Dentistry FAQs

Any kind of cut to your face and the delicate soft tissues inside your mouth should be addressed immediately in order to prevent further tissue damage and infection.

If a traumatic injury involves a broken facial bone such as the jaw, nose, chin or cheek, maxillofacial surgery may be required.

With jaw surgery, rubber bands, tiny wires, metal braces, screws or plates are often used to keep a fractured jaw in place following surgery. This allows the bone to heal and stay in proper alignment. Dental splints or dentures may also be required to supplement the healing process following jaw surgery.

The pits and grooves of your teeth are prime areas for opportunistic decay. Even regular brushing sometimes misses some of these intricate structures on the chewing surfaces of your teeth.

Enter sealants, which are thin coatings applied to the chewing surfaces designed to prevent the intrusion of bacteria and other debris into the deep crevices on the tops of your teeth.

Sealants actually were developed about 50 years ago but didn't become commonly used until the 1970s. Today, sealants are becoming widely popular and effective; young children are great candidates for preventative measures like sealants because in many cases, decay has not set in. Even on teeth where decay is present, sealants have been shown to fight additional damage.

Sealants are applied by first cleaning the tooth surface. The procedure is followed by etching the tooth with an abrasive substance, which allows the sealant to better adhere. After the sealant is applied, a warm light source is directed to the site to promote faster drying. Sealants usually need re-application every five to 10 years.

Fixed bridges and implants are often used to replace missing teeth and to correct some kinds of bite problems.

Crowns and bridges are the most effective procedure for replacing missing teeth or bite problems.

There are many methods for relieving oral pain. They include:

  • Ice packs on the affected area.
  • Avoiding hard candy or ice.
  • Avoiding sleeping on your stomach.

Dentists use a wide array of pain management tools, including:

  • Anesthetics such as Novocaine.
  • Analgesics such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Sedatives, including a procedure known as "conscious sedation" or general sedation (also known as "deep sedation").

People who grind their teeth can sometimes develop a serious problem with their jaw, which left untreated, can adversely affect the teeth, gums and bone structures of the mouth.

One of the most common jaw disorders is related to a problem with the temporomandibular joint, the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull, and allows your upper and lower jaw to open and close and facilitates chewing and speaking.

People with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) often have a clicking or popping sound when opening and closing their mouths. Such disorders are often accompanied by frequent headaches, neck aches, and in some cases, tooth sensitivity.

Some treatments for TMD include muscle relaxants, aspirin, biofeedback, or wearing a small plastic appliance in the mouth during sleep.

Minor cases of TMD involve discomfort or pain in the jaw muscles. More serious conditions involve improperly aligned joints or dislocated jaws. The most extreme form of TMD involves an arthritic condition of the jaw joint. Traumatic injuries also can cause jaw dislocation.

In these cases, jaw surgery may be required to correct the condition. Some jaw surgery can be performed arthroscopically.

Bleaching and non-bleaching products are the two basic kinds of whitening products available today.

Non-bleaching products normally use abrasives or chemicals and only remove surface stains on teeth.

Bleaching products work with a chemical called peroxide and can brighten your teeth several shades.

Another process employs the use of a special gel that is placed inside a flexible device you wear around your teeth for a certain period of time. After you remove the device, you must use a second bleaching agent, followed by a special light to activate the chemical action.

Mildly stained teeth usually only require one session of bleaching.

Soft tissue grafts are sometimes performed to treat gum disease, or correct other abnormalities.

The procedure involves taking gum tissue from the palate or another donor source to cover an exposed root in order to even the gum line and reduce sensitivity.

Periodontal procedures are available to stop further dental problems and gum recession and to improve the aesthetics of your gum line. For example, an exposed tooth root resulting from gum recession may not be causing you pain or sensitivity but is causing one or more of your teeth to look longer than the others. In other cases, an exposed tooth root causes severe pain because it is exposed to extremes in temperatures or different kinds of food and liquids.

Once contributing factors are controlled, a soft tissue graft procedure will repair the defect and help to prevent additional recession and bone loss.

Many people inherit the problem of excessive or uneven gums. An aesthetic surgical procedure called a gum lift can be used to correct this problem.

When X-rays pass through your mouth during a dental exam, more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums) before striking the film. This creates an image on the radiograph. Teeth appear lighter because fewer X-rays penetrate to reach the film. Cavities and gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these X-rays allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

How often dental X-rays (radiographs) should be taken depends on the patient`s individual health needs. It is important to recognize that just as each patient is different from the next, so should the scheduling of X-ray exams be individualized for each patient. Your medical and dental history will be reviewed and your mouth examined before a decision is made to take X-rays of your teeth.

