Teeth 101

Regular Care

Most people should visit their dentist at least twice a year.  The number of recommended dental visits per year could be more depending on a person’s health and his/her susceptibility to tooth decay and periodontal (gum) disease.  Someone with active tooth decay and is more likely to develop new cavities than someone who has never needed a filling.   Thus x-rays are normally taken every 6 – 18 months depending on a patients risk of decay.  The sooner problems are diagnosed, treatment is typically less costly and more natural tooth structure can be saved.  There is no man-made dental material better than natural tooth structure itself.

The Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends infants begin their dental visits by 12 months old.  The first few years of life is a critical time for children and their lifetime risk for dental decay.  Establishing healthy habits early is the best way in preventing childhood tooth decay.  Talking with your dentist can provide insightful ways on how to care for your child and how you can best prevent disease in the future.

Expecting Mothers
Since the 1970’s, it has been widely recognized that infants may contract decay causing bacteria from the child’s primary caretaker.  Treating disease in new and expecting mothers can greatly reduce the risk of future decay in infants and toddlers.  Dental care during pregnancy is safe is recommended for the health of the entire family.

Emergency Care & Toothaches

Knocked Out Tooth
This emergency is most common in children and young adults. If this happens to you or someone you know, call your dentist as soon as possible. If the tooth is knocked completely out of the mouth, handle the tooth only by the hard outside chewing surfaces that are normally exposed. Touching the root of the tooth may damage cells necessary for the tooth to heal. Rinse off debris under warm water, again, without handling the root. If possible, try to gently put the tooth back in place within the socket. If this is not possible, place the tooth in Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution or milk and visit your dentist immediately. The traumatized tooth has better chances for success minimizing the amount of time it is outside of the mouth.

Broken Teeth
If due to trauma, and pain is present, and/or the tooth is bleeding from the inside, call your dentist immediately. Sometimes older adults with large fillings may have parts of teeth that chip or fracture and no pain or sensitivity is present. This can happen while eating something as soft as a slice of bread. If a tooth fracture occurs in this way, and no pain or sensitivity exists, you do not need to seek immediate attention. Call your dentist to make an appointment. If you cannot get in the same day, realize the damage has already occurred, and the tooth will have the same prognosis if treated in the coming days.

Tooth pain and sensitivity can occur for many different reasons including tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, night time grinding, gum recession, and sinus infections. Transient sensitivity to cold that goes away quickly is a common problem that generally does not require dental treatment.

On the contrary, cold sensitivity that lingers and may last minutes after the cold stimulus has been removed could be a sign that there is nerve involvement of the tooth. If the toothache is constant or if the pain is spontaneous and wakes a person up from sleep, this could indicate irreversible changes to the pulp of the tooth and root canal treatment may be necessary to resolve the pain. These types of toothaches generally worsen until the pain is unbearable. Swelling may occur in the face and cheek. If the swelling has progressed and the eye is swollen shut or you are having difficulty breathing, go directly to the hospital emergency room.

Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth (also known as 3rd molars) are the last teeth to erupt in the mouth. Most people do not have sufficient room for these teeth to erupt fully and they may be completely buried under the gums or within the bone. When this happens these teeth are termed, “impacted.” Wisdom teeth may develop cystic growths, become painful, difficult to maintain, or they may be completely without symptoms for your entire life. You and your dentist should discuss the risks and benefits facing the decision of whether or not to extract these teeth and what is best for you.