Oral Health isn't "intuitive". We're here to help!
Much of dental disease is preventable, so we aim to partner with you in sharing the information you need to know to keep you and your family smiling and healthy! Below you will find helpful information to some common issues our patients run into and how we can optimize your outcome.
Are you Prepared if you Encounter a Dental Emergency?
Thousands of dental emergencies occur every day. Would you know what to do if your child broke a tooth or had a tooth knocked out while playing sports or outdoors? What if you had a bad toothache in the middle of the night and couldn’t get to the dentist until the next day? Knowing what to do can lessen the pain and save a tooth that might otherwise be lost.
Be sure to keep your dental office phone number and an emergency number where the dentist can be reached after hours with other emergency numbers, such as your family doctor, and fire and police departments. Some families post these numbers on the refrigerator or inside a kitchen cabinet door near the phone. Call the dentist immediately for instructions on how to handle a dental emergency.
Here are some types of emergencies that people face every day:
Toothache: Rinse the mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss or an interdental cleaner to remove any food or other debris that may be caught between the teeth. Never put aspirin or any other painkiller against the gums near the aching tooth. This could burn gum tissue. If the toothache persists, try to see the dentist. Don’t rely on painkillers. They may temporarily relieve pain but your dentist should evaluate the condition.
Knocked-out tooth: Try to find the tooth! This may not be as easy as you think if the injury took place on a playground, basketball court or while skateboarding, so try to stay calm. Hold the tooth by the crown and if possible (and if it is an adult tooth), reinsert the tooth into the socket. If that isn't an option and the child is not experiencing significant pain or trauma, then have the patient place the tooth under their tongue until you can get to the dentist. Lastly, if that doesn't work, then you can drop the tooth in a cup of milk (real dairy milk, not soy, almond, cashew) and keep in the milk until you get to the dental office. Don’t scrub it or remove any attached tissue fragments. If you are able to gently insert the tooth into the socket, hold the tooth while you head to the dentist. Time is critical for successful reimplantation and stabilization, so try to get to your dentist immediately. If the tooth that is avulsed (or completely knocked out) is a baby tooth, then do not reinsert, but you still need to visit the dentist ASAP.
Broken tooth: Rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area. Use cold compresses on the outside of the cheek to help reduce the swelling. Call your dentist immediately for potential emergency consult and treatment.
Tongue or lip bites or wounds: Clean the area gently with a clean cloth and apply cold compresses to reduce any swelling. If the bleeding can’t be controlled, go to a hospital emergency room or clinic. You may able to reduce bleeding from the tongue by pulling it forward and using gauze to put pressure on the wound.
Objects caught between teeth: Try to gently remove the object with dental floss. Never use a sharp instrument to remove any object that is stuck between your teeth. If you can’t dislodge the object with floss, contact your dentist.
Possible broken jaw: Apply cold compresses to control swelling. Get to the hospital emergency room immediately.
Tooth Decay - Sipping and Snacking
Many parents across the country will issue a common refrain at dinnertime tonight: ―You’d better eat that--it’s good for you!‖ There’s another old favorite in the parental arsenal of dietary admonitions: ―Don’t eat that—it’ll rot your teeth!‖ Now more than ever, kids are faced with a bewildering array of food choices -- from fresh produce to sugar-laden processed convenience meals and snack foods. What children eat and when they eat it may affect not only their general health but also their oral health.
Americans are consuming foods and drinks high in sugar and starches more often and in larger portions than ever before. It’s clear that ―junk foods and drinks gradually have replaced nutritious beverages and foods for many people. For example, the average teenage boy in the U.S. consumes 81 gallons of soft drinks each year! Alarmingly, a steady diet of sugary foods and drinks can ruin teeth, especially among those who snack throughout the day. Common activities may contribute to the tendency toward tooth decay. These include ―grazing habitually on foods with minimal nutritional value, and frequently sipping on sugary drinks.
When sugar is consumed over and over again in large, often hidden amounts, the harmful effect on teeth can be dramatic. Sugar on teeth provides food for bacteria, which produce acid. The acid in turn can eat away the enamel on teeth.
Almost all foods have some type of sugar that cannot and should not be eliminated from our diets. Many of these foods contain important nutrients and add enjoyment to eating. But there is a risk for tooth decay from a diet high in sugars and starches. Starches can be found in everything from bread to pretzels to salad dressing, so read labels and plan carefully for a balanced, nutritious diet for you and your kids
Reduce your children’s risk of tooth decay:
- Sugary foods and drinks should be consumed with meals. Saliva production increases during meals and helps neutralize acid production and rinse food particles from the mouth.
- Limit between-meal snacks. If kids crave a snack, offer them nutritious foods.
- If your kids chew gum, make it sugarless
- Chewing sugarless gum after eating can increase saliva flow and help wash out food and decay-producing acid.
- Monitor beverage consumption – Children should make healthy beverage choices such water and low-fat milk.
- Help your children develop good brushing and flossing habits.
- Schedule regular dental visits.
Ever wondered what causes a cavity? Watch this video to learn how a cavity forms and how it can be prevented.
Mouth guards: Sports equipment that protects the smile & the brain
It’s easy to take some things for granted until they’re suddenly gone. Have you ever thought about how it would feel if you lost one or two of your front teeth? You’d probably avoid smiling. It would be uncomfortable talking with someone face-to-face. It wouldn’t be easy pronouncing certain words. And how about eating an apple? Until your teeth are gone, you might not miss them.
