Common Dental Concerns

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Dental problems are never any fun, but the good news is that most of them can be easily prevented. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, eating properly and regular dental check ups are essential in preventing dental problems. Educating yourself about common dental problems and their causes can also go a long way in prevention.


SORES

There are several kinds of sores that occur in the mouth. Most of them are harmless and do not cause long term health problems. A couple of these types of sores may be canker sores or cold sores.

Canker sores are also called recurrent aphthous ulcers. These are small round sores that appear inside the mouth. The most likely will appear on the loose tissues of the mouth, such as the inside of the cheek or lip, the underside of the tongue and the floor of the mouth. These sores will usually heal in about 1 to 2 weeks. No one really knows the exact cause of a canker sore but some people believe that they may be inherited. Things like a bite or cut, toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate, emotional stress, hormone changes, food allergies, and vitamin deficiencies may be triggers for outbreaks of canker sores.

Canker sores are not contagious but if you get one, it is more than likely that you will get one again. Although there is no cure for a canker sore, there are ways for you to reduce their frequency or longevity. For instance, you can use toothpastes that do not contain sodium lauryl sulfate, you can rinse with salt water or you can avoid spicy or acidic foods during an outbreak.

Cold sores may also be called fever blisters or oral herpes. These are sores that usually appear on or near the lips. Cold sores will usually heal in 10- 14 days. It is possible that during an outbreak you will experience a low fever, headaches, body aches and fatigue. The herpes simplex virus is the cause of cold sores but outside sources can trigger outbreaks. Some of these sources are ultraviolet light, stress, fatigue, hormone changes, menstrual cycle and even the simple cold or flu.

Like canker sores, there is no cure. However, the similarities stop there because cold sores are extremely contagious. The herpes simplex virus spreads through direct contact with an infected person or through the personal items of an infected person. These items can be towels, toothbrushes or razors. To help prevent the spread of cold sores you can avoid touching the affected areas, you can wash thoroughly, or you can avoid direct contact with an infected person during an outbreak.

Please remember that both these types of sores do eventually heal. If you have a sore in or around your mouth that you feel is suspicious or does not heal in a timely manner, please contact us so that we may perform an oral cancer screening.


DRY MOUTH

Xerostomia, or more commonly known as dry mouth, occurs when a body cannot produce enough saliva.  If left untreated, this can lead to rampant tooth decay.

There are many causes for dry mouth.  Certain diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome, diabetes, HIV, AIDS and Parkinson’s disease may be the cause.  Some medications or treatments, like chemotherapy, can also cause dry mouth.  Smoking is also a major cause of Xerostomia.

There are ways to help inhibit the effects of dry mouth.  Brushing and flossing after every meal is very important.  You can run a humidifier at night and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.  Depending on your personal situation, we can also recommend artificial saliva, moisture replacement products or a moisturizing tooth paste.


DRY SOCKET

After an extraction of a tooth, it is necessary for a clot to form in the socket. The clot is imperative in your recovery, as it helps to protect the socket, stop the bleeding, aid healing and most important to prevent pain.

Dry socket is the term used to describe the inflammation that occurs when the blood clot that forms in the socket becomes dislodged or does not form properly. When the clot is lost or unformed, the open socket, including underlying nerves and bone are exposed.

If you have ever had dry socket, you know the symptoms. Approximately 3 days after your extraction, you will feel severe throbbing and pain, perhaps radiating into your ear and no amount of pain medications will relieve the pain. It is also possible for a foul odor or bad taste to occur.

The only relief for the pain of dry socket is to return to the office so that we may place an anesthetic paste onto the extraction site. This single application may not be enough, you may need to return to our office several times until the blood clot reforms

Although dry socket is quite common, there are ways to prevent it. Some of these are:

  • Not touching the extraction site, either with your tongue or your fingers
  • Not rinsing for the first 24 hours
  • Avoiding anything that may cause you to ‘suck’ out the clot (this includes drinking from a straw or smoking)

At Palmetto Family Dentistry, you will receive a thorough and complete list of instructions and directions for post extraction care.


ORAL PIERCING

When you decide to pierce your tongue, there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration.

Initially upon getting your tongue pierced, you can expect swelling. This swelling can be slight or quite significant and can last up to 5 days. This is quite normal and will occur almost every time.

Your tongue is covered with bacteria. This bacteria can enter your bloodstream through the newly opened wound on your tongue. The result can be an infection that can cause pus to ooze into your mouth and throat.

