Having sensitive teeth is one of the most common complaints among dental patients. At least 45 million adults in the United States suffer from this condition at some time in their life.
Tooth sensitivity is caused by the stimulation of cells within tiny tubules located within the layer of tissue found beneath the hard enamel. When the hard enamel is worn down and/or roots are exposed from receded gums, these tubules are exposed and pain can occur while eating or drinking food and beverages that are hot or cold, touching your teeth, or exposing them to cold air.
It is recommended that those suffering from chronic tooth sensitivity should stay away from whitening toothpastes and whitening regimens, acidic foods and beverages, wines and yogurts. If a tooth is highly sensitive for more than three or four days, and reacts to hot and cold temperatures, it’s best to get a diagnostic evaluation from your dentist to determine the extent of the problem. Because pain symptoms can be similar, some people might think that a tooth is sensitive, when instead, they actually have a cavity or abscess that’s not yet visible. Dentists have a variety of regimens to manage tooth hypersensitivity, including both in-office treatments and patient-applied products for home use. Evaluation is the first step in determining the cause of your sensitivity.
It’s a myth that calcium is lost from the mother’s teeth and “one tooth is lost with every pregnancy.” But you may experience some changes in your oral health during pregnancy. The primary change is a surge in hormones, particularly an increase in estrogen and progesterone, which is linked to an increase in the amount of plaque on your teeth.
If the plaque isn’t removed, it can cause gingivitis, which results in red, swollen, tender gums that are more likely to bleed. So-called “pregnancy gingivitis” affects most pregnant women to some degree and generally begins to surface in the second trimester. If you already have gingivitis, the condition is likely to worsen during pregnancy. If untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease, a more serious form of gum disease. Flossing at night time, before you brush and brushing in the morning, after breakfast, and adding a brushing after lunch will help with plaque accumulation. If you find that you cannot tolerate toothpaste, brush with water and rinse with a fluoridated mouth rinse. Research suggests a link between pre-term, low birth weight babies and gingivitis. Excessive bacteria, which causes gingivitis, can enter the bloodstream through your gums. If this happens, the bacteria can travel to the uterus, triggering the production of chemicals called prostaglandins, which is suspected to induce premature labor. Pregnant women are also at risk for developing mouth pregnancy tumors (pyogenic granulomas) which are inflammatory, benign growths that develop when swollen gums become irritated. Normally, the tumors are left alone and subside on their own. However, if a tumor is uncomfortable and interferes with chewing, brushing or other oral hygiene procedures, the dentist may decide to remove it.
If you’re planning to become pregnant or suspect you’re pregnant, you should see a dentist right away to have a complete examination as any major dental work should be avoided during the 9 months of gestation. An assessment appointment should be scheduled during the latter portion of the first trimester to determine your oral condition and map out a dental plan for the rest of your pregnancy. Depending on the patient, one or two more appointments may be scheduled during the second and third trimesters for another cleanings. The third trimester appointment, if necessary, should take place early in the trimester and should be kept as brief as possible.
Be extremely cautious of all drugs you take during pregnancy. If you have gingivitis or periodontal disease, your dentist may want to treat you more often to achieve healthy gums and a healthy baby. Although dental anesthetics such as novocaine or lidocaine can enter the placenta, which filters out most drugs, the doses used in most dental procedures are considered safe during pregnancy. If you need to have dental work done during your pregnancy, research has shown that some acceptable antibiotics include penicillin, amoxicillin, and clindamycin, but avoid tetracycline, which can cause discoloration of your child’s temporary and permanent teeth. Products containing acetaminophen, such as Tylenol, are approved, but you should be wary of other over-the-counter medications such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Avoid using narcotics for dental pain.
If you have any concerns about treatment or medications, make sure to ask your Dentist or Obstetrician before receiving treatment. Good nutrition, particularly plenty of vitamin C and B12, help keep the oral cavity healthy and strong. More frequent dental cleanings by your dentist will help control plaque and prevent gingivitis. Controlling plaque will also reduce tissue irritation and decrease the likelihood of pregnancy tumors.
