Earlier Chicken Pox May Lead To Serious Oral Health Problems

Chickenpox (or chicken pox) is a highly contagious illness caused by primary infection with varicella zoster virus (VZV). It usually starts with vesicular skin rash mainly on the body and head rather than at the periphery and becomes itchy, raw pockmarks, which mostly heal without scarring. On examination, the observer typically finds lesions at various stages of healing.
 
Chickenpox is an airborne disease spread easily through coughing or sneezing of ill individuals or through direct contact with secretions from the rash. A person with chickenpox is infectious one to two days before the rash appears. They remain contagious until all lesions have crusted over (this takes approximately six days). Immunocompromised patients are contagious during the entire period as new lesions keep appearing. Crusted lesions are not contagious.
 
Chickenpox has been observed in other primates, including chimpanzees and gorillas.
 
You may recall as a child catching the itchy red rash, chicken pox. The unsightly infection was caused by the varicella zoster virus and was responsible for nearly 4 million cases each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), until a vaccine introduced in 1995 reduced that number by 83 percent. Yet, if you were among those that suffered from chicken pox, the varicella zoster virus may still be present in your body and could lead to serious (and irreversible) oral health problems such as herpes-type lesions and severe bone damage to the jaws. 
 
Varicella zoster can lie dormant in the body for decades, and if activated can lead to herpes zoster (HZ), more commonly referred to as shingles, according to a study that appeared in General Dentistry, the Academy of General Dentistry's (AGD) clinical, peer-reviewed journal. 
 
Affecting nearly 1 million Americans each year, 50 percent of all new cases of herpes zoster occur in individuals over the age of 60. 
 
"Herpes zoster manifests as painful blisters that erupt along the sensory nerves usually on one side of the body or face," according to co-author of the study, M.A. Pogrel, DDS, MD. "It can be a debilitating disease that can lead to osteonecrosis of the jaw and vision loss in addition to a prolonged painful syndrome." 
 
Osteonecrosis is a condition in which bone in the lower or upper jaw becomes exposed. As a result, the jaw bone suffers severe damage and/or death, eventually leading to tooth loss. 
 
Dr. Murcko encourages patients who may have signs of or are suffering from osteonecrosis to visit their dentist regularly and practice good oral hygiene. She recommends that patients consume 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium a day, add vitamin D to their diet, exercise and weight train, quit smoking and decrease caffeine and alcohol intake. 
 
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