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.

Treating Sensitive Teeth

Sensitive teeth is a common problem that causes many people to feel discomfort with hot or cold foods and drinks.

It can also make it uncomfortable to brush or floss the teeth and therefore can lead to further oral problems.

However, sensitive teeth can be treated.

If you suffer from this, your dentist may suggest that you try a desensitizing toothpaste, which contains compounds that help block transmission of sensation from the tooth surface to the nerve.

For desensitizing toothpaste to work, you normally have to make several applications.

If the desensitizing toothpaste does not help, your dentist may suggest further solutions.

For example, fluoride gel – which strengthens tooth enamel and reduces the transmission of sensations – may be applied to the sensitive areas of the teeth.

If the sensitivity is caused by receding gums, your dentist may use bonding agents that “seal” the sensitive teeth.

The sealer is usually made of a plastic material.

If there is severe hypersensitivity which cannot be treated by other means, there is the option of endodontic (root canal) treatment.

Sensitive teeth is a problem that can stop you enjoying your food but is one that can often be solved.

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 dental x-rays help improve your oral health

Many diseases of the teeth and surrounding tissues cannot be seen when your dentist examines your mouth so an X-ray examination can reveal important additional information:

For example, X-rays can help show:
– Small areas of decay between the teeth or below existing fillings
– Infections in the bone
– Gum disease
– Abscesses or cysts
– Developmental abnormalities
– Some types of tumors

The way they work is that more X-rays are absorbed by the denser parts (such as teeth and bone) than by soft tissues (such as cheeks and gums). This creates an image called a radiograph.

Tooth decay, infections and signs of gum disease appear darker because of more X-ray penetration. The interpretation of these radiographs allows the dentist to safely and accurately detect hidden abnormalities.

The frequency of X-rays (radiographs) will depend on your specific health needs.

Your dentist will review your history, examine your mouth and decide whether you need radiographs and what type.

When you are a new patient, the dentist may recommend radiographs to establish how the hidden areas of your mouth currently look to help identify changes that occur later.

X-rays can help identify and treat dental problems at an early stage and so can save time, money and unnecessary discomfort.

Should you be concerned about thumbsucking?

Some children suck on their thumbs and parents often wonder if it is harmful.

Sucking on something is a child’s natural reflex. It can help them feel more secure so they start to suck on their thumbs, fingers, pacifiers or other objects.

Since thumb sucking is relaxing, it may also help them sleep.

However, after the permanent teeth come in, sucking may cause problems with the proper growth of the mouth and the alignment of teeth. It can also cause changes in the roof of the mouth.

Whether or not dental problems will result depends on the intensity of the sucking.

A child who vigorously sucks their thumb is more likely to have difficulties than one who rests their thumb passively in their mouth. Young children who suck their thumbs aggressively may even cause problems with their baby teeth.

If you notice changes in your child’s primary teeth, consult your dentist.

Usually children will stop sucking their thumbs between the ages of about two and four. They should have ceased sucking by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt.

If your child is continuing to suck their thumbs, here are some tips:

– Praise them for not sucking, instead of scolding them when they are
– If they are sucking because they feel insecure, focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety
– For older children, involve them in choosing the method of stopping

If necessary, your dentist can help by encouraging the child and explaining what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking.

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.

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.

Caring for people who have special needs

People at any age can have a condition that makes it difficult for them to look after their own dental health.

This could affect people who suffer from a wide range of conditions such as stroke, spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, mental retardation, Down syndrome, genetic disorders, Alzheimer’s disease or arthritis.

However, people in all of these categories have the same dental needs as everyone else – they need daily brushing and flossing, regular dental visits and a balanced diet.

There are some steps caregivers can take to make it easier to look after people in those categories.

If the person is uncooperative or uncontrollable, try to explain what you are about to do and schedule the task for a time of day when they are rested.

Move in a calm, slow, reassuring manner to avoid startling them. Give praise and encourage them when they help themselves.

Support the person’s head, and take special care to prevent choking or gagging when the head is tilted back.

If the person is unable or unwilling to keep their mouth open, your dentist will explain how you can make and use a mouth prop.

Ask your dentist for advice on how to care for people with special needs and check if they have facilities for caring for these needs in the dental office.

Different types of fillings and restorations

Nowadays, thanks to advances in dental techniques and materials, patients have a much wider range of choices when they have to repair missing, worn, damaged or decayed teeth.

For example, materials such as ceramics and polymer compounds that look more like natural teeth help dentists create pleasing, natural-looking smiles.

The traditional materials such as gold, base metal alloys and dental amalgam are still widely used as they have many advantages.

The strength and durability of traditional dental materials continues to make them useful in many situations. For example, they are good when fillings are required in the back teeth because the pressure of chewing is high in that area.

The choice of the best option will depend on several factors such as the patient’s oral and general health, where and how the filling is placed and the number of visits needed to prepare and adjust the restored tooth.

The choice about which option is best depends on each individual’s needs so you should discuss the options with your dentist.

How the food you eat can cause tooth decay

When you put food in your mouth, it immediately meets the bacteria that live there.

Plaque, for example, is a sticky film of bacteria.

These bacteria love the sugars found in many foods. So, when you don’t clean your teeth after eating, the bacteria and the sugar can combine to produce acids which can destroy the enamel – the hard surface of the tooth.

In time, this can lead to tooth decay. The more often you eat and the longer foods are in your mouth, the more damage occurs.

Many foods that are nutritious and important in our diet contain sugars – such as fruits, milk, bread, cereals and even vegetables.

So the key is not to try and avoid sugar but to think before you eat.

When you eat is also important because each time you eat food that contains sugars, the teeth are attacked by acids for 20 minutes or more.

This means that foods that are eaten as part of a meal cause less harm. More saliva is released during a meal, helping to wash foods from the mouth and reduce the effects of acids.

Here are some tips to follow when choosing your meals and snacks.
– Eat a variety of foods from different food groups
– Limit the number of snacks that you eat
– If you do snack, choose nutritious foods, such as cheese, raw vegetables, plain yogurt, or a piece of fruit

It’s also important to brush your teeth twice a day and to clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners.

And of course regular visits to your dentist will help prevent problems from occurring and catch those that do occur while they are easier to treat.