People risk breaking their teeth or otherwise injuring their mouths while eating, playing, exercising, and participating in other seemingly harmless activities. It’s important to understand what to do in case of a dental emergency so that your tooth can be repaired when you are able to see a dentist.
Dental emergencies can occur when your tooth breaks, cracks, becomes loosened, or is knocked out completely. Sometimes dental crowns come off of teeth. Lips, gums, or cheeks can be cut.
Dental emergencies can be avoided by taking simple precautions, such as wearing a mouthguard during sports activities to prevent teeth from breaking or being knocked out, and avoiding hard foods that may crack or break your teeth—whether you have your natural teeth or you wear dentures. Oral injuries often are painful and should be treated by a dentist as soon as possible.
If your tooth is loosened and pushed out of position, call your dentist right away for an emergency appointment. In the meantime, attempt to reposition it to its normal alignment using very light finger pressure—but don’t force it!
There are different types of tooth fractures. Chipped teeth are minor fractures. Moderate fractures include damage to the enamel, tissue, and/or pulp. Severe fractures usually mean that a tooth has been traumatized to the point that it cannot be recovered.
If you fracture a tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water and use an ice pack or cold compress to reduce swelling. Take ibuprofen, not aspirin, for pain. Your dentist can smooth out minor fractures with a sandpaper disc. Alternatively, restorative procedures may be needed to fix the tooth. If you wear dentures and a tooth breaks or chips, wear your spare dentures until you can visit your dentist. If you do not have a spare set or cannot get to the dentist’s office soon, use cyanoacrylate (heavy-duty, quick-drying “super” glue) to glue the tooth or the piece of the tooth back into place. Remember—this is only a temporary measure until your dentist can properly repair your tooth and should only be used for dentures! Never attempt to glue a natural tooth or part of a natural tooth back into place!
Injuries inside the mouth include tears or cuts, puncture wounds, and lacerations to the cheek, lips, or tongue. The wound should be cleaned immediately with warm water, and the injured person should be taken directly to an oral surgeon for emergency care. If you can’t get to an oral surgeon, the patient should be taken to the hospital. Bleeding from a tongue laceration can be reduced by pulling the tongue forward and using gauze to place pressure on the wound.
Your child’s first visit to the dentist should happen before his or her first birthday. The general rule is six months after eruption of the first tooth. Taking your child to the dentist at a young age is the best way to prevent problems such as tooth decay, and can help parents learn how to clean their child’s teeth and identify his or her fluoride needs. After all, decay can occur as soon as teeth appear.
Bringing your child to the dentist early often leads to a lifetime of good oral care habits and acclimates your child to the dental office, thereby reducing anxiety and fear, which will make for plenty of stress-free visits in the future.
Children will begin losing their teeth at approximately age 4. They will usually lose their front teeth first. Children will continue to lose baby teeth until age 12 or 13 when all of the permanent teeth finally erupt.
Tooth decay, also known as caries or cavities, is an oral disease that affects many people. Unlike other diseases, however, caries is not life-threatening and is highly preventable, though it affects most people to some degree during their lifetime.
Natural bacteria live in your mouth and form plaque. The plaque interacts with deposits left on your teeth from sugary and starchy foods and produces acids. These acids damage tooth enamel over time by dissolving, or demineralizing enamel, which weakens the teeth and leads to tooth decay.
Foods containing carbohydrates (starches and sugars), such as soda pop, candy, ice cream, milk, and cake, and even some fruits, vegetables, and juices, may contribute to tooth decay.
Common causes of canker sores
- Local trauma and stress
- Diet and food allergies
- Hormonal changes
- Use of certain medications
Common treatments of canker sores:
- Antimicrobial mouthwashes
- Local painkillers
- Over-the-counter remedies (oral adhesive patches, liquids and gels)
Many people grind their teeth at night. Grinding, or bruxism, may cause serious damage to the teeth, and may require you to need crowns. Grinding, which often begins in your teenage years or early 20s, can be detected and corrected before much damage has been done. Dentists can create bite splints for you to wear at night or during stressful times when most teeth-grinding occurs.
Bad breath is primarily caused by poor oral hygiene but can also be caused by retained food particles or gum disease.
It is important to practice good oral hygiene, such as brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day. Proper brushing, including brushing the tongue, cheeks and the roof of the mouth, will remove bacteria and food particles. Flossing removes accumulated bacteria, plaque and food that may be trapped between teeth. To alleviate odors, clean your tongue with your toothbrush or a tongue scraper, a plastic tool that scrapes away bacteria that builds on the tongue. Chewing sugar-free gum also may help control odor. If you have dentures or a removable appliance, such as a retainer or mouthguard, clean the appliance thoroughly before placing it back in your mouth. Before you use mouthrinses, deodorizing sprays or tablets, talk with your dentist, because these products only mask the odor temporarily and some products work better than others.
