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.

How cancer treatment can affect your oral health

More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year and many of them will develop problems with their oral health as a result of their cancer treatment.

While it’s natural that they’ll be focused on their cancer treatment, it’s important not to overlook the importance of a dental examination as part of the process of maintaining overall health.

For example, radiation therapy of the head and neck area may lead to certain complications such as dry mouth, sensitive lesions in the oral cavity, hypersensitive teeth, rapid tooth decay and difficulty swallowing.

Chemotherapy and other medication can also have significant effects in the mouth.

To help prevent, minimize and manage such problems, the dentist and oncologist can work together – before and during cancer treatment.

Many medications lead to dry mouth, which can lead to a higher risk of gum disease and other problems.

The dentist may therefore recommend a saliva replacement, an artificial saliva that is available over-the-counter at pharmacies.

Frequent fluoride applications may also be recommended.
If you are receiving treatment, schedule regular screenings with your dentist and contact your dentist or physician immediately on any sign of mouth infection.

This may have serious implications for your overall health.

Your dentist and physician both want your treatment to be as safe and effective as possible.

Diabetes and your dental health: How your dentist can help

If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s important that you let your dentist know so that they can give you the best care possible.

As more than 15 million Americans have diabetes, your dentist will be familiar with the issues and will give you the specialist care you need.

This is important because diabetes can lower your resistance to infection and slow the healing process.

It’s important to tell your dentist:

– If you have been diagnosed with .diabetes
– If the disease is under control
– If there has been any other change in your medical history
– Names of all prescription and over-the-counter drugs you are taking

The most common oral health problems associated with diabetes are:

– Tooth decay
– Periodontal (gum) disease
– Salivary gland dysfunction
– Fungal infections
– Infection and delayed healing
– Taste impairment

If you have regular dental checkups – and keep your dentist informed about your status – they’ll be able to help you reduce and manage these risks.

How a bridge can bring back your smile even with missing teeth

If you’re missing one or more teeth, it probably affects your smile and you may also notice a difference in chewing and speaking.

But there are options available to help you restore your smile and limit other problems.

For example, a bridge – sometimes called a fixed partial denture – replaces missing teeth with artificial teeth.

Bridges help maintain the shape of your face, as well as reducing the stress in your bite by replacing missing teeth.

They literally bridge the gap where one or more teeth may have been previously.

The restoration can be made from gold, alloys, porcelain or a combination of these materials and it is bonded onto surrounding teeth for support.

Bridges can be removable so that you can take them out and clean them or fixed and so can only be removed by a dentist.

An implant bridge attaches artificial teeth directly to the jaw or under the gum tissue.

Your dentist will recommend which approach is best for you.

Whatever type of bridge you choose, its success depends on its foundation. So it’s very important to keep your remaining teeth healthy and strong.

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.

Why a dental abscess should be treated quickly

If you have any kind of swelling in your gum, it almost certainly indicates a serious infection that should be treated urgently.

Dental abscesses result from a bacterial infection in the teeth or gums.

For example, it may come from an untreated cavity. Cavities result when some of the bacteria in our mouths mix with sugars and starches in our diet to produce acid.

This acid attacks the hard enamel coating of our teeth and, as the cavity gets deeper, it eventually infects the nerve and blood supply of the tooth.

In some cases, a dental abscess is caused by an infection of the gum. Bone loss from gum disease can create a pocket between the tooth, gum and bone.

When bacteria and other debris get into this pocket, an abscess can form.

The treatment for an abscess depends on how severe the infection is.

If the abscess has been caused by decay, root canal treatment may be needed or the tooth may even have to be removed.

If the abscess has been caused by the gum, the gum will need deep cleaning or surgical treatment. Again the tooth may need to be removed.

Sometimes, a small incision may be made into the gum to drain the abscess. If this happens, antibiotics and pain medication may be used to relieve discomfort.

If you wait until the gum is severely swollen before seeking treatment, the situation can become very serious.

The abscess at this stage can prevent you breathing properly and can be life-threatenting.

