I’m considering braces, but isn’t it hard to keep your teeth clean while wearing braces?
It’s harder to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy if you wear braces. This means you must be even more of a fanatic about brushing and flossing, or two years later your teeth will be beautifully straight but loaded with cavities. Plaque can easily accumulate around the brackets, which can cause “white spots,” damage to the enamel, decay, and cavities.
My 12-year-old son likes to chew ice. Is this harmful?
Tooth enamel is very hard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break it. Try to avoid eating “hard foods” such as popcorn. Don’t crack nut shells with your teeth or chew on ice. Opening packages with your teeth can also damage the enamel.
Why are soft drinks bad for your teeth?
Sugar and acids are your teeth’s worst enemies. What are we talking about? Soft drinks, energy drinks, fruit juices, and candy. Because of the acid content, Mountain Dew seems to be the worst of the worst. Dentists even have a name for the damage it does – they call it “Dew Mouth.” These soften the tooth enamel, making it highly susceptible to decay. Parents, watch your kids’ consumption of these, because young children’s enamel hasn’t developed fully. This makes these drinks even more damaging for kids. As well as eliminating the above (or at least reducing their consumption), use a sugar-free xylitol chewing gum after meals. Also, rinse your mouth with a high-quality dental mouthwash.
Tongue piercings seem to be a very bad idea. How bad?
Yes, they can look cool, but they can also fracture your teeth as well as make it much easier to get a nasty infection of the tongue and lips. Dentists have estimated that up to 40% of people who have metal rings or other oral piercings have had big problems from tooth fractures and infection.
I think I grind my teeth at night. What can I do about this?
Do you wake up with pain in your jaws or a persistent headache? If so, you may be grinding (called bruxing) while you sleep. Persistent bruxing can damage teeth and cause them to get shorter and shorter. It can also damage your temporomandibular (jaw) joints and even affect your hearing. If you suspect that you are a bruxer, tell your dentist. He or she may recommend a night guard or other oral appliance.
What’s so bad about losing a tooth?
Teeth can be lost due to an accident or other trauma, but the most common reason people lose a tooth is because of gum disease and/or decay. So, is it a big deal to lose a tooth? I mean you can’t die from it, right? No, you can’t, but losing even a single tooth can cause the other teeth to shift and move around – not good. This can affect chewing and your ability to absorb nutrients from your food. Other bad things can happen; your face will change shape, often looking “sunken.” This can make you look much older than you really are. Your speech can be affected. Because it’s harder to chew with missing teeth, you may find yourself favoring softer foods and more carbohydrates, which can cause you to gain weight. The best way to treat a missing tooth (or missing teeth) is with dental implants. An implant can replace one tooth or many. They can be made to look so natural that even a dentist has to look hard to tell the difference.
Does the doctor check for oral cancer?
Yes, we do. Dentists and hygienists are your first line of defense in detecting and treating oral cancer. Each year in the US, approximately 30,000 people are newly diagnosed with oral cancer. Worldwide, the problem is far greater, with new cases annually approaching 300,000. In the US alone, a person dies from oral cancer every hour of every day. If you add the sub category of laryngeal cancers, the rates of occurrence (about 10,000 additional new cases per year) and death are significantly higher. However, the good news is, when found early, oral cancers have an 80 to 90% cure rate.
What causes people to lose their teeth?
Many people assume that tooth loss is due to decay. It’s not. It’s because of gum disease. And it can be completely painless right up until you lose your teeth. Symptoms include bleeding gums when you brush or floss and loose or shifting teeth. If you’ve been told you need gum surgery, you will be glad to know that it’s possible to control gum disease with a variety of non-surgical methods.
I’ve read that gum disease can contribute to heart disease and even stroke. Is this true?
Yes. Recent medical research has caused many doctors to reach a startling conclusion: gum disease, stroke, and heart disease are linked. Since heart disease is usually fatal, it is clear that gum disease is a serious matter. The American Dental Association estimates that 8 out of 10 Americans have periodontal (gum) disease. If this were any other affliction, such as AIDS or tuberculosis, it would be considered an epidemic! Most dentists think it is just that. They also knew that gum disease would never be labeled epidemic because “no one ever dies from it.” The worst is that you lose your teeth. Not pleasant – but certainly not life threatening. But that’s all changed.
The American Academy of Periodontology reports: “studies found periodontal infection may contribute to the development of heart disease, increase the risk of premature, underweight births, and pose a serious threat to people whose health is already compromised due to diabetes and respiratory diseases.” Periodontal disease is characterized by bacterial infection of the gums. These bacteria can travel into the bloodstream – straight to the heart.
Now the Good News
With advanced periodontal disease, the treatment is surgical. Gum surgery is never fun, but it is almost always successful in controlling the condition, and it’s usually covered by common insurance plans. With mild periodontal disease, there are very effective NON-surgical procedures which, coupled with improved dental hygiene, can virtually halt the spread of the disease. This, too, is usually covered under most dental insurance plans.
What is a TMJ disorder?
TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint, your jaw joints. The pain, discomfort, or tenderness in or around the jaw joints is called a TMJ disorder.
Signs that you might have a TMJ disorder are:
- Facial pain or tenderness
- Jaw pain
- Pain in or around the ears
- Neck pain
- Jaw stiffness
- Discomfort while chewing
- Difficulty opening and closing the mouth
- Jaw “locking up”
- Jaw makes a clicking sound
- Teeth that don’t come together properly when eating or chewing
There are a variety of treatment options for TMJ. Be sure to ask your dentist about these.