Lacerations and Cuts
Any kind of cut to your face and the delicate soft tissues inside your mouth should be addressed immediately in order to prevent further tissue damage and infection.
If a traumatic injury involves a broken facial bone such as the jaw, nose, chin or cheek, maxillofacial surgery may be required.
With jaw surgery, rubber bands, tiny wires, metal braces, screws or plates are often used to keep a fractured jaw in place following surgery. This allows the bone to heal and stay in proper alignment. Dental splints or dentures may also be required to supplement the healing process following jaw surgery.
People sometimes confuse canker sores and cold sores, but they are completely unrelated. Both can be painful, but knowing the differences can help you keep them in check.
A canker sore is typically one that occurs on the delicate tissues inside your mouth. It is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border.
A cold sore or fever blister, on the other hand, usually occurs on the outside of the mouth, usually on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus, and it is usually painful and filled with fluid.
In most cases, patience is the best medicine for treating canker sores. A healthy diet and good oral hygiene are usually the best remedy, but some special rinses and anesthetics can help. Cold sores can be treated effectively with some over-the-counter topical creams; sometimes, an antiviral medication will be prescribed by your doctor.
Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that erupt in the back corners of the upper and lower normal adult mouth. Unfortunately, most people experience problems from wisdom teeth; in most cases, this is because the teeth erupt too close to existing permanent teeth, causing crowding, improper bites, and other problems.
If wisdom teeth are causing a problem, this could mean that they are impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extremely painful, as well as harmful to your oral health. Symptoms are easy to spot: pain, inflammation, and some kinds of infections.
Many people need to have their wisdom teeth extracted to avoid future serious problems. In general, the lack of the four wisdom teeth does not hamper one’s ability to properly bite down, speak or eat.
If you wince with pain after sipping a hot cup of coffee or chewing a piece of ice, chances are that you suffer from “dentin hypersensitivity,” or more commonly, sensitive teeth.
Hot and cold temperature changes cause your teeth to expand and contract. Over time, your teeth can develop microscopic cracks that allow these sensations to seep through to the nerves. Exposed areas of the tooth can cause pain and even affect or change your eating, drinking and breathing habits.
At least 45 million adults in the United States suffer at some time from sensitive teeth.
Sensitive teeth result when the underlying layer of your teeth (the dentin) becomes exposed. This can happen on the chewing surface of the tooth as well as at the gum line. In some cases, sensitive teeth are the result of gum disease, years of unconsciously clenching or grinding your teeth, or improper or too vigorous brushing (if the bristles of your toothbrush are pointing in multiple directions, you’re brushing too hard).
Abrasive toothpastes are sometimes the culprit of sensitive teeth. Ingredients found in some whitening toothpastes that lighten and/or remove certain stains from enamel, and sodium pyrophosphate, the key ingredient in tartar-control toothpastes, may increase tooth sensitivity.
In some cases, desensitizing toothpaste, sealants, desensitizing ionization and filling materials including fluoride, and decreasing the intake of acid-containing foods can alleviate some of the pain associated with sensitive teeth.
Sometimes, a sensitive tooth may be confused by a patient for a cavity or abscess that is not yet visible.
In any case, contact your dentist if you notice any change in your teeth’s sensitivity to temperature.
Chipped, Cracked, and Worn Teeth
Special thin laminates, called veneers, can often be used to correct discolored, worn down, cracked and chipped teeth. Veneers can also be used to close unsightly gaps between teeth. Stronger types of veneers made of porcelain, also called composite veneers, typically last longer because they are bonded to the tooth.
Another process called bonding can accomplish some of the same things, but it does not last as long. Material that looks much like the enamel on your teeth is used during a bonding procedure. The material is shaped to the tooth, and when it becomes hard it is polished.
In addition, dental contouring and reshaping can correct chipped, cracked, crooked, or even overlapping teeth. This procedure can alter the shape, length, or position of teeth.
Gum Disease (Gingivitis)
Gingivitis is the medical term for early gum disease, or periodontal disease. In general, gum disease can be caused by long-term exposure to plaque, the sticky but colorless film on teeth that forms after eating or sleeping.
Gum disease originates in the gums, where infections form from harmful bacteria and other materials left behind from eating. Early warning signs include chronic bad breath, tender or painful swollen gums and minor bleeding after brushing or flossing. In many cases, however, gingivitis can go unnoticed. The infections can eventually cause the gums to separate from the teeth, creating even greater opportunities for infection and decay.
