Oral Health — Good for LifeTM Most of

Oral Health — Good for LifeTM

Most of us realize that diet and exercise play an important part in keeping us healthy. But did you know that a healthy mouth is also an important part of a healthy body?

Poor oral health can affect a person’s quality of life. Oral pain, missing teeth or oral infections can influence the way a person speaks, eats and socializes. These oral health problems can reduce a person’s quality of life by affecting their physical, mental and social well-being.

Oral disease, like any other disease, needs to be treated. A chronic infection, including one in the mouth, is a serious problem that should not be ignored. Yet bleeding or tender gums are often overlooked.

Research has shown there is an association between oral disease and other health problems such as diabetes, heart disease and stroke, respiratory illness in older adults, as well as pre-term and low-birth-weight babies. Although researchers are just beginning to understand this relationship, evidence shows that oral disease can aggravate other health problems and that keeping a healthy mouth is an important part of leading a healthy life.

5 Steps to Good Oral Health

As part of a healthy lifestyle and to help reduce the risk of oral disease, follow these 5 steps to good oral health.

1. See your dentist regularly

    • Regular dental exams and professional cleanings are the best way to prevent problems or to stop small problems from getting worse.
    • Your dentist will look for signs of oral disease. Oral diseases often go unnoticed and may lead to or be a sign of serious health problems in other parts of the body.
  • Only your dentist has the training, skill and expertise to diagnose and treat oral health diseases and to meet all your oral health care needs.

2. Keep your mouth clean

    • Brush your teeth and tongue at least twice a day with a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste to remove plaque and bacteria that cause cavities and periodontal disease (gum disease).
    • Floss every day. If you don’t floss, you are missing more than a third of your tooth surface.
    • Your dentist may also recommend that you use a fluoride or antimicrobial mouthrinse to help prevent cavities or gum disease.
  • When choosing oral care products, look for the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) Seal of Recognition. Oral care products that have earned the Seal of Recognition have been reviewed by CDA and will effectively contribute to your oral health.

3. Eat, drink, but be wary

    • Healthy food is good for your general health and your oral health. The nutrients that come from healthy foods help you to fight cavities and gum disease.
    • Limit how much and how often you consume foods and beverages that contain sugar. Sugar is one of the main causes of dental problems.
  • Limit your consumption of foods and beverages that are high in acid. The acid may play a part in causing dental erosion.

4. Check your mouth regularly

    • Look for warning signs of periodontal disease (gum disease) such as red, shiny, puffy, sore or sensitive gums; bleeding when you brush or floss; or bad breath that won’t go away. Gum disease is one of the main reasons why adults lose their teeth.
    • Look for warning signs of oral cancer. The 3 most common sites for oral cancer are the sides and bottom of your tongue and the floor of your mouth. The warning signs include:
      • bleeding that you can’t explain,
      • open sores that don’t heal within 7 to 10 days,
      • white or red patches,
      • numbness or tingling,
      • small lumps and thickening on the sides or bottom of your tongue, the floor or roof of your mouth, the inside of your cheeks or on your gums.
    • Look for warning signs of tooth decay. The possible warning signs include teeth that are sensitive to hot, cold, sweetness or pressure.
  • Report any of these warning signs to your dentist.

5. Avoid all tobacco products

    • Stained and missing teeth, infected gums and bad breath are just some of the ways smoking can affect your oral health. Besides ruining your smile, smoking can cause oral cancer, heart disease and a variety of other cancers, all of which can kill you.
    • All forms of tobacco are dangerous to your oral health and your overall health, not just cigarettes. Smokeless tobacco such as chewing tobacco, snuff and snus can cause mouth, tongue and lip cancer and can be more addictive than cigarettes.
  • If you use tobacco products, ask your dentist and your family doctor for advice on how to quit.

If you take care of your teeth and gums at home and visit your dentist regularly, your smile should last you a lifetime. You and your dentist are partners in keeping your oral health good for life.

Flossing & Brushing

To have good dental health, you need a mix of personal dental care, and the care of your dentist.


Flossing

Flossing removes plaque and bacteria that you cannot reach with your toothbrush. If you don’t floss, you are missing more than one-third of your tooth surface. Plaque is the main cause of gum disease. It is an invisible bacterial film that develops on your teeth every day.

Within 24 to 36 hours, plaque hardens into tartar (also called calculus), which can only be removed by professional cleaning. Floss at least once a day, and plaque never gets the chance to harden into tartar. Getting into the habit of daily flossing is easier when you floss while doing something else like watching TV or listening to music, for example.

How to floss your teeth

Step 1
Take a length of floss equal to the distance from your hand to your shoulder.

Take a length of floss equal to the distance from your hand to your shoulder

Wrap it around your index and middle fingers, leaving about two inches between your hands.

Wrap it around your index and middle fingers, leaving about two inches between your hands

Step 2
Slide the floss between your teeth and wrap it into a “C” shape around the base of the tooth and gently under the gumline. Wipe the tooth from base to tip two or three times.

Slide the floss between your teeth and wrap it into a

Step 3
Be sure to floss both sides of every tooth. Don’t forget the backs of your last molars. Go to a new section of the floss as it wears and picks up particles.

Step 4
Brush your teeth after you floss – it is a more effective method of preventing tooth decay and gum disease.

Brush your teeth after you floss - it is a more effective method of preventing tooth decay and gum disease

Flossing Problems and Solutions

Gums sometimes bleed when you first begin to floss. Bleeding usually stops after a few days. If bleeding does not stop, see your dentist. Floss can shred if you snag it on an old filling or on the ragged edge of a tooth.

