Posts for: January, 2014
Don't ignore tooth pain hoping it goes away. No matter how mild or fleeting it may be, it's a sign that something's wrong. Healthy teeth shouldn't cause discomfort because the parts containing the nerves — the interior pulp and the dentin around it — are shielded by dental enamel and gums.
Here are some common reasons that teeth ache:
- Gum Recession. Over time, gums can recede. Improper or excessive brushing can affect them, especially if you are genetically predisposed by having thin gums. When gums retreat, dentin can, or eventually will, be exposed. Besides its susceptibility to sensation, dentin is also more vulnerable to erosion and decay than enamel.
- Tooth Erosion/Decay. When acid-producing oral bacteria get the upper hand, they can eat through the tooth's protective enamel to the dentin. You may start feeling sensitivity as the decay gets deeper and closer to the pulp (nerves). Only removal of the decay and filling the cavity can stop the process.
- Old/Loose/Lost Filling. Fillings seal off areas of past decay. If they don't fit right or are dislodged altogether, air or food particles can slip inside and irritate exposed nerve endings. A crevice to hide in makes it prime real estate again for bacteria, too.
- Cracked Tooth. Teeth grinding and jaw clenching can have a similar impact on teeth that a miner's pick has on rock. At first thin lines in your enamel can develop, then cracks develop that may expose the dentin, and finally the tooth might fracture, exposing the pulp. The earlier this process is caught, the better.
- Pulp Tissue Infection/Inflammation. This can be caused by deep decay or trauma and suggests your tooth may be in its death throes. Sometimes the pulp infection travels into the surrounding periodontal (peri – around; odont – tooth) tissues and causes an abscess to develop. This absolutely requires immediate attention.
- Residual Sensitivity from Dental Work. Removal of decay before placing a filling can cause tooth sensitivity. It can take 1-4 weeks or so to improve.
- Sinus Pain. Congestion can cause “referred” pain in the upper teeth. When the congestion subsides, the pain should, too.
As you can see, it's risky to discount tooth pain and “wait ‘til it goes away.” Our office can help you determine the origin of your pain and the best course of action to resolve it. When in doubt, it's always better to err on the side of caution!
If you would like more information about tooth pain and ways to prevent or treat it, 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 “Tooth Pain? Don't Wait!” and “Sensitive Teeth.”
A consistently dry mouth is not only uncomfortable and unpleasant but also probably more serious than you think. Dry mouth, medically known as xerostomia (“xero” – dry; “stomia” – mouth) affects millions of people, but few understand why it happens or why it is important.
What Causes Dry Mouth?
It is normal to awaken with a dry mouth because saliva flow decreases at night. But if your mouth is persistently dry throughout the day, it may be a result of habits such as smoking, alcohol or too much coffee drinking or even dehydration. It is also a common side effect of some medications. Xerostomia is not a disease in itself, but it could be a symptom of salivary gland or other systemic (general body) disease.
Why is Saliva Important?
A persistently dry mouth can be a problem. Not only does it feel unpleasant and lead to bad breath, it can also significantly increase your risk for tooth decay. Saliva lubricates your mouth for chewing, eating, digestion and even speaking. Saliva also has important antibacterial activities. Most importantly normal healthy salivary flow neutralizes and buffers acids in the mouth to protect the teeth from the acids produced by bacteria on the teeth that cause decay, and by acids in sodas, sports drinks and juices that can erode tooth enamel.
Not only does saliva neutralize acids but with its high mineral content it can actually reverse de-mineralization — the process by which acids attack enamel and remove calcium from the enamel surface. Healthy saliva actually re-mineralizes the outer layers of tooth enamel, but the process can take 30-60 minutes. That's why it's important not to snack on sugars or drink sodas between meals — one an hour and your mouth is acidic all the time.
Individuals without enough saliva are especially at risk for root decay and fungal infections, and they are also more likely to lose tooth substance through abrasion and erosion.
What Can We Do for a Dry Mouth?
