. Bacteria then feed on the dead pulp, leading to pain, swelling, a bad taste in the mouth, bad breath and even the possibility of death.

So what can you do if this happens? You need to have the dead pulp removed. This can be done in two ways.  You either need to have a root canal to save the tooth, or the tooth will need to be removed. Contrary to popular belief, antibiotics will not cure an abscessed tooth.  Antibiotics and draining the area are two options that are available to help treat the infection, but are not a cure.

Following good oral hygiene practices and routine dental examinations will significantly reduce your risk of an abscessed tooth. If you experience trauma to your head or neck, a chipped or cracked tooth or suspect you have a cavity, make an appointment to see your dentist as soon as possible.

Information provided by Dr. Christopher W. Blanchard, Blanchard Family Dentistry, 820 West Summit St., 462-4474

Q: Is there a difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?

A: The difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is a very common question and a source of a lot of confusion since the two terms are often used interchangeably. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia are two very different things. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia (along with  Vascular dementia, Parkinson’s dementia, Lewy Bodies dementia and Frontotemporal dementia).

• Dementia is an impairment of thinking and memory that interferes with a person’s ability to do things which he or she previously was able to do. It is a symptom much like pain is a symptom. Many different injuries and illnesses can cause pain — the same is true for dementia. “Dementia” simply means the symptom of a deterioration of intellectual abilities resulting from an unspecified disease or disorder of the brain.

• Alzheimer’s disease is a specific disease that causes dementia. It is a progressive brain disease that destroys brain cells, causing problems with memory, thinking and behavior severe enough to affect work, lifelong hobbies or social life. Alzheimer’s gets worse over time, and it is fatal. It is the most common form of dementia.

Distinguishing the difference between other types of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is not always as easy and straightforward as defining these terms. In practice, people and their disorders of behavior are far more complex than simple definitions sometimes commonly imply.

Remember, the main difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s is that Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia.

Information provided by Winterset Care Center North, 411 E. Lane St., 462-1571 and Winterset Care Center South, 715 S. Second Ave. 462-4040.

Q: The holidays are upon us. What can we do to keep our family healthy during this time of year?

A: An excellent question! There are plenty of opportunities to “not take care of ourselves” during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. We’ll share these “Twelve Tips” from the CDC to help you have a healthy holiday season.

Twelve Health and Safety Tips for the Holidays
(From the CDC)
Pay special attention to your health and be safe this holiday season. Give the gift of health and safety to yourself and others by following these holiday tips.
• Wash hands often to keep yourself from spreading germs and getting sick. Wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds.
• Bundle up to stay dry and warm. Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: layers of light, warm clothing, mittens, hats, scarves and waterproof boots.
• Manage stress. Don’t over-commit yourself, and prevent holiday anxiety and pressure. Get enough sleep.
• Don’t drink and drive or let others drink and drive. Whenever anyone drives drunk, they put everyone on the road in danger.
• Be smoke-free. Avoid smoking and second-hand smoke. There is no safe amount of tobacco or secondhand smoke. Breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be dangerous.
• Fasten seat belts while driving or riding in a motor vehicle. Always buckle your child in the car using a child safety seat, booster seat or seat belt according to his or her height, weight and age. Use a seat belt on every trip, no matter how short.
• Get exams and screenings. Ask what exams you need and when to get them. Update your personal and family history.
• Get your vaccinations, which help prevent diseases and save lives.
• Monitor the children. Keep potentially dangerous toys, food, drinks, household items and other objects out of kids’ reach. Dress warmly for outdoor activities. Develop and reinforce rules about acceptable and safe behaviors including electronic media.
• Practice fire safety. Most residential fires occur during the winter months, so be careful to never leave fireplaces, space heaters, stoves or candles unattended. Have an emergency plan and practice it regularly.
• Prepare food safely. Remember these simple steps: wash hands and surfaces often, avoid cross-contamination, cook foods to proper temperatures and refrigerate promptly.
• Eat healthy, and get moving. Eat fruits and vegetables. Limit your portion sizes and foods high in fat and sugar. Be active for at least 2.5 hours a week, and help kids and teens be active for at least one hour a day.

We want you and your family to have healthy holidays, but if you find yourself in need of health care, call and make your appointment with one of our providers at The Earlham Clinic in Earlham (515) 758-2907 or the Health Trust Physicians Clinic in Winterset at (515) 462-2950. We wish you and your family a very merry Christmas from our family at Madison County Health Care System.

Information provided by Chris Nolte, director, Public Relations and Development, Madison County Health Care Systems, 300 West Hutchings, Winterset, 515-462-9749.

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