Try another type of floss or dental tape. Ask your dentist or dental hygienist for advice. If your floss still shreds, see your dentist.


Brushing

Regular, thorough brushing is a very important step in preventing tooth decay and gum disease. Brushing removes the bacteria that promote tooth decay and the plaque that can cause gum disease.

Ideally, you should brush after every meal, because the bacterial attack on teeth begins minutes after eating. At the very least, brush once a day and always before you go to bed. Brushing your teeth isn’t complicated, but there is a right and a wrong way.

How to brush your teeth

Step 1
Brush at a 45 degree angle to your teeth. Direct the bristles to where your gums and teeth meet. Use a gentle, circular, massaging motion, up and down. Don’t scrub. Gums that recede visibly are often a result of years of brushing too hard.

Brush at a 45 degree angle to your teeth. Direct the bristles to where your gums and teeth meet. Use a gentle, circular, massaging motion, up and down. Don't scrub. Gums that recede visibly are often a result of years of brushing too hard

Step 2
Clean every surface of every tooth. The chewing surface, the cheek side, and the tongue side.

Step 3
Don’t rush your brush. A thorough brushing should take at least two to three minutes. Try timing yourself.

Don't rush your brush. A thorough brushing should take at least two to three minutes. Try timing yourself

Step 4
Change your usual brushing pattern. Most people brush their teeth the same way all the time. That means they miss the same spots all the time. Try reversing your usual pattern.

Change your usual brushing pattern. Most people brush their teeth the same way all the time. That means they miss the same spots all the time. Try reversing your usual pattern

Step 5
Use a soft brush with rounded bristles. The right toothbrush cleans better. Choose a size and shape that allow you to reach all the way to your back teeth. There are many different types of brushes, so ask your dentist to suggest the best one for you. CDA recommends you replace your toothbrush every three months.

Nutrition

A balanced and nutritious diet is good for your general health and your dental health. Without the right nutrients, your teeth and gums can become more susceptible to decay and gum disease.

Sugar is one of the main causes of dental problems. The average Canadian eats the equivalent of 40 kg of sugar each year. Here are a few ways to cut down:

  • Try to choose sugar-free snacks – see the snacks listed below.
  • Add less sugar to coffee or tea (or use sugar substitutes).
  • Avoid sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
  • Look for fruit juices and drinks with no added sugar.
  • Read lists of ingredients when you’re grocery shopping. Honey, molasses, liquid invert sugar, glucose, and fructose are all types of sugar.
  • When you do eat sweets, avoid sticky sweets. They cling to teeth and are harder to brush away. Eat sweets with a meal, not as a snack. The increased flow of saliva during a meal helps to wash away and dilute sugar.
  • Carry a travel-size toothbrush and use it after eating sweets. If you can’t brush, at least rinse your mouth with water or eat a fibrous fruit or raw vegetables. Or chew a piece of sugarless gum.

Some great-tasting snacks that won’t harm your teeth:

  • Plain milk and buttermilk
  • Fruit and raw vegetables
  • Plain yogurt, cheese and cottage cheese
  • Hard boiled or devilled eggs
  • Nuts, sunflower or pumpkin seeds
  • Melba toast
  • Salads

Nutrition for Children

When your child eats or drinks sugars, the germs (bacteria) in your child’s mouth mix with the sugars to make a mild acid. This acid attacks the hard outer layer of teeth (also called enamel). It can make holes (or cavities) in the teeth.

The damage that sugars do depends on how much sugar goes into the mouth and how long it stays in the mouth.

Any kind of sugar will mix with germs in the mouth. Natural sugars can have the same effect on teeth as white (or refined) sugar out of the bag! Many healthy foods contain natural sugars. Milk contains natural sugar.

If you put your child to bed with a bottle of milk, the milk stays in the mouth for a long time. This may cause cavities. Unsweetened fruit juice may have no added sugar, but fruit juice has natural sugars in it. If your child is always sipping juice between meals, the teeth are being coated in sugars over and over again.

Water is the best drink to have between meals. Starchy foods, like teething biscuits, break down to make sugars. If these kinds of food stay in your child’s mouth long enough, they will make the acid that can cause cavities. Your job is to clean your child’s teeth, not to stop your child from having milk, juice, bread or noodles. Your child needs these foods to stay healthy.

Read the labels of the packaged food you buy. By law, everything ingredient in packaged food is listed by weight. So if a sugar is listed first, you know that there is more sugar than anything else.

These are sugars you can look for on labels: corn sweeteners; corn syrup; dextrose; fructose; glucose; honey; maple syrup; molasses and sucrose.

Also, check to see if liquid medicines (such as cough syrup) have sugars. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to give you medicines that are sugar-free.

Snacks

Growing children need and like snacks. Here are some smart ways to give snacks:

Limit the number of times a day your child eats or drinks sugars. If your child sips juice or pop while playing, he or she will have sugars in the mouth over and over again. Water is the best drink to have between meals.

Do not give your child sugar-rich foods that stay in the mouth for a long time like gum with sugar in it, suckers (or lollipops) and other hard candy. Stay away from soft, sticky sweets that get stuck in the mouth such as toffee, raisins and rolled-up fruit snacks or fruit leather.

Keep good snacks handy where your child can get them. Have carrot sticks or cheese cubes on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Children like small things like small boxes of cereal, small fruits and vegetables, and small packs of nuts or seeds (provided they are safe for your child). Keep them in a low cupboard.