The schedule for needing radiographs at recall visits varies according to your age, risk for disease and signs and symptoms. Recent films may be needed to detect new cavities, or to determine the status of gum disease or for evaluation of growth and development. Children may need X-rays more often than adults. This is because their teeth and jaws are still developing and because their teeth are more likely to be affected by tooth decay than those of adults.

ORAL CHANGES WITH AGE

Is tooth loss inevitable in your later years? How much should adults be concerned about cavities? Here you will find helpful answers to some frequently asked questions about oral health questions you may have as you get older.

NATIONAL SURVEY REVEALS BABY BOOMERS MISS LINKS BETWEEN ORAL AND OVERALL HEALTH

Baby boomers looking for the warning signs of adult-onset diseases may be overlooking key symptoms in their mouth that should signal alarms about their overall health. According to a survey commissioned by the Academy of General Dentistry, 63 percent of baby boomers (ages 45-64) with an oral symptom considered to be a key indicator of a more serious health condition, were unaware of the symptom`s link to the condition. Boomers` failure to recognize that oral health holds valuable clues could negatively impact their overall health.

Oral piercings (usually in the tongue or around the lips) have quickly become a popular trend in today’s society. With this popular trend, it is important to realize that sometimes even precautions taken during the installation of the piercing jewelry are not enough to stave off harmful, long-term consequences such as cracked or chipped teeth, swelling, problems with swallowing and taste, and scars. There is also a possibility of choking on a piece of dislodged jewelry, which makes it important to ask if the risks are warranted.

One of the most serious long-term health problems that may occur from oral piercings come in the form of damage to the soft tissues such as the cheeks, gums and palate, as well as opportunistic infections. When performed in an unsterile environment, any kind of body piercing may also put you at risk of contracting deadly infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis.

A tongue piercing is a common form of body piercing. However, tongue piercings have been known to cause blocked airways (from a swollen tongue). In some cases, a tongue piercing can cause uncontrolled bleeding.

STANDARDS AND BEST PRACTICE

With all of the increased media attention on infection outbreaks such as AIDS and multi-drug resistant strains of viruses, it's no wonder people have heightened concerns about infection control during a medical procedure.

Gloves, gowns and masks are required to be worn in all dentist offices today—a far cry from just a few decades ago—when fewer than one-third of all dentists even wore such personal protective equipment, or PPE. After each patient visit, disposable PPE such as gloves, drapes, needles, and scalpel blades are thrown away, hands are washed, and a new pair of gloves used for the next patient.

All hand instruments used on patients are washed, disinfected and/or sterilized with chemicals or steam after each use.

One of the most effective methods for preventing disease transmission—washing one’s hands—is practiced in our office. It is routine procedure to wash hands at the beginning of the day, before and after glove use, and after touching any surfaces that may have become contaminated.

WATER QUALITY AND BIOFILMS

Concerns about the quality of water used in a dentist's office are unfounded, provided the dentist follows the infection control guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and the American Dental Association.

Some health "experts" in recent years have called into question the risks associated with so-called "biofilms," which are thin layers of microscopic germs that collect on virtually any surface. Essentially, these bacteria and fungi occur everywhere, including faucets in your home; your body is no less accustomed to being exposed to them than in any other situations.

In fact, no scientific evidence has linked biofilms with disease. If you have a compromised or weakened immune system, you are susceptible to germs everywhere. Consequently, let our office know if you have such a condition so additional precautions, if any, can be taken.

DENTISTRY HEALTH CARE THAT WORKS: TOBACCO

The American Dental Association has long been a leader in the battle against tobacco-related disease, working to educate the public about the dangers inherent in tobacco use and encouraging dentists to help their patients break the cycle of addiction. The Association has continually strengthened and updated its tobacco policies as new scientific information has become available.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: TOBACCO PRODUCTS

What effects can smoking have on my oral health? Are cigars a safe alternative to cigarettes? Are smokeless tobacco products safe? The American Dental Association has some alarming news that you should know.

SMOKING AND IMPLANTS

Recent studies have shown that there is a direct link between oral tissue and bones loss and smoking.

Tooth loss and edentulism are more common in smokers than in non-smokers. In addition, people who smoke are more likely to develop severe periodontal disease.

The formation of deep mucosal pockets with inflammation of the peri-implant mucosa around dental implants is called peri-implantitis. Smokers treated with dental implants have a greater risk of developing peri-implantitis. This condition can lead to increased resorption of peri-implant bone. If left untreated, peri-implantitis can lead to implant failure. In a recent international study, smokers showed a higher score in bleeding index with greater peri-implant pocket depth and radiographically discernible bone resorption around the implant, particularly in the maxilla.

