OUR BLOG: Tooth Wisdom
We are in that tricky time of year when the weather can feel like summer one day and winter the next – and the transitional temperatures found in both fall and spring create the best conditions for colds and flus to spread. While the main goal is to minimize your symptoms when you’re feeling congested or fighting a cough, remember to think about your oral health too.
- Cough drops can relieve symptoms, but try to suck on sugar free drops, and be sure not to have too many of them during the day. Some have active ingredients that could increase your heart rate, so you should think both about your teeth and your overall health when you pop one in your mouth.
- Congestion can cause you to breathe through the mouth, which can lead to dry mouth, a condition that sets the stage for the growth of bacteria, and can cause tooth decay and even gum disease. Some common cold medications can further dry out your mouth, making it difficult to stay hydrated. Be sure to drink plenty of water and consider using a humidifier to keep the air inside moist when your mouth is dry.
- If you have a cold and feel pain in your upper teeth, or around your cheeks and nose, that may be a sign of a sinus problem. Sinusitis can resolve on its own, but if it lingers on and is accompanied by ongoing heavy congestion, you should see your doctor, and find out if an antibiotic might be recommended.
- While washing your hands is one of the best ways to avoid getting a cold, note that germs and bacteria that grow in your mouth can make you sick if you don’t brush and floss regularly and change your toothbrush every few months. Colds are more likely to linger and pneumonia more likely to develop in those who don’t practice good oral health.
Fall is a beautiful time to year, and far from the biting cold and snow we will experience in just a few short months, but it can still bring with it colds and coughs. Being smart in how you take care of yourself can make a pretty season seem even brighter.
It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, one you plan to spend outdoors gardening before starting up the grill for a family barbeque. Unexpectedly, your garden shovel gets caught on a rock, and when you try to free it, the handle smacks into the side of your jaw. It hurts, but the pain will go away. Nothing to worry about. But later, as you’re preparing to grill burgers, the pain feels worse and you notice it’s hard to close your jaw so your teeth meet. Plus, it feels a bit swollen inside your cheek. It occurs to you that you should call someone, but maybe it can wait until Monday morning – or can it?
Facial injuries like this happen all the time, and not just to kids. Some injuries can wait, and others can’t, so how do you know when to drop everything and get help? If you have severe pain, bleeding, swelling or other signs of infection, broken teeth or trouble moving your jaw, don’t wait to get help. Contact your dentist immediately, or if the office is closed, head straight to the emergency room. Some injuries need immediate attention to avoid further damage, and there's no way for you to know for sure if your injury falls into that category.
Here’s a summary of how to handle some common injuries:
CHIPPED OR DAMAGED TOOTH – Rinse your mouth with warm water right away. Use gauze to stop any bleeding and then apply ice to your face to reduce swelling. Contact your dentist or oral surgeon as soon as possible, and if you have the pieces of broken tooth, bring them with you to your appointment.
DISLODGED TOOTH – If you have the lost tooth, hold it by the crown (not the root), rinse it in salt water and if possible fit it carefully back in its place in the mouth. If that proves difficult, put the tooth in a cup of milk or salt water to preserve it and contact your dentist immediately. Teeth restored within one hour have the greatest chance of survival, and soaking the tooth, or placing it back in its proper position in the mouth, will help to sustain it.
INFECTIONS – Signs of an infection include redness, tenderness or swelling around the site of the tooth. Infections are most often found around the root of the tooth or in the spaces between teeth and gums. Infections are serious conditions, and if left untreated tissue and surrounding teeth can be damaged. If you suspect an infection, rinse your mouth with salt water and see your dentist as soon as possible.
INJURIES TO TONGUE, CHEEKS, GUMS OR LIPS – Injuries to these soft tissue areas of the mouth are often accompanied by excessive bleeding. To control bleeding, rinse your mouth with a salt-water solution, and apply gauze or a dampened tea bag to the site of the injury. Be sure to contact your dentist or oral surgeon. However, if you can’t reach your doctor, and the bleeding doesn’t stop, continue to apply pressure and go to the hospital emergency room.
