Common mouth sores: causes and cures

Mouth sores can be very annoying and painful and can have many causes.

The causes can range from infections – bacterial, viral or fungal – to a loose orthodontic wire or a denture that doesn’t fit or a sharp edge from a broken tooth or filling.

But mouth sores may be symptoms of an underlying disease or problem.

So, if you’ve had any mouth sore that lasts a week or longer, its a good idea to get your dentist to check it out.

Here are some of the most common mouth sores:

Canker sores: These are small ulcers with a white or gray base and a red border. They appear inside the mouth and are not contagious though they often return. Problems such as poor immune systems, viruses or fatigue and stress may be involved. They usually heal on their own after a week or two.

Cold sores: Cold sores are annoying and painful. They are also known as fever blisters or Herpes simplex and are groups of fluid-filled blisters. They often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores caused by herpes virus type 1 are very contagious and the virus stays in the body. Cold sore blisters usually heal in a week by themselves.

Candidiasis: This fungal infection (also called moniliasis or oral thrush) occurs when the yeast Candida albicans reproduce in large numbers. It is common among denture wearers and people who have dry mouth syndrome are very susceptible to it. The focus is on preventing it or controlling the conditions that caused the outbreak.

Any mouth sores that last more than a few days should be checked with your dentist.

How scaling and planing can help clean your teeth properly

Dental plaque is a film that builds up on your teeth and, if it is not removed through good oral hygiene, it can lead to tooth decay and gum problems.

Over time it can ultimately form a hard, rough sediment known as dental tartar or calculus, which attracts further plaque buildup.

Calculus has to be removed by a trained professional such as a hygienist or dentist.

They may do this by manual tooth scaling or using an ultrasonic device.

If the buildup is light or moderate, the dentist or hygienist may use manual scaling instruments of various shapes and sizes.

If the buildup of tartar and stains is heavy, an ultrasonic cleaner may be used. This may be followed by hand scaling.

Build up of plaque can cause inflammation of the gums leading to breakdown of the connection between the teeth and the supporting structures.

Root planing is a procedure to treat gum disease by thoroughly scaling the roots of teeth to establish a smooth, calculus-free surface.

This treatment may require local anesthesia to prevent pain. Thorough periodontal scaling customarily involves several dental visits

If conditions are more advanced, surgery may be needed for complete debridement of the roots to arrest the disease process.

Some people tend to have more buildup of calculus than others and some may be more prone to periodontal inflammation or the development of tooth decay.

It’s therefore important to follow your hygienist’s advivce on how often to return for regular cleanings – even if your insurance only covers two a year.

Treating facial pain and jaw problems

Chronic facial pain is a problem faced by millions of Americans.

Common symptoms can include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, clicking or popping noises when opening the mouth or even head and neck aches.

If you are suffering from this type of pain, your dentist can help identify its source with a thorough exam and appropriate x-rays.

Sometimes, the problem is a sinus or toothache or it could be an early stage of periodontal disease.

But for some pain, the cause is not so easily diagnosed.

There are two joints and several jaw muscles which make it possible to open and close the mouth. They work together when you chew, speak, and swallow.

These structures include muscles and ligaments, as well as the jaw bone, the mandible (lower jaw) with two joints, the TMJs.

Any problem that prevents this complex system of muscles, ligaments, discs and bones from working together properly may result in a painful TMJ disorder.

There are several ways the TMJ disorders may be treated.

Diagnosis is an important step before treatment.

Part of your clinical examination includes checking the joints and muscles for tenderness, clicking, popping or difficulty moving.

Your dentist may take x-rays and may make a cast of your teeth to see how your bite fits together.

To help you deal with this pain, your dentist will recommend what type of treatment you need and may refer you to a specialist.

What to do if you have problems with your dentist

Choosing the right dentist for your needs is an important part of giving yourself the best oral health possible.

Sometimes you may find that things are not working out for the best and it’s important to take steps to resolve any problems rather than just put off your dental care.

