Why dry mouth can be a problem and what to do about it

Your saliva plays an important role in your oral health and reduced saliva flow can lead to health problems.

Reduced saliva flow can lead to a dry mouth and this is a common problem among older adults.

It can be caused by various medical disorders and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers and diuretics.

Dry mouth can be associated with various problems such as a constant sore throat, burning sensation, problems speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness or dry nasal passages.

Drying irritates the soft tissues in the mouth, which can make them inflamed and more susceptible to infection. Without the cleansing effects of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common.

So, if dry mouth is not treated, it can damage your teeth.

Without adequate saliva to lubricate your mouth, wash away food, and neutralize the acids produced by plaque, extensive decay can occur.

Your dentist can recommend various methods to restore moisture. Sugar-free candy or gum stimulates saliva flow, and moisture can be replaced by using artificial saliva and oral rinses.

How sedation and general anesthesia can make your visit to the dentist easier

While local anesthetics are often used in dental treatment, there is sometimes a need for anti-anxiety agents – such as nitrous oxide – or sedatives to help people relax during dental visits.

Dentists may use these agents to induce “minimal or moderate sedation”.

In this case, the patient reaches a relaxed state during treatment but can respond to speech or touch.

Sedatives can be administered before, during or after dental procedures by mouth, inhalation or injection.

More complex treatments may require drugs that can induce “deep sedation”.

This reduces consciousness and causes a loss of feeling which helps to reduce both pain and anxiety.

Sometimes patients undergo “general anesthesia” where the drugs lead to a temporary loss of consciousness.

A dentist may recommend deep sedation or general anesthesia for certain procedures with children or with adults who have severe anxiety or for people who have difficulty controlling their movements.

While these techniques to control pain and anxiety are used to treat tens of millions of patients safely every year, it’s important that you let your dentist know anything that might affect your ability to benefit from them for example, tell them about any illnesses or health conditions, whether you are taking any medications and if you’ve had any problems with allergic reactions to medications.

What to do if your tooth cracks

While our teeth are normally very strong, they can crack for a number of reasons.

Reasons could include tooth decay, trauma/injury, grinding of the teeth or a stress fracture.

Sometimes, our jaw may be stronger than our teeth and the teeth can fracture when we bite heavily on food.

We can protect our teeth in some circumstances – for example it may be advisable to wear a mouthguard during sports.

Taking proper care of the teeth and regular visits to the dentist will help keep your teeth in good shape.

If a tooth cracks, it may become painful if the nerve is exposed and the area can become tender.

If this happens, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Then call your dentist immediately.

Treatment will depend on where the tooth has fractured, how close it is to the nerve and the overall condition of the tooth.

A cracked tooth may be repaired with silver alloy, gold, porcelain or plastic. Or it may require a crown or overlay or bonding, which applies porcelain or enamel to the fractured tooth.

If you contact your dentist quickly, they will be able to take the most approriate action to preserve the tooth as much as possible.

Crowns and how they improve your teeth

To make sure you have the best smile possible, you may need a crown to cover a tooth and restore it to its normal shape and size.

A crown is a tooth-shaped “cap” that is placed over a tooth to restore its shape, size and strength, or to improve its appearance.

The reasons you may need a crown include:

– Protecting a weak tooth
– Holding together parts of a cracked tooth
– Restoring an already broken tooth
– Supporting a tooth with a large filling when there isn’t a lot of tooth left
– Attaching a dental bridge
– Covering badly-shaped or severely discolored teeth
– Cover a dental implant

If your dentist recommends a crown, it’s probably to correct one of these conditions.

Your dentist’s primary concern, like yours, is helping you keep your teeth healthy and your smile bright.

How sugar in your diet affects your teeth

The sugar content in the food you eat has a big effect on your teeth and gums.

When bacteria (plaque) come into contact with sugar in the mouth, acid is produced, which attacks the teeth for 20 minutes or more. This can eventually result in tooth decay.

That’s why drinking sugar-filled sodas, sweetened fruit drinks, and non-nutritious snacks can take a toll on teeth.

This is particularly true for children as their eating patterns and food choices affect how quickly they develop tooth decay.

Foods that contain sugars of any kind can contribute to tooth decay. However, almost all foods, including milk or vegetables, have some type of sugar. Many of them also contain important nutrients that are an important part in our diet.

To help control the amount of sugar you consume, read food labels and choose foods and beverages that are low in added sugars. Soft drinks,candy, cookies and pastries often contain added sugars.

The power of panoramic x-rays

X-rays are extremely valuable for helping dentists identify issues that may not show up on normal oral examination.

The three most common types of dental X-rays are the bitewing, periapical and panoramic X-rays.

Panoramic X-rays give a broad overview of the entire mouth – supplying information about the teeth, upper and lower jawbone, sinuses, and other hard and soft tissues of the head and neck.

Unlike other X-rays, where the film is placed inside the patient’s mouth, the panoramic film is contained in a machine that moves around the patient’s head. So they are very easy to use.