FRACTURES – Falls, fights, car collisions and other accidents can sometimes lead to broken bones. The nose and cheekbones are especially vulnerable to fractures. Another common area for facial fractures is the mandible or jawbone, which runs from your chin to just below your ear.
These fractures need immediate attention. Contact an oral surgeon, or your dentist, if you have any of the symptoms listed here – or if you suspect a fracture.
- Bruising, swelling and tenderness along the jaw or below the ear
- Misalignment in the bite, meaning your teeth don’t fit together properly
- Difficulty opening or closing your mouth
- Trouble chewing and swallowing
- Numbness in your lower lip or chin
- Jaw pain that doesn’t go away
- Double vision or numbness in the face or jaw area
- â€‹Swollen eyelids or sunken eyes
TMJ – The join that connects the upper and lower jaw is particularly vulnerable to injury, and treatment for this sensitive joint is critical. If you suspect an injury in this area of the jaw, be especially vigilant about seeking immediate help. There’s no reason to panic, but have it looked at right away to ensure you don’t cause further damage and complicate your treatment.
INJURIES TO THE JAW, CHEEKS, MOUTH OR FACE - An oral surgeon is specially trained to manage these sensitive areas. There is no one easy answer to how these injuries will be treated, but be sure to see your dentist or oral surgeon immediately if you have symptoms of an injury. If necessary, go directly to the emergency room, as some fractures can have life-threatening complications if not treated right away.
What do you do for a facial fracture?
If you suspect a fracture or serious injury to the face, apply ice to decrease pain and swelling and minimize tissue damage. Use the ice for 15-20 minutes out of every hour, and keep your head elevated. Try not to sneeze through the nose or blow your nose, and don’t put any pressure on the sensitive area. Concussions are another possible complication, so be alert to headaches, nausea, sensitivity to light or noise, problems concentrating or general feelings of confusion.
The symptoms listed here are just a guideline. If you have any reason to suspect a bump, fall or accident caused any harm to your mouth, face or teeth, do not hesitate to seek out help from your dentist, oral surgeon or the emergency room. You may be fortunate, and not have a serious issue or fracture. However, if you do need treatment, you’ll be glad you sought out help right away.
We worry about our children’s oral health from the time their first teeth come in until they head off to college as independent young adults. Education is the best form of prevention, so read on to arm yourself with the facts you need to know:
- Parents should begin cleaning their children’s teeth as soon as they grow in, using a damp cloth or baby toothbrush. Teeth should be uniform in color, so if you see any spots or stains, it’s wise to visit the dentist. All children should visit the dentist by age 1, since decay in baby teeth can cause problems in developing adult teeth.
- As children get older, and begin riding a bike or playing sports, mouth guards, helmets and face masks are important to protecting their teeth, face and bones. Make sure whatever your child wears for protection fits well and is appropriate to the activity. This is important to help prevent injuries or damage.
- Many preschoolers and elementary aged children grind their teeth while they sleep, and in some the habit continues into adolescence. This can be caused by teething, ear infections and nightmares, as well as stress and anxiety. While the habit is not as harmful to temporary baby teeth, it can damage permanent teeth, so be aware if your child exhibits signs of grinding, especially as they get older.
- It is common for children to have misaligned teeth, especially the lower front teeth. The preteen years are a good time for your child to visit an orthodontist. Although it may be too soon to consider braces, orthodontists can evaluate how teeth are growing. If there is crowding in the mouth, these specialists may recommend some baby teeth be removed, allowing permanent teeth to grow in properly.
- In their late teens, many children have already grown wisdom teeth, or they are forming in the gums. Your dentist will refer you to an oral surgeon to determine if those teeth need to be watched or removed. Wisdom teeth frequently don’t have room to grow into the mouth properly. If this is the case it is better to have them removed at a young age, before they cause damage to neighboring teeth or roots.
