Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth. An X-Ray may reveal:
- Small areas of decay between the teeth
- Infections in the bone
- Periodontal (gum) disease
- Abscesses or cysts
- Developmental abnormalities
- Some types of tumors
Finding and treating dental problems at an early stage can save time, money and often unnecessary discomfort. There are many benefits to having dental radiographs taken. Any additional questions or concerns should be discussed with your dentist.
Periodontal disease is inflammation and infection of the gums and supporting bone structure, which left untreated, can cause permanent jaw bone destruction and possible tooth loss. An advanced stage of periodontal disease exhibits inflamed gums pulling away from your bone and teeth.
Other signs of periodontal disease include:
- Bad breath
- Red or swollen gums
- Loose teeth or teeth that have moved
- Sensitive teeth
- Pus coming from around the teeth
- Pain when chewing
- Tender gums
- Bleeding gums
Periodontal disease can be prevented and treated successfully by seeing your dentist and dental hygienist regularly and following recommended care plans.
You should floss to reduce the number of bacteria in your mouth. This bacteria lives in plaque which can be removed by flossing. Brushing your teeth gets rid of some of the bacteria in your mouth. Flossing gets rid of the bacteria your toothbrush can’t get to. Brushing without flossing is like washing only half of your face. The other half remains dirty.
Ask your dentist to show you the proper way to floss. You will both notice the difference at your next cleaning appointment.
When you are asleep, saliva production in your mouth decreases. Since saliva is the mouth’s natural mouthwash, most people experience morning breath. Bacteria found on the teeth break down the food particles which produce sulfur compounds. It is these sulfur compounds which give our breath a bad odor.
Chronic, long-term mouth odor can be a sign of a more serious illness. See your dentist if this is a concern.
Sensitivity toothpaste, which contains strontium chloride or potassium nitrate are very effective in treating sensitive teeth. After a few weeks of use you may notice a decrease in sensitivity. If you do not get relief by brushing gently and using a desensitizing toothpaste, see your dentist. There are special compounds that can be applied in office to the roots of your tooth to reduce, if not eliminate, the sensitivity. High-fluoride containing home care products can also be recommended to help reduce tooth sensitivity.
Commercial whitening toothpastes vary greatly in their ability to whiten teeth. They work by removing surface stains from the teeth with the use of mild abrasives. Toothpastes that are effective in removing stains can also destroy tooth enamel in the process. These toothpastes use harsh abrasives. With repeated use, harsh abrasives begin to damage tooth enamel and can contribute to increased tooth sensitivity. If you would like to try a whitening toothpaste, consult with your dentist first.
Smokeless tobacco may be smokeless, but it isn’t harmless. These are some of the potential hazards:
- Tooth abrasion from grit and sand in tobacco can scratch teeth and wear away the enamel
- The consistent irritation caused by chewing tobacco can result in gum recession and other permanent damage to gum tissue
- Increased tooth decay can result from sugar that is added to smokeless tobacco
- Tooth discoloration and bad breath are common with long term use
- Nicotine blood levels are similar to those found in cigarettes
- A diminished sense of taste and smell caused by tobacco use can lead to unhealthy eating habits
- Cancer can be caused by all forms of smokeless tobacco
All tobacco users need to see their dentist regularly.
Research has established that people with diabetes are more prone to gum disease. If blood glucose levels are poorly controlled you may be more likely to develop gum disease and could potentially lose teeth. Like all infections, gum disease can be a factor in causing blood sugar levels to rise and make diabetes harder to control. Be sure to see your dentist regularly for checkups and follow home care recommendations.
About half of women who are pregnant experience a condition called pregnancy gingivitis. This condition can be uncomfortable and cause swelling, bleeding, redness or tenderness in the gum tissue. A more advanced oral health condition called periodontal disease may affect the health of your baby. Studies have shown a relationship between periodontal disease and preterm, low birth-weight babies. In fact, pregnant women with periodontal disease are seven times more likely to have a baby that is born too early or too small. The likely culprit is a labor-inducing chemical found in oral bacteria called prostaglandin. Very high levels of prostaglandin are found in women with severe cases of periodontal disease.
There are certain conditions that require pre-medication with an antibiotic prior to dental treatment to prevent adverse effects and infection that can be caused by bacteria that enter the bloodstream during certain treatment.
Chemotherapy and radiation can cause a number of problems in the mouth, some of which might include: mouth sores, infections, dry mouth, bleeding of the gums and lining of the mouth and general soreness and pain of the mouth. It can be harder to control these things while undergoing treatment as the immune system is generally compromised as a result of the treatment. There are some special mouth rinses that can be prescribed to help with discomfort during treatment. It is very important to see your dentist before treatment begins and then to continue with recommended follow-up care.
Visits to the dentist include more than just checking teeth. While patients who wear dentures no longer have to worry about tooth decay, there may be concerns about ill-fitting appliances or mouth sores. Annual visits to the dentist are recommended. During these visits an oral cancer screening and head and neck exam will be performed as well as an evaluation of the fit or need for replacement of the existing appliances. Regular visits can help you avoid more complicated problems in the future.
People often respond to bleeding gums with the wrong method of treatment. Usually, gums that bleed are a symptom of the onset of periodontal disease or gingivitis. But often, people stop brushing frequently and effectively because it may be painful or it may cause the gums to bleed again. Instead, when gums are inflamed, brushing often and effectively is imperative. More importantly, you should see your dentist to have a periodontal screening and recording performed in order to determine the level of disease present and the best treatment to pursue.
Many people only go to the dentist when they have a problem. We call this “crisis treatment” as opposed to “preventative treatment.” While these patients may feel they are saving money, it usually ends up costing much more in both dollars and time. The reason for this is that most dental problems do not have any symptoms until they reach the advanced stages of the disease process. A simple example is tooth decay. Tooth decay does not hurt until its gets close to the nerve of the tooth. By that time, root canal treatment followed by a post, buildup and crown are often necessary. Your dentist can usually detect a cavity 3-4 years before it develops any symptoms. It is not uncommon to see a patient with a large cavity who has never felt a thing. That is why regular checkups are important, so why not schedule yours today?