Your tongue is a muscle that contains many blood vessels and nerves. If your piercing is done by someone that is not familiar with the anatomy of the tongue, a vein can accidentally be pierced and you can expect heavy bleeding. In addition, a nerve can also be severed resulting in permanent numbness.

Not only is the actual piercing problematic, but so is the jewelry that is placed in your mouth. Having a hard metal ball constantly hitting your tooth structure or consistently being bitten can cause scratches, fractures, chips and broken teeth.

If you have considered all the factors above and still have decided to pierce your tongue, please make sure that you have taken the proper precautions such as, making sure the shop is clean and that the piercer is properly trained.


PREGNANCY

When you are pregnant, it is imperative that you take extra special care of your body, both for your own health but also for the health of your baby. That is common sense, but what a lot of women do not know is that it is extremely important to take care of your teeth and gums during pregnancy, as well. During pregnancy, your body produces higher level of hormones. These elevated hormone levels can cause your gums to overreact to plaque which in turn may cause swollen, red and tender gums that may bleed when you brush or floss. This is called pregnancy gingivitis. Not all women will develop this but if you do, it usually occurs in the second trimester and will peak in the middle of the third trimester. If you already had gingivitis prior to pregnancy, it is likely that your condition will worsen when pregnant.

Believe it or not, this can actually effect the health of you baby. Excessive plaque can enter the bloodstream through your gums and trigger the production of prostaglandins, a hormone-like chemical. Prostaglandins is produced by your body naturally but is peaked when you go into labor. Your body may interpret this hormone production as a sign to go into premature labor. Premature labor can result in low birth weight and other medical problems in newborns.

In all cases, whether you are pregnant or not, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease if left untreated. This in itself can lead directly to tooth loss. But the effects of periodontal disease in pregnant women go much deeper. Researchers have discovered that active periodontal disease can increase the risk of preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.

The good news is that all of this is preventable. Daily brushing and flossing and regular visits to Palmetto Family Dentistry is essential.


INFANTS

Tooth care and maintenance should begin at the first sign of the first tooth. It is just as important to clean your baby’s teeth as it is to clean your own. You should try to brush, or clean, your child’s teeth twice a day. If your child swallows the toothpaste, we recommend buying a children’s toothpaste that does not contain fluoride. Once your child learns to spit out the toothpaste, you may want to change to a children’s toothpaste with fluoride. We also recommend flossing your child’s teeth. If you start early, the habit will form and your child will always floss. If you have good oral habits, your children will have good oral habits.

One of the most serious dental problems for young children is baby bottle tooth decay. This syndrome is caused by the constant presence of milk, formula, fruit juice or any liquids that contain sugar during the night or for extended periods during the day. The sugary liquid provides ‘food’ for the bacteria in plaque that is located on your baby’s teeth. When the bacteria consume the ‘food’, it produces acid that attack your child’s teeth and cause decay.

This is a serious syndrome because it can lead to toothaches, which can make it very difficult for your child to eat. Also, if baby bottle tooth decay is left untreated, the decay can cause infection, which can result in having to remove the teeth. When baby teeth are lost too early it can result in several long term issues for your child, such as, speech problems, crooked teeth and permanent damage to adult teeth.

Baby bottle tooth decay can be prevented pretty easily. The first step is to make sure you clean your child’s teeth after each feeding and once all the primary teeth have erupted, you should begin to floss. Secondly, if your child goes to bed with a bottle or sippy cup, make sure it contains water. If you follow those tips and visit your dentist regularly, your child should not have any issues with baby bottle tooth decay.


SMOKING

As you know, smoking has been linked to lung disease, cancer and heart disease, but did you know that smokers are 3 to 6 times more likely to develop periodontal disease and are 2 times more likely to lose their teeth?

Periodontal disease occurs when your teeth, gums and/or bones surrounding your teeth become infected and smoking aids in the development of periodontal disease by reducing the amount of saliva produced , which helps wash away the bacteria that may cause periodontal disease and by damaging the body’s ability to fight off infection.

We know you have probably heard it a thousand times before, but if you are a smoker you should seriously consider quitting . Periodontal disease is reversible if you work at it.


SENSITIVE TEETH

Tooth sensitivity is the most common problem in dentistry. You may feel sensitivity or discomfort when your teeth are exposed to hot or cold food, cold air or even sweets. It may seem as though tooth sensitivity is only an inconvenience however it can lead to much more serious problems if left untreated.