Panoramic X-rays are often used to check wisdom teeth but they will also reveal deep cavities and gum disease. They are also useful to help patients with past or present jaw problems or those who require full or partial removable dentures, dental implants, or braces.

They can also be valuable in assisting people who are suspected of having oral cancer or have had recent trauma to the face or teeth.

Panoramic X-rays play an important role in thorough dental examinations and are recommended at least every five years or so for most patients.

The risks of oral piercing

Young people today choose to make a variety of fashion statements affecting not just the clothes they wear but also their bodies through tattoos and piercing, for example.

Oral piercing may be something they feel looks good but it can lead to problems where they end up needing medical or dental treatment.

Oral piercing can often lead to symptoms such as pain, swelling, infection, increased saliva flow and injuries to the gum tissue.

There can be severe bleeding if a blood vessel is in the path of the needle during the piercing.

Swelling of the tongue is also a common side effect and, in extreme cases, this can block the airway and lead to breathing difficulties.

Other possible problems include chipped or cracked teeth, blood poisoning or even blood clots.

Infection is a very common complication of oral piercing because of the millions of bacteria in your mouth.

Of course, the jewelry itself also causes risk. It can be swallowed or cause damage to your teeth.

So, while young people may feel piercings in the mouth look cool, a great smile will look a lot better in the years to come.

How smoking affects your teeth

While the general effects of smoking on your health are well-known, it can also have significant effects on your oral health.

Here are some of the ways smoking can harm your oral health and hygiene:

– Oral Cancer
– Periodontal (gum) disease
– Delayed healing after a tooth extraction or other oral surgery
– Bad breath
– Stained teeth and tongue
– Diminished sense of taste and smell

Research suggests that smoking may be responsible for almost 75% of adult gum disease.

Tobacco products damage your gum tissue by affecting the attachment of bone and soft tissue to your teeth. One effect is receding gums which expose the tooth roots and increase your risk of tooth decay or to sensitivity to hot and cold in these unprotected areas.

Cigar smoking is equally a major risk and even smokeless tobacco products contain a variety of toxins associated with cancer. Smokeless tobacco can also irritate your gum tissue.

Giving up smoking will provide a significant boost to your oral health as well as giving you the chance to live longer.

Oral cancer: Why early detection is so important

Although thousands of Americans die every year from oral cancer, there is a high chance it can be cured if it is caught early enough.

Each year, more than 30,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral cancer and only half of those diagnosed survive more than five years.

But nowadays, dentists have the skills and tools to ensure that early signs of cancer and pre-cancerous conditions are identified.

If it is caught early, there is a much higher chance that, with your dentist’s help, you could win a battle against oral cancer.

The key is to know the early signs and see your dentist regularly.

Oral cancer often starts as a tiny, unnoticed white or red spot or sore anywhere in the mouth.

It can affect any area of the oral cavity including the lips, gum tissue, cheek lining, tongue or the palate.

Other signs include:
– A sore that bleeds easily or does not heal
– A change in the color of the oral tissues
– A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
– Pain, tenderness, or numbness anywhere in the mouth or on the lips
– Difficulty chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue
– A change in the way the teeth fit together

Oral Cancer most often occurs in those who use any form of tobacco. Smoking combined with alcohol use greatly increases the risk.

However, oral cancer – which is most likely to strike after age 40 – can occur in people who do not smoke and have no other known risk factors.

Diets with a lot of fruits and vegetables may help prevent its development.

Oral cancer screening is a routine part of a dental examination so regular checkups – with an examination of the entire mouth are essential in the early detection of cancerous and pre-cancerous conditions.

Common questions about dental insurance

Understanding what’s covered by your dental insurance is an important part of making sure you get the best oral care possible.

Here are some common questions that arise when people want to understand their cover better.

– If treatment my dentist recommends is not covered by my insurance, does that mean it’s not necessary?

Some plans make exclusions such as sealants, pre-existing conditions, adult orthodontics, and specialist referrals. This depends on your dental plan and you should not let the level of cover determine whether you need treatment.

– My dental benefit will only pay for a large filling but my dentist recommends I get a crown. Which should I choose?

Some plans will only cover the least expensive solution but it may not be the best option for your needs. You should decide based on your health needs and not on your insurance cover.

– My dental plan says it will pay 100 percent for checkups and cleanings but the insurance company says I owe for part of the dentist’s charge. How can this be?

Some plans provide cover based on a “customary fee” for each procedure. So, if your dentist’s fee is higher, your benefit will be based on a percentage of the customary fee instead of your dentist’s fee. Although these limits are called “customary,” they may not accurately reflect the fees that dentists charge in your area.

– Will my plan cover the care my family will need?
If your employer offers more than one plan, check the exclusions and limitations of the coverage as well as looking at the general benefits. It’s a good idea to discuss your family’s likely needs with your dentist before choosing a plan.

The plan document should specify who is eligible for coverage under the plan.

Plans offered by the same provider or employer can vary according to the contracts involved so your dentist will not be able to answer specific questions about your benefit or predict what the coverage for a particular procedure will be.

If you have specific questions about coverage, talk to your plan provider.