Posts for tag: oral health
Periodontal (gum) disease is a devastating infection that eventually causes tooth loss if not treated. Plaque removal, antibiotics and possible surgical intervention have proven quite effective in stopping the infection and restoring diseased tissues; however, the more advanced the disease, the more difficult it can be to treat. It’s important then to know the warning signs of gum disease.
Bleeding gums are the most common early sign of gum disease. The infection triggers tissue inflammation, the body’s defensive response to isolate and fight bacteria. As the inflammation becomes chronic, however, it can weaken the gum tissues, which will then bleed easily.
Bleeding, though, is often overlooked as normal, perhaps from brushing too hard. In actuality, bleeding gums is not normal: if your gums routinely bleed during normal brushing and flossing, you should contact us for an examination as soon as possible. Similarly, if your gums are red, swollen or tender to the touch, this is also a sign of inflammation and an indication of infection.
Gum disease is often called a “silent” disease, meaning it can develop without any indication of pain or discomfort. Sometimes, though, bacteria can concentrate in a particular portion of the gum tissue to form a periodontal abscess. In this case, the abscessed tissue can become very painful, swollen and red, and may even discharge pus.
There are also advanced signs of gum disease. If your teeth are painfully sensitive when you brush, consume something hot or cold, or when you bite down, this may mean the gums have pulled back (receded) from the teeth and the highly sensitive dentin and roots are now exposed. Teeth that appear to have moved or that feel loose may mean the gum tissues have significantly detached from the teeth as increasing amount of bone loss occurs. If you see any of these signs you should contact us without delay.
Regardless of the level of disease advancement when diagnosed, prompt treatment should begin as soon as possible. This is the only way to bring the infection under control and give the gum tissues a chance to heal and rejuvenate. From then on, it’s a matter of renewed dental hygiene, frequent cleanings and checkups and an ever vigilant eye for signs of returning infection.
If you would like more information on the diagnosis and treatment of gum disease, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”
In our office, many of our patients are always asking us if over-the-counter (OTC) mouthwashes or mouthrinses are truly effective tools for curing bad breath. Unfortunately, nearly all of them merely mask any odorous smells temporarily — regardless of how refreshing they taste. There are mouthrinses available that are effective for treating gingivitis and tooth decay, but you must visit our office to obtain a proper diagnosis and a prescription for them. Reality is that a mouthrinse alone can't cure bad breath; however, there are products available that can make a positive impact on your dental health. The key is to match the right mouthrinse to your specific dental need.
- OTC mouthrinses that contain about 0.05% sodium fluoride are an effective tool that when combined with good oral hygiene can significantly reduce the development of tooth decay.
- OTC mouthrinses that contain alcohol, triclosan, sanguinaria extract, zinc and/or essential oils such as menthol can somewhat help reduce the bacteria in plaque, which in turn can reduce gum inflammation (gingivitis) and bad breath when used in combination with proper brushing and daily flossing.
- Prescription mouthrinses containing chlorhexidine may be more effective in helping to control both gingivitis and tooth decay in certain circumstances. This is because chlorhexidine inhibits the formation of dental plaque by preventing bacteria from sticking to your teeth.
While bad breath may seem unbearable, it is often treatable. The key is to determine and then address what is causing your bad breath. A simple trip to our office for a proper exam, assessment and thorough cleaning along with improved oral hygiene may just do the trick. Contact us today to schedule a consultation for an examination and treatment plan.
To learn more about mouthrinses, read the Dear Doctor article, “Mouthrinses.”
Your teeth’s hard, enamel coating protects them from environmental dangers or disease. But although it’s made of the hardest substance in the human body, enamel isn’t invincible — prolonged exposure to acid can cause dental erosion, a condition in which the enamel’s mineral content permanently dissolves, a process known as de-mineralization.
De-mineralization occurs anytime our mouth environment becomes too acidic due to eating or drinking items with high acid content. Saliva normally neutralizes mouth acid in thirty minutes to an hour after we eat, as well as restores mineral content to the enamel (re-mineralization). Danger arises, though, if the saliva’s buffering action is overwhelmed by chronic acidity, caused mainly by constant snacking or sipping on acidic foods and beverages throughout the day — in this situation, saliva can’t complete the process of buffering and re-mineralization.
As a result, the enamel may permanently lose its mineral content and strength over time. This permanent dental erosion leads to serious consequences: the teeth become more susceptible to decay; the dentin becomes exposed, which causes pain and sensitivity to pressure and temperature changes; and changes in the teeth’s size and color can negatively alter your appearance.