To keep your child from asking for sweets, do not buy them. If they are not in the house, you can’t give them out. If you do serve sweets, limit them to meals. When your child is eating a meal, there is more saliva in the mouth. This helps to wash away the sugars.

How to Spot Trouble

Here is a quick guide to common dental problems. You should visit your dentist if you have these warning signs.

Warning Sign The Problem?
Bad breath that doesn’t go away The cause might be gum disease, food, drinking, smoking, medicine you are taking or a health condition. If you cannot get rid of bad breath with daily brushing and flossing, see your dentist.
Your gums bleed when you brush or floss If you just started to floss, a little bleeding is normal. But if you bleed almost every time you brush or floss your teeth, see your dentist.
Dry Mouth For women, menopause may be the cause. It is also a side effect of many common medicines. It does not feel good and it can make dental problems worse. You need to tell your dentist if you have this problem.
A tooth that is a little bit loose A loose tooth could be caused by gum disease or by a blow to the mouth. In any case, it is a serious problem. You should see your dentist.
A sore mouth A sore mouth might be caused by false teeth that don’t fit well. It could also be from leaving false teeth in overnight. “Burning mouth syndrome” is a problem that affects some older women. Not eating the right kind of food may also be the cause.
Bleeding that you can’t explainMouth sores that don’t heal in 7 to 10 days

White or red patches in your mouth

Feeling numb or sore inside your mouth

These symptoms may be signs of oral cancer. See your dentist right away.
Teeth that are sensitive to:

  • Hot
  • Cold
  • Sweetness
  • Pressure
Teeth can become sensitive all of a sudden, or it can happen over time. In most cases, this kind of pain means something is wrong. Check with your dentist

Flossing & Brushing

Along with a regular dental exam, brushing and flossing are the most important things you can do for your dental health.

Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Regular and thorough brushing removes the plaque that causes gum disease and decay. Brushing your teeth isn’t complicated, but there is a right way to do it.

How to Brush

Step 1
Use a soft brush with rounded bristles. Choose a size and shape that allow you to reach all the way to your back teeth. Replace your toothbrush every three months.

Step 2
Brush at a 45 angle to your teeth. Put the bristles at the place where your gums and teeth meet. Use gentle circles. Don’t scrub. Years of brushing too hard can make your gums recede.

Brush at a 45 angle to your teeth. Put the bristles at the place where your gums and teeth meet. Use gentle circles. Don't scrub. Years of brushing too hard can make your gums recede

Step 3
Clean every surface of every tooth. This means you must brush the cheek side, the tongue side and the top of each tooth.

Clean every surface of every tooth. This means you must brush the cheek side, the tongue side and the top of each tooth

Step 4
Slow down. A thorough brushing should take two to three minutes. Try timing yourself.

Step 5
Brush your tongue.


How to Floss

Flossing removes plaque and bacteria from places your toothbrush can’t reach. In fact, if you’re not flossing, you’re missing more than 1/3 of your tooth surface. Floss at least once a day. It may be easier to get into the habit if you floss while doing something else – watching TV or listening to music, for example.

Step 1
Take a length of floss about as long as your arm. Wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about two inches between your hands. Use your index fingers to guide the floss between your teeth.

Take a length of floss about as long as your arm. Wrap it around your middle fingers, leaving about two inches between your hands. Use your index fingers to guide the floss between your teeth

Step 2
Slide the floss between your teeth and wrap it into a “C” shape around the base of the tooth and gently under the gumline. Wipe the tooth from base to tip two or three times.

Step 3
Floss both sides of every tooth. Don’t forget the backs of your last molars. Move to a new part of the floss as you move from tooth to tooth.


Problems with Brushing and Flossing?

If you find holding your toothbrush difficult because you have arthritis or some other health condition, try enlarging the handle with a sponge, several layers of aluminum foil, or a bicycle handle grip.

If flossing feels awkward or if your fingers always seem to get tangled, try using a plastic floss holder – your dentist or hygienist can recommend one. Or try dental tape instead. It’s wider and easier to grasp than floss.

Denture Care

If you lose a tooth, you can replace it with a “false” (or artificial) tooth. If you don’t replace it, your other teeth may get out of line. You need to care for complete dentures and partial dentures as carefully as you would look after natural teeth.

Four Main Types of Dentures

1. A fixed bridge (or fixed partial denture). 
One or more false teeth are held between healthy teeth on both sides. You cannot take this kind of bridge out by yourself.

A fixed bridge (or fixed partial denture)

2. A partial denture (or removable partial denture). 
One or more false teeth are held in place by clasps that fit onto nearby healthy teeth. You can take the false teeth out yourself, for cleaning and at night.

A partial denture (or removable partial denture)

3. Complete dentures. 
If you lose your teeth, these dentures can replace all your natural teeth.

Complete dentures

4. Dental implants. 
Dental implants are used to support false teeth or a fixed bridge. You must have healthy gums and bone (under your teeth) to support the implant. Your dentist (or oral surgeon) will put a small metal post into your jawbone.

Over time, the post will bond with the bone around it. The post (or implant) will act like an anchor to hold one or more false teeth in place.

Dental implants

Looking After your Dentures

You need to care for complete and partial dentures as carefully as you would look after natural teeth.

  • Clean them every day. Plaque and tartar can build up on false teeth, just like they do on natural teeth.
  • Take them out every night. Brush your teeth and gums carefully, using a soft toothbrush. Be sure to clean and massage your gums. If your toothbrush hurts you, run it under warm water to make it softer OR try using a finger wrapped in a clean, damp cloth.
  • Soak them overnight. They can be soaked in a special cleaner for false teeth (denture cleanser), in warm water or in a mix of warm water and vinegar (half and half). If your denture has metal clasps, use warm water only for soaking. Soaking will loosen plaque and tartar. They will then come off more easily when you brush.

