The Importance of Labelling Bottles
I got a strange emergency voice mail on St. Patrick’s Day. A long time patient of mine described a horrible mistake she had made and needed my immediate assistance. Of course, I was happy to help and returned her call immediately.
Apparently, she had accidently offered a bottle of mouthwash to her sister, which unfortunately, turned out to be nail polish remover! The solution only made contact with the inside of her lips before she spit it out, but not before she experienced a burning sensation that she described as the scalding one might experience with drinking a very hot cup of coffee.
She rinsed her mouth immediately, but when she ran her finger along the affected area some of the tissue lining this place began to slough (peel) off. After a few minutes, the burning sensation subsided and she was left with that burnt mouth feeling.
Since she was at a restaurant and wanted to stay to enjoy her family and the night’s festivities, there was plenty of ice cubes available and she placed some in her mouth to soothe the burn. I advised her to use some salt water rinses over the next few days, and that she could come in to see me to exam the area. We were all relieved to see that the area did not blister and was quickly on it’s way to healing the next morning. It could have been worse if she had gargled with it.
So how did something like this happen?
Well, apparently, the nail polish remover was the exact same colour as a common mouth rinse that the person always kept in her purse in a sample-sized container. She had went on a trip to Cuba just a few weeks prior and had put a number of personal hygiene products into some see-through plastic bottles as is often the case when following airline rules about liquids. When she had left her house earlier that evening she grabbed what she thought was mouth rinse that had been placed in one of these carry-on bottles. She offered it when her sister complained of bad breath.
This is an example of an accident that perhaps could have been avoided had the bottle been labelled properly.
We have had a number of patients see us over the years with burned mouths. Sometimes it’s a hot food item like pizza or soup while other times it’s hot chocolate or coffee. You can barely enjoy the rest of your meal/beverage when the burn is severe enough. The damage inside the mouth can range from blisters to red, puffy and raw to white patchy areas where burned. When the inside of the mouth, tongue or gums are scalded, the superficial layer of skin burns and, if severe enough will peel off immediately. Depending on the severity, usually these types of burns will heal in 3 to 7 days.
Fortunately, the mouth is one area of the body that heals very quickly. Here are some tips that you can use to help find relief and initiate the healing process:
Ice Cubes – Sucking on ice cubes for as long as possible will help soothe the area and reduce inflammation.
Milk – Placing milk in your mouth and letting it sit there a few minutes will help to coat the area and provide some cold relief. Milk also contains a protein that helps dissolve the bonds of the spicy substance in some foods.
Orabase – Colgate has a product called Orabase which you can purchase over the counter. It contains 20% Benzocaine that provides pain relief for mouth sores.
Anti-inflammatory – An ibuprofen like Advil or Motrin will help reduce the inflammation that is often associated with injured tissues.
Vitamin E – This vitamin comes in oil form in capsules that can be opened. Spread the oil over the affected area to help soothe the tissue and stimulate healing.
Coconut Oil – This is an oil that you can buy in paste form and has both anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. You can put a generous amount of the paste on a Q-tip and place it over the affected area. Reapply several times throughout the day.
Oral Hygiene – It is important to keep the area clean to avoid bacterial accumulation that can further interfere with the healing process. You may have to use a much more gentle action when you brush your teeth to avoid further irritating the area. If the toothpaste stings, then just stick to water until the area heals. Of course, avoid mouth rinses for the time being.
Warm Salt Water Rinses – Rinsing with warm water containing salt will hep soothe the area as well as reduce inflammation and help keep the area clean. Dissolve 1/8 teaspoon of salt in 8 ounces of water and gently rinse for about a minutes 3-4 times/day.
Yogurt – Yogurt helps to balance out the bacteria in your mouth and is a healthy and effective way to help reduce bacterial plaque.
– Spicy foods
– Citrus foods
– Crunchy foods
– Brushing your teeth too harshly
– Toothpastes with strong minty or menthol
– Mouth rinses
– Touching the area with your fingers or tongue
Hurt So Good…
There are some people that can tolerate burning sensations in the mouth more than others. We have one patient that finds ketchup too hot and others who complain about the stinging feeling of most toothpastes and mouth rinses. Still, there is a select part of the population who live by the motto, “The hotter, the better.” And who knows? Maybe they would probably love to show the skin peeling off of their mouth as a kind of “Badge of Honour.”
We’re probably not going to convince the die-hards, but would, nonetheless, like to remind everyone that the tissues that line the inside of the mouth and throat are delicate and easily burned. Microwaved foods are often more hotter on the inside than the outside so you have to be careful with that first bite.
Always know what you are putting in your mouth, and, if in doubt, leave it out!
We’ve checked with the Poison Control Centre who tell us that nail polish remover containing acetone is a product that some people who have substance abuse issues actually drink on purpose. In adults, accidentally swallowing small amounts of nail polish remover is unlikely to harm you. It can cause stinging of the mouth/throat, nausea, stomach pains and vomiting. If enough is ingested, you could experience drowsiness, difficulty breathing and coma. With children you should seek medical assistance immediately. They also warn that you should never force a person to throw up unless told to do so by poison control or a health care professional.
For expert poison advice 24 hours a day call:
Yours in Better Dental Health,
The Your Smile Dental Care Team,