Many studies have shown that smoking can lead to higher rates of dental implant failure. In general, smoking cessation usually leads to improved periodontal health and a patient’s chance for successful implant acceptance.

Certain kinds of medications can have an adverse effect on your teeth.

Long ago, children exposed to tetracycline developed tooth problems, including discoloration, later in life. The medication fell out of use, however, and is not an issue today.

The best precaution is to ask your family physician if any medications he or she has prescribed can have a detrimental effect on your teeth or other oral structures.

A condition called dry mouth is commonly associated with certain medications, including antihistamines, diuretics, decongestants and pain killers. People with medical conditions, such as an eating disorder or diabetes, are often plagued by dry mouth. Other causes are related to aging (including rheumatoid arthritis), and compromised immune systems. Garlic and tobacco use are other known culprits.

Dry mouth occurs when saliva production drops. Saliva is one of your body's natural defenses against plaque because it acts to rinse your mouth of cavity-causing bacteria and other harmful materials.

Some of the less alarming results of dry mouth include bad breath. But dry mouth can lead to more serious problems, including burning tongue syndrome, a painful condition caused by lack of moisture on the tongue.

If dry mouth isn't readily apparent, you may experience other conditions that dry mouth can cause, including an overly sensitive tongue, chronic thirst or even difficulty in speaking.

HEART DISEASE

Poor dental hygiene can cause a host of problems outside your mouth—including your heart.

Medical research has uncovered a definitive link between heart disease and certain kinds of oral infections such as periodontal disease. Some have even suggested that gum disease may be as dangerous as or more dangerous than other factors such as tobacco use.

A condition called chronic periodontitis, or persistent gum disease, has been linked to cardiovascular problems by medical researchers.

In short, infections and harmful bacteria in your mouth can spread through the bloodstream to your liver, which produces harmful proteins that can lead to systemic cardiac problems. That’s why it’s critical to practice good oral hygiene to keep infections at bay—this includes a daily regimen of brushing, flossing and rinsing.

ANTIBIOTIC PROPHYLAXIS

In some cases, patients with compromised immune systems or who fear an infection from a dental procedure may take antibiotics before visiting the dentist.

It is possible for bacteria from your mouth to enter your bloodstream during a dental procedure in which tissues are cut or bleeding occurs. A healthy immune system will normally fight such bacteria before they result in an infection.

However, certain cardiovascular conditions in patients with weakened hearts could be at risk for an infection or heart muscle inflammation (bacterial endocarditis) resulting from a dental procedure.

Patients with heart conditions (including weakened heart valves) are strongly advised to inform our office before undergoing any dental procedure. The proper antibiotic will prevent any unnecessary complications.

Naturally occurring latex has been linked in recent years to allergic reactions in people who use such products as latex gloves. The proteins in the latex, which can also become airborne, can cause problems in vulnerable people such as breathing problems and contact dermatitis. Some allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock, have been more severe.

Many health experts have rightly attributed the dramatic increase of allergic reactions to latex in the health care community to the increased use of gloves and other personal protection equipment in light of the AIDS epidemic.

Latex is a pervasive substance in many household items—from toys and balloons to rubber bands and condoms.

Latex allergies could cause the following symptoms:

  • Dry skin
  • Hives
  • Low blood pressure
  • Nausea
  • Respiratory problems
  • Tingling sensations

People with high-risk factors for latex allergy include those who have undergone multiple surgical operations, have spina bifida, or are persistently exposed to latex products.

If you are vulnerable to latex or have allergies related to it, please notify our office and, by all means, seek medical attention from your family physician.

Plaque is an insidious substance—a colorless, sticky film—that blankets your teeth and creates an environment in which bacteria erode tooth enamel, cause gum irritation, infection in inner structures such as pulp and the roots, and in extreme cases, tooth loss.

Some of the biggest culprits causing plaque are foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates, including soda beverages, some juices, candy and many kinds of pasta, breads and cereals.

Plaque also can attack fillings and other restorations in your mouth, which can lead to more costly treatment down the road.

Plaque is the main cause of tooth decay. It can also cause your gums to become irritated, inflamed, and bleed. Over time, the plaque underneath your gums may cause periodontal disease, which can lead to bone loss and eventual tooth loss.

Inside your teeth, decay can gradually destroy the inner layer, or dentin. It can also destroy the pulp, which contains blood vessels, nerves and other tissues, as well as the root.

Periodontal disease is advanced gum disease. This serious condition occurs when the structures that support your teeth—the gums and bone—break down from the infection. Pain, hypersensitivity and bleeding are some of the signs of periodontal disease.