Caring for Implants

Because the implant sticks to bone, it can be treated more like a natural tooth. But it is NOT as strong as a natural tooth. You must brush and floss the implant very carefully. Be gentle, but make sure you brush all sides of the implant. At least once a day, floss very carefully. You will need to be gentle with the floss where the implant meets the gum.

If you have false teeth, see your dentist regularly. Your mouth is always changing. This means your false teeth will need to be adjusted from time to time to make sure you have a good fit.

If you have a bridge or implants, dental exams will help you make sure that your natural teeth get good care. If you have problems with your false teeth, your dentist may suggest you see a special dentist who knows more about false teeth. This kind of dentist is called a prosthodontist.

Important

People who have complete or partial dentures can also get gum disease around any natural teeth that are left. If you have gum disease:

  • Your false teeth will not fit well over gums that are sore, swollen or bleeding.
  • Your partial dentures (or removable dentures) will not be held firmly in place if your natural teeth and gums are not strong.

Be sure to see your dentist regularly for professional cleaning and dental exams, so that he or she can detect any early signs of gum disease, and provide appropriate treatment.

Tips for Caregivers

You may find yourself looking after the health of someone else. This person may be family, or a close friend. There is a lot you can do to help when this person needs mouth care.

It may feel a bit strange at first, so go slowly. If the person does not want your help, respect their wishes. Ask your dentist for advice in this case.

Here are the procedures you should follow:

Natural Teeth

  1. Stand behind the person to brush and floss their teeth.
  2. Let the person sit in front of the sink. That way, you can make the same motions you use when you brush and floss your own teeth.
  3. Make sure you use a soft toothbrush. Or you may find an electric toothbrush better when you brush someone else’s teeth. Ask the person to tell you if you are brushing too hard.
  4. Have the person rinse with warm water when you are done.

Complete or Partial Dentures

  1. Let the person tell or show you how to take the complete dentures or “partial” out. (With complete dentures, put the upper set back first, and then the lower set.)
  2. Both kinds of dentures must be cleaned daily.
  3. Look for cracks in the denture. If you find any, take it to a dentist for repair.
  4. Fill the sink with water.
  5. Scrub the denture with a denture brush and soap.
  6. Rinse with water when you finish cleaning.
  7. Soak denture overnight. It can be soaked in a special cleaner for dentures (denture cleanser), in warm water or in a mix of warm water and vinegar (half and half). If the denture has metal clasps, use warm water only for soaking.

Mouth Tissues

  1. Ask if it is okay to look inside the person’s mouth.
  2. Check the mouth closely. Look for swelling, red or white patches, parts of the gums that have changed colour and sores that do not heal in a few days. If you see any of these things, call the person’s dentist.
  3. Clean and massage the inside of the person’s mouth with a damp cloth or a soft toothbrush.

The Dental Exam

As you get older, you may have dentures or dental implants. These dentures and implants need to be checked by your dentist. If you take medicine that makes your mouth dry, or makes your gums grow, you need to have a dentist take a close look.

A dental exam can include some or all of these procedures:

  • Health History
  • Examination and Treatment
  • Cleaning
  • Advice
  • Maintenance

Health History

Tell your dentist:

  • If you smoke.
  • About any health problem or medical condition you are being treated for.
  • About any changes in your general health.
  • About any allergies you have.
  • About any medicine you are taking.
  • About any changes in medicine since your last visit.
  • About any fears you have about going to the dentist.
  • About any dental or mouth problems you have.
  • About any way the dental office could make it easier for you to get around (if you have a cane, a wheelchair, or a walker).
  • About stress in your life, because stress can affect your oral health.

Examination and Treatment
Everybody needs regular dental exams. The reason is simple: even if you brush and floss every day, you cannot see all the parts of your own mouth.

Senior dental exams

Your dentist looks for gum disease, cavities, loose fillings, broken teeth, infection, cancer and signs of other problems that could affect your general health. Many small problems can be caught before they get big. Many small problems can be treated right away.

Cleaning
There are two parts to cleaning. First, your dentist (or the dental hygienist) scrapes away tartar that could cause gum disease. Then, a member of the dental team polishes your teeth.

Advice
When your dentist is finished the dental exam, you will be able to ask questions and seek advice.

Maintenance
If you have a bridge, denture, or implant, a dental exam is a good opportunity to ask your dentist to make sure it’s in good shape.

Dental exams may seem expensive, particularly if you are on a fixed income. However, many dental practices offer convenient payment plans. If you are covered by a dental benefit plan, your dentist can help you determine the extent of your coverage before you start treatment.

Many dental practices are able to transmit dental claims through CDAnet, an electronic claims processing system that speeds up the reimbursement process. Depending on your plan, you may receive your cheque in less than a week. Ask whether your dentist has registered for CDAnet.

While managing health care expenses is an economic reality for many Canadians, it is important to remember that in the long run, dental exams cost much less than waiting until you have a serious dental problem.

Regular preventive dental care and maintenance are always less expensive than treatment. A regular dental exams, along with daily brushing and flossing, is the most important thing you can do to preserve your dental health.

Dental Development

All twenty baby (or primary) teeth come in by the time your child is two or three years old.

Primary Teeth

This chart tells you when baby teeth come in (or erupt) in most children.

