Dental Tips Blog


What Qualifies as a Dental Emergency?

Seeing the dentist, like most routine health procedures, requires that you make an appointment sometimes weeks or months in advance, but what happens if you have a dental problem that requires urgent attention? Fortunately, most dentists leave openings in their daily schedules to accommodate patients with critical or life-threatening issues.

Many people are unsure as to what exactly constitutes a dental emergency. The American Dental Association provides a list of criteria for a dental emergency:

1)  A tooth or teeth are chipped or broken

2)  A tooth or teeth have been knocked out (an avulsed tooth)

3)  You know or suspect your jaw is broken

4) Any type of severe, unbearable mouth or gum pain

5) A tooth or teeth are in danger of permanent loss (e.g. a loose tooth)

Other situations that qualify for emergency dental care include rips, puncture wounds, or other injuries to the cheeks, tongue, lips, or membrane of the mouth cavity.

If you are experiencing any of the above situations, then don’t hesitate to contact your dentist. Fast action is important; a time delay or 30 minutes or more increases the likelihood that the damage done to your teeth will be irreversible. For example, a knocked-out tooth is less likely to be successfully reimplanted the longer it has been outside of the mouth.

Often, when you call a dental practice, the automated phone system will allow you to select an option which will transfer you to a dental nurse or receptionist who specifically handles emergency patients. Alternately, you should chose whatever option allows you to speak to a customer service representative or dental receptionist so that you can explain your predicament.


What is Neuromuscular Dentistry?

Neuromuscular dentistry is a specialized branch of dentistry that focuses on treating the muscles of the face, including the masticatory (jaw), tongue, and mouth muscles. The goal of neuromuscular dentistry is to restore the harmony between the facial muscles and tissues, joints, and the teeth. The “neuro” in “neuromuscular dentistry” points to the fact that the connection between facial nerves and muscles are of paramount importance. Taking the unique facial physiology of patients into account, neuromuscular dentists treat impaired neuromuscular junctions that are interfering with oral functioning and overall health.

Some disorders treated by neuromuscular dentists include temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder), Bell’s palsy, bruxism, and Trigeminal neuralgia. Diagnostic tools like mandibular kinesiography (MKG), electromyography (EMG), and computerized mandibular scanning (CMS) are used to evaluate jaw and neck muscle functioning. Treatment may include trigger-point injections , whereby the dentist injects anesthetic medicine into the facial muscles, or splint therapy whereby a customized bite splint or mouth guard is fitted onto the teeth to prevent teeth grinding and relieve the muscular stress caused by faulty jaw alignment.

Another common neuromuscular dental treatment is transcutaneous electrical neural stimulation (TENS). During TENS treatment, the patient is hooked up to a machine with delivers low voltages of electric current to the facial muscles, relaxing them and relieving pain. Some neuromuscular dental conditions may require surgical intervention. In this case, a neuromuscular dental surgeon or cosmetic dentist who specializes in neuromuscular conditions may perform maxilloplasty (upper jaw surgery) or mandibuloplasty (lower jaw surgery) to correct jaw alignment.

If you are worried about sore jaw muscles, tinnitus, excessive teeth grinding, clicking or popping facial joints, locking jaw, or chronic headaches, you may have a condition that requires treatment by a neuromuscular dentist. Many other conditions can mimic the symptoms of neuromuscular dental conditions and only an experienced neuromuscular dentist will be able to tell you whether jaw or facial muscle dysfunction is the cause of your distress.


How to Treat Tongue Burns

Consuming too-hot food or drink and burning your tongue in the process is something that virtually everyone has experienced at some time or the other. Aside from heat burns, chemical tongue burns can occur when smoking a cigarette or pipe, a condition known as “tongue bite”. On the other hand, conditions such as burning mouth syndrome and thrush, as well as B12 vitamin or iron deficiency, can produce the sensation of a burning tongue.