First, talk to your dentist about any concerns. They will probably be able to accomodate your needs if you tell them what you are looking for.

In some situations, you may feel that you want to look around at alternative options – maybe there are other dentists who meet your needs better, taking into account factors such as location, office hours, fees and emergency arrangements.

If you are comparing fees, ask for estimates on full-mouth x-rays and a preventive dental visit that includes an oral exam and tooth cleaning.

If you have any doubts about treatment your dentist has recommended, it may be a good idea to set your mind at rest by getting a second opinion from another dentist.

However, even in the best dentist-patient relationship, problems can sometimes occur. If your dentist is not able to resolve your concerns, you can contact your state or local dental association.

They have established systems of peer review that provide an impartial and easy way to resolving misunderstandings regarding the appropriateness or quality of care.

If you are not completely staisfied with the dental treatment you are getting, it’s important ot take steps to put it right – whether you sort it out with your own dentist or find another one.

How sealants can give your teeth extra protection

Sealants are made from plastic material applied to the back teeth to protect the enamel from plaque and acids.

The plastic bonds into the depressions and grooves (pits and fissures) of the chewing surfaces of the back teeth – premolars and molars.

Although thorough brushing and flossing can help remove food particles and plaque from smooth surfaces of teeth, the toothbrush bristles cannot reach all the way into the depressions and grooves to extract food and plaque.

The benefit of sealants is that they protect these vulnerable areas by “sealing out” plaque and food.

Your dentist can apply sealants quite easily and it takes only a few minutes to seal each tooth.

The teeth being sealed will first be cleaned. Then the chewing surfaces are roughened with an acid solution which makes it easier for the sealant to stick to the tooth.

The sealant is then ‘painted’ onto the tooth enamel, where it bonds directly to the tooth and hardens.

Sometimes a special curing light is used to help the sealant harden.

As long as the sealant remains intact, the tooth surface will be protected from decay.
They usually last several years before a reapplication is needed. Your dentist will check the condition of the sealants during your regular visits and reapply them when necessary.

Sealants are ideal for children because the risk of developing pit and fissure decay starts early in life. However, many adults can benefit from sealants as well.

Your dentist can tell you whether sealants would help your oral hygiene program.

Root canal treatment

Root canal therapy is an important treatment that can save a tooth with a diseased nerve and which in the past would probably have needed to be removed.

Inside each tooth is the ‘pulp’ which runs like a thread down through the root and provides nutrients and nerves to the tooth. It is the soft tissue that contains nerves, blood vessels and connective tissue.

If the pulp is diseased or injured, the pulp tissue dies.

The most common cause of pulp death is a cracked tooth or a deep cavity. Both of these problems can let bacteria enter the pulp.

So, if you don’t remove it, your tooth gets infected and you could lose it.

After the dentist – or endodontist (a dentist who specializes in problems of the pulp) – removes the pulp, the root canal is cleaned and sealed off to protect it. Then your dentist places a crown over the tooth to help make it stronger.

Most of the time, a root canal is a relatively simple procedure involving one to three visits with little or no discomfort.

Your restored tooth could last a lifetime, if you continue to care for your teeth and gums and enjoy regular checkups.

Periodontal disease: what it is and how to avoid it

Periodontal disease is an infection of the tissues that support your teeth.

There is a very slight gap (called a sulcus) between the tooth and the gum.

Periodontal diseases attack this gap and cause a breakdown in the attachment of the tooth and its supporting tissues.

When the tissues are damaged, the sulcus develops into a pocket and, as the disease gets more severe, the pocket usually gets deeper.

The two major stages of periodontal disease are gingivitis and periodontitis.

Gingivitis is a milder and reversible form of periodontal disease that only affects the gums. Gingivitis may lead to periodontitis, which is a more serious, destructive form of periodontal disease.