SIMPLE PREVENTATIVE MEASURES

The two best defenses against tooth decay and gum disease are a healthy, well-balanced diet and good oral hygiene, including daily brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing. Most public drinking water contains fluoride, but if you are unsure of your water supply, then use a good quality mouth rinse containing fluoride.

A good way to help your oral health between brushing is chewing sugarless gum; this stimulates your body's production of saliva, a powerful chemical that actually neutralizes plaque formation and rinses decay-causing food particles and debris from your mouth.

In some cases, our office can prescribe anti-cavity rinses or apply special anti-cavity varnishes or sealants to help fight decay.

Brushing is the most effective method for removing harmful plaque from your teeth and gums. Getting the debris off your teeth and gums in a timely manner prevents bacteria in the food you eat from turning into harmful, cavity causing acids.

Most dentists agree that brushing three times a day is the minimum; if you use a fluoride toothpaste in the morning and before bed at night, you can get away without using toothpaste during the middle of the day. A simple brushing with plain water or rinsing your mouth with water for 30 seconds after lunch will generally do the job.

BRUSHING TECHNIQUES

Since everyone's teeth are different, see me first before choosing a brushing technique. Here are some popular techniques that work:

  • Use a circular motion to brush only two or three teeth at a time, gradually covering the entire mouth.
  • Place your toothbrush next to your teeth at a 45-degree angle and gently brush in a circular motion, not up and down. This kind of motion wears down your tooth structure and can lead to receding gums, or expose the root of your tooth. You should brush all surfaces of your teeth - front, back, top, and between other teeth, rocking the brush back and forth gently to remove any plaque growing under the gum.
  • Don't forget the other surfaces of your mouth that are covered in bacteria - including the gums, the roof and floor of your mouth, and most importantly, your tongue. Brushing your tongue not only removes trapped bacteria and other disease-causing germs, but it also freshens your breath.
  • Remember to replace your brush when the bristles begin to spread because a worn toothbrush will not properly clean your teeth.
  • Effective brushing usually takes about three minutes. Believe it or not, studies have shown that most people rush during tooth brushing.

Does mercury in the silver fillings in your mouth pose any long-term health risks? Does fluoride, in spite of everything we've been told since childhood, actually cause more harm than good? What does the latest research reveal about tobacco use on your overall oral health?

This section is dedicated to the latest information about these and other oral health topics, pulled from authoritative sources such as the American Dental Association.

Click here for the latest news from the American Dental Association.

TREATMENT OF AN ABSCESSED TOOTH

An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus, usually caused by some kind of infection and the spread of bacteria from the root of the tooth to the tissue just below or near the tooth.

In general, a tooth that has become abscessed is one whose underlying pulp (the tooth's soft core) has become infected or swollen. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue, and lies within the tooth. It extends from the crown of the tooth to the tip of the root in the bone of the jaws.

An abscessed tooth can be an extremely painful condition.

In some cases, antibiotics are administered in an attempt to kill an infection. If antibiotics are ineffective and an abscess is shown to be damaging the pulp or lower bony structures, a root canal procedure may be needed to remove the dead pulp and restore the tooth to a healthy state.

People with eating disorders can suffer from oral health problems as well. This is because many of the behaviors associated with anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa—such as binge eating, self-induced vomiting, and use of diuretics or laxatives—cause changes in the mouth.

For example, repeated episodes of vomiting, which is common in people with bulimia, release harmful stomach acids that pass through the mouth and can erode tooth enamel, causing cavities, discoloration and tooth loss. Other problems, such as poorly fitting fillings and braces, are another byproduct of such eating disorders.

Brushing after episodic vomiting is actually more harmful than one would think. The best practice is to rinse thoroughly with a neutral solution such as baking soda and water.

People sometimes confuse canker sores and cold sores, but they are completely unrelated. Both can be painful, but knowing the differences can help you keep them in check.

A canker sore is typically one that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. It is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border.

A cold sore or fever blister, on the other hand, usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid.

In most cases, patience is the best medicine for treating canker sores. A healthy diet and good oral hygiene are usually the best remedies, but some special rinses and anesthetics can help. Cold sores can be treated effectively with some over-the-counter topical creams; sometimes, an antiviral medication will be prescribed by your doctor.

People living with diabetes are vulnerable to a host of systemic problems in their entire body. Unfortunately, the mouth and teeth are not immune from such problems, and many diabetics with oral problems go undiagnosed until conditions become advanced.

Infections and other problems such as receding gums and gum disease, or periodontal disease, are common afflictions among diabetics for many reasons; for instance, diabetics often are plagued by diminished saliva production, which can hamper the proper cleansing of cavity-causing debris and bacteria from the mouth. In addition, blood sugar levels that are out of balance could lead to problems that promote cavities and gum disease.