Each year, thousands of teens get hurt on the playing field, the basketball court, or while skateboarding, biking or during other activities. Blows to the face in nearly every sport can injure your teeth, lips, cheeks and tongue.
A properly fitted mouth guard, or mouth protector, is an important piece of athletic gear that can protect your teeth and smile. You may have seen them used in contact sports, such as football, boxing, and ice hockey.
There are three types of mouth guards: The ready-made, or stock, mouth guard; the mouthformed ―boil and bite‖ mouth guard; and the custom-made mouth guard made by your dentist. All three mouth guards provide protection but vary in comfort and cost.
The most effective mouth guard should have several features: It should be resilient, tearresistant and comfortable. It should fit properly, be durable and easy to clean, and not restrict your speech or breathing.
Generally, a mouth guard covers only the upper teeth, but in some cases the dentist will instead make a mouth guard for the lower teeth. Your dentist can suggest the right mouth guard for you.
Here are some suggestions for taking good care of your mouth guard:
- Before and after each use, rinse it with cold water or with an antiseptic mouth rinse. You can clean it with toothpaste and a toothbrush, too.
- When it’s not used, place your mouth guard in a firm, perforated container. This permits air circulation and helps prevent damage.
- Avoid high temperatures, such as hot water, hot surfaces or direct sunlight, which can distort the mouth guard.
- Check it for tears, holes and poor fit. A mouth guard that’s torn or in bad shape can irritate your mouth and lessen the amount of protection it provides.
- Have regular dental checkups and bring your mouth guard along so the dentist can make sure it’s still in good condition.
- Don’t take your teeth for granted. Protect your smile with a mouth guard.
Read Mouthguards: Protecting Your Smile and Your Brain to learn more on why you should consider wearing a mouthguard
Oral Piercing: Not as safe as you think
Piercing, like tattooing, is just one of today’s popular forms of ―body art‖ and self-expression. Piercing may seem daring, cool and totally safe because some celebrities use piercing to flaunt their particular style or attitude. But piercing the tongue, lips, cheeks or uvula (the tiny tissue that hangs at the back of the throat) is not as safe as some would have you believe. That’s because the mouth’s moist environment—home to huge amounts of breeding bacteria—is an ideal place for infection.
An oral piercing can interfere with speech, chewing or swallowing. That may seem like a mere inconvenience until you consider that it may also cause:
- Excessive drooling (something you won’t see in hip fashion magazines!)
- Infection, pain and swelling
- Chipped or cracked teeth
- Injuries to the gums
- Damage to fillings
- Increased saliva flow
- Hypersensitivity to metals
- Scar tissue
- Nerve damage
These harmful effects can happen during the piercing, soon after, or even long after the procedure.
An infection can quickly become life threatening if it’s not treated promptly. For example, oral piercing carries a potential risk of endocarditis, an inflammation of the heart valves or tissues. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the piercing site in the mouth and travel to the heart, where it can colonize on heart abnormalities. This is a risk for people with heart conditions and, in the worst of cases, results in death.
After a piercing the tongue may swell. There have been reports of swelling serious enough to block the airway. And it’s very possible to puncture a nerve during a tongue piercing. If this happens, you may experience a ―numb‖ tongue—nerve damage that is sometimes temporary, but can be permanent. The injured nerve may affect your sense of taste, or how you move your mouth. And damage to the tongue’s blood vessels can cause serious blood loss.
In addition, piercing jewelry can sometimes cause allergic responses to the pierced site. The jewelry can even get in the way of dental care by blocking x-rays.
Don’t pierce on a whim. The piercing will be an added responsibility to your life, requiring constant attention and upkeep. Talk to your dentist for more information.
Do you smoke or use chewing tobacco? Rarely a day goes by without a magazine, newspaper, or TV news report carrying a message about tobacco-related medical problems — the dangers of lung disease, cancer, heart problems and low-birth weight babies. Perhaps you even tune out those messages because you don’t want to quit just yet—or you think you can’t.
Tobacco is harmful to your mouth, not to mention your social life. Here are just a few reasons why: Smelly breath, stained teeth, loss of teeth and jawbone, loss of taste, gum recession, outrageous cost, oral cancer, mouth sores and wrinkles!
Tobacco's negative effects on the body, particularly the mouth, are well documented. Smoking impairs the body’s defense mechanisms and makes users more susceptible to infections like gum disease. Smoking also interferes with healing, a particular problem for patients who need treatment for periodontal disease. Once the ingredients in tobacco get into the bloodstream, they reduce the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to mouth tissues.
Chewing (spit) tobacco is not a safe substitute for smoking. It can cause oral cancer and lead to addiction. The bloodstream quickly absorbs the extremely addictive nicotine. Chewing tobacco users have similar or even higher levels of nicotine than the smoker who uses a pack or more a day. Chewing tobacco users are more susceptible to tooth decay due to the product’s higher sugar content. And, chewing tobacco contains at least 28 known cancer-causing chemicals.
It’s no secret that tobacco use is difficult to stop—it takes willpower and determination. Tobacco use is not just a habit; it’s an addiction. You have to be ready to face this challenge before you commit to quit.
Remind yourself of the benefits of quitting. You’ll reduce the risk of cancer. You’ll taste and enjoy food again. You’ll feel more relaxed without the jitters of nicotine. You won’t be plagued by ―smoker’s breath.‖ Your sense of smell will be sharper. Your family and friends will thank you.
** Reference: American Dental Association
Links for More Dental Education
- Academy of General Dentistry
- American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry
- American Dental Association