Cavities generally develop in the "hard-to-see" places in your mouth. These are normally the places where you need to floss. When bacteria combine with food particles, they form plaque that adheres to your teeth.
As long as plaque remains on the tooth, acid produced by bacteria will eat away the tooth structure. Once through the enamel, the acid attacks the dentin, which is that part of the tooth containing sensitive nerve fibers.
If the tooth decay reaches the dentin, a filling is needed to halt the degenerative process. Otherwise, it continues at an accelerated rate becoming larger and larger.
If not detected and repaired with a filling, the decay can reach the tooth nerve and cause the need for a root canal. With the decay removed and a filling in place the tooth is restored to its original contour.
Floss is cheap, so don't be stingy! Tear off about a forearm's length to start. Wrap one end around the middle finger of one hand to "anchor" it and pick up the other end about 4-6 inches away with the middle finger of the other hand. This allows you to manipulate the floss with your thumb and fore finger. As you soil a section of floss, "reel" in another 4-6 inches of clean floss with the anchor finger as you release the floss with the other finger.
Once you get the floss past the tooth contact, move the floss up and down, perpendicular to the tooth. Never shoe-shine the teeth in a back-and-forth motion! You will either notch your teeth or cut your gums, or both!
For people without any periodontal disease, a check up and cleaning every six months is standard protocol. People who have active periodontal disease or who have been treated, should have a check up and cleaning every three months.
For most people, a complete radiographic survey should be done every 3 years and a "check up" or "recall" set every 6 to 12 months. A complete set of x-rays is estimated to expose you to the same amount of radiation you get on a flight from San Francisco to Seattle.
Doctors use x-rays as an aid in diagnosing problems. Without x-rays, "seeing" the problem will be difficult if not impossible.
In general, the tongue, with its rough surface, is the most common source of bad breath. 'Tongue scrapers' are very effective in keeping the tongue clean.
Tooth decay is caused by acids which are produced by bacteria in the presence of sugar. To prevent decay these bacteria, sugar and acids must be periodically removed by way of brushing and flossing.
Generally speaking, a soft bristled toothbrush is best. Whether you use a manual toothbrush or an electric, anything harder than soft, is too hard. Stiff bristles may give you that clean feeling, but they can also abrade your teeth and cause gum recession.
New patients receive a comprehensive examination which includes a screening for oral cancer, gum and bone disease, blood pressure and systemic disorders. A routine oral exam is performed on established patients to determine any changes in dental and health status since the previous visit. Your gum tissue is measured with a fine instrument ruler to calibrate in millimeters pocket depth between the tooth and the connective gum tissue around the tooth. Pocket depths more than 4 millimeters could indicate disease and infection. The deeper the pocket, the greater the extent plaque bacteria collects and infection in gum disease develops. X-rays are taken as needed. Tooth scaling and root planing occur as needed. Routine cleanings also include a professional polishing (Prophy) that removes only the soft sticky plaque that is above the gum line.
What you eat affects the air you exhale. Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath odor. Once the food is absorbed into the bloodstream, it is transferred to the lungs, where it is expelled. The odors will continue until the body eliminates the food. People who diet may develop unpleasant breath from infrequent eating.
If you don't brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath. Food that collects between the teeth, on the tongue and around the gums can rot, leaving an unpleasant odor.
Dry mouth occurs when the flow of saliva decreases. Saliva is necessary to cleanse the mouth and remove particles that may cause odor. Dry mouth may be caused by various medications, salivary gland problems or continuously breathing through the mouth.
Tobacco products cause bad breath, so if you use tobacco, ask your dentist for tips on kicking the habit.
Bad breath may also be the sign of a medical disorder, such as a local infection in the respiratory tract, chronic sinusitis, postnasal drip, chronic bronchitis, diabetes, gastrointestinal disturbance, liver or kidney ailment.
Bruxism, commonly known as "tooth grinding," is the process of clenching together and the grinding of the upper and lower teeth. During sleep, the biting force of clenched jaws can be up to six times greater than during waking hours.
Bruxism can cause complications over the years:
- Wear down tooth enamel
- Break fillings or other dental work
- Worsening of TMJ dysfunction
- Create jaw pain,toothaches, headaches, or earaches
- Cause tooth sensitivity
- Increase tooth mobility
- Chip Teeth
There is no cure for bruxism; however, the condition can be managed. The most common procedure to help to alleviate pain and discomfort is a Nightguard.
Canker sores are common in adults and children and generally tend to cause discomfort, particularly during eating. Although several factors have been named as possible "causes" of aphthous ulcers, trauma is the most common trigger for them. It has also been observed that they appear in patients who are under stress, or those experiencing health problems. They have also been attributed to hormonal changes, and to some types of dietary deficiencies (i.e., Vitamin B12, Iron, Folic Acid, etc.). Although there is no specific treatment for the ulcer itself, except for severe cases (where usually steroids are prescribed); treatment is usually focused on the pain caused by the ulceration.