Tongue burns can interfere with indispensable activities like eating and talking. A burnt or burning tongue is especially annoying because unlike burning your skin, you can’t apply a band-aid. They also take longer to heal than skin burns. If you have burnt your tongue or are suffering from a burning tongue, here are some things you can do to lessen your discomfort and speed up your recovery.

1)      Medication

Purchase an over-the-counter oral analgesic or anesthetic gel, such as Orajel or Anbesol, and apply to the affected area as directed. These gels not only reduce pain but usually contain menthol which triggers the tongue’s cold-receptors resulting in a cooling sensation. Recently, dissolvable medicated strips have been developed for the treatment of tongue burns. When applied to the tongue, the strips dissolve releasing benzocaine (an anesthetic) and a therapeutic polymer that helps burns to heal faster. A sensation of burning in the tongue resulting from causes other than a heat or chemical burn may need to be treated with prescription medication such as anticonvulsants, tricyclic antidepressants, benzodiazepines, progesterone cream, or alpha lipoic acid.

2)      Avoid irritants

If your tongue is burnt or burning, you will want to steer clear of certain foods that exacerbate the sensation and interfere with healing. These include hot caffeinated drinks, and acidic foods like citrus juices or fruit, vinegar, sodas and tomatoes. Also avoid tobacco and alcohol since these substances slow down the healing process. Instead, consume soothing, soft, cooling foods like cold water, yogurt, pudding, milkshakes, icecream, or suck on some ice chips.

3)      See your dentist

If you have a heat burn blister on your tongue that does not respond to the above methods, or persistently experience the sensation of a burning tongue, it is recommended that you schedule a dental checkup. It is possible that a nutritional deficiency or some underlying oral pathology (e.g. nerve damage or even oral cancer) could be causing your symptoms. Your dentist will be able to help you determine the cause of your burning tongue and the appropriate course of treatment.


Is Oral Cancer Preventable?

Posted in Oral Cancer

When it comes to life-threatening diseases like oral cancer, one of the questions everyone wants to know is: Is it preventable? The short answer is ‘yes.’ Oral cancer has been deemed a “highly preventable” type of cancer by the medical community. You might be surprised to know that only a small percentage of cancers― 5%― are hereditary. Oral cancer is not one of them. Oral cancer can be prevented in two major ways: lifestyle changes and early detection and treatment.

1)      Lifestyle Changes

Because oral cancer is a lifestyle disease, it can be prevented a lot more easily than it can be acquired. Preventing oral cancer is largely a matter of knowing the risk factors and avoiding them. Tobacco use, excessive alcohol use, excessive sun exposure, and poor oral hygiene are the major risk factors for oral cancer.

People with certain conditions like lichen planus, human paillomavirus (HPV), and graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) are also at risk for oral cancer. To a lesser extent, diet and nutrition also plays a role in increasing or decreasing a person’s risk of developing oral cancer. Specifically, diets low in beta-carotene (fruits and vegetables), vitamin C, and vitamin E have been found to be associated with an increased risk of oral cancer.

The fact that 3 in 4 people diagnosed with oral cancer have at least one of the above risk factors strongly suggests that oral cancer can be prevented by eliminating or decreasing the behaviors and conditions that increase a person’s chance of getting the disease.

2)      Early detection and treatment

Along with lifestyle changes, regular oral cancer screenings and dental check-ups play a major role in preventing oral cancer. Dentists can detect pre-cancerous conditions in the mouth (such as lesions and discolorations of the mucous membranes). An early oral cancer diagnosis drastically improves treatment outcomes and mortality rates, and greatly increases the chances of nipping the disease in the bud.


Care Credit Dental Credit Card

When it comes to paying for dental care, financing options run the gamut from low-cost dental plans provided through state programs, to dental benefits provided by an employer, to private insurance which tends to be more expensive, to paying out-of-pocket. Yet another dental care financing option is CareCredit.

CareCredit is not insurance, rather, it is a health care credit card program. The program provides individuals with a revolving line of credit that can be used to pay out-of-pocket health care costs that are not covered by their insurance plan, i.e., co-pays and deductibles. Unlike insurance plans which require the policy holder to pay an up-front annual fee (deductible), with CareCredit there are no up-front costs.