As with any condition, good oral hygiene, including regular brushing, flossing and rinsing, as well as the proper diabetic diet, will go a long way in preventing needless problems.

Saliva is one of your body's natural defenses against plaque because it acts to rinse your mouth of cavity-causing bacteria and other harmful materials. Dry mouth (also called Xerostomia) is a fairly common condition that is caused by diminished saliva production. People with medical conditions, such as an eating disorder or diabetes, are often plagued by dry mouth. Eating foods such as garlic, tobacco use, and some kinds of medications, including treatments such as cancer therapy can diminish the body's production of saliva, leading to dry mouth. Other causes are related to aging (including rheumatoid arthritis), and compromised immune systems.

Some of the less alarming results of dry mouth include bad breath. But dry mouth can lead to more serious problems, including burning tongue syndrome, a painful condition caused by lack of moisture on the tongue.

If dry mouth isn't readily apparent, you may experience other conditions that dry mouth can cause, including an overly-sensitive tongue, chronic thirst or even difficulty in speaking.

If you don't have a medical condition that causes it, dry mouth can be minimized by sipping water regularly, chewing sugarless gum and avoiding smoking. Of course, there is no substitute for regular checkups and good oral hygiene.

Fluorosis is a condition in which your body has been exposed to too much fluoride. In normal doses (typically found in a safe drinking water system and an ADA-approved toothpaste), fluoride is a healthy compound that promotes strong teeth, which has the ability to fight cavities and other problems.

But sometimes, fluorosis occurs when fluoride-containing toothpastes or rinses are swallowed, instead of expelled.

Fluorosis causes a number of aesthetic problems, including abnormally darkened or stained teeth. While such problems are generally harmless to your health, they can create concerns with your appearance.

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that erupt in the back corners of the upper and lower normal adult mouth. Unfortunately, most people experience problems from wisdom teeth; in most cases, this is because the teeth erupt too close to existing permanent teeth, causing crowding, improper bites, and other problems.

If wisdom teeth are causing a problem, this could mean that they are impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extremely painful, as well as harmful to your oral health. Symptoms are easy to spot: pain, inflammation, and some kinds of infections.

Many people need to have their wisdom teeth extracted to avoid future serious problems. In general, the lack of the four wisdom teeth does not hamper one's ability to properly bite down, speak or eat.

Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers today and has one of the lowest survival rates, with thousands of new cases being reported each year. Fewer than half of all people diagnosed with oral cancer are ever cured.

Moreover, people with many forms of cancer can develop complications—some of them chronic and painful—from their cancer treatment. These include dry mouth and overly sensitive teeth, as well as accelerated tooth decay.

If oral cancer is not treated in time, it could spread to other facial and neck tissues, leading to disfigurement and pain.

Older adults over the age of 40 (especially men) are most susceptible to developing oral cancer, but people of all ages are at risk.

Oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth, but the tongue appears to be the most common location. Other oral structures could include the lips, gums and other soft palate tissues in the mouth.

WARNING SIGNS

In general, early signs of oral cancer usually occur in the form of lumps, patchy areas and lesions, or breaks, in the tissues of the mouth. In many cases, these abnormalities are not painful in the early stages, making even self-diagnosis difficult.

Here are some additional warning signs:

  • Hoarseness or difficulty swallowing.
  • Unusual bleeding or persistent sores in the mouth that won't heal.
  • Lumps or growths in other nearby areas, such as the throat or neck.

If a tumor is found, surgery will generally be required to remove it. Some facial disfigurement could also result.

PREVENTION

Prevention is the key to staving off oral cancer. One of the biggest culprits is tobacco and alcohol use. Certain kinds of foods and even overexposure to the sun have also been linked to oral cancer. Some experts believe certain oral cancer risk factors are also hereditary.

A diet rich in fruits and vegetables is one of the best defenses against oral cancer. Maintaining good oral hygiene, and regular dental checkups, are highly recommended.

Plaque is a film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums after eating foods that produce acids. These foods may include carbohydrates (starches and sugars), such as candy and cookies, and starchy foods such as bread, crackers, and cereal.

Tooth decay, commonly known as cavities, occurs when plaque remains on your teeth for an extended period of time, allowing the bacteria to ‘eat away’ at the surfaces of your teeth and gums. Ironically, the areas surrounding restored portions of teeth (where fillings or amalgams have been placed) are particularly vulnerable to decay and are a breeding ground for bacteria.

Plaque can lead to gum irritation, soreness, and redness. Sometimes, your gums may begin to bleed as a result of plaque. This gradual degeneration can often cause gums to pull away from teeth. This condition is called receding gums.

