Common mouth sores: causes and cures

Mouth sores can be very annoying and painful and can have many causes.

The causes can range from infections – bacterial, viral or fungal – to a loose orthodontic wire or a denture that doesn’t fit or a sharp edge from a broken tooth or filling.

But mouth sores may be symptoms of an underlying disease or problem.

So, if you’ve had any mouth sore that lasts a week or longer, its a good idea to get your dentist to check it out.

Here are some of the most common mouth sores:

Canker sores: These are small ulcers with a white or gray base and a red border. They appear inside the mouth and are not contagious though they often return. Problems such as poor immune systems, viruses or fatigue and stress may be involved. They usually heal on their own after a week or two.

Cold sores: Cold sores are annoying and painful. They are also known as fever blisters or Herpes simplex and are groups of fluid-filled blisters. They often erupt around the lips and sometimes under the nose or around the chin. Cold sores caused by herpes virus type 1 are very contagious and the virus stays in the body. Cold sore blisters usually heal in a week by themselves.

Candidiasis: This fungal infection (also called moniliasis or oral thrush) occurs when the yeast Candida albicans reproduce in large numbers. It is common among denture wearers and people who have dry mouth syndrome are very susceptible to it. The focus is on preventing it or controlling the conditions that caused the outbreak.

Any mouth sores that last more than a few days should be checked with your dentist.

Making the most of your smile

Your smile is a major factor in the impression people get when they meet you.

And the good news is that you now don’t have to settle for a smile spoiled by stained, chipped, or misshapen teeth.

Advances in dental treatment mean there is a wide range of choices to help you get the smile that you want. Here are some of the options:
– Tooth whitening (bleaching) can help brighten teeth that have become discolored or stained. It can be done in the dental office or with a system the dentist can give you to use at home
– Bonding improves the appearance of teeth that have become chipped, broken, cracked or stained. This is done by bonding tooth-colored materials to the tooth surface
– Enamel shaping involves modifying teeth to improve their appearance by removing or contouring enamel
– Veneers are thin custom-made shells of tooth-colored materials designed to cover the front side of teeth. They are used to treat spaces between teeth and teeth that are chipped, stained or poorly shaped.
– Braces may be needed if teeth are crooked, crowded or do not meet properly – and not just for kids

Even small changes can have a big impact on your smile and so make a huge difference to how you look and how you feel about yourself.

If you’d like an even better smile, your dentist will be able to give you information about the options available.

Different types of dentist and how they help your oral care

While many people see dentists as the single group of people who look after the health of your teeth and mouth, there are various specialist categories that help you in different ways.

The categorization of a dentist will depend on their education, training and experience.

Here are some of the main specialist areas of dentistry:

Endodontics: Concerned with the dental pulp – the part in the center of a tooth made up of living soft tissue and cells and root canal therapy

Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology: This deals with the identification, and management of diseases affecting the oral and maxillofacial regions

Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology: Deals with the production and interpretation of images and data produced by radiant energy that are used for the diagnosis and management of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral and maxillofacial region

Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery: Diagnosis and surgical treatment of diseases, injuries and defects of the tissues including extractions, facial surgery and implants

Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopaedics: Mainly deals with diagnosis, prevention and treatment of misaligned teeth and modification of midface and mandibular growth

Pediatric Dentistry: Provides preventive and therapeutic oral health care for infants and children through adolescence.

Periodontics: Prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the supporting and surrounding tissues of the teeth and the maintenance of the health, function and esthetics of these structures and tissues. Most periodonitist place implants

Prosthodontics: Diagnosis, treatment planning, rehabilitation and maintenance associated with missing or deficient teeth and/or oral and maxillofacial tissues. Includes dentures, bridges and the restoration of implants.

Plus, of course, general dentists provide everyday care and many specialist services to maintain your oral health.

Your saliva and why its so important

You probably don’t give too much thought to the saliva in your mouth but, if you think of it like a bloodstream you’ll realize how important it is.

Like blood, saliva helps build and maintain the health of the soft and hard tissues.

It removes waste products from the mouth and offers first-line protection against microbial invasion that might lead to disease.

Saliva is derived from blood and therefore can also be used to detect disease.

Saliva enhances enamel protection by providing high levels of calcium and phosphate ions. It contains the minerals that maintain the integrity of the enamel surface and helps protect against caries.

When salivary flow is reduced, oral health deteriorates – much in the same way body tissues suffer if blood circulation is disrupted.

Patients with dry mouths (xerostomia) experience difficulty chewing, speaking and swallowing. A major cause of dry mouth is medication – almost eighty percent of the most commonly prescribed medications lead to dry mouth.

Chewing gum after a snack or meal stimulates salivary flow, clearing food from the mouth and neutralizing plaque acid.

Your saliva is important to your oral health both for preventing disease and in helping to diagnose problems.

How scaling and planing can help clean your teeth properly

Dental plaque is a film that builds up on your teeth and, if it is not removed through good oral hygiene, it can lead to tooth decay and gum problems.

Over time it can ultimately form a hard, rough sediment known as dental tartar or calculus, which attracts further plaque buildup.

Calculus has to be removed by a trained professional such as a hygienist or dentist.

They may do this by manual tooth scaling or using an ultrasonic device.

If the buildup is light or moderate, the dentist or hygienist may use manual scaling instruments of various shapes and sizes.

If the buildup of tartar and stains is heavy, an ultrasonic cleaner may be used. This may be followed by hand scaling.

Build up of plaque can cause inflammation of the gums leading to breakdown of the connection between the teeth and the supporting structures.

Root planing is a procedure to treat gum disease by thoroughly scaling the roots of teeth to establish a smooth, calculus-free surface.

