Dental problems

Jaw Problems

The way that the teeth inside the mouth meet is known as ‘dental occlusion’. When complications arise in this area, it can sometimes be related to issues with the jaw.

The TMJ (temporo-manibular joint) is the joint that connects the skull to the lower jaw. This is the joint which allows movement of the jaw, providing the ability to chew and move the jaw from side to side.

‘Dental occlusion’ is the term used to describe how the teeth meet when you bite. Problems with occlusion can lead to issues with the TMJ. If you find that your jaw clicks, you grind your jaw, you experience pain in your jaw joints, you have trouble opening your mouth, or have a ringing or buzzing in your ears, there is a chance these issues are occurring as a consequence of your teeth not quite meeting correctly when you bite.

There are method that can be used by your dentist to treat these problems, so if you are experiencing any of the aforementioned difficulties, do not hesitate to visit your dentist to discuss the situation.

Cold Sores

Cold sores are painful raised area of skin, often blisters, that often appear around the mouth and lips and usually heal within 5-7 days. Having said this, they are recurrent and are known to reemerge. Cold sores are indicative of a virus which is very easy to pass on to others.

The virus is known as herpes simplex, and once contracted, your vulnerability to cold sores remains for life. In this situation, cold sores are always likely to appear, but can be eased with antiviral creams, some of which can be purchased at a chemist but some of which are only available via prescription.

If a cold sore is present and does not heal within two weeks, it is a good idea to consult your doctor in order to ensure that there is not an underlying condition that is causing the problem.

If you have developed cold sores and are due to visit your dentist shortly, it is recommended that you consult your dentist for advice. It may be the case that your dentist would rather not perform the consultation due to the highly contagious nature of the virus, in which circumstance you may be asked to wait until the sores clear before proceeding with your visit to the dentist.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, or xerostomia is a condition whereby the flow of saliva around your mouth is restricted. This is problematic because saliva provides the moisture for your mouth and acts as a cleanser – neutralising acidic substances and producing minerals to keep your mouth protected and healthy.

Dryness of the mouth is the most obvious symptom, but others include thicker-than-normal saliva, a prickly sensation inside the mouth, difficulty speaking/swallowing, and a redder, shinier mouth than usual. Those who suffer with dry mouth are often more likely to encounter gum disease and tooth decay.

Dry mouth can often occur as a consequence of age, but can also arise as a side effect of particular medications. Your doctor should be able to advise you on whether or not your medication will have an impact in this sense. Women who are going through the menopause or are receiving HRT treatment are more likely to suffer from dry mouth.

Due to the preventative effects that saliva can offer with relation to oral health problems, a lack of saliva within the mouth causes obvious problems. A dryer mouth is more likely to become unhealthy, and as such it is important for you to visit your dentist in order for them to advise you on how you can best keep your mouth healthy.

Although there is no known way to prevent dry mouth, many people have found certain gels and sprays to be useful.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is a common condition which is caused by the harmful bacteria in plaque when it is left uncleaned in the mouth for prolonged periods of time.

The first signs of gum disease are gums that are red and swollen, and/or if your gums have a tendency to bleed when they are being brushed. If gum disease has progressed you may also suffer from bad breath, abscesses, and wobbly teeth. If gum disease is very severe you may even notice gum recession in areas between your teeth. It is essential that you are aware of the symptoms of gum disease in order for you not to allow it to progress to such a stage.

If you wear braces or dentures then you may be more susceptible to gum disease if you do not apply extra vigilance with regards to your tooth brushing regime. This is because the plaque that settles on the teeth can be more difficult to reach with a toothbrush than it might otherwise. Gum disease is also known to be more prominent in people who suffer from diabetes, and in smokers.

Brushing your teeth and effective flossing are trusted ways to reduce the risk of gum disease. If you are diagnosed with gum disease then it is possible that your dentist may refer you to a hygienist for further consultation. In more developed cases, treatments such as scaling, or, in very rare cases, gum surgery may be recommended.

Sensitive teeth

What are sensitive teeth?

Having sensitive teeth can mean anything from getting a mild twinge to having severe discomfort that can continue for several hours. It can also be an early warning sign of more serious dental problems.

Who suffers from sensitive teeth?

Many people suffer from sensitive teeth and it can start at any time. It is more common in people aged between 20 and 40, although it can affect people in their early teens and when they are over 70. Women are more likely to be affected than men.

What causes sensitive teeth?

The part of the tooth we can see is covered by a layer of enamel that protects the softer dentine underneath.If the dentine is exposed, a tooth can become sensitive. This usually happens where the tooth and the gum meet and the enamel layer is much thinner.

Here are some causes of sensitivity:

Toothbrush abrasion – brushing too hard, and brushing from side to side, can cause dentine to be worn away, particularly where the teeth meet the gums. The freshly exposed dentine may then become sensitive.

Dental erosion – this is loss of tooth enamel caused by attacks of acid from acidic food and drinks. If enamel is worn away the dentine underneath is exposed, which may lead to sensitivity.

Gum recession – gums may naturally recede (shrink back), and the roots will become exposed and can be more sensitive. Root surfaces do not have an enamel layer to protect them.

Gum disease – a build-up of plaque or tartar can cause the gum to recede down the tooth and even destroy the bony support of the tooth. Pockets can form in the gums around the tooth, making the area difficult to keep clean and the problem worse.

Tooth grinding – this is a habit which involves clenching and grinding the teeth together. This can cause the enamel of the teeth to be worn away, making the teeth sensitive.

Do I need to go and see my dentist?

Yes, if you have tried treating your sensitive teeth for a few weeks and have had no improvement.

What treatments can the dentist offer?

During an examination the dentist will talk to you about your symptoms. They will look at your teeth to find out what is causing the sensitivity and to find the best way of treating it.

The dentist may treat the affected teeth with special de-sensitising products to help relieve the symptoms.Fluoride gels, rinses or varnishes can be applied to sensitive teeth. These can be painted onto the teeth at regular appointments one or two weeks apart, to build up some protection. Sensitivity can take some time to settle, and you may need to have several appointments. If this still does not help, your dentist may seal or fill around the neck of the tooth, where the tooth and gum meet, to cover exposed dentine. In very serious cases it may be necessary to root-fill the tooth.

Mouth Cancer

Cancer of the mouth is a form which affects the tongue, lips, cheeks, and throat. Although it has not been widely regarded as a common form of cancer, the number of the cases is on the increase and it is therefore important to be aware of the signs.

Alcohol consumption, smoking, chewing tobacco, and most recently the HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) have been reported as the causes of mouth cancer. It is therefore important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in a variety of areas in order to give yourself the best chance of avoiding the illness.

Mouth cancer can first appear as an ulcer or red area within the mouth that fails to heal as a typical ulcer should. For this reason, it is recommended that if you have had an ulcer or any abnormalities within the mouth that do not resolve themselves within three weeks, visit your dentist for them to make an assessment.

Finding the problem early gives you the best chance of a cure, so it is important to make sure you attend your dental appointments regularly. More serious and developed cases of mouth cancer are found in people who rarely visit their dentist.