Health Features

Eyes, Nose, Mouth

Spring is on the way, and social calendars are sure to start filling up! It’s a time of renewal, so naturally our thoughts turn to improving how we look and feel. This month, we focus our attention on the eyes, nose and mouth to share some helpful tips about vision correction, allergies and better smiles.

Most of us experience some type of vision change as time goes on, and now there’s a new technique to help patients who have near-vision problems, says Dr. Jay Pepose of Pepose Vision in Chesterfield. Called the RainDrop procedure, the treatment is “a great new addition” for people who have good distance vision but have reached the age where they’re straining to view things up close, Pepose says. “Now, with this procedure, people who could read only a newspaper’s headlines without glasses will be able to see the fine print easily.”

RainDrop is an inlay that gets inserted under the cornea surface in one eye, explains Dr. Jason Brinton of Brinton Vision in Creve Coeur. It’s thinner than a human hair, can be seen only with a high-powered microscope, and is well tolerated by the eye because it’s made mostly of water. “Thirty to 40 percent of patients in our area are age 45 and older,” Brinton points out. “Most of them would need reading glasses or bifocals just to see things up close. This procedure can help get rid of those.”

safe & simple
Brinton says each potential RainDrop patient comes to the office for an exam and consultation and is thoroughly screened to make sure he or she is an appropriate candidate. The inlay procedure itself usually takes less than 15 minutes in the doctor’s office, and discomfort is minimal. “It’s even more comfortable than putting in a contact lens,” he says.

Pepose says many patients are more comfortable with RainDrop than other solutions because it can be reversed. “When we’re doing other procedures like Lasik, for example, we’re permanently removing tissue with the laser,” he says. “But with RainDrop, we’re just making a flap and adding the inlay. If a patient says for whatever reason that he isn’t happy with it, we can lift the flap and remove the inlay. I haven’t come across anyone who wanted that done, but it is reversible.”

Pepose adds that patients have been happy with it. “Most people are noticing improvement in their near vision within 24 hours, and intermediate vision becomes stronger in a couple weeks,” he says.

allergy tablets
Dr. Hamsa Subramanian of Signature Allergy in Creve Coeur says there are some exciting developments for people suffering with common seasonal allergies. New ‘sublingual immunotherapy’ is available in dissolvable tablets that go under the tongue, as an alternative to traditional allergy injection therapy. “The tablet has been approved for grass and ragweed allergies, and will be available for dust mite allergies soon,” she says. The first pill is always given in the doctor’s office to make sure it’s tolerated well, and it’s best to start taking it a couple months before allergy season, she notes.

Subramanian says it’s important to see your doctor before, during and after the spring allergy season so symptoms can be prevented instead of just treated. “We’re in a flood plain here in St. Louis, so there’s always humidity and moisture,” she notes. “Many homes have pets and basements that get wet, and the recycled air we breathe in our homes contributes to allergies as well.”

food allergy reversal
There’s good news for food allergy sufferers, too, says Dr. Mark Dykewicz, chief of allergy and immunology at SLUCare Physician Group. He says recent research shows that rather than shielding allergy-prone kids from common problem foods such as peanuts, it actually may be better to introduce them to those foods early in life.

“It appears now that kids exposed to the food at a young age may have a decreased risk of developing the allergy,” he says. “We probably wouldn’t have suspected this just five or 10 years ago.” Studies are being done to see if this is the case for other foods, too. Other new and more effective treatments are being developed for those with severe allergy-related asthma, he adds, so patients should consult their physicians about it.

Whether your allergy problems come from air or land, it’s best not to ignore them, Subramanian advises. “Don’t wait until you have an allergic reaction to be seen,” she says. “Go to your doctor well before the season, and when you’re feeling better. That will help him or her prevent symptoms, get a good history, find out what’s causing it and figure out ahead of time what to do for you next year.”

beautiful smiles
Since your teeth are what most people notice first, there’s a lot to be said for keeping them lovely and healthy. Dr. Scott Mahlin of Clarkson Dental Group in Chesterfield says especially as we age, teeth are subject to discoloration, damage, chipping and shifting, but there are ways to counteract these effects for a more appealing smile. Modern ‘dental beauty’ procedures include whitening, bonding to close up spaces between teeth, and veneers to improve color or shape.

color counts
“Some people get their teeth bleached to make stains disappear, while others just want a whiter shade,” Mahlin says. “Discoloration occurs in the enamel and can be caused by medication, coffee, tea, soda, cigarettes, your genetic makeup, or just getting older.” Whitening procedures can be performed in the dentist’s office or at home under a dentist’s advice. He says many patients prefer bleaching at home because it’s more convenient and generally less expensive. Home treatment is done with a custom-designed mouthpiece and a carbamide peroxide bleach, and usually takes two to four weeks of daily application depending on how much whitening the patient wants. Touch-ups may be necessary after a year or so, Mahlin notes.

close the gaps
Bonding generally can be done in a single office visit, using tooth-colored material to fill spaces between teeth that have moved. “It typically lasts five to 10 years,” Mahlin says of the procedure. “It may be more susceptible to staining or chipping than other forms of restoration, but it can be more affordable as well.”

Porcelain veneers such as Lumineers are another good way to make your teeth more attractive, says Ballwin dentist Dr. Kevin Postol. “They’re usually applied during a two-appointment process, and patients like them because there’s almost immediate gratification,” he says. The veneers cover stubborn discoloration, and they tend to be very long-lasting because the porcelain doesn’t pick up stains, he notes.

Postol says crooked teeth can be solved with modern solutions like Invisalign. “This is a good option for people who don’t want braces,” he notes. It involves taking impressions or digital images of a patient’s teeth, then creating clear, nearly invisible molds that he or she wears to gradually move the teeth into place.

Mahlin says, “These improvements are not always just cosmetic. Many can solve oral problems by improving your bite, stabilizing loose teeth, strengthening weak ones and improving gum health.” As always, Postol adds, it’s important to make a regular dental appointment at least once or twice a year for a thorough cleaning and examination.