Bacterial plaque – a sticky, colorless film that constantly forms on the teeth – is recognized as the primary cause of gum disease. If plaque isn’t removed each day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into a rough, porous substance called calculus (also known as tartar). Toxins produced and released by bacteria in plaque irritate the gums. These toxins cause the breakdown of the fibers that hold the gums tightly to the teeth, creating periodontal pockets that fill with even more toxins and bacteria. As the disease progresses, pockets extend deeper, and the bacteria moves down until the bone that holds the tooth in place is destroyed. The tooth eventually will fall out or require extraction.
Signs include red, swollen or tender gums, bleeding while brushing or flossing, gums that pull away from teeth, loose or separating teeth, pus between the gum and tooth, persistent bad breath, a change in the way teeth fit together when the patient bites and a change in the fit of dentures. While patients are advised to check for the warning signs, there might not be any discomfort until the disease has spread to a point where the tooth is unsalvageable. That’s why patients are advised to get frequent dental exams.
Removing plaque through daily brushing, flossing and professional cleaning is the best way to minimize your risk. Your dentist can design a personalized program of home oral care to meet your needs.
Many people ring in a new year by making health-related resolutions to improve their lives, but how many of those lifestyle changes are kept past January? The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD), a professional association of more than 35,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up to date in the profession through continuing education, has compiled some easy-to-keep oral health tips that consumers can work into their everyday routines and continue to perform throughout the year.
“Oral health means more than just an attractive smile,” says AGD spokesperson Raymond Martin, DDS, MAGD. “Poor oral health and untreated oral diseases and conditions can have a significant impact on quality of life. And, in many cases, the condition of the mouth mirrors the condition of the body as a whole.”
- Floss every day. It’s the single most important factor in preventing gum disease, which affects more than 50 percent of adults. Spend two to three minutes flossing at least once a day. Not flossing because it irritates your gums? The more often you floss, the tougher your gums will become.
- Brush your teeth for at least two to three minutes twice daily. If you’re not sure whether you’re brushing long enough, simply brush for the length of an entire song on the radio.
- Change your toothbrush or toothbrush head (if you’re using an electric toothbrush) before the bristles become splayed and frayed, or every three to four months. Not only are old toothbrushes ineffective, they may harbor harmful bacteria that can cause infections, such as gingivitis and gum disease.
- Drink sugary beverages through a straw. This will minimize the amount of time that the sugars are in contact with your teeth, which can minimize the risk of developing cavities.
- Replace carbonated beverages, which cause enamel erosion and cavities, with water, milk, tea, or coffee.
- Chew sugarless gum that contains xylitol after meals and snacks. This will help cleanse your mouth and prevent the bacteria associated with cavities from attaching to your teeth. Even better, gum will increase your saliva production and reduce bad breath!
- Wait one hour to brush your teeth after consuming highly acidic food or drinks, like wine, coffee, citrus fruits, and soft drinks. Otherwise, you run the risk of wearing away the enamel on your teeth.
“One last reminder to patients is that they should make an appointment to see their general dentist every six months,” adds Dr. Martin. “More than 90 percent of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations, meaning that your dentist could be the first health care provider to diagnose a health problem.”
Plaque is a sticky layer of material containing bacteria that accumulates on teeth, including where toothbrushes can’t reach. Many of the foods you eat cause the bacteria in your mouth to produce acids. Sugary foods are obvious sources of plaque, but there are others that you might not realize can cause harm. Starches—such as bread, crackers, and cereal—also cause acids to form. Plaque also produces substances that irritate the gums, making them red, sensitive, and susceptible to bleeding. This can lead to gum disease, in which gums pull away from the teeth and form pockets that fill with bacteria and pus. If the gums are not treated, the bone around the teeth can be destroyed and teeth may become loose or have to be removed.
The best way to remove plaque is by brushing and cleaning between your teeth every day. Brushing removes plaque from the tooth surfaces. Brush your teeth twice per day with a soft-bristled brush. The size and shape of your toothbrush should fit your mouth and allow you to reach all areas easily. Use an antimicrobial toothpaste containing fluoride, which helps protect your teeth from decay. Clean between the teeth once a day with floss or interdental cleaners to remove plaque from between the teeth, where the toothbrush can’t reach. Flossing is essential to prevent gum disease.
- Place your toothbrush at a 45-degree angle against the gums.