Long-term plaque can lead to serious problems. Sometimes, the bacteria can form pockets of disease around tooth structures, eventually destroying the bone beneath the tooth.

If you wince with pain after sipping a hot cup of coffee or chewing a piece of ice, chances are that you suffer from "dentin hypersensitivity," or more commonly, sensitive teeth.

Hot and cold temperature changes cause your teeth to expand and contract. Over time, your teeth can develop microscopic cracks that allow these sensations to seep through to the nerves. Exposed areas of the tooth can cause pain and even affect or change your eating, drinking and breathing habits.

At least 45 million adults in the United States suffer at some time from sensitive teeth.

Sensitive teeth result when the underlying layer of your teeth (the dentin) becomes exposed. This can happen on the chewing surface of the tooth as well as at the gum line. In some cases, sensitive teeth are the result of gum disease, years of unconsciously clenching or grinding your teeth, or improper or too vigorous brushing (if the bristles of your toothbrush are pointing in multiple directions, you're brushing too hard).

Abrasive toothpastes are sometimes the culprit of sensitive teeth. Ingredients found in some whitening toothpastes that lighten and/or remove certain stains from enamel, and sodium pyrophosphate, the key ingredient in tartar-control toothpastes, may increase tooth sensitivity.

In some cases, desensitizing toothpaste, sealants, desensitizing ionization and filling materials including fluoride, and decreasing the intake of acid-containing foods can alleviate some of the pain associated with sensitive teeth.

Sometimes, a sensitive tooth may be confused by a patient for a cavity or abscess that is not yet visible.

In any case, contact your dentist if you notice any change in your teeth's sensitivity to temperature.

Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is often viewed as a harmless, though annoying, habit. Some people develop bruxism from an inability to deal with stress or anxiety.

However, teeth grinding can literally transform your bite relationship and worse, severely damage your teeth and jaws over long periods of time.

Teeth grinding can cause abrasion to the chewing surfaces of your teeth. This abnormal wear and tear will prematurely age and loosen your teeth, and open them to problems such as hypersensitivity (from the small cracks that form, exposing your dentin). Bruxism can also lead to chronic jaw and facial pain, as well as headaches.

If no one has told you that you grind your teeth, here are a few clues that you may suffer from bruxism:

  • Your jaw is often sore, or you hear popping sounds when you open and close your mouth.
  • Your teeth look abnormally short or worn down.
  • You notice small dents in your tongue.

Bruxism is somewhat treatable. A common therapy involves use of a special appliance worn while sleeping. Less intrusive, though just as effective methods could involve biofeedback, and behavior modification, such as tongue exercises and learning how to properly align your tongue, teeth and lips.

People who grind their teeth can sometimes develop a serious problem with their jaw, which left untreated, can adversely affect the teeth, gums and bone structures of the mouth. One of the most common jaw disorders is related to a problem with the temporomandibular joint, the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull, and allows your upper and lower jaw to open and close and facilitates chewing and speaking.

People with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) often have a clicking or popping sound when opening and closing their mouths. Such disorders are often accompanied by frequent headaches, neck aches, and in some cases, tooth sensitivity.

Some treatments for TMD include muscle relaxants, aspirin, biofeedback, or wearing a small plastic appliance in the mouth during sleep.

Minor cases of TMD involve discomfort or pain in the jaw muscles. More serious conditions involve improperly aligned joints or dislocated jaws. The most extreme form of TMD involves an arthritic condition of the jaw joint.

Women have special needs when it comes to their oral health. That’s because the physical changes they undergo through life—menstruation, pregnancy and childbirth, breastfeeding and menopause cause many changes in the body, some harmful to teeth and gums.

Lesions and ulcers, dry sockets, as well as swollen gums, can sometimes occur during surges in a woman's hormone levels. These periods would be a prime time to visit the dentist. Birth control pills have been shown to increase the risk of gingivitis, and hormone replacement therapy has been shown to cause bleeding and swollen gums. Gum disease can also present a higher risk for premature births.

Some research has shown that women may be more likely to develop dry mouth, eating disorders, jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint disorders, and facial pain—all of which can be difficult from a physical and emotional standpoint.

Taking care of your mouth with proper oral health care is essential, and can go a long way to helping you face the physical changes in your body over the years.

Many people associate the high-pitched whirring of a dental drill with pain. Just the sound alone can make many people wince.

A relatively new technique called air abrasion uses powerful particles of aluminum oxide to remove debris and decay. The most exciting thing for patients is that air abrasion is painless and, in some cases, doesn't require an anesthetic.

Air abrasion leaves behind a gritty feeling in your mouth, which is simply rinsed away almost instantaneously using a small suction device.