Chart of Primary Teeth

If your child is getting his or her teeth and seems to be in pain, you can:

  • rub the gums with a clean finger, or
  • rub the gums with the back of a small, cool spoon.
  • If your child is still unhappy, your dentist, pharmacist or doctor can suggest an over-the-counter medicine to ease the pain.

Here’s what you should not do:

  • Do not use the kind of painkiller that can be rubbed on your child’s gums. Your child may swallow it.
  • Do not give your child teething biscuits. They may have sugar added or contain hidden sugars.
  • Do not ignore a fever. Getting new teeth does not make babies sick or give them a fever. If your child has a fever, check with your doctor.

Permanent Teeth

Chart of Permanent Teeth

At age six or seven, the first adult (or permanent) teeth come in. They are known as the “first molars,” or the “six-year molars.”

They come in at the back of the mouth, behind the last baby (or primary) teeth. They do not replace any primary teeth.

Also at around age six, children start to lose their primary teeth. The roots slowly get weak, and the tooth falls out. Children lose primary teeth until they are about 12 years old.

It’s okay for children to wiggle their primary teeth if they are loose. But it’s not okay to use force to pull out a tooth that’s not ready to come out. When a tooth comes out at the right time, there will be very little bleeding.

Why do the new permanent teeth look yellow?

Permanent teeth often look more yellow than primary teeth. This is normal. But it could also be caused by medicine your child took, by an accident that hurt a primary tooth, or by too much fluoride. Ask your dentist about this when you go for a dental exam.


Healthy Gums

Cavities are the main problem children have with their teeth. But children can get gum disease too, just like adults. It happens when the gums that hold our teeth in place get infected.

Daily brushing and flossing can stop gum disease. If your child’s gums bleed, don’t stop brushing. If the gums are always swollen, sore or bleeding, there may be a serious problem. You should take your child to the dentist.

Dental Safety

Here are some ways to protect your child’s teeth:

  • Always use infant car seats and seat belts when you drive.
  • Babies will chew on almost anything. Keep them away from hard things that could crack their teeth.
  • Children fall a lot when they are learning to walk. Teeth can break, crack, get knocked out or become loose. See your dentist if this happens.

If you have questions about your child’s teeth, talk to your dentist.

Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Once your child has teeth, he is susceptible to tooth decay. Mother’s milk, formula, cow’s milk and fruit juice all contain sugars.

Babies may get early childhood tooth decay from going to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice. Unrestricted at-will breast-feeding at night may increase the risk of tooth decay, although the majority of breast-fed children do not experience this early childhood disease.

It can happen to children up to age four. Once your child has teeth, lift his or her lips once a month and check the teeth. Look for dull white spots or lines on the teeth. These may be on the necks of the teeth next to the gums. Dark teeth are also a sign of tooth decay.

If you see any signs, go to the dentist right away. Early childhood tooth decay must be treated quickly. If not, your child may have pain and infection.

If you give your child a bottle of milk, formula or juice at bedtime, stopping all at once will not be easy. Here are some tips:

  • Put plain water in the bottle.
  • If this is turned down, give your child a clean soother, a stuffed toy or a blanket.
  • If your child cries, do not give up.
  • Comfort him or her, and try again.
  • If this does not work, try watering down your child’s bottle over a week or two, until there is only plain water left.

Your Child’s First Visit

The Canadian Dental Association recommends the assessment of infants, by a dentist, within 6 months of the eruption of the first tooth or by one year of age. The goal is to have your child visit the dentist before there is a problem with his or her teeth. In most cases, a dental exam every six months will let your child’s dentist catch small problems early.

Here are 3 reasons to take your child for dental exams:

  • You can find out if the cleaning you do at home is working.
  • Your dentist can find problems right away and fix them.
  • Your child can learn that going to the dentist helps prevent problems.

Your dentist may want to take X-rays. X-rays show decay between the teeth. They will also show if teeth are coming in the way they should. Your child’s dentist may also talk to you about fluoride.

Once your child has permanent molars, your dentist may suggest sealing them to protect them from cavities. A sealant is a kind of plastic that is put on the chewing surface of the molars. The plastic seals the tooth and makes it less likely to trap food and germs.

When your child goes for a dental exam, your dentist can tell you if crooked or crowded teeth may cause problems. In many cases, crooked teeth straighten out as the child’s jaw grows and the rest of the teeth come in.

If they do not straighten out, your child may have a bite problem (also known as malocclusion). This can cause problems with eating and with teeth cleaning. It can also affect your child’s looks and make him or her feel out of place.

Your dentist can suggest ways to treat this, or refer your child to an orthodontist. An orthodontist is a dental specialist with 2 to 3 years of extra university training in this area.

The dentist says my child needs a filling in a baby tooth. Since the tooth is going to fall out, why bother?

Some primary (or baby) teeth will be in your child’s mouth until age 12. The tooth that needs to be fixed may be one of those.

Broken teeth or teeth that are infected can hurt your child’s health and the way your child feels about him or herself.

To do a filling, the dentist removes the decay and “fills” the hole with metal, plastic or other material. A filling can be a cheap and easy way to fix a problem that could be painful and cost more later because it stops decay from spreading deeper into the tooth.

If a filling is not done and decay spreads, the tooth may need to be pulled out. If this happens, your child may need a space maintainer to hold space for the permanent tooth.

When a baby (or primary) tooth is missing, the teeth on each side may move into the space. They can block the permanent tooth from coming in. To hold the space, your dentist may put a plastic or metal space maintainer on the teeth on each side of the space, to keep the teeth from moving in.

Gum Disease

Gum disease is one of the most common dental problems adults face, but gum disease can begin at just about any age. Gum disease often develops slowly and without causing any pain. Sometimes you may not notice any signs until the disease is serious and you are in danger of losing teeth.