If your mouth is usually dry, make an appointment with us to assess the causes of the problem. However it may be more serious with medical implications. The solution may be as simple as drinking more water and using good daily oral hygiene, or it may necessitate prescription medication to promote more saliva flow.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your dry mouth and what we can do to help. For more information read the article in Dear Doctor magazine “Tooth Decay – How To Assess Your Risk.”
Singer Olivia Newton-John's daughter Chloe is now a lovely, grown woman, but Olivia recently recounted to Dear Doctor magazine a rather creative method she found to sooth Chloe's teething troubles many years ago.
“When Chloe was a baby and teething I remember using a frozen bagel for her sore gums,” Olivia said. “She loved it!”
Cold is often very soothing to a teething child's gums. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends using a clean, chilled, rubber teething ring, or cold wet washcloth. Chilled pacifiers can also be helpful. Be sure not to freeze teething rings or pacifiers as ice can actually burn sensitive mouth tissues.
Older teethers can sometimes find relieve from cold foods such as popsicles (or bagels!) but make sure your child eats these sugar-containing foods only at mealtimes so as not to promote tooth decay.
If your baby has not yet begun the teething (or tooth-eruption) process, you can expect it to begin usually between six and nine months. It may, however, start as early as three months or as late as twelve months.
Teething symptoms vary among children, as does the length of time it takes for a tooth to make its appearance. But many parents notice the following signs:
- Biting and gnawing
- Gum swelling
- Chin (facial) rash
- Disrupted sleeping patterns
- Ear rubbing
- Decreased appetite
These symptoms are usually most bothersome during the week that the tooth is breaking (erupting) through the gums, starting about four days before and lasting about three days after the tooth appears.
Occasionally, teething discomfort can be considerable. If that is the case with your baby, you can give her or him acetaminophen or ibuprofen in the appropriate dose (check with your pharmacist if you're not sure what that is). The medicine should be swallowed — not massaged into the gums, as this can also burn. Numbing agents should not be used for children under 2, except under the advice and supervision of a healthcare professional.
If you would like to learn more about teething or any other child-related oral health issue, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. If you would like to read Dear Doctor's entire interview with Olivia Newton-John, please see “Olivia Newton-John.” Dear Doctor also has more on “Teething Troubles.”
Periodontal (gum) disease is sometimes called a “silent” malady — meaning that its symptoms don’t generally announce themselves with great fanfare (or pain, as conditions like tooth decay and root canal issues often do). Yet this disease is estimated to affect almost half of the adult population in the United States, causing deterioration of the gums and the bone surrounding the teeth… and possibly leading to bacterial infections, loss of teeth, and even systemic (whole-body) problems.
So what exactly is periodontal disease? Actually, it’s the broad name for a group of related diseases which attack the soft tissue of the gums and the tooth-supporting bone. Most periodontal diseases are caused by the buildup of harmful bacteria in a biofilm (thin, sticky layer), which coats teeth in the absence of effective oral hygiene. And yes, that means if you don’t brush and floss daily, you’re much more likely to develop gum disease.
Even the most attractive smile could have gum disease lurking beneath it. How do you know if you may be affected? Some early warning signs include redness or inflammation of the edges of the gums, a bad taste in your mouth or bad breath, plus any degree of bleeding when you brush your teeth (brushing should never cause gums to bleed). As the disease progresses, you may develop painful inflammation or a pus-filled abscess, bone loss, loose teeth… and eventually tooth loss.
But don’t wait until then to seek treatment! If you see your general dentist regularly, and if he or she notices signs of gum disease, you may be referred to a periodontist. But you don’t need a referral — you can simply make an appointment and come in for a check-up. That may be wise if you have noticed any warning signs — especially if it has been a while since you’ve had an exam. Periodontal disease may be a silent malady, but that doesn’t mean you have to let it affect your oral health.
If you would like more information about periodontal disease, call our office for a consultation. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “When To See A Periodontist” and “Warning Signs of Periodontal (Gum) Disease.”