It’s important to take action then before dental erosion occurs. Along with daily oral hygiene, restrict your consumption of acidic foods and beverages to meal times and cut back on between-meal snacks. Rather than a sports drink after exercising, drink nature’s hydrator — water. You should also alter your brushing habits slightly — rather than brush right after you eat, wait thirty minutes to an hour. This gives saliva time to restore the mouth to its normal pH and re-mineralize the enamel. Brushing right after can remove even more of the minerals in softened enamel.
If significant erosion has occurred, there are a number of treatment options we can undertake to preserve remaining tooth structure and enhance your appearance. In moderate cases, we can reshape and cover damaged teeth using dental materials like composite resins or porcelain to fill decayed areas or cover teeth with veneers or crowns.
The key of course, is to identify dental erosion through clinical examination as soon as possible to minimize damage. Your enamel plays a critical role in protecting your teeth from disease — so take the right steps to protect your enamel.
If you would like more information on protecting your enamel, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Erosion.”
Grinding, clenching, and gritting your teeth are common reactions to stress — but their results can be quite complex. Here are some questions and answers that will fill you in on what you may not know about this widespread problem.
My dentist said I was bruxing. What does that mean?
Bruxing means that your teeth are grinding upon each other. Many people carry out this habit subconsciously and are not even aware that they are doing it.
Is bruxing or gritting harmful?
Such habits are called “parafunctional” (from para, meaning outside, and function, meaning purpose). This is because these stress habits exert much larger biting forces — as much as ten times more — than in normal biting and chewing activities. This excess pressure can cause damage to jaw joints and muscles, resulting in muscle spasm and pain; and to the teeth, resulting in wear, fractures or looseness. They can also cause headaches, earaches, and even neck and backaches because of the pressures on various structures in the face and mouth.
What is the usual treatment for problems arising from these stress habits?
The first thing we want to do is relieve your pain and discomfort. Second, we want to stop future damage. Application of heat or cold is helpful, and mild anti-inflammatory and muscle relaxant drugs are prescribed for pain and muscle spasm. To prevent future occurrences, we may treat you with biofeedback or refer you to someone who can offer psychotherapy.
What is a night guard and how can it help?
A night guard is an unobtrusive thin plastic appliance that is made to fit over the biting surfaces of your upper teeth. These guards are so unobtrusive that they can even be worn during the day if your stress level is so high that you grind your teeth during the day. The guard is adjusted to leave the lower teeth free to move against the surface of the guard, but they cannot bite into the upper teeth. This prevents wear on the teeth and lets the jaw muscles relax, preventing the pain of muscle spasm.
Oral cancer accounts for approximately 3% of cancers in men and 2% in women. That may not sound like a lot, but the disease often isn't detected until it has progressed to its later stages when it's harder to treat and the outlook for survival is significantly diminished.
The main areas where oral carcinomas (cancers) occur are:
- the tongue (most common location, particularly the sides and underneath)
- the lip (especially the lower one),
- the oral cavity (the mouth), and
- the pharynx (back of mouth and throat).
Risk Factors You Can't Control
Even if you can't change these risks, awareness helps raise your vigilance in order to catch potential problems early when treatment options and positive outcomes are greatest.
- Aging — More than 90% of all oral cancers occur in individuals over 40. However, the incidence among younger people has been on the uptick recently, perhaps related to lifestyle behaviors.
- Race — African Americans have a higher incidence of oral cancer than Caucasians.
Risk Factors You Can Address
- Smoking and chewing tobacco — Smokers are at five to nine times greater risk and snuff and tobacco chewers at about four times greater risk
- Alcohol — Moderate to heavy drinkers are at three to nine times greater risk; the higher the alcohol content, the greater the risk
- Chronic sun exposure — Often connected with lip cancers.
- Viral infections — Namely the human papilloma virus “HPV 16,” which has been linked to sexual transmission (oral sex) and cervical cancer in women.
One way you can address these risk factors is to have a diet rich in fruits/vegetables, which are high in antioxidants because they been found to have a protective effect against a variety of cancers, including oral.
As part of your routine oral hygiene, you should be closely monitoring any non-healing changes in your mouth (e.g., ulcers or sores, white or red patches on the tongue). And rest assured that as part of your regular check-ups, our office performs a comprehensive visual screening for signs of oral cancer.
If you would like more information about oral cancer prevention and detection, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Oral Cancer” and “Diet and Prevention of Oral Cancer.”