CareCredit can be used to supplement payment for a range of dental procedures including fillings, tooth extractions, braces, cosmetic dentistry procedures, and more. CareCredit offers 6,12,18, and 24 month promotional plans with no interest charged as long as all the minimum monthly payments are met and the full amount is repaid by the end of the promotional period. There are also CareCredit plans with longer repayment periods (up to 60 months) and higher credit limits but these plans come with a fixed interest rate. Not all dentists accept CareCredit and those who do may not offer all of the CareCredit plans, so you should call your provider to discuss your options.

Before you apply for CareCredit, do your research and make sure you have a thorough understanding of the program’s terms and conditions. Some people have had unsatisfactory experiences with CareCredit, citing issues such as poor customer service and high interest rates. As with any dental financing option, there are pros and cons to CareCredit and understanding what you’re signing up for is the best way to avoid unexpected costs and disillusionment.


Dental Bonding

Dental bonding is an economical option that can help repair or enhance the appearance of teeth. The tooth colored material is similar to that used in composite (white) fillings, and can be used to re-shape or repair minor discrepancies in the teeth. Coloration of the material is chosen to match the enamel on the tooth, so the final restoration will appear natural and blend in well with the surrounding teeth.

Bonding may be done on a single tooth, or may be used in combination with other cosmetic dental treatments such as veneers or crowns when used as part of a comprehensive smile makeover. Areas that are ideal for dental bonding include:

•           Minor spaces between teeth

•           Chipped or broken teeth in the front of the mouth

•           Areas of gum recession or enamel abrasion

•           Hypersensitive areas

While most dental bonding is for aesthetic reasons, it is also the restorative treatment that is typically chosen for front teeth that have been chipped accidentally. For the bonding to be applied, the tooth is conditioned and reshaped if needed. The material is shaped and applied directly to the surface of the tooth, then cured with a light, which causes the resin to harden and bond to the enamel. Bonding is not appropriate for areas of large decay, severe fractures or areas that come into constant chewing pressure with teeth of the opposite arch.

If you have minor areas that you wish to improve the aesthetics of, dental bonding may be the answer you’re looking for. Minimally invasive and affordable, dental bonding can help transform the appearance of a single tooth or even multiple teeth throughout the mouth.


What Causes Gum Recession?

Posted in Gum Disease

Gum recession can create an unsightly appearance in your smile, elevate tooth sensitivity and place your tooth at risk for premature loss. Most gum recession can be prevented, but in some cases it may occur due to anatomical reasons. Here is an overview of common causes of gum recession:

Abrasive Toothbrushing
Scrubbing the teeth too hard, or with a medium to stiff bristled toothbrush can encourage the gum tissue to creep further down the root of the tooth. It can also scrub enamel right off of the tooth. Instead, use a soft bristled brush with only enough pressure to cause light blanching in the gum tissue.

Tobacco Use
Chewing tobacco that is kept against particular teeth is so abrasive that it destroys the gum tissue. This is due to ingredients such as ground glass particles evident in the chewing tobacco, which is used to increase nicotine uptake into the body. Chronic irritation from the chewing tobacco causes a cumulative effect that often results in severe recession. Smoking also contributes to gum recession as it prevents nutrients from flowing through blood vessels to correct conditions like gingivitis or gum disease.

Tooth Misalignment or Orthodontic Treatment
The position of teeth may predispose them to gum recession. Accelerated orthodontic therapy may also have side effects of gum tissue being lost around teeth with severe malocclusion.

Oral Piercings
Most oral piercings in the lip area will cause a slight rubbing of the back of the jewelry against the gums or near the gumline inside of the mouth. This constant rubbing of the metal against the gums will cause the gums to creep away, falling down the root of the teeth.

Treatments such as gum grafting are available to help repair areas of severe gum recession, but early intervention is the best care possible!