The good news is:

  • gum disease can almost always be prevented,
  • if it starts, it can be treated and
  • it can even be turned around (or reversed) in its early stages.

How it happens

Healthy gums and bone hold teeth firmly in place. Gums attach to teeth just below the edge of the gums. Gum disease affects the attachment between gums and teeth.

Gum disease begins with plaque. Plaque is clear and sticky and contains germs (or bacteria). It forms on your teeth every day. It also forms where your teeth and your gums meet. If plaque is not removed every day by brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar (also called calculus).

Tartar cannot be removed by brushing and flossing. Tartar can lead to an infection at the point where the gums attach to the teeth (called the “point of attachment”). In these early stages, gum disease is called gingivitis. Your gums may be a bit red and bleed when you brush, but you may not notice anything.

As gingivitis gets worse, tiny pockets of infection form at the “point of attachment.” You cannot see them, but you may notice puffy gums, traces of blood on your toothbrush, or a change in the colour of your gums. Your gums will probably not be sore.

Over time, the infection breaks down the gum tissue that attaches to the teeth. This is called “attachment loss.” At this point, you will notice swelling, bleeding or colour changes in your gums.

Along with “attachment loss,” gum disease causes the bone that holds your teeth in place to break down too. If gum disease is not treated, teeth become loose and in danger of falling out.

The best way to deal with gum disease is not to get it in the first place. To protect your oral health, brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss at least once a day and see your dentist regularly for oral examinations.

Treatment

In its early stages, gum disease is very hard to see. You may not know that you have a problem. But every time you have a dental exam, your dentist looks for signs of gum disease.

Your dentist may use a dental tool called a “periodontal probe” to measure where your gums attach to your teeth. Healthy gums attach to teeth just below the edge of the gum. If your gums attach to your teeth below this point, it is a sign of gum disease.

X-rays to show how much bone is around your teeth. If you have gum disease, getting rid of plaque and tartar gives your gums a chance to get better. That’s why in the early stages of gum disease, the best treatment is cleaning by your dentist or dental hygienist to remove built-up tartar, brushing twice a day to remove plaque and flossing once a day to remove plaque.

When gum disease is more serious, your dentist may refer you to a dental specialist called a periodontist. A periodontist has at least 3 years of extra university training in treating gum disease, and in restoring (or regenerating) bone and gum tissue that have been lost because of gum disease.

A periodontist also treats serious forms of gum disease that do not get better with normal dental care. When serious gum disease is found, brushing and flossing become even more important.

Checking Your Gums

Check your gums on a regular basis for these signs of gum disease:

  • a change in the colour of your gums
  • gums that are red around your teeth
  • gums that bleed every time you brush or floss
  • bad breath that will not go away
  • a taste of metal in your mouth
  • shiny, puffy or sore gums
  • teeth that are sensitive for no reason

These are all good reasons to see your dentist right away. Gum disease is one of the main reasons why adults lose their teeth. But the good news is gum disease can almost always be prevented. If it starts, it can be treated and can even be turned around (or reversed) in its early stages.

If gum disease is not treated, you can have gums that are always sore, red and puffy, get a painful infection (called an abscess) in the area between your teeth and gums or lose your teeth.

Without enough gum tissue and bone to hold your teeth in place, they can become loose and fall out. Nobody wants to have these things happen. With regular care, they won’t.

Gingivitis

It’s one of those things you don’t want to get, but do you really know what it is? Gingivitis is a term used to describe inflammation of the gums. In fact, one of the reasons you should brush twice a day, and floss once a day is to prevent gingivitis.

Gingivitis begins with plaque, a clear, sticky substance that forms on your teeth every day. Plaque contains bacteria that cause gingivitis and tooth decay, which is why it is essential to brush and floss each day. If plaque is left unchecked, it will eventually harden into tartar, which can only be professionally removed.

Warning signs of gingivitis

Your gums may be a bit red and bleed when you brush, but you may not notice anything. The warning signs of gingivitis are puffy gums, traces of blood on your toothbrush, or a change in the colour of your gums, but it is not painful. The good news is gingivitis can be prevented and if started, it can be reversed.

You can fight gingivitis

Take these five simple steps to prevent gingivitis and to maintain good oral health:

  1. Canadian Dental Association (CDA) Seal of RecognitionBrush your teeth and tongue twice a day with toothpaste and floss once a day to remove plaque between teeth. When choosing oral health care products, check for the Canadian Dental Association (CDA) Seal of Recognition.Products bearing this Seal have been reviewed by CDA and have demonstrated specific oral health benefits.
  2. Check your gums regularly. Look for the warning signs of gingivitis and report them to your dentist right away.
  3. See your dentist for regular dental exams, and schedule a professional cleaning to remove stains and built-up tartar.
  4. Eat healthy foods for your oral health as well as your overall health. Eating excess sugar is one of the primary causes of dental problems. With the proper nutrients that come from healthy eating and proper oral hygiene, you can fight cavities and gingivitis.
  5. Don’t smoke. Smoking is a major contributor to dental problems and may cause oral cancer.

Canadians of all ages need preventive dental care. Your dentist has the training, clinical skill and knowledge to diagnose your oral health condition and advise you on appropriate treatment and care. For more information on keeping your teeth and gums healthy, talk to your dentist.

Fight Gingivitis: Brush Twice, Floss Once

Provided you look after them, your teeth and gums will look good and stay healthy for life. Brush twice daily, floss once a day and see your dentist regularly for optimum oral health.

