Posts for: December, 2013
Nothing ruins a thirst-quenching cold beverage or a dish of your favorite ice cream like a sudden pang of tooth sensitivity. If you're experiencing this problem — and especially if there are other triggers, like biting down — we encourage you to make an appointment. It could be something harmless and temporary, but it's always prudent to check. At the very least, you'll feel better once the underlying problem is identified and treated if necessary.
Here are some common sources of tooth sensitivity:
- Enamel erosion — typically caused by acidic beverages/food, regurgitation of stomach acids (due to gastroesophageal reflux disease [GERD] or the eating disorder bulimia), or improper brushing
- Tooth decay — a sugary diet and poor dental hygiene may be contributing factors
- Tooth fracture or chipping due to tooth grinding (bruxism) or other trauma
- Gum recession due to age, improper tooth brushing, or gum disease
- Filling that needs repair or replacement
- Residual effects of recent dental work
Some things you can try at home to minimize sensitivity include:
- Ease up on the toothbrush; a light touch is all that's needed to dislodge daily plaque build-up
- Try using fluoride-containing toothpaste like an ointment over the affected area (fluoride decreases fluid exchange from the oral environment to the nerve inside the tooth)
- Take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen (use judiciously and according to the package insert guidelines)
Discomfort related to recent dental work should resolve on its own; give it several weeks. If you're feeling discomfort for another reason, even if the sensitivity subsides, the underlying cause may still require attention.
If you would like more information about tooth sensitivity, 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 “Sensitive Teeth.”
While hygiene and regular dental care go a long way to reduce your risk of oral disease and disorders, you’re still subject to your heredity. Everything from tooth alignment to the shape of your jaws is determined by your genes.
So is the biological structure of your gum tissue. Aside from minute variations, gum tissue structure falls into two broad categories — “thin” or “thick,” which refer to the actual thickness of the tissue and the underlying bone. The tooth’s appearance is the best indicator of which type you may have: those with more triangular-shaped tooth (often called scalloped) have thin gum tissue; a person with a squarer appearance (flat) has thick gum tissue. People of Asian descent tend to have thin/scalloped tissue while those with European or African heritage tend to have thick/flat tissues.
Thick gum tissue isn’t superior to thin, or vice-versa. In fact, each type is susceptible to certain types of diseases or adverse conditions.
Thin tissues are more susceptible to the occurrence of receding gums. Caused mainly by periodontal disease and toothbrush abrasion, the gum tissue recedes and exposes more of the unprotected tooth surface that should be below the gum line. This increases the risk of decay and tooth loss. Patients with thick tissue, on the other hand, have a higher risk of developing a condition known as “pocketing.” As the thicker gum tissue becomes inflamed from dental plaque, it loses its attachment to the teeth and forms a small pocket. The end result is possible bone and tooth loss.
There’s not much you can do about which type of gum tissue you have, for which you can thank (or blame!) your ancestors. But there’s something you can do to reduce your risk of periodontal disease. First and foremost, you should practice good daily hygiene, brushing with a soft-bristled tooth brush and gentle flossing. It’s also important to maintain regular cleanings and checkups in our office; not only will this ensure complete plaque and tartar removal, but gives us a better chance to detect either receding gums or pocketing early. Earlier detection can mean better treatment outcomes — and a saved smile.
If you would like more information on genetic types of periodontal tissues, 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 “Genetics & Gum Tissue Types.”
Do you frequently experience bleeding gums during your daily brushing routine? You might assume that you are brushing too hard and that this bleeding is normal. However, you should know that any bleeding of gum tissue is abnormal and should be considered a potential sign of gum disease.
Gum tissues usually bleed because of dental plaque buildup from poor oral hygiene practices. When the plaque is left around the gum line for a long period of time, 24 hours or more, the gum tissues respond by becoming inflamed — this can quickly become a chronic inflammation.
Here are some other warning signs of gum disease:
- Bad Breath. Bad breath is one of the most common signs of gum disease. This is especially true for those who do not floss, because plaque collects in the protected areas between the teeth making them especially prone to gum inflammation. This plaque often produces a pungent smell that causes bad breath.
- Red or Sensitive Gums. If you look closely in the mirror, you might see redness of the gums. It may also seem as if your gums are swollen, and in more advanced cases, this can lead to receding gums. Finally, you might notice gum sensitivity when you brush or a sensitivity to hot and cold.
- Tooth Loss. If this disease goes untreated, over time, bone loss will cause loose teeth, movement or migration of the teeth into a new and unstable position, and ultimately tooth loss. The rate of progression will depend upon the type of gum disease that you have.
- Painful Gums. Once you start to feel acute pain and extremely sore gums, this may mean you have developed a periodontal abscess. When this happens, the bacteria are walled off inside a gum “pocket,” and since your body's defenses are overwhelmed, there is a battle between the bacteria in that pocket and your body's defense mechanisms. The result is a collection of pus and extra bone loss. Your gums will be sore, swollen, red and may even discharge pus.
As you can see, the further the disease progresses, the greater the amount of pain and damage that will occur. Therefore, upon the first sign of gum disease, such as bleeding gums, you should schedule an appointment with us immediately.