Ask the Doctors

Hello, dear readers! We hope that you're settling into 2018. (It still sounds odd to say it!) We love that you're keeping our inbox full, and, as ever, we remain grateful for your interest and engagement in our columns.

Quite a few of your letters delve deeper into topics we have tackled and are slated to become the subjects of follow-up columns. To those who have written to thank us, we say thank you. And now, onward, as we address a few of your questions, thoughts and concerns.

-- A recent column about headaches and their causes prompted a reader from Madison, Wisconsin, to write in with an addition to the list:

"There is one more possibility that is often ignored," she wrote. "My son had headaches on and off between the ages of 12 and 17. At age 17, he had his wisdom teeth out, and the headaches were gone. People with headaches that start in their teens may want to check with a dentist to see if their wisdom teeth are impacted."

While not nearly as common as the causes discussed in the column, impacted wisdom teeth can trigger painful and repeated headaches in some people. These teeth, which are the third molars at the back of the mouth, often lack adequate room to emerge. Whether due to infection, pressure or misalignment of the jaw, the result can be recurring headaches. If the onset (or increase) in headaches coincides with the typical age range for wisdom tooth eruption -- 17 to 24 -- it's a good idea to check with your dentist.

-- The dental angle on headaches got a thumbs-up from another reader, who says she was initially a skeptic:

"The 'dental problem' was a cause that I didn't buy into," she wrote. "My dentist told me I was grinding my teeth, and though he made me a tooth guard, I didn't wear it for years. I finally gave it a try because my headaches persisted and pain meds were hurting my stomach. No more daily headaches!"

-- We loved this story from a reader from Naples, Florida, in response to our column about the importance of the annual physical exam.

"A friend of mine, who was feeling fine, went to her annual physical," she wrote. "Routine blood tests revealed that she had leukemia. She immediately sought treatment and today, 20 years later, she's fine. I can't think of a more powerful argument in favor of having an annual physical."

Needless to say, we heartily agree that an annual physical exam can be a lifesaver. Whether it's identifying "silent" problems like hypertension or the early stages of serious illness, or enlisting your primary care physician as your partner in long-term health and wellness goals, a yearly physical is a powerful -- and empowering -- tool.

-- Finally, we just learned of an interesting advance in cochlear implants, which we addressed in a column recently. New programming software that was just approved by the FDA will allow audiologists to evaluate and adjust a patient's implants from afar via remote programming software.

(Send your questions to askthedoctors@mednet.ucla.edu, or write: Ask the Doctors, c/o Media Relations, UCLA Health, 924 Westwood Blvd., Suite 350, Los Angeles, CA, 90095. Owing to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.)

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