- Move the brush back and forth gently in short (tooth-wide) strokes.
- Brush the outer tooth surfaces, the inner tooth surfaces, and the chewing surfaces of the teeth.
- Use the tip of the brush to clean the inside surfaces of the front teeth, using a gentle up-and-down stroke.
- Brush your tongue to remove bacteria and freshen your breath.
A mouth rinse, in addition to daily brushing and flossing, can increase the cleanliness of your mouth. Antimicrobial mouth rinses reduce bacteria and plaque activity, which cause gingivitis and gum disease. Fluoride mouth rinses also help reduce and prevent tooth decay. Always talk to your dentist about any new products you are interested in trying. Not everyone should use a fluoride mouth rinse. For instance, fluoride rinses are not recommended for children ages 6 or younger because they may swallow them. Always check the manufacturer’s label for precautions and age recommendations and talk with your dentist about the use of fluoride mouth rinse.
- Brush with the radio on – dentists recommend brushing for the entire length of a song.
- Use fluoridated, antimicrobial toothpastes and mouth rinses. They help to make the tooth structure resistant to decay.
- Keep oral hygiene products at work. Studies show that the chance of a person using them during the day will increase 65 percent.
- Talk to your dentist about new products you’re using, as all products are not suited for all people.
- Skip the caffeine. Avoiding caffeine before a dental appointment can make you less anxious.
- Communicate. Use hand signals to inform the dentist that you are uncomfortable, and talk to your dentist about your specific fears.
It might be a good idea to brush with the radio on, since dentists generally recommend brushing three to four minutes, the average length of a song. Using an egg timer is another way to measure your brushing time. Patients generally think they’re brushing longer, but most spend less than a minute brushing.
To make sure you’re doing a thorough job and not missing any spots, patients are advised to brush the full three to four minutes twice a day, instead of brushing quickly five or more times through the day.
There are a number of effective brushing techniques. Patients are advised to check with their dentist or hygienist to determine which technique is best for them, since tooth position and gum condition vary. One effective, easy-to-remember technique involves using a circular or elliptical motion to brush a couple of teeth at a time, gradually covering the entire mouth.
Place a toothbrush beside your teeth at a 45-degree angle and gently brush teeth in an elliptical motion. Brush the outside of the teeth, inside the teeth, your tongue, the chewing surfaces and between teeth. Using a back-and-forth motion causes the gum surface to recede, can expose the root surface or make the root surface tender. You also risk wearing down the gum line.
Definitely, but most Americans don’t brush during the workday. Yet a survey by Oral-B Laboratories and the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) shows if you keep a toothbrush at work, the chances you will brush during the day increase by 65 percent.
Getting the debris off teeth right away stops sugary snacks from turning to damaging acids and catches starchy foods like potato chips before they turn to cavity-causing sugar. If you brush with fluoride toothpaste in the morning and before going to bed, you don’t even need to use toothpaste at work. You can just brush and rinse before heading back to your desk. If you don’t have a toothbrush, rinsing your mouth with water for 30 seconds after lunch also helps.
Tips to improve your office brushing habits:
- Post a sticky note on your desk or computer as a reminder to brush teeth after lunch.
- Brush teeth right after lunch, before you become absorbed in work.
- Store your toothbrush and toothpaste at work in a convenient and handy place.
- Make brushing your teeth part of your freshening-up routine at work.
- When brushing at the office or away from home, it’s important to make an extra effort to keep your toothbrush germ-free.
Tips on how to properly store and care for your toothbrush at work:
- Always store your toothbrush in a travel container.
- Dry your toothbrush after use and before returning to its container.
- Change the toothbrush you take to work more often than your toothbrush at home to avoid bacteria build-up.
As more oral health product manufacturers introduce dental instruments to the consumer market, more patients are seeking treatment as a result of misuse of these devices, reports the Academy of General Dentistry (AGD).
AGD spokesperson Heidi Hausauer, DDS, says she frequently sees devices that resemble a scaler – an instrument used by dentists and dental hygienists for removing tartar and other deposits from the tooth surface – advertised in magazines and sold in drug stores.
“I’ve had people come into the office who have used these over-the-counter dental instruments and chipped their front tooth with them,” she says. “I’ve seen patients gauge roots and chip the enamel off lower incisors.”
Misuse of the devices also can lead to periodontal (gum) abscesses when tartar is pushed under the gumline.
While dentists and hygienists are trained in the proper use of dental instruments and removing tartar, they warn that patients attempting to do it themselves at home may do more harm than good. Rather than attempt to advise patients on proper use of these devices, many tell their patients it is safest to avoid using them at all.