Cavities

A cavity is a very small hole that forms on the surface of a tooth. Cavities are caused when sugars in the food we eat and bacteria in our mouths mix together, producing a mild acid that eats away at outer layer of our teeth (called enamel).

Cavities are more common during childhood, but adults can get them too. Adults tend to get two kinds of cavities:

  1. Cavities that form around a filling, or “recurrent” cavities. Fillings are not as smooth as natural teeth. Tiny bits of food and germs (bacteria) can get caught at the edge of a filling. This can cause a cavity to form again on the tooth around the filling. Also, when a filling breaks, the part of the tooth that is no longer covered is more likely to get a cavity.
  2. Cavities that form on the roots of the teeth, or “root” cavities. Years of brushing your teeth too hard can make your gums recede, or pull away from your teeth. Getting older can also make gums recede. When your gums pull away from your teeth, the roots of the teeth are out in the open. Roots do not have a hard, outer layer (enamel) to protect them, so they are more likely to get cavities.

When you go for a dental exam, your dentist checks your fillings and may suggest that you replace any loose or broken ones. Your dentist also checks for signs of decay, such as brown or black spots.

Your dentist may want to use X-rays to take a closer look at problem spots. If you have a cavity, your dentist may keep an eye on it (if it’s small), or want to fill it right away. If a large cavity is not filled, it can get bigger and cause pain. The tooth may even have to be removed and replaced with a false (or artificial) tooth.

Early Childhood Tooth Decay

Once your child has teeth, he is susceptible to tooth decay. Mother’s milk, formula, cow’s milk and fruit juice all contain sugars.

Babies may get early childhood tooth decay from going to bed with a bottle of milk, formula or juice. Unrestricted at-will breast-feeding at night may increase the risk of tooth decay, although the majority of breast-fed children do not experience this early childhood disease.

It can happen to children up to age four. Once your child has teeth, lift his or her lips once a month and check the teeth. Look for dull white spots or lines on the teeth. These may be on the necks of the teeth next to the gums. Dark teeth are also a sign of tooth decay.

If you see any signs, go to the dentist right away. Early childhood tooth decay must be treated quickly. If not, your child may have pain and infection.

If you give your child a bottle of milk, formula or juice at bedtime, stopping all at once will not be easy. Here are some tips:

  • Put plain water in the bottle.
  • If this is turned down, give your child a clean soother, a stuffed toy or a blanket.
  • If your child cries, do not give up.
  • Comfort him or her, and try again.
  • If this does not work, try watering down your child’s bottle over a week or two, until there is only plain water left.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is a disease resulting from abnormal cell growth in the mouth, lips, tongue or throat. In 2003, an estimated 3,100 new cases of oral cancers were identified in Canada, and about 1,090 deaths occurred as a result of the disease.

People over the age of 45 are most at risk. The good news is that oral cancer can be treated successfully if caught early enough.

Your dentist has the expert skill and training to detect early signs of the disease and can help you to understand your risks.

Oral Cancer
Oral cancer*

Signs and symptoms

  • White or dark red patches in your mouth, or on your lips or tongue.
  • Lumps or changes in the texture or colour of the mouth tissues.
  • Bleeding or numbness in the mouth; sores or patches that do not heal.
  • Difficulty swallowing; changes in taste or tongue sensation.

Risk factors

The actual cause of oral cancer is not known but risk factors include:

  • Consumption of tobacco products (cigarettes, chewing tobacco, cigars, etc).
  • Heavy alcohol consumption (It is especially dangerous to combine smoking and alcohol.)
  • Oral sex
  • Prolonged, repeated exposure of the lips to the sun.
  • Poor diet; genetics and gender (more men develop the disease than women.)
  • A history of leukoplakia – a thick, whitish-colour patch inside the mouth.

Diagnosis and treatment

Treatment depends on the severity and location of the disease, as well as the age and health of the patient. If oral cancer is suspected:

  • A biopsy (surgical removal and microscopic examination) of the suspicious area may be taken.
  • Imaging tests such as X-rays, ultra sounds, CT scans or MRIs may be taken.
  • Chemotherapy, radiation therapy or surgery may be necessary to remove tumor(s).

To help prevent oral cancer:

  • See your dentist regularly for dental exams and ask about oral cancer screenings.
  • Stop using tobacco products – ask your dentist about tools to help you quit.
  • Limit alcohol consumption.
  • Limit sun exposure and use U/V protective lip balms.
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Check your mouth regularly for signs or symptoms and report any changes in your mouth to your dentist right away.

CDA Seal of Recognition

Be in control of your oral health. Practice good oral hygiene, see your dentist regularly and look for theCDA Seal of Recognition when purchasing oral health products.

*Photo courtesy of the British Columbia Oral Cancer Prevention Program.

Dental Emergencies

Here are some common dental emergencies and how to handle them.

Toothache

First call your dentist. Explain your symptoms and ask to be seen as soon as possible. Then ease the pain. Take an over-the-counter pain medicine that works for you, but do not put the pills on your sore tooth. Hold an ice pack against your face at the spot of the sore tooth.

Do not put a heating pad, a hot water bottle, or any other source of heat on your jaw. Heat will make things worse instead of better.

Chipped or broken tooth

Broken teeth can almost always be saved. Call your dentist and explain what happened. He or she will see you right away. If it’s a small break, your dentist may use a white filling to fix the tooth. If the break is serious, a root canal may be needed. Your tooth may also need a crown (also called a cap).