There are several factors that have been shown to increase the risk of developing periodontal disease:
– Systemic diseases such as diabetes
– Some types of medication
– Crooked teeth
– Bridges that no longer fit properly
– Fillings that have become defective
– Smoking
– Pregnancy

And there are a number of warning signs that can suggest a possible problem:
– Gums that bleed easily
– Red, swollen, tender gums
– Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
– Persistent bad breath or taste
– Permanent teeth that are loose or separating
– Any change in the way your teeth fit together when you bite
– Any change in the fit of partial dentures

However, its also possible to have periodontal disease with no warning signs.

Its therefore important to have regular dental checkups and periodontal examinations.

If you have developed periodontal disease, the treatment will depend on how far it has progressed.

You can take steps to prevent periodontal disease from becoming more serious or recurring.

Good dental hygiene practices such as brushing twice a day, cleaning between your teeth, eating a healthy diet and having regular visits to the dentist will make a huge difference.

Making living with dentures easy and comfortable

Your dentures were made to fit you precisely and, if they are cared for properly, they do not change shape.

But you may sometimes find that they can become loose due to natural changes in the gums and bone supporting them. As the jawbone begins to shrink, so do the gums.

If you find your dentures no longer fit properly, see your dentist as soon as possible so adjustments can be made.

Trying to change the fit of your dentures yourself can damage them and make them unrepairable so this would be a costly experiment!

Ill-fitting dentures repaired at home can also irritate the gums, tongue and cheeks.

In an emergency, you could use denture adhesives to keep the dentures stable until you are able to see the dentist.

Even if you no longer have your natural teeth, its still important to see your dentist regularly for an oral examination.

The dentist will examine your mouth to check for any problem with the gum ridges, the tongue and the joints of the jaw, as well as screen for oral cancer.

For a variety of reasons, many older adults are more susceptible to oral diseases, including oral cancer. About 95 percent of all cancers are found in people over age 40. However, many of these cancers are treatable if detected early.

Oral tissues are also checked for signs of other diseases that can first manifest themselves in the mouth.

Living with dentures can be comfortable if you continue to care for your oral hygiene and make regular visits to your dentist for a checkup.

What is plaque and how does it affect your teeth?

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that covers our teeth and, when we eat something, these bacteria release acids that attack the tooth enamel.

When these attacks are repeated over time, the enamel will break down and this will eventually lead to cavities.

When plaque is not removed through daily brushing and cleaning it hardens into calculus or tartar. When tartar collects above the gum line, brushing and cleaning between the teeth becomes more difficult.

The gum tissue can become swollen or may bleed. This is called gingivitis and it is the early stage of periodontal (gum) disease.

There are several steps you can take to protect yourself against this happening:

– Brush your teeth twice a day with fluoride toothpaste
– Clean between teeth daily with floss or an interdental cleaner
– Eat a balanced diet and limit the number of snacks between meals
– Visit your dentist regularly for professional cleanings and oral exams
– Ask your dentist about sealants these are protective coatings that can be applied to the back teeth where decay often starts.

If you take steps to remove the plaque each day, you have a greater chance of avoiding tooth and gum problems.

How to make visiting the dentist easy for kids

Your child should have their first trip to the dentist by the time they are 18 months old and it’s good to make the process as easy as possible for them from the start.

Dental staff are used to dealing with young children and they will know how to make them feel comfortable.

Sometimes, children under three may be treated on the parent’s lap. In this case, the parent sits in the dental chair facing the dentist, and the child is on their lap.

The dentist will tell the child what he or she is going to do in terms they can understand. They will usually have fun dental toys they can use to help.

They will start with an oral examination checking the teeth present and looking at the development of the jaw, gums and soft tissues.

Naturally, as in any new situation, some children are initially unsettled but this is usually short-lived as they get used to it.

Parents can help by ensuring they are calm and relaxed as any anxiety will transfer to the child.

With older children, the parents may stay in the background though sometimes children behave better when the parent is not in the room!

Work with your children and your dentist to find the best way of ensuring they get the treatment they need with minimum worries for everyone.