The healthier your mouth is, the healthier and happier your pregnancy and baby will be.
Proper oral care can keep you smiling well into your late years Brushing at least twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste and a soft-bristle brush are as important as ever as you age. Flossing can help you save your teeth by removing plaque between teeth and below the gum line that your toothbrush cannot reach.
Most people don’t realize how important it is to take care of their gums. Gingivitis is caused by the bacteria found in plaque that attack the gums. Symptoms of gingivitis include red, swollen gums and possible bleeding when you brush. If you have any of these symptoms, see a dentist at once. Gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease if problems persist. Three out of four adults over age 35 are affected by some sort of gum (periodontal) disease. In gum disease, the infection becomes severe. Your gums begin to recede, pulling back from the teeth. In the worst cases, bacteria form pockets between the teeth and gums, weakening the bone. All this can lead to tooth loss if untreated, especially in patients with osteoporosis. If regular oral care is too difficult, your dentist can provide alternatives to aid in flossing and prescribe medication to keep the infection from getting worse.
If you have arthritis, you may find it difficult to brush and floss for good oral health care and prevention of disease. Ask your dentist for ways to overcome this problem. Certain dental products are designed to make dental care less painful for arthritis sufferers.
Oral cancer most often occurs in people over 40 years of age. Because oral cancer is often painless and may not show obvious signs in its early stages, it is important to see a dentist regularly for oral cancer screenings. In between regular check-ups, if you notice any red or white patches in your mouth or on your tongue or have a sore(s) that fail to heal within two weeks, you should see your dentist. In the event that you wear dentures and have no problems with them, you should still have oral cancer screening every 6 months.
Dry mouth (xerostomia) happens when salivary glands fail to work due to disease, certain medications or cancer treatment. This can make it hard to eat, swallow, taste and speak. In certain cases, such as radiation therapy, dry mouth can lead to severe complications, which is why it is important you see a dentist immediately before beginning any form of cancer treatment. Drinking lots of water and avoiding sweets, tobacco, alcohol and caffeine are some ways to fight dry mouth. Your dentist also can prescribe medications to fight a severe form of this condition.
Studies have shown that maintaining a healthy mouth means a healthier body and can help you avoid diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The best way to achieve good oral health is to visit your dentist for an evaluation and cleaning at least twice a year.
Fluoride is a compound of fluorine, a chemical element universally found in in water, soil, air and in most foods. Existing abundantly in living tissue as an ion, fluoride is absorbed easily into tooth enamel, especially in children’s growing teeth. Once teeth are developed, fluoride makes the entire tooth structure more resistant to decay and promotes re-mineralization, which aids in repairing early decay before the damage is visible.
“Systemic” fluoride is ingested when added to public and private water supplies, soft drinks and teas, and is available in dietary supplement form. Once systemic fluoride is absorbed via the gastrointestinal tract, the blood supply distributes it throughout the entire body. Most fluoride not excreted is deposited in bones and hard tissues like teeth.
“Topical” fluoride can be prescribed and/or administered by your dentist and in lesser concentrations, it is available in over-the-counter (OTC) products. Professionally-administered topical fluorides such as gels or varnishes are applied by the hygienist or prescribed by your dentist for temporary home use while the OTC products, including toothpastes and mouth rinses are intended for direct application to the teeth and expectorated or rinsed from the mouth without swallowing. Dentists recommend brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste at least twice a day or after every meal, combined with a regimen of flossing and regular dental checkups. (check this paragraph – I thought that the topical products applied by the dentist or hygienist were also spitted out. This is confusing.