- Teeth grinding or jaw clenching are among the risk factors for TMJ disorder. The TMJ is the joint where the upper and lower jaw meet. Symptoms to watch for include pain in the jaw while eating or yawning, difficulty opening and closing the jaw and pain in the ears or teeth. There are many treatments for this condition, so if you suspect a problem, bring your child to an oral surgeon to learn more and discuss treatment options.
Parents don’t need to worry about every possible problem, but the key is to be proactive, and be aware of any symptoms that may need to be evaluated by a dentist or oral surgeon. A bit of prevention now can save your child from a lot of discomfort later.
Why Mobile Technology is essential for Oral Surgery Patients
This month we launch a new mobile phone app, and we are so excited about the ways this new technology will make important information more accessible to our patients.
- More than 25% of searches to medical websites are on mobile devices, and that number is continuing to increase. While most websites can be viewed on any device, a mobile app adjusts for the small size of the screen, and also takes advantage of the touch screen technology on phones that allows patients to call, email or map directions quickly and easily, even when they’re on the go.
- A mobile app means pre-operative and post-operative instructions and surgical dietary guidelines are right at a patient’s fingertips, which is very important for patients in the days before and after surgery. Papers can get lost, and computers aren’t always accessible, but a phone is always on hand when you need to access timely information.
- The app can be shared with the push of a button, so patients can easily get instructions, directions or contact information to their caretaker, who is responsible for their transportation and care after surgery.
- The app can be translated into up to 10 languages, meaning patients can learn about the practice, and access vital instructions, in the language they feel most comfortable reading.
- The app makes it easy to leave a review, or any feedback, by providing links to both review sites and to contact a manager at the practice. This feedback is essential for any medical or dental practice trying to ensure patients feel good about the care they received, and provides an easy way to communicate any issues or concerns.
We developed our mobile app to create greater accessibility for our patients and referring doctors, and ensure our practice is keeping up with the ways our patients prefer to communicate. We hope everyone finds it helpful!
We welcome your feedback - and remember- it’s only a click away.
While older adults have many of the same symptoms and concerns as younger patients, they are at higher risk for many oral health problems. Other medical issues, financial concerns and less attention to their teeth and gums can all contribute to a decline in oral health, and impact their overall health.
Nearly 1/3 of older adults have untreated tooth decay, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is associated with a higher incidence of gum disease, which is associated with diabetes, heart disease, stroke and respiratory disease.
Whether caring for natural teeth or dentures, those 65 and older should continue to follow the same dental regimen they did in their early years. Some of the issues that often arise, and complicate their dental care, include:
- Living on a fixed income
- No access to dental insurance after retirement
- Limited access to transportation
- Denture-induced tissue inflammation
- Dry mouth from medications
- Gum disease and decay of the roots of teeth
- Uneven jaw bone caused by tooth loss
- Thrush - an overgrowth of bacteria in the mouth
- Increased risk of oral cancer
One problem often leads to another. Patients with severe arthritis can’t brush and floss effectively. Those with missing teeth or ill-fitting dentures find it difficult to eat a healthy diet. If taking multiple medications, patients often experience dry mouth, which can make it difficult to chew and eat properly, and lead to cavities and gum disease.
The best solution is to floss and brush your teeth thoroughly twice daily, using a soft toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. Aim to visit the dentist twice a year for a cleaning and oral exam. The cost of that visit is small compared to the cost of neglecting your mouth. Use an antibacterial mouth wash to reduce the risk of plaque and gum disease. Most importantly get to know your mouth. Pay close attention to any pain or sensitivity. It is better to address a problem sooner than later, especially if something doesn’t feel right.
If patients lack dental insurance, and paying out of pocket is not an option, find out whether Medicare or Medicaid covers your dental visits. Unfortunately, routine dental exams are not always covered, but medically-necessary procedures generally are, so in the case of a serious issue, you may be reimbursed.
The good news is that getting older, in itself, is not the problem, and people are keeping their teeth for longer now than ever before. However, those who take good care of their teeth, understand their limitations, and respond quickly when issues arise, are most likely to maintain their oral health - and their overall health - long term.
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