Tiny cracks and imperfections on a tooth can be fixed using air abrasion. Although air abrasion is not suitable for work on crowns and bridges, it is often used for bonding procedures, and on tooth restorations involving composite, or tooth-colored fillings.

Some dental procedures, such as tooth extractions and oral surgery, may call for our office to prescribe medications before or after a procedure. These medications are used to prevent or fight an infection, or to relieve any post-operative discomfort and pain.

For these reasons, it is extremely important that you share your entire medical history - including any medications you are currently taking - with our office. Some medications used in dentistry, and other medical practices, could interact with those medications in a detrimental way. In addition, if you have any allergic reactions to certain medications, it is important for our office to know beforehand.

Finally, if you are prescribed any medication by our office, follow the dosage instructions very carefully, and if instructed, finish your entire prescription even if you are no longer feeling pain.

Visit any pharmacy or the health and beauty section of a supermarket today, and you are faced with a large, and many say confusing, array of over-the-counter remedies and devices designed to help you tend to your hygiene and health-care needs.

There are many high-quality products on the market today. There also are many products of dubious value.

Whatever over-the-counter dental product you buy, it is strongly advised that you ensure it has the American Dental Association's Seal of Acceptance.

Over-the-counter dental instruments are fraught with danger. These include scaling devices and picks. Use of the products, even when following the instructions, can put your teeth and the soft tissue of your mouth at risk of tearing, bruising and other injury. You also may accidentally chip a tooth.

It is best to consult our office instead of trying to do a repair job yourself.

Never before has there been such a dizzying array of toothbrushes on the market. Consumers are inundated with new designs, materials, attachments, and colors. Whatever toothbrush design you choose, the most important thing is that you use the toothbrush at least 2-3 times a day. Moreover, how long you spend brushing your teeth is as critical as how often you brush. This ensures complete plaque removal in hard to reach areas.

MECHANICAL AND MANUAL TOOTHBRUSHES

Our dental team highly recommends a mechanical (electric) toothbrush. The pulsations break up plaque efficiently. Many models now have timers to remind you to brush longer.

It is always nice to have a backup manual toothbrush. When choosing a manual toothbrush, look for a compact head with very soft, rounded bristles.

There is never a suitable substitute for daily brushing and flossing.

While some products, including water irrigation devices (or “water picks”), may be useful for specific applications, they may not be as effective as traditional flossing in the removal of plaque.

Water picks use powerful tiny bursts of water to blast away food particles and other debris in hard-to-reach areas of your mouth. Dentists use professional-grade water picks when preparing a tooth for restoration, or in general cleaning and exams.

People with painful gum disease or highly sensitive gums may find water picks useful for supplementing their brushing regimen. People with orthodontia, including braces, have found water picks quite useful because toothbrush bristles often get stuck.

Dental floss comes in a variety of colors, materials and even flavors. Waxed varieties slide through the teeth, allowing people with extremely tight spaces to floss more easily. Popular flavors of floss include wintergreen and cinnamon. Waxed floss does tend to fray more than unwaxed floss.

A type of material called dental tape can be effective for people with large spaces between their teeth, or for people with bridge work.

Floss can be purchased in small self-dispensing boxes. Floss can also be purchased in special, single-use holders, which are useful for people who have a hard time wrapping floss around their fingers, including those with dexterity problems or arthritis.

More and more people are avoiding the need for dentures as they grow older, going against the notion that false teeth are a normal part of growing older.

In fact, there's usually no reason for you NOT to keep your teeth your entire life, providing you maintain a healthy balanced diet and practice good oral hygiene.

Another desirable side effect of good oral hygiene: avoiding more serious problems such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and even stroke. Indeed, medical research is beginning to show that a healthy mouth equates to a healthy body and a longer life.

DEXTERITY AND ARTHRITIS

People who suffer from arthritis or other problems of dexterity may find it difficult and painful to practice good oral hygiene.

Thankfully, the industry has responded with ergonomically designed devices such as toothbrushes and floss holders that make it easier to grasp and control.

You can also use items around the house to help you. Inserting the handle of your toothbrush into a small rubber ball, or extending the handle by attaching a small piece of plastic or Popsicle stick may also do the trick.

Floss can also be tied into a tiny loop on either side, making it easier to grasp and control the floss with your fingers.

It has long been known that good nutrition and a well-balanced diet is one of the best defenses for your oral health. Providing your body with the right amounts of vitamins and minerals helps your teeth and gums—as well as your immune system—stay strong and ward off infection, decay and disease.

Harmful acids and bacteria in your mouth are left behind from eating foods high in sugar and carbohydrates. These include carbonated beverages, some kinds of fruit juices, and many kinds of starch foods like pasta, bread and cereal.

