Although there are several potential problems people could encounter involving their teeth, gums or mouth, most fall into three basic categories. That's the finding of a recent survey conducted by the American Dental Association of more than 15,000 U.S. adults.
These categories are a triad of symptoms, each of which could arise from a variety of causes. If you're encountering any one of these, you should see your dentist as soon as possible.
Tooth pain. A toothache—or any form of pain from the mouth—could be sign of a number of possible issues. It could mean you have a decayed tooth, especially if the pain is sharp and localized. It could also indicate a gum abscess (accompanied by red and puffy gums), a sinus or ear infection, or inflammation of the jaw joints. The intensity, duration and location of the pain are all clues to its actual cause and what treatments it might require.
Biting difficulties. Does it hurt when you bite down? Among other things, you could have a loose tooth or one that's deeply decayed. The former could be the sign of advanced gum disease, which itself must be treated and the tooth stabilized (splinted) to other teeth. If the problem is advanced decay, you may need a root canal to remove diseased tissue from within the interior of the tooth, which is then filled and crowned to prevent re-infection.
Dry mouth. We're not talking about that "cotton mouth" feeling we all get now and then. This is a chronic condition known as xerostomia in which the mouth feels dry all the time. Xerostomia has several causes including smoking or treatments for cancer or other serious diseases. It might also be a medication you're taking, which has reduced your mouth's saliva production. Because dry mouth could lead to dental disease, you should take steps to relieve it.
Even if you're not having symptoms like these, there may still be something going on in your mouth that needs attention. That's why you should see your dentist on a regular basis, besides when you notice a problem, to keep your oral health in tip-top shape.
Most childhood sicknesses are highly treatable and quickly fade from memory afterward. But there's one viral infection that can reappear years later, albeit in a different form and this time it might not be as forgettable. It could even impact your dental care.
Varicella, more commonly known as chicken pox, is a viral infection that mainly affects children. Fortunately, the itchy blisters and other symptoms associated with it usually clear up on their own. But the virus itself, varicella zoster virus (VZV), can remain behind and become dormant.
Fast-forward a few decades, and the child once with chicken pox is now an adult, usually over 50. In 20-30% of former chicken pox patients, the virus reactivates as a new infection known commonly as shingles.
Shingles often begins with an itching, burning or numbing sensation on the skin that develops into a severe rash. Because of its effect on surface nerves, the rash often takes on a striped or belt-like pattern on the skin. A shingles outbreak can also cause fever, fatigue and pain, the latter of which in rare cases can be quite severe.
Shingles in its early stages is also highly contagious, transmitted easily through either physical contact with the skin lesions or through airborne secretions. This is especially troubling for certain groups: pregnant women, patients undergoing cancer or other serious disease treatment, or those with compromised immune systems. For them, shingles can pose a significant risk for complications.
Because of its easy transmission, and the danger it can pose to certain groups, dentists typically postpone treatment—even routine dental cleanings—for patients experiencing a shingles outbreak, especially a facial rash. Once their outbreak subsides, those procedures can be rescheduled.
If you develop what you think is shingles, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Certain prescribed antiviral medications can ease the symptoms and hasten recovery, but they're most effective if started within three days of the onset of the disease. There's also an effective vaccination for shingles recommended for people over 60 to help avoid the disease altogether.
One other thing! If you do develop shingles and have an upcoming dental appointment, let your dentist know. Better to reschedule your visit after you've recuperated than to put others' health at risk.
If you would like more information on shingles and dental care, 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 “Shingles, Herpes Zoster.”
As parents, we want to do everything possible to help our kids stay healthy—and that includes their teeth. And just like other aspects of their health, it's better not to go at dental care alone. That's why we recommend beginning your child's regular dental visits no later than their first birthday.
You may think that's a bit premature, given the few teeth a child may have when they're a year old. But there are solid reasons why early childhood dental visits are a smart move, especially if you're playing the long game for their future dental health and development.
Minimizes damaging tooth decay. If a child loses just one primary tooth to decay, it could have an adverse, cascading effect on their developing bite. Dental visits begun sooner rather than later are more likely to catch and treat tooth decay, as well as provide other preventive measures that can ensure primary teeth aren't lost prematurely.
Provides you a partner for your child's dental care. A child's dental development and health depend on what you do in the home—daily oral hygiene, monitoring for signs of disease and avoiding habits that promote tooth decay. Regular dental visits help support the home front by providing you helpful insight and advice for supporting your child's dental health.