Fluoridated water protects against cavities and root caries, a progressive erosion of adult root surfaces caused by gum recession. It also helps remineralize early carious lesions. Thanks to these preventive benefits, public water fluoridation is considered the most efficient and cost-effective dental caries prevention measure available. More than 144 million United States residents in more than 10,000 communities drink fluoridated water, most from public water supplies with sodium fluoride added artificially. A small percentage use water from private wells with naturally fluoridated water. The Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the accepted “optimal” range of fluoride in water lies between 0.7 and 1.2 parts per million (ppm). Backed by results from more than 140 documented studies undertaken in 20 different countries over the past several decades, fluoridated water that adheres to these standards has been scientifically established as safe for drinking. Water fluoridation is endorsed by nearly every major health and safety-related organization. Fluoridation of community water supplies is the single most effective public health measure to prevent tooth decay and to improve oral health for a lifetime.
In general, the use of fluoride is considered safe unless ingested in unsafe amounts during early childhood. The result of excessive fluoride in early childhood is a condition called dental fluorosis, a harmless cosmetic discoloring or mottling of the enamel, visible by chalky white specks and lines or pitted and brown stained enamel on developing teeth. Young children and those children in their early teen years should avoid swallowing toothpaste, mouth-rinses or other topical supplements. If you are concerned about the fluoride levels in your drinking water, call the local public water department. If the source is a private well, request a fluoride content analysis performed using a water sample by your local or county health department.
More than 90 million people suffer from chronic halitosis or bad breath. In most cases, it originates from the gums and tongue. The odor is caused by bacteria from decaying food particles, other debris in your mouth, and poor oral hygiene. The decay and debris produce a sulfur compound that causes the unpleasant odor.
Bad breath also may occur in people who have gastrointestinal conditions, periodontal disease, diabetes, kidney failure, liver malfunction, xerostomia (dry mouth) and the use of tobacco . Stress, snoring, age and even hormonal changes can have an effect on your breath but more often, our diet is the culprit. Very spicy foods, onions, garlic and coffee may be detected on a person’s breath for up to 72 hours after digestion because onions, for example, are absorbed by the stomach and the odor is then excreted through the lungs. Studies have shown that garlic rubbed on the soles of the feet can show up on a person’s breath. If your diet is the cause of your bad breath, all you have to do is modify your diet. Otherwise, visit your dentist regularly because checkups will help detect any physical problems. Checkups also help get rid of the plaque and bacteria that build up on your teeth. If you think that you suffer from bad breath, your dentist can help determine its source. We may ask you to schedule a separate appointment to find the source of the odor. Or, if your dentist believes that the problem is caused from a systemic source (internal), such as an infection, she may refer you to your family physician or a specialist to help remedy the cause of the problem
Bottle rot tooth decay is caused by the frequent and long-term exposure of a child’s teeth to liquids containing sugars, such as milk, formula, fruit juice, sodas, and other sweetened drinks. The sugars in these liquids pool around the infant’s teeth and gums, feeding the bacteria that cause plaque. Every time a child consumes a sugary liquid, acid attacks the teeth and gums and after enough exposure, tooth decay can begin. The condition can also be associated with breast-fed infants who have prolonged feeding habits or with children whose pacifiers are frequently dipped in honey, sugar or syrup. The sweet fluid left in the mouth increases the chances of cavities while the infant is sleeping.
Never allow children to fall asleep with a bottle containing milk, formula, juice or other sweetened liquids. Clean and massage the baby’s gums to help establish healthy teeth and to aid in teething. Once a day, wrap a moistened washcloth around the finger and gently massage the gum tissues. Plaque removal activities should begin upon eruption of the first baby tooth. When brushing a child’s teeth, use a soft toothbrush and a pea-shaped amount of fluoride toothpaste, using brushing instructions given to you by your dentist or hygienist.
Preventing baby bottle tooth decay involves changes in a child’s diet and feeding process. Using a series of small changes over a period of time is usually the best approach and will eventually leads to better oral health. The following are recommended steps:
- Gradually dilute the bottle contents with water over a period of 2-3 weeks.