This treatment may require local anesthesia to prevent pain. Thorough periodontal scaling customarily involves several dental visits

If conditions are more advanced, surgery may be needed for complete debridement of the roots to arrest the disease process.

Some people tend to have more buildup of calculus than others and some may be more prone to periodontal inflammation or the development of tooth decay.

It’s therefore important to follow your hygienist’s advivce on how often to return for regular cleanings – even if your insurance only covers two a year.

How dental implants can give you a better smile

If you have missing teeth, you dont just have to rely on crowns, conventional bridges and dentures.

Many people are now choosing dental implants as the best way to restore their smile and solve dental problems.

Implants are placed below the gums during a series of appointments. They fuse to the jawbone and provide a base for individual replacement teeth, bridges or a denture.

As they are fused to the bone, they offer greater stability. And, because they are integrated into your jaw, your replacement teeth will feel more natural.

This secure fit often also makes them more comfortable than other solutions.

In order to have implants, you need to have healthy gums and adequate bone to support the implant.

To find out whether you could be a candidate for dental implants, talk to your dentist about what they could do for you.

Understanding your wisdom teeth

Many patients ask whether wisdom teeth are really necessary since so many people have them removed.

The fact is that wisdom teeth are a valuable asset to the mouth when they are healthy and properly positioned.

However, problems can occur that sometimes make it better to have them removed.

For example, when the jaw isn’t large enough, the wisdom teeth can become impacted – misaligned or unable to grow in properly. They may grow sideways, emerge only part way from the gum or remain trapped beneath the gum and bone.

The reasons wisdom teeth may have to be extracted include:
– The teeth have only partially erupted. This leaves an opening for bacteria which cause infection.
– There is a chance the wisdom teeth will damage adjacent teeth.
– A cyst forms which may destroy surrounding structures such as bone or tooth roots.

Ask your dentist about the health and positioning of your wisdom teeth.

Your dentist will tell you if there are any issues and will recommend any steps needed.

The causes of bad breath

Bad breath – also known as halitosis – is an unpleasant condition that can cause a great deal of embarrassment.

And, for many people, its made even worse by the fact they don’t even know that they have it.

There are many possible causes for bad breath so, if you think you might have the problem, talk to your dentist.

What you eat affects what you breathe out. Certain foods, such as garlic and onions, contribute to objectionable breath odor and even dieters may develop unpleasant breath from infrequent eating.

If you don’t brush and floss daily, particles of food remain in the mouth, collecting bacteria, which can cause bad breath.

Bad breath can also be caused by dry mouth (xerostomia) which occurs when the flow of saliva decreases.

One of the reasons why its especially important to talk to your dentist about bad breath is that it may be a sign of an underlying medical problem such as respiratory tract infection or gastrointestinal problems.

Persistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth can also be a warning signs of gum disease.

Smoking can also cause bad breath, stain teeth and reduce your ability to taste foods.

For all these reasons, you shouldn’t put up with the problem of bad breath. Talk to your dentist and find out what might be causing the problem.

What to do if your tooth cracks

While our teeth are normally very strong, they can crack for a number of reasons.

Reasons could include tooth decay, trauma/injury, grinding of the teeth or a stress fracture.

Sometimes, our jaw may be stronger than our teeth and the teeth can fracture when we bite heavily on food.

We can protect our teeth in some circumstances – for example it may be advisable to wear a mouthguard during sports.

Taking proper care of the teeth and regular visits to the dentist will help keep your teeth in good shape.

If a tooth cracks, it may become painful if the nerve is exposed and the area can become tender.

If this happens, rinse your mouth with warm water to clean the area and apply a cold compress to reduce swelling. Then call your dentist immediately.

Treatment will depend on where the tooth has fractured, how close it is to the nerve and the overall condition of the tooth.

A cracked tooth may be repaired with silver alloy, gold, porcelain or plastic. Or it may require a crown or overlay or bonding, which applies porcelain or enamel to the fractured tooth.

If you contact your dentist quickly, they will be able to take the most approriate action to preserve the tooth as much as possible.

Taking care of removable partial dentures

If you have removable plastic dentures, its important to look after them carefully.

You should brush them each day to remove food deposits and plaque. This also helps prevent them from becoming permanently stained.

It’s best to use a brush that is designed for cleaning dentures as it has bristles arranged to fit the shape of the denture. But a regular, soft-bristled toothbrush is also acceptable.

Avoid using a brush with hard bristles as these can damage the denture.

When you are handling a denture, hold them carefully. Try standing over a folded towel or a sink of water with them in case you accidentally drop them.

Its advisable to use a denture cleanser which has the American Dental Association seal of acceptance. However hand soap or mild dishwashing liquid are also acceptable for cleaning dentures.

Other types of household cleaners and many toothpastes are too abrasive and should not be used for cleaning dentures.

A denture can lose its proper shape if it is not kept moist. So it should be placed in soaking solution or water at night though one with metal attachments could be tarnished if placed in soaking solution.

As you age, your mouth naturally changes, which can affect the fit of the denture so, if they no longer fit properly, they should be adjusted by your dentist.

See your dentist promptly if your denture becomes loose as this can cause sores or infections.

Dont try to adjust or repair your denture yourself as this can damage the appliance beyond repair.

When you wear a partial denture, you need to continue brushing twice a day and cleaning between your teeth daily. This will help prevent tooth decay and gum disease.

Pay special attention to cleaning the teeth that fit under the denture’s metal clasps. Plaque that becomes trapped under the clasps will increase the risk of tooth decay.

Your dentist or dental hygienist can demonstrate how to properly brush and clean between teeth.

Regular dental check-ups and having your teeth professionally cleaned are vital for maintaining a healthy smile.