Although gum disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults, in many cases it is avoidable.
If gingivitis goes untreated, more serious problems such as abscesses, bone loss or periodontitis can occur.
Periodontitis is treated in a number of ways. One method, called root planing, involved cleaning and scraping below the gum line to smooth the roots. If effective, this procedure helps the gums reattach themselves to the tooth structure. However, not all instances of scaling and root planing successfully reattach the tooth to the gums. Additional measures may be needed if the periodontal pockets persist after scaling and root planing
Pregnancy has also been known to cause a form of gingivitis. This has been linked to hormonal changes in the woman’s body that promote plaque production.
Plaque is a film of bacteria that forms on your teeth and gums after eating foods that produce acids. These foods may include carbohydrates (starches and sugars), such as candy and cookies, and starchy foods such as bread, crackers, and cereal.
Tooth decay, commonly known as cavities, occurs when plaque remains on your teeth for an extended period of time, allowing the bacteria to ‘eat away’ at the surfaces of your teeth and gums. Ironically, the areas surrounding restored portions of teeth (where fillings, or amalgams have been placed) are particularly vulnerable to decay and are a breeding ground for bacteria.
Plaque can lead to gum irritation, soreness, and redness. Sometimes, your gums may begin to bleed as a result of plaque. This gradual degeneration can often cause gums to pull away from teeth. This condition is called receding gums.
Long-term plaque can lead to serious problems. Sometimes, the bacteria can form pockets of disease around tooth structures, eventually destroying the bone beneath the tooth.
Fluorosis is a condition in which your body has been exposed to too much fluoride. In normal doses (typically found in a safe drinking water system and an ADA-approved toothpaste), fluoride is a healthy compound that promotes strong teeth, which has the ability to fight cavities and other problems.
But sometimes, fluorosis occurs when fluoride-containing toothpastes or rinses are swallowed, instead of expelled.
Fluorosis causes a number of aesthetic problems, including abnormally darkened or stained teeth. While such problems are generally harmless to your health, they can create concerns with your appearance.
An abscessed tooth is a pocket of pus, usually caused by some kind of infection and the spread of bacteria from the root of the tooth to the tissue just below or near the tooth.
In general, a tooth that has become abscessed is one whose underlying pulp (the tooth’s soft core) has become infected or swollen. The pulp contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue, and lies within the tooth. It extends from the crown of the tooth, to the tip of the root, in the bone of the jaws.
An abscessed tooth can be an extremely painful condition.
In some cases, antibiotics are administered in an attempt to kill an infection. If antibiotics are ineffective and an abscess is shown to be damaging the pulp or lower bony structures, a root canal procedure may be needed to remove the dead pulp and restore the tooth to a healthy state.
People who grind their teeth can sometimes develop a serious problem with their jaw, which left untreated, can adversely affect the teeth, gums and bone structures of the mouth. One of the most common jaw disorders is related to a problem with the temporomandibular joint, the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull, and allows your upper and lower jaw to open and close and facilitates chewing and speaking.
People with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) often have a clicking or popping sound when opening and closing their mouths. Such disorders are often accompanied by frequent headaches, neck aches, and in some cases, tooth sensitivity.
Some treatments for TMD include muscle relaxants, aspirin, biofeedback, or wearing a small plastic appliance in the mouth during sleep.
Minor cases of TMD involve discomfort or pain in the jaw muscles. More serious conditions involve improperly aligned joints or dislocated jaws. The most extreme form of TMD involves an arthritic condition of the jaw joint.
Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is often viewed as a harmless, though annoying, habit. Some people develop bruxism from an inability to deal with stress or anxiety.
However, teeth grinding can literally transform your bite relationship and worse, severely damage your teeth and jaws over long periods of time.
Teeth grinding can cause abrasion to the chewing surfaces of your teeth. This abnormal wear and tear will prematurely age and loosen your teeth, and open them to problems such as hypersensitivity (from the small cracks that form, exposing your dentin). Bruxism can also lead to chronic jaw and facial pain, as well as headaches.
If no one has told you that you grind your teeth, here are a few clues that you may suffer from bruxism:
- Your jaw is often sore, or you hear popping sounds when you open and close your mouth.
- Your teeth look abnormally short or worn down.
- You notice small dents in your tongue.
Bruxism is somewhat treatable. A common therapy involves use of a special appliance worn while sleeping. Less intrusive, though just as effective methods could involve biofeedback, and behavior modification, such as tongue exercises and learning how to properly align your tongue, teeth and lips.