Q: What should I do if I have bad breath?
A: Bad breath can be an unpleasant and embarrassing condition. Many of us may not realize that we have bad breath, but everyone has it from time to time, especially in the morning.
Q: What may cause bad breath?
• Morning time – Saliva flow almost stops during sleep and its reduced cleansing action allows bacteria to grow, causing bad breath.
• Certain foods – Garlic, onions, etc. Foods containing odor-causing compounds enter the blood stream; they are transferred to the lungs, where they are exhaled.
• Poor oral hygiene habits – Food particles remaining in the mouth promote bacterial growth.
• Periodontal (gum) disease – Colonies of bacteria and food debris residing under inflamed gums.
• Dental cavities and improperly fitted dental appliances – May also contribute to bad breath.
• Dry mouth (Xerostomia) – May be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or continuous mouth breathing.
• Tobacco products – Dry the mouth, causing bad breath.
• Dieting – Certain chemicals called ketones are released in the breath as the body burns fat.
• Dehydration, hunger, and missed meals – Drinking water and chewing food increases saliva flow and washes bacteria away.
• Certain medical conditions and illnesses – Diabetes, liver and kidney problems, chronic sinus infections, bronchitis, and pneumonia are several conditions that may contribute to bad breath.
Q: What can I do to prevent bad breath?
• Practice good oral hygiene – Brush at least twice a day with an ADA approved fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush. Floss daily to remove food debris and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gumline. Brush or use a tongue scraper to clean the tongue and reach the back areas. Replace your toothbrush every two to three months. If you wear dentures or removable bridges, clean them thoroughly and place them back in your mouth in the morning.
• See your dentist regularly – Get a check-up and cleaning at least twice a year. If you have or have had periodontal disease, your dentist will recommend more frequent visits.
• Stop smoking/chewing tobacco – Ask your dentist what they recommend to help break the habit.
• Drink water frequently – Water will help keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria.
• Use mouthwash/rinses – Some over-the-counter products only provide a temporary solution to mask unpleasant mouth odor. Ask your dentist about antiseptic rinses that not only alleviate bad breath, but also kill the germs that cause the problem.
Q How often should I have a dental exam and cleaning?
A: You should have your teeth checked and cleaned at least twice a year, though your dentist or dental hygienist may recommend more frequent visits.
Regular dental exams and cleaning visits are essential in preventing dental problems and maintaining the health of your teeth and gums. At these visits, your teeth are cleaned and checked for cavities.
Q: What can I do about stained or discolored teeth?
A: Since teeth whitening has now become the number one aesthetic concern of many patients, there are many products and methods available to achieve a brighter smile.
Professional teeth whitening (or bleaching) is a simple, non-invasive dental treatment used to change the color of natural tooth enamel, and is an ideal way to enhance the beauty of your smile. Over-the-counter products are also available, but they are much less effective than professional treatments and may not be approved by the American Dental Association (ADA).
It’s important to have your teeth evaluated by your dentist to determine if you’re a good candidate for bleaching. Occasionally, tetracycline and fluorosis stains are difficult to bleach and your dentist may offer other options, such as veneers or crowns to cover up such stains. Since teeth whitening only works on natural tooth enamel, it is also important to evaluate replacement of any old fillings, crowns, etc. before bleaching begins. Once the bleaching is done, your dentist can match the new restorations to the shade of the newly whitened teeth.
Since teeth whitening is not permanent, a touch-up may be needed every several years to keep your smile looking bright.
Some patients may experience tooth sensitivity after having their teeth whitened. This sensation is temporary and subsides shortly after you complete the bleaching process, usually within a few days to one week.
Teeth whitening can be very effective and can give you a brighter, whiter, more confident smile!
Q: How can I tell if I have gingivitis or periodontitis (gum disease)?
A: Four out of five people have periodontal disease and don’t know it! Most people are not aware of it because the disease is usually painless in the early stages. Unlike tooth decay, which often causes discomfort, it is possible to have periodontal disease without noticeable symptoms. Having regular dental check-ups and periodontal examinations are very important and will help detect if periodontal problems exist.
Signs and Symptoms of Periodontal Disease
• Red and puffy gums – Gums should never be red or swollen.
• Bleeding gums – Gums should never bleed, even when you brush vigorously or use dental floss.
• Persistent bad breath – Caused by bacteria in the mouth.
• New spacing between teeth – Caused by bone loss.
• Loose teeth – Also caused by bone loss or weakened periodontal fibers (fibers that support the tooth to the bone).
• Puss around the teeth and gums – Sign that there is an infection present.
• Receding gums – Loss of gum around a tooth.
• Tenderness or discomfort – Plaque, calculus, and bacteria irritate the gums and teeth.
Good oral hygiene, a balanced diet, and regular dental visits can help reduce your risk of developing periodontal disease.
Q: Why do I need a crown instead of a bigger filling?
A: Teeth are often restored using silver or composite fillings. However, when too much of a tooth's structure is removed to support a filling, a crown or "cap" may be needed. A crown may be needed to:
• Restore a tooth when it is unable to support a large filling
• Attach bridges
• Protect a weak tooth from fracturing or restore fractured teeth
• Cover badly shaped or discolored teeth
• Cover dental implants
A crown essentially covers a tooth to restore it to its natural shape and size. This permanent covering fits over your original tooth to strengthen or improve the appearance of the tooth. Fitting a crown generally requires at least two visits to the dentist's office.
Q: What do I do if my tooth is loose or knocked out?
A: Know the proper first aid for saving a loose or dislocated tooth. If the tooth is loose, even extremely so, but is still attached in any way, leave it in place; do not remove it. If it is out of its socket completely and unattached, but still in the victim's mouth, it is best to have the person hold it there, if possible, until a dentist can attempt re-implantation. If it is out of the mouth, do not let it dry out. Handle it as little as possible.
Do not attempt to disinfect the tooth, or scrub it, or remove any tissue attached to it. If it is recovered from the ground or other soiled area, rinse it off in lukewarm water. Preserve it in milk until a dentist is available. If milk is not available, lukewarm water will suffice.
Time out of the socket is critical in the long-term success of re-implantation. After 30 minutes, the success potential begins to decline. However, re-implantation is still possible after several hours, so the attempt can still be made even if the tooth has been out for a long period.