So if you have any signs of swelling in your gum, contact your dentist immediately.

How cosmetic dentistry can change your smile – and your life

Modern cosmetic dentistry has created many opportunities that did not exist before for people to improve their appearance and change the way they feel about themselves.

Although cosmetic dentistry really did not exist a few yaears ago, it now attracts interest from a wide range of people.

There are few people who don’t want to improve their appearance by making their teeth straighter and whiter so that they look better when they smile.

New technology and procedures have created many more opportunities for dentists to help patients look better.

One of the most important opportunities for doing this is porcelain veneers.

These are custom-made wafers that the dentist places over the front of the teeth to repair damage and make them look better.

They can overcome many cosmetic dental problems such as whitening stained or discolored teeth, closing gaps between teeth or correcting a crooked smile without the need for braces.

They can also cover up chips and imperfections so that the smile looks much better.

Another important cosmetic trend is the increased use of white fillings.

White fillings now are more lifelike than ever and they last longer than previously.

They have become the material of choice for many dentists as they blend in with teeth and look better.

If you feel your smile is less than perfect, talk to your dentist about how it could be better.

What to expect when having a tooth extracted

The process of having a tooth extracted may seem worrying but you’ll find it much easier if you know what to expect on the day and afterwards.

Your dentist will make the process as comfortable as possible for you by numbing the area around the tooth to be extracted.

In most cases, a small amount of bleeding is quite normal and your dentist will advise you what process to follow to allow healing as quickly as possible.

Generally, you should avoid anything that might prevent normal healing.

For example, it’s best not to smoke, rinse your mouth vigorously or drink through a straw for 24 hours afterwards as these could delay healing.

For the first few days, if you need to rinse your mouth, do it gently. If you are suffering pain or swelling, apply a cold cloth or an ice bag.

If necessary, your dentist will recommend something for any pain.

At the beginning, don’t clean around the socket where the tooth has been removed but you should brush and floss the other teeth as usual.

Modern procedures make having an extraction and the follow-up more comfortable than ever before.

Choosing the right toothbrush for your needs

It would be easy to get overwhelmed by the huge range of dental care products now available.

Even looking just at toothbrushes present a wide range of choices.

There are hundreds of manual and powered toothbrushes to choose from.

Start by looking for products that carry the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance – this is an important symbol of a the product’s safety and effectiveness.

When you buy a toothbrush, replace it every three to four months. Replace it sooner if the bristles become frayed as a worn toothbrush will not clean your teeth properly.

Make it easy for your children to brush their teeth by choosing a child-sized toothbrush and make it more interesting for them by selecting fun colors and designs.

Often people who have difficulties with hand, arm or shoulder movements find that powered toothbrushes are the best choice. However, it’s also possible to make a few small changes to modify a manual toothbrush and make it easier to use.

For example, you can:

– Enlarge the handle with a sponge, rubber ball, or bicycle handle grip
– Lengthen the handle with a piece of wood or plastic
– Bend the handle slightly while running it under hot water

Your dentist will give you tips on what toothbrushes would be right for your needs.

Your options if you have many missing or damaged teeth

People who have not followed adequate dental care for some years may have already lost most of their teeth and feel a little hopeless.

Sometimes they ask a dentist to remove the remaining teeth as they are often broken and have deep cavities.

It’s true that, sometimes, removal of the remaining teeth and replacing them with full dentures is the only option.

But more often there are other options available.

Some or all of the remaining teeth could be repaired and used in conjunction with a partial denture. While a full denture replaces all of the teeth on the upper or lower jaw, a partial denture replaces some of the teeth.

If only a few weak teeth remain on the upper jaw, it might be preferable to have them extracted and a full upper denture made. Full upper dentures can be more secure than lower ones as the upper denture gets added stability from the palate and is not easily dislodged by the tongue.

If only a few teeth remain on the lower jaw, however, the dentist will usually aim to save them and use a partial denture if necessary.

Ideally, all teeth that can be saved should be saved but this is not always possible – often due to finances.

In such cases, having teeth removed and dentures may be the only option.