- Once that period is over, if you give a child a bottle, fill it with water or give the child a clean pacifier recommended by a dentist. The only safe liquid to put in a bottle to prevent baby bottle tooth decay is water.
- Decrease consumption of sugar, especially between meals.
- Children should be weaned from the bottle as soon as they can drink from a cup, but the bottle should not be taken away too soon, since the sucking motion aids in the development of the tongue and facial muscles.
Giving an infant a sugary drink at nap or nighttime is harmful because during sleep, the flow of saliva decreases, allowing the sugary liquids to linger on the child’s teeth for an extended period of time. If left untreated, pain and infection can result. Severely decayed teeth may need to be extracted. If teeth are infected or lost too early due to baby bottle tooth decay, your child may develop poor eating habits, speech problems, crooked teeth, and damaged adult teeth. Healthy baby teeth will usually result in healthy permanent teeth.
Chewing tobacco affects your dental health as well as the rest of your body. If you use smokeless tobacco and have thought about quitting, your dentist can help. In the meantime, here are a few facts that may help you decide to join the 200 million Americans who are tobacco-free.
Some wrongly believe that chewing tobacco is safer than smoking cigarettes. Chewing tobacco, however, is more addictive as it contains higher levels of nicotine than cigarettes and, therefore, can be harder to quit than cigarettes. One can of snuff delivers as much nicotine as 60 cigarettes.
Today, it is estimated that snuff users increase their risk of oral cancer by 80%. Other cancers caused by tobacco include cancer of the pancreas, nasal cavity, urinary tract, esophagus, pharynx, larynx, intestines and the stomach. Studies have shown that 60-78% of those using chewing tobacco have oral lesions. Children who use chewing tobacco are 4 to 6 times more likely to develop oral cancer than non-users. Tobacco juice-related cancers can form within five years of regular use. Among high school seniors who have ever used chewing tobacco, almost three-fourths began by the ninth grade.
Tobacco causes bad breath, discolors teeth and promotes tooth decay that leads to tooth loss. Chewing tobacco users have a decreased sense of smell and taste, and they are at greater risk of developing cavities due to the added sugar in the tobacco leaves. The grit in snuff eats away at gums, exposing tooth roots. The roots are highly sensitive to hot and cold temperatures, so this condition can be painful.
Your dentist can help you kick your tobacco habit. In addition to cleaning teeth and treating bad breath and puffy, swollen gums associated with tobacco use, your dentist may prescribe a variety of nicotine replacement therapies, such as the transdermal nicotine patch or chewing gum that helps to wean addicted snuff dippers or tobacco chewers.
Make the following goals to quit and never resume chewing or dipping:
- Pick a date and taper use as the date nears. Instead of using spit tobacco, carry substitutes like sugar free gum, sugar free hard candy and sunflower seeds.
- Cut back on when and where you dip and chew. Let friends and family know that you’re quitting and solicit their support. If they dip and chew, ask them not to do it around you.
- Make a list of three situations you’re most likely to dip and chew, and make every effort to avoid using tobacco at those times.
- Switch to a lower nicotine brand to help cut down your dose.
Bruxism is the technical term for grinding and clenching that abrades teeth and may cause facial pain. People who grind and clench, subconsciously and habitually squeeze their teeth together and/or grind the teeth without realizing it. In addition to grinding teeth, “bruxers” may also bite their fingernails, pencils and chew the inside of their cheek. Some people mistakenly believe that their teeth must touch at all times and force the condition. About one in three people suffer from bruxism, which can easily be treated by a dentist.
People who have otherwise healthy teeth and gums can clench so often and so hard that over time their teeth become sensitive due to the excessive wear on their teeth. They also may start acquiring chronic headaches and/or experience jaw pain and sore muscles. Stress and certain personality traits are at the root cause of bruxism. Nervous tension has always affected humans and bruxism affects people with nervous tension. Anger, pain and frustration can trigger bruxing. People who are aggressive, competitive and hurried also may be at a greater risk for bruxism.