Recurrent Herpes Labialis (the common dental term) is a very common viral infection in children and adults. It is caused in most cases by a sub-type of the Herpes Virus, and in most patients it is preceded by an illness (a cold), exposure to sun or exposure to cold. Most patients experience what is known as 'prodromic' symptoms such as itching or burning sensation in the area where the blisters soon appear. This information may allow your dentist to recommend therapies that may minimize or eliminate the appearance of the blisters. This infection is usually self limiting and can last up to 14 days before the scabs fall off.
Saliva flow keeps the mouth moist and aids in chewing, swallowing, digestion and speech. Dry mouth is a condition from the lack of normal saliva flow.
Causes of dry mouth:
- Emotional stress
- Related to surgery
- Medical Conditions
- Blood pressure
- Some mouth washes that are high in alcohol content
Dry mouth symptoms:
- Mouth feels sticky
- Lips cracked and dry
- Tongue may have burning sensation
People who experience dry mouth are at high risk for developing cavities, gum disease and bad breath.
Helping dry mouth:
- Chewing gum / lozenges
- Humidifier at night
- Maintaining good oral hygiene
Accidents can happen during any physical activity. A mouth protector can help protect the soft tissues of your tongue, lips and cheek lining. Over-the-counter stock mouth protectors are inexpensive, pre-formed and ready-to-wear. Boil and bite mouth protectors offer a better fit than stock mouth protectors. Softened in water, they are more adaptable to the shape of your mouth. Custom-fitted mouth protectors are made by your dentist for you personally. They are more expensive, but a properly fitted mouth protector will stay in place while you are wearing it, making it easy for you to talk and breathe.
Oral piercings can be bad for your health. Because your mouth contains millions of bacteria, infection is a common complication of oral piercing. Pain and swelling are other side effects of piercing. Your tongue (a popular piercing site in the mouth) could swell large enough to close off your airway. Piercings can also cause uncontrollable bleeding or nerve damage. The jewelry itself also presents some hazards. You can choke on any studs, barbells or hoops that come loose in your mouth, and contact with the jewelry can chip or crack your teeth.
We ask that our female patients who are pregnant or think they possibly could be to inform us prior to your x-ray examination and dental treatment.
You are probably familiar with the links between tobacco use and lung disease, cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Current studies have also established that tobacco smoking not only causes direct damage to your mouth but also makes periodontal diseases more damaging and harder to treat.
There is a greater incidence of calculus formation on teeth, deeper pockets between gums and teeth, more gum recession and more loss of the bone that hold teeth in your mouth. In addition, smokeless tobacco greatly increases your chance of developing oral cancer. Any tobacco usage can complicate the placement of dental implants.
Besides smokeless tobacco, cigarette smoking negatively impacts the health of the gums. The healing capacity of the mouth is significantly altered. The healing time from any procedure is always increased. Needless to say smoking creates more tartar, more stain, bad breath and an increased potential for mouth cancer.
Other chemicals impair the function of your white blood cells which are your first line of defense against infection. The tars contain carcinogens which over time induce cell mutations and cancers.
Quitting tobacco use will lower the risk of your developing cancer and improve the health of your teeth and gums, as well as your heart and lungs.
Smokeless tobacco poses very serious problems including:
- Causes tooth decay
- Eats away your gums
- Leads to tooth loss
- Bad breath
- Stains your teeth
- Causes oral sensitivity to hot and cold
- Decreases sense of taste and smell
If oral cancer is left untreated long enough, it may even cause death.
There are many types of cracked teeth. The treatment and outcome for your tooth depends on the type, location and severity of the crack.
Unlike a broken bone, a fracture in a cracked tooth will never heal. Early diagnosis is important, even with high magnification and special lighting, it is sometimes difficult to determine the extent of a crack.
A crown will bind and protect the cracked tooth. When a crack reaches the tooth root, root canal treatment is frequently needed to treat the injured pulp. A cracked tooth that is not treated will progressively worsen, eventually resulting in the loss of the tooth.
It is not uncommon for children to inadvertently 'bite' on their lips or cheeks, particularly following a dental visit where local anesthetic was used. The main reason why this occurs is the natural curiosity that a child has about the area of the mouth that is 'numb.' We try our best to explain to children that local anesthesia is temporary and we give them (and their parents) instructions on how to prevent 'lip biting.' In the event that this occurs, please notify our office so we can determine if your son or daughter will require treatment (i.e. antibiotics or pain medicine).