Posts for: May, 2014
Q: I often seem to have noticeably bad breath — not just in the morning. How unusual is this problem?
A: Persistent bad breath, or halitosis, is a very common complaint that is thought to affect millions of people, including perhaps 25 to 50 percent of middle aged and older adults. It’s the driving force behind the market for breath mints and mouth rinses, with an estimated value of $3 billion annually. It’s also the third most frequent reason people give for seeing the dentist (after tooth decay and gum disease). So if you have bad breath, you’re hardly alone.
Q: Can bad breath come from somewhere other than the mouth?
A: Most of the time, bad breath does originate in the mouth; its characteristic smell is often caused by volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs), which have a foul odor. However, it can also come from the nose, possibly as a result of a sinus infection or a foreign body. In some cases, pus from the tonsils can cause halitosis. There are also a few diseases which sometimes give your breath an unpleasant odor.
Q: What exactly causes the mouth to smell bad?
A: In a word: bacteria. Millions of these microorganisms (some of which are harmful, and some helpful) coat the lining of the mouth and the tongue. They thrive on tiny food particles, remnants of dead skin cells, and other material. When they aren't kept under control with good oral hygiene — or when they begin multiplying in inaccessible areas, like the back of the tongue or under the gums — they may start releasing the smells of decaying matter.
Other issues can also contribute to a malodorous mouth. These include personal habits (such as tobacco and alcohol use), consumption of strong-smelling foods (onions and cheese, for example), and medical conditions, like persistent dry mouth (xerostomia).
Q: What can I do about my bad breath?
A: Those breath mints are really just a cover-up. Your best bet is to come in to the dental office for an examination. We have several ways of finding out exactly what’s causing your bad breath, and then treating it. Depending on what’s best for your individual situation, we may offer oral hygiene instruction, a professional cleaning, or treatment for gum disease or tooth decay. Bad breath can be an embarrassing problem — but we can help you breathe easier.
Alternative medicines — also known as herbal or homeopathic remedies — have grown in popularity in recent decades. Because they don’t think of these remedies as “medicines,” many people will try them based on their friends’ advice or an internet search — with or without a doctor’s advice. Any herbal remedy, though, should be viewed as a real drug with real, and often significant, side-effects.
With that said, many of these alternative treatments are safe and effective if taken in an appropriate manner. Arnica Montana, a member of the daisy family, is a good example: various preparations of this herb have been found to reduce pain and inflammation caused by sprains or bruising, as well as control infection by killing bacteria. It’s also one herbal application that’s finding a home in the field of dentistry.
You can find many products containing Arnica, particularly topical applications made from the herb’s roots and dried flowers. It’s common to find Arnica in tinctures (the herb mixed in with a gel), tea infusions and a variety of ointments; the best-selling topical product is a gel containing 8% of the Arnica herb.
Many dentists are now prescribing Arnica to patients following invasive procedures like gum surgery, root canal treatment, implant surgery or wisdom teeth extraction to help reduce swelling and bruising. In this case, topical applications won’t work: directly applying a topical treatment to open mouth wounds can cause mucositis (an irritation of the lining of the mouth) and reactions in people with allergies to plants related to daisies. Dentists prescribe a programmed capsule regimen taken orally for four days after the procedure. This has been shown to lessen the length and degree of recovery time.
Any medicine, whether traditional or non-traditional, can have unintended consequences. Know