During regular dental visits, the dentist automatically checks for physical signs of bruxism. If the dentist or patient notices signs of bruxism, the condition may be observed over several visits to be sure of the problem before recommending and starting therapy. A commonly used therapy is for the dentist to make a plastic mouth appliance, such as a night guard that’s worn to absorb the force of biting. This appliance can prevent future damage to the teeth and helps change the patient’s destructive behavior.
Periodontal (gum) disease may result from gingivitis, an inflammation of the gums usually caused by the presence of bacteria in plaque. Plaque is the sticky film that accumulates on teeth both above and below the gum line. Without regular dental checkups, periodontal disease may result, if gingivitis is left untreated. Periodontal disease can also cause inflammation and destruction of tissues surrounding and supporting teeth, gums (gingiva), bone and fibers which hold the gums to the teeth. A number of factors increase the probability of developing periodontal disease, including diabetes, smoking/tobacco/alcohol, poor oral hygiene, diet, and heredity; and it is the primary cause of tooth loss in adults.
Currently, 95 percent of those with diagnosed diabetes also have periodontal disease. Due to delayed healing in diabetics, oral infections tend to be more severe in diabetic patients than non-diabetic patients, but more so in diabetics who are not controlling their blood sugar levels. These infections occur more often after puberty and in aging patients.
Diabetics may experience diminished salivary flow and burning mouth or tongue. Dry mouth (xerostomia) also may develop, causing an increased incidence of decay. Gum recession has been found to occur more frequently and more extensively in moderate- and poorly-controlled diabetic patients because plaque responds differently (this is not clear – please fix), creating more harmful proteins in the gums. To prevent problems with bacterial infections in the mouth, your dentist may prescribe antibiotics, medicated mouth rinses, and more frequent cleanings.
If you are a diabetic, make sure to take extra good care of your mouth and have dental infections treated immediately. Diabetics who receive good dental care and have good insulin control typically have a better chance at controlling oral health problems. Diet and exercise may be the most important changes that diabetics can make to improve their quality of life and their oral health. Diabetic patients should be sure that both their medical and dental care providers are aware of their medical history and periodontal status. To keep teeth and gums strong, diabetic patients should be aware of their blood sugar level in addition to having their triglycerides and cholesterol levels checked on a regular basis. All of these factors may have a direct correlation on the chances that a diabetic may develop periodontal disease.
Morning appointments are best for diabetics as blood glucose levels tend to be more stable. If your blood sugar is not under control, talk with both your dentist and physician about receiving elective dental care. If you have a scheduled appointment, eat and take your medications as directed.
Flossing is the single, most important weapon against plaque, perhaps more important than the toothbrush. Many people just don’t spend enough time flossing or brushing and many have never been taught to floss or brush properly.
Plaque is a sticky layer of material containing germs that accumulates on teeth, including places where toothbrushes can’t reach. The best way to get rid of plaque is to floss and brush your teeth systematically every day. The toothbrush cleans the tops, front and back of your teeth. Dental floss cleans in between/the sides of the teeth. Some people use waterpiks, but floss provides friction and is the better choice.
Floss removes plaque and debris that adhere to teeth and gums in between teeth, polishes tooth surfaces, and controls bad breath. Dental floss comes in many forms: waxed and un-waxed, flavored and unflavored, wide and regular. If used properly, all can clean and remove plaque equally well..
Flossing should be done once a day, at night time, before brushing.
You may prefer a pre-threaded flosser or floss holder, which looks like a little hacksaw. Flossers are handy for people with limited dexterity, for those who are just beginning to floss, or for caretakers who are flossing someone else’s teeth.
Don’t use waterpicks as a substitute for tooth brushing and flossing. They ARE, however, effective for those with orthodontic braces that retain food in areas a toothbrush cannot reach and for those with periodontal disease and need added tissue care with antibacterial agents that can be easily dispensed with such a device.