There are several possible causes for sensitivity of the teeth. One cause is stress on your teeth. Clenching and grinding is a major cause of tooth stress and you may not even be aware that you are doing it.

Another cause of sensitivity is loss of enamel. This can occur through such processes as abfraction, erosion and abrasion. Abfraction can occur when one tooth hits sooner than the rest and causes the tooth to flex. Over time, this flexing causes the enamel to separate from the dentin or the middle layer of the tooth. Erosion occurs when acids dissolve the enamel. This can be caused by frequent drinking of soft drinks and sports drinks or exposing you teeth to stomach acid through bulimia or acid reflux. Abrasion occurs when the protective tooth layer, enamel, is worn away. This can happen when you brush too hard, brush with a medium- or hard-bristled toothbrush or by using an abrasive toothpaste.

Dental procedures are another potential cause of sensitivity. Bleaching or even some restorative procedures can cause short term sensitivity.
Tooth sensitivity can be diagnosed pretty easily and can be treated sometimes with just a desensitizing toothpaste or mouthwash. Occasionally the treatment may require a night guard, a simple bite adjustment, a change in your brushing technique or diet, or a protective coating or bonding agent.


SOFT DRINKS

Soft drinks are the beverage of choice for many people and, in moderation, they should not pose a major health risk. However, if you choose to drink them all day long, you may not realize the damage that soft drinks can do to your teeth.

Soft drinks contain approximately 10-12 teaspoons of sugar per serving. When you take a sip, you coat your teeth in liquid sugar. The bacteria that naturally live on your teeth feed on the sugar and produce acid. The acid that is produced has the ability to dissolve the surface of your tooth and create a cavity.

In addition, the soft drinks themselves, especially diet soft drinks, contain acid. If your teeth are continuously flushed with this acid, the acid can erode the enamel and cause the tooth to become thin and can expose the dentin layer inside your tooth. This exposure can cause sensitivity to hot, cold or sweets and can also make your teeth appear yellow.


BAD BREATH

At one time or another everyone has had bad breath. As we all know, bad breath can be caused by foods that we eat or beverages that we drink but can also be caused by dry mouth. Mostly, bad breath, or halitosis, is due to poor oral hygiene.

When you eat, small food particles get trapped between your teeth and in the tiny grooves and bumps of your tongue. These food particles grow bacteria that release a sulfur compound that cause your bad breath.

The good news is that in most cases, bad breath can be easily fixed. Brushing and flossing is, of course, the easiest method to combat bad breath. When you brush your teeth, make sure to also brush your tongue. This will dislodge most of those food particles and bacteria. Staying hydrated is another great way to fight bad breath that is caused by dry mouth.


IMPROPER BRUSHING AND FLOSSING

Brushing and flossing are essential steps that everyone can take for good oral hygiene and good oral health. Both steps are equally as important and it is necessary to make sure you and your children do them properly.

As you know brushing is important because it removes plaque and hinders the bacteria that can cause tooth decay and gum disease. In order to brush properly, you must remember 5 major points:

  1. Use a soft toothbrush – Soft toothbrushes are more gentle and your gums and teeth will thank you
  2. Use tooth paste with fluoride – Fluoride strengthens the outer enamel layer of your teeth and can actually stop a cavity from forming
  3. Brush for 2 minutes – If you divide your mouth into four quadrants, you can brush each one for just 30 seconds
  4. Brush at least twice a day
  5. Use the correct brushing technique – To brush correctly, you should center your toothbrush on the gumline and angle the bristles at a 45-degree angle. Gently apply pressure so that the bristles glide under the gumline and move the toothbrush back and forth over one or two teeth at a time. Make sure that you do this for every surface of your teeth.

Flossing is just as important as brushing and should be done at least once a day. Like brushing there are techniques to use to ensure that you floss properly.

  1. Pull out enough floss to wrap it around a finger on each hand and clasp it with your thumbs. Most people choose their middle finger but use whichever finger is most comfortable. Make sure to leave about a 1-2 inch span of floss in the middle.
  2. Using a gentle side-to-side motion gently slide the floss in between your teeth. Pull the floss tightly into a c-shape around the tooth and slide under gumline. Pull the floss back and forth slightly.

Repeat with each side of all your teeth. REMEMBER YOU DON’T HAVE TO FLOSS ALL YOUR TEETH…ONLY FLOSS THE ONES YOU WANT TO KEEP!