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.

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, it’s 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.

The difference between canker sores and cold sores

Although canker sores are often confused with cold sores, there is a difference.

Canker sores occur inside the mouth, and cold sores usually occur outside the mouth.

Canker sores are small ulcers with a white or gray base and a red border. There can be one or more sores in the mouth. They are very common and often recur.

They usually heal in a week or two and rinsing with antimicrobial mouthrinses may help reduce the irritation.

Cold sores – also called fever blisters – are composed of groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or chin.

Cold sores are usually caused by herpes virus type I and are very contagious. They usually heal in about a week.

Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can provide temporary relief and prescription antiviral drugs may reduce these kinds of viral infections.

Action steps to prevent gum disease

Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss in adults but it can be prevented or reversed if you take the right steps.

It’s caused by plaque – a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth. These bacteria create toxins that can damage the gums.

However, you can help avoid gum disease by caring properly for your teeth and having regular dental checkups. These are some steps you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy:

Brush your teeth well twice a day: This removes the film of bacteria from the teeth. Be sure to use a soft-bristled toothbrush that is in good condition. Toothpastes and mouth rinses containing fluoride strengthen the teeth and help prevent decay.

Clean between your teeth every day: You need to remove the bacteria and food particles that a toothbrush can’t reach so you should clean between your teeth with floss or interdental cleaners every day. Your dentist will show you how to do this properly without injuring your gums.

Even if you already have early stage gum disease, it can often be reversed by daily brushing and flossing.

Eat a balanced diet: A good diet based on a variety of foods from the basic food groups, such as grain products; fruits; vegetables; meat, poultry and fish; and dairy products will help your teeth. It’s also a good idea to limit snacks between meals.

Visit your dentist regularly: To prevent gum disease, it’s important to have regular dental checkups and professional cleaning.

Taking the right steps will help you avoid gum disease and can even reverse it if you catch it in the early stages.

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.

Solving the problem of bad breath

Bad breath – which is also known as halitosis – is a worrying problem that can also be embarrassing.

But there’s no need to put up with it. If you suffer from bad breath, your dentist will be able to suggest a range of solutions.

Your dentist will be able to spot problems such as gum disease, dry mouth or other disorders. That’s why it’s important to maintain good oral hygiene, schedule regular visits to the dentist and have professional cleaning.

Make sure you brush your teeth twice a day and clean between your teeth each day using floss or interdental cleaners. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too!

If your dental check up shows that your mouth is healthy, your dentist may refer you to your family physician as sometimes bad breath can be a sign of other health problems.

If the odor is due to periodontal (gum) disease, sometimes professional periodontal cleaning is needed to remove the bacteria and plaque that accumulate. And your dentist may recommend a special antimicrobial mouth rinse.

Keeping your mouth healthy and stopping periodontal disease are essential to reducing bad breath.

So make sure you schedule regular dental visits for a professional cleaning and checkup.

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, it’s 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.

Dental plaque – what it is and how to avoid it

You’ve probably heard people talking about plaque and maybe you’ve some idea of what it is.

But it’s useful to know a bit more about it so that you can do what’s necessary to minimize the risks.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on teeth and gums.

When you’ve eaten a meal or snack, the bacteria in plaque release acids that attack tooth enamel. When this happens regularly, the enamel can weaken. This eventually leads to tooth decay.

The food we eat often causes plaque bacteria to produce acids. So, if you eat a lot of snacks, your teeth may be suffering acid attacks all day.

If you don’t remove the plaque through effective daily brushing and cleaning between the teeth, it can eventually harden into calculus or tartar.

Another effect of plaque is that it also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red and tender or causing them to bleed easily.

If you want to prevent tooth decay and gum disease, make sure you have a balanced diet and avoid having too many snacks between meals.

When you feel like a snack, go for foods such as raw vegetables, plain yogurt, cheese or a piece of fruit.

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.

How space maintainers help children have healthy teeth

Space maintainers can be crucial to the dental health of a child.

When a child loses a baby tooth early through decay or injury, the other teeth can shift and begin to fill the vacant space.

If this happens, the problem is that, when the permanent teeth emerge, there’s not enough room for them.

This can lead to crooked or crowded teeth and difficulties with chewing or speaking.

To prevent that, the dentist can insert a space maintainer.

This holds the space left by the lost tooth until the permanent tooth emerges.

Space maintainers might be a band or a temporary crown attached to one side of the space.

When the permanent tooth emerges, the dentist removes the device and protects the child’s future smile.