Knocked out tooth

If the knocked-out tooth is an adult (or permanent) tooth, your dentist may be able to put it back. You must act quickly. If the tooth is put back in place within 10 minutes, it has a fair chance of taking root again. After 2 hours, the chances are poor.

If the tooth looks clean, put it back in its place (its socket). If this is not possible, or if there’s a chance that the tooth might be swallowed, put it in a container of cold milk. Go to your dentist, or to the nearest dentist, right away. If you get help within ten minutes, there is a fair chance that the tooth will take root again.

Badly bitten lip or tongue

If there is bleeding, press down on the part of the mouth that is bleeding. Use a clean cloth to do this. If the lip is swollen, use an ice pack to keep the swelling down. If the bleeding does not stop, go to Emergency at a hospital right away.

Something stuck between teeth

First, try using dental floss, very gently and carefully, to remove the object. Never poke between your teeth with a pin or similar sharp, pointy object; it can cut your gums or scratch the tooth surface. If you can’t get the object out, see your dentist.

Lost filling

Put a piece of softened sugarless chewing gum in the spot where the filling was lost. This will protect the area for a short period of time. See a dentist as soon as possible.

TMD (temporomandibular disorder)

The jaw joints and groups of muscles that let us chew, swallow, speak and yawn are known as the temporomandibular. When there’s a problem with how the joints and muscles work, you may have a temporomandibular disorder or TMD.

Symptoms

The symptoms of TMDs are:

  • tender or sore jaw muscles. Your jaw may be even more painful when you wake up, clench your teeth, chew your food or yawn.
  • problems opening or closing your mouth. It may be hard to open or close your jaws all the way, or your jaws may lock open or closed.
  • headaches that you cannot explain. You may also feel pain in your neck. These may be caused by TMD, or by other problems. Tell your dentist AND your doctor.
  • a clicking or grinding noise when you chew or yawn. You may hear strange noises in your jaw joints, such as clicking or popping when you open your mouth, or crunching and grinding sounds when you chew.

Cause and Effect

The cause of TMD is not always clear, but in most cases stress is a major factor. Here are some of the things that MAY cause it:

  • clenching and grinding your teeth. Clenching your jaw muscles can cause them to ache. Some people grind their teeth or clench their jaw muscles when they are under stress.
  • injury to your face or jaws. Broken (or fractured) jaws, a jaw joint that has been knocked out of place (or dislocated) and “whiplash” may cause TMD.
  • some diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, may affect the jaw joints and muscles.
  • if your jaw does not grow the right way, your teeth may not line up the way they should. This can make it hard to bite and chew, and may lead to TMD.

Other things that MAY lead to TMD are:

  • worn, loose, or missing teeth
  • gum problems
  • partial or full dentures that are not the right fit
  • habits such as biting on your pen or pencil

What you can do

1. Relax. Be aware of when you are clenching your teeth. Try to relax your jaw muscles and keep them relaxed. If you need help learning to relax, there are courses that can teach you. Ask your dentist or doctor.

2. Watch what you eat. Stay away from hard or sticky foods. Do not chew gum. Eat a soft diet and cut food into small pieces. Try not to open your mouth too wide, even when you yawn.

3. Massage and exercise. Rub (or massage) and stretch (or exercise) your jaw muscles. This may help ease stress, just like it does with other muscles in your body. But be gentle. Too much stretching or exercising could make the problem worse.

4. Use a compress. Your dentist may suggest putting a cold or warm compress on your sore jaw muscles, then rubbing (or massaging) them gently to help ease tense muscles. For a cold compress, use ice cubes wrapped in a towel, or a bag of frozen vegetables such as peas. For a warm compress, use a hot water bottle or heating pad wrapped in a towel, or a hot, damp cloth.

5. Remember the saying, “Lips together … teeth apart.” When you are relaxed:

  • your teeth should be slightly apart,
  • your tongue should be resting gently against the roof of your mouth and
  • your lips should be relaxed and barely touching or slightly apart.

Try to keep your upper and lower teeth apart, except when you are eating or swallowing.

6. Think positively. Almost all TMD patients get better, but there is no “easy cure.” For some patients, once they know that they clench their jaws, they make an effort to relax. They can ease their symptoms in a few days or weeks. For others, it may take several weeks or several months before they feel better.

How your dentist can help

To judge your condition, your dentist:

  • will do a detailed exam, and
  • may take x-rays.

Depending on what your dentist finds, he or she may suggest a plan to treat your TMD. Your dentist may also refer you to a dental specialist with extra training in TMDs. This could be an oral surgeon (also called an oral and maxillofacial surgeon), an oral pathologist, an orthodontist, a periodontist or a prosthodontist. If your dentist refers you to a dental specialist, he or she will explain what that specialist does.

Treatment may include:

  • referring you to another health care worker to help you ease muscle pain or open your jaw. This could be a physiotherapist, a chiropractor and/or a behavioral therapist.
  • correcting problems with your teeth. If you have a bad bite, braces or other dental work may be used to correct the problem. Teeth that are causing the problem can sometimes be reshaped to fit together better.
  • taking medicine. Depending on the cause of your TMD, medicine for pain, inflammation, tense muscles or depression may help.
  • wearing a night guard or bite plate (also called an occlusal splint). An occlusal splint is made of clear plastic. It fits over the biting surface of the teeth of one jaw so that you bite against the splint rather than your teeth. This helps your jaw joints and muscles to relax. Depending on your TMD, your dentist may tell you to wear a splint 24 hours a day, only at night, or for some length of time in between.
  • having surgery. If none of the other treatments have worked, or if it is VERY hard to open your jaw, you MAY need surgery.

 

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