CHILDREN'S NUTRITION AND TEETH

Good eating habits that begin in early childhood can go a long way to ensuring a lifetime of good oral health.

Children should eat foods rich in calcium and other kinds of minerals, as well as a healthy balance of the essential food groups like vegetables, fruits, dairy products, poultry and meat. Fluoride supplements may be helpful if you live in a community without fluoridated water but consult with our office first. (Be aware that sugars are even found in some kinds of condiments, as well as fruits and even milk.)

Allowing your children to eat excessive amounts of junk food (starches and sugars)—including potato chips, cookies, crackers, soda, artificial fruit rollups and granola bars—only places them at risk for serious health problems, including obesity, osteoporosis and diabetes. The carbonation found in soda, for example, can actually erode tooth enamel. Encourage your child to use a straw when drinking soda; this will help keep at least some of the carbonated beverage away from the teeth.

ADULT NUTRITION AND TEETH

There's no discounting the importance of continuing a healthy balanced diet throughout your adult life.

The Food and Drug Administration classifies mouth rinses into two categories - therapeutic and cosmetic.

In general, therapeutic rinses with fluoride have been shown to actually fight cavities, plaque and gingivitis.

On the other hand, cosmetic rinses merely treat breath odor, reduce bacteria and/or remove food particles in the mouth. They do nothing to treat or prevent gingivitis.

People who have difficulty brushing (because of physical difficulties such as arthritis) can benefit from a good therapeutic mouth rinse.

Caution: Even rinses that are indicated to treat plaque or cavities are only moderately effective. In fact, regular rinsing with water and use of good quality fluoride toothpaste are just as or more effective.

If you lose one or more permanent teeth, an indentation may result in the gums and jawbone where the tooth used to be. When no longer holding a tooth in place, the jawbone recedes and the resulting indentation looks unnatural. Ridge augmentation is a procedure that can recapture the natural contour of the gums and jaw. A new tooth can then be created that is natural looking and complements your smile.

Newer kinds of fillings made from composite resins and porcelain can restore unsightly fillings; many people are surprised how natural these kinds of filling materials can make a tooth once covered by the old-fashioned silver amalgams.

Your bone and gum tissue should fit snugly around your teeth like a turtleneck. When you have periodontal disease, this supporting tissue and bone are destroyed, forming "pockets" around the teeth. Over time, these pockets become deeper, providing a larger space for bacteria to thrive and wreak havoc.

As bacteria accumulate and advance under the gum tissue in these deep pockets, additional bone and tissue loss follows. Eventually, if too much bone is lost, the teeth will need to be extracted.

Flap surgery is sometimes performed to remove tartar deposits in deep pockets or to reduce the periodontal pocket and make it easier for you or your dental professional to keep the area clean. This common surgery involves lifting back the gums and removing the tartar. The gums are then sutured back in place so that the tissue fits snugly around the tooth again.

A pocket reduction procedure is recommended if daily at-home oral hygiene and a professional care routine cannot effectively reach these deep pockets.

In some cases, irregular surfaces of the damaged bone are smoothed to limit areas where disease-causing bacteria can hide. This allows the gum tissue to better reattach to healthy bone.

When facial reconstruction, including procedures involving the oral cavity, is called for, a specialist is needed. Surgical procedures of the neck and head area are performed by a maxillofacial surgeon.

Common maxillofacial procedures include denture-related procedures and jaw surgery.

JAW CORRECTION

Protruding chins, crooked or buck teeth or misaligned teeth are good candidates for maxillofacial surgery.

In some people, jaws do not grow at the same rate; one may come in larger than the other, or simply not be aligned properly with other bony structures in the skull. This can cause problems other than appearance issues; an improperly aligned jaw can cause problems with the tongue and lips, and speech and chewing problems as well. Jaw surgery can move jaws into their proper place.

Other kinds of maxillofacial surgery can correct problems with upper facial features such as the nose and cheek.

In addition to correcting jaw problems surgically, orthodontic appliances such as braces may be needed to restore bite relationship and ensure continued proper alignment of the jaw. In some cases, tiny wires or small rubber bands may be needed to keep the jaws in place and promote faster healing. In other cases, small "fixation" screws or plates may need to be inserted in the jaws to facilitate easy movement of the jaws following surgery.

DENTURE FATIGUE

People who have worn dentures for a long time can sometimes experience loss of gum tissue and even bone, mostly from the wear and tear of the appliance on the soft tissues of their mouth.

In extreme cases, maxillofacial surgery, including bone grafts, manipulation of soft tissues or even jaw realignment, may be performed to correct such problems.

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