FAQs - Common Dental Questions
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American Dental Association FAQ
Eliminate any risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol and regularly visit your dentist. Periodic dental exams allow early detection and appropriate treatment if cancer develops. If at any time you notice any changes in the appearance of your mouth or any of these signs and symptoms, contact your dentist at once:
- A persistent sore or irritation that does not heal
- Color changes such as the development of red and/or white lesions
- Pain, tenderness or numbness anywhere in the mouth or lips
- A lump, thickening, rough spot, crust or small eroded area
- Difficulty in chewing, swallowing, speaking or moving the jaw or tongue
- Change in bite
Regular checkups will allow your dentist to detect any problems such as gum disease, a dry mouth or other disorders that may be the cause. Maintaining good oral hygiene, eliminating gum disease and scheduling regular professional cleanings are essential to reducing bad breath.
Regardless of what may be the cause, good oral hygiene is essential. Brush twice a day and clean between your teeth daily with floss or interdental cleaners. Brush your tongue, too. If you wear dentures, be sure to remove them at night and clean them thoroughly before replacing them the next morning. If you don’t already have a dentist, see Bad Breath.
See also: Consumer Hot Topics: Bad Breath (Halitosis)
If your dentist determines that your mouth is healthy and that the odor is not of oral origin, you may be referred to your family physician or to a specialist to determine the cause of the odor and for treatment. Of course, if the odor is of oral origin, as it is in the majority of cases, your dentist can treat the cause of the problem.
If the odor is due to gum disease, your general dentist can either treat the disease or refer you to a periodontist, a specialist in treating gum tissues. Gum disease can cause gum tissues to pull away from the teeth and form pockets. When these pockets are deep, only a professional periodontal cleaning can remove the bacteria and plaque that accumulate. Sometimes more extensive treatment is necessary.
If you have extensive build-up of plaque, an invisible layer of bacteria, your dentist may recommend using a special antimicrobial mouthrinse. Your dentist may also recommend that when you brush your teeth, you also brush your tongue to remove excess plaque.
The ADA cannot vouch for the claims the manufacturers of halitosis kits make. If you are concerned about their safety and effectiveness, you can ask your dentist if the products in the kit will be useful for you.
Many antiseptic mouthrinse products, however, have been accepted by the ADA for their therapeutic benefits in reducing plaque and gingivitis and also have breath freshening properties. See the ADA’s Products of Excellence Catalog under the heading Mouthrinses, Anti-plaque/Anti-Gingivitis. Instead of simply masking breath odor, these products have been demonstrated to kill the germs that cause bad breath. You may wish to ask your dentist about trying some of these products
Canker sores are often confused with cold sores. An easy way to distinguish between the two is to remember that canker sores occur inside the mouth, and cold sores usually occur outside the mouth.
A canker sore (also called aphthous ulcers) is a small ulcer with a white or gray base and red border. There can be one or a number of sores in the mouth. Canker sores are very common and often recur.
A cold sore, which is also called fever blister or herpes simplex, is composed of groups of painful, fluid-filled blisters that often erupt around the lips and sometime under the nose or under the chin. Cold sores are usually caused by herpes virus type I and are very contagious.
Canker sores usually heal in about a week or two. Rinsing with anitmircobial mouthrinses may help reduce the irritation. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can also provide relief. Cold sores 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.
When the pulp of a tooth becomes infected (often from a deep cavity or a deep crack),
the infection can spread throughout the pulp. If root canal treatment is not done, the infection may travel into the tissues near the root tip. This can cause the adjacent bone to erode. The pocket of pus that forms is the abscess. If the abscess increases in size, it can become more painful.
See also: Root Canal (Endodontic) Treatment