Identifies bite problems early. Although they usually develop gradually, there are often early signs of an emerging bite problem. Pediatric dentists especially are trained to notice early signs of an abnormal bite and refer you to an orthodontist for interventional treatment.
Reduces your child's dental visit anxiety. The unfamiliarity and clinical nature of a dental office can make a child susceptible to anxiety that could follow them into adulthood. Early childhood dental visits help normalize the dentist's office for your child, reduce anxiety and make it more likely they'll continue seeing the dentist later in life.
Life can be hectic with an infant in the home. But getting into the routine of regular dental visits at an early age is a worthwhile investment in healthier teeth and gums—now and in the future.
If you would like more information on good dental care practices for your child, 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 “Age One Dental Visit.”
There are plenty of hilarious videos of groggy patients coming out of wisdom teeth surgery to keep you occupied for hours. While many of these have turned everyday people into viral video stars, every now and then it really is someone famous. Recently, that someone was Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
The NFL star underwent oral surgery to remove all four of his third molars (aka wisdom teeth). His wife, performer and supermodel, Ciara, caught him on video as he was wheeled to recovery and later uploaded the clip to Instagram. As post-wisdom teeth videos go, Wilson didn't say anything too embarrassing other than, "My lips hurt."
Funny videos aside, though, removing wisdom teeth is a serious matter. Typically, the third molars are the last permanent teeth to erupt, and commonly arrive late onto a jaw already crowded with other teeth. This increases their chances of erupting out of alignment or not erupting at all, remaining completely or partially submerged within the gums.
This latter condition, impaction, can put pressure on the roots of adjacent teeth, can cause abnormal tooth movement resulting in a poor bite, or can increase the risk of dental disease. For that reason, it has been a common practice to remove wisdom teeth preemptively, even if they aren't showing any obvious signs of disease.
In recent years, though, dentists have become increasingly nuanced in making that decision. Many will now leave wisdom teeth be if they have erupted fully and are in proper alignment, and they don't appear to be diseased or causing problems for other teeth.
The best way to make the right decision is to closely monitor the development of wisdom teeth throughout childhood and adolescence. If signs of any problems begin to emerge, it may become prudent to remove them, usually between the ages of 16 and 25. Because of their location and root system, wisdom teeth are usually removed by an oral surgeon through one of the most common surgeries performed each year.
This underscores the need for children to see a dentist regularly, beginning no later than their first birthday. It's also a good idea for a child to undergo an orthodontic evaluation around age 6. Both of these types of exams can prove helpful in deciding on what to do about the wisdom teeth, depending on the individual case.
After careful monitoring throughout childhood and adolescence, the best decision might be to remove them. If so, take it from Russell Wilson: It's worth becoming the star of a funny video to protect both current and future dental health.
Advanced cosmetic dental techniques are helping people around the world achieve their dream smiles. But long before many of these procedures existed, straightening teeth with braces could make a big difference in a person's appearance.
Improving a smile isn't the primary reason a person should undergo teeth straightening—a poor bite can lead to an unhealthy mouth. Misaligned teeth set up conditions in which you're more prone to diseases like tooth decay or gum disease. Correcting a bite should be first and foremost about protecting your dental health.
Even so, realigning your teeth can lead to a more attractive smile—and it's often necessary first before undergoing other cosmetic restorations. Think of it like renovating a house. You usually need to fix a faulty foundation before you start building an addition.
That's why it's always a good idea to get a complete dental exam before undertaking cosmetic work. There may be underlying problems that should be treated first. If that includes a poor bite, your next visit will most likely be with an orthodontist. Using advanced diagnostics, they'll determine what kind of bite problem you have and what it will take to correct it.
In years past, that meant braces. But now patients have another option: clear aligners, a series of clear plastic trays based on the individual patient's teeth. Each tray in the series is worn for about two weeks in succession, each new tray taking up where the other tray left off moving the teeth. Not only are they nearly invisible to observers, they can be removed for eating, cleaning or special occasions.
On the cosmetic front, straightening your teeth may be all you need to realize a more attractive smile. But orthodontics can also be part of an overall "smile makeover" that may include other cosmetic procedures, usually performed after realigning the teeth. In this case, it's often necessary to coordinate orthodontic treatment with these other procedures, especially if it's necessary to remove some teeth.
Whether it stands alone or is part of an overall makeover plan, straightening teeth can be a game changer when it comes to your appearance. Not only will it help you have healthier teeth and gums, it could give you the new smile you desire.
If you would like more information on orthodontic treatment, 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 “The Magic of Orthodontics.”
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