How to Treat Bad Breath

If you are concerned about bad breath, or halitosis, you should see your dentist as he or she will be able to help you diagnose the causes. There are several ways that you can prevent bad breath, though, and these should be done on a regular basis.

The first and most important way to prevent bad breath is to have a healthy mouth. Brush twice a day, and floss once a day for optimal dental health. See your dentist at least twice a year for routine exams and dental cleanings. Do not forget to brush your tongue, as bacteria live on your tongue and when you breathe out, odors can form. When you brush, pay close attention to the back of your mouth and the inside of your teeth.  Brush for at least two minutes twice a day.  If you are a denture wearer, make sure you are removing your dentures for at least four hours every night and cleaning them thoroughly between use.

You should never use candy or mints or gum to treat bad breath.  Increasing sugar amounts that live in your mouth will increase the risk of tooth decay, and this can cause further bad breath.  If you are going to chew gum or eat candy, sugar-free or sugarless brands should be used.

For infrequent bad breath, a mouthwash can be used. However, you should know that this will only mask the odor and not treat the problem. If you cannot eliminate your bad breath with a good brushing and flossing, you should consult your dentist.


What Causes Bad Breath?

Posted in Gum Disease

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is not only embarrassing but can also be a sign of something more serious.  There are many different things that can cause bad breath.

The most common cause of bad breath is an easy fix:  something you ate.  If you had a meal with heavy spices such as garlic or onions, hours later you may notice an unpleasant taste or breath odor.  Brushing and flossing well should help remove this problem.

Bad breath that stays for a long time can be a sign of plaque build-up and gum disease (also called periodontal disease).  This bad breath is usually accompanied by a bad or funny taste in the mouth.  See your dentist for periodontal disease treatment.

Sometimes bad breath is from medications that you may be on or from mouth breathing. This results in dry mouth, which can cause food to remain trapped in your gums and mouth. Increasing your fluid intake or using artificial saliva may help with this.

If you are a smoker or use tobacco products, you are more likely to have bad breath and stained teeth.  Tobacco will irritate your gums, and you are then more likely to have gum disease. Oral cancers are more frequent in tobacco users, which will also cause bad breath.

If none of these items are the cause of your bad breath, it is possible that you have another medical condition such as kidney disease or diabetes. Your dentist can help you determine the source of your bad breath, and refer you as appropriate to another provider if needed.

If you are concerned about bad breath, make an appointment to see your dentist.


How to Keep Your Children’s Teeth Healthy

Congratulations!  You are a proud new parent.  While this is an exciting time, it is also one where you have many questions and concerns.  One may be how to keep your infant’s teeth and gums healthy.

One thing you may not realize is that healthy gums and gum care should begin at birth.  Just as a parent feeds and diapers baby, they should also help develop good oral hygiene right from the start.

There are several things a parent can do to help keep baby’s gums and future teeth healthy:

  1. Never share saliva. Don’t lick after baby’s spoons or her pacifier as adult saliva has bacteria that is harder for baby to breakdown.
  2. After each feeding, parent’s should wipe baby’s gums off with a clean, damp cloth.
  3. As soon as your baby starts getting teeth, begin brushing with a toothbrush designed for children. Use a children’s toothpaste, and schedule her first dental appointment with a dentist that specializes in children’s dental care at this time.  Never use fluoride toothpaste until your child is at least two years old.
  4. Teach children to use only a small amount of toothpaste, and always supervise brushing until your child can safely spit out all toothpaste.  Flouride toothpaste should never be swallowed.  Children around the age of six or seven can usually spit out toothpaste and will not swallow.
  5. Use bottles just for formula and milk. Try to avoid putting sugary drinks in a bottle, and make sure that baby finishes her nighttime bottle before going to bed.  Never dip a bottle nipple or pacifier in sugary substances and allow baby to suckle on this at it can lead to gum disease and tooth decay in infants.
  6. Provide a colorful diet to your child as soon as she begins eating food. The greater the variety, the more healthy the diet.

By starting early, your baby will grow up with a healthy mouth and teeth and a delightful smile!

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