“I would rather see the dentist or hygienist remove tartar,” says Dr. Hausauer. “Regular professional cleaning and dental visits are much healthier than buying something over the counter and picking at your teeth.”
Floss removes plaque and debris that adhere to teeth and gums in between teeth, polishes tooth surfaces and controls bad breath. By flossing your teeth daily, you increase the chances of keeping your teeth a lifetime and decrease your chance of having periodontal (gum) disease and tooth decay. Flossing is the single most important weapon against plaque, perhaps more important than the toothbrush. Many people just don’t spend enough time flossing and many have never been taught to floss properly. When you visit your dentist or hygienist, ask to be shown.
Dental floss comes in many forms: waxed and unwaxed, flavored and unflavored, wide and regular. Wide floss, or dental tape, may be helpful for people with a lot of bridge work. Tapes are usually recommended when the spaces between teeth are wide. They all clean and remove plaque about the same. Waxed floss might be easier to slide between tight teeth or tight restorations. However, the unwaxed floss makes a squeaking sound to let you know your teeth are clean. Bonded unwaxed floss does not fray as easily as regular unwaxed floss but does tear more than waxed floss.
At least once a day. To give your teeth a good flossing, spend at least two or three minutes.
Tooth sensitivity can be reduced by using a desensitizing toothpaste; having your dentist apply sealants and other desensitizing and filling materials, including fluoride; and decreasing the intake of acid-containing foods. Using tartar-control toothpaste will sometimes cause teeth to be sensitive as well as drinking soft drinks throughout the day, so these habits should be avoided.
Avoid using hard-bristled toothbrushes and brushing your teeth too hard, which can wear down the tooth’s surface and expose sensitive spots. The way to find out if you’re brushing your teeth too hard is to take a good look at your toothbrush. If the bristles are pointing in multiple directions, you’re brushing too hard.
In a pinch, toothpicks are effective at removing food between teeth, but for daily cleaning of plaque between teeth, floss is recommended. When you use a toothpick, don’t press too hard, as you can break off the end and lodge it in your gums.
When your dentist determines that you have a cavity in a tooth, he or she will tell you that you need a filling. But what exactly will your dentist use to fill the hole after the decay has been removed? Dental amalgam is the most widely used and researched material for fillings. It has been used to restore the teeth of more than 100 million Americans over the past 150 years.
Dental amalgam is a mix of metal (also known as an alloy) that is made by combining mercury, silver, tin, copper, and sometimes other metallic elements.
Although dental amalgam continues to be a safe, commonly used restorative material, there have been some concerns because it contains mercury. However, because the mercury in amalgam is combined with other metals, it is safe for use in filling teeth. Major U.S. and international scientific and health organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Public Health Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the World Health Organization, are satisfied that dental amalgam is a safe, reliable, and effective restorative material.
If you are concerned about amalgam, talk to your dentist. Dentists can use other materials to fill a tooth, such as composite resin, porcelain, and gold. Your dentist will advise you about the most practical, safest option for your situation.
Root canal therapy is necessary because the tooth will not heal by itself. Without treatment, the infection will spread, bone around the tooth will begin to degenerate and the tooth may fall out. Pain usually worsens until one is forced to seek emergency dental attention. The only alternative is usually extraction of the tooth, which can cause surrounding teeth to shift crookedly, resulting in a bad bite. Though an extraction is cheaper, the space left behind will require an implant or a bridge, which can be more expensive than root canal therapy. If you have the choice, it’s always best to keep your original teeth.
Crowns should last approximately five to eight years. However, with good oral hygiene and supervision, most crowns will last for a much longer period of time. Some damaging habits like grinding your teeth, chewing ice or fingernail biting may cause this period of time to decrease significantly.
There is no difference between a cap and a crown.
The active ingredient in most of whitening agents is carbamide peroxide; when water comes into contact with this white crystal, the release of hydrogen peroxide lightens the teeth.
Several studies have proven bleaching to be safe and effective. The American Dental Association has granted its seal of approval to some tooth bleaching products. Some patients may experience slight gum irritation or tooth sensitivity, which will resolve when the treatment ends.
Lightness should last from one to five years, depending on your personal habits such as smoking and drinking coffee and tea. At this point you may choose to get a touch-up. The retreatment time is much shorter than the original treatment time.
By packing an emergency dental care kit including: Dentist’s phone numbers (home and office) Saline solution Handkerchief Gauze Small container with lid Ibuprofen (Not aspirin. Aspirin is an anti-coagulant, which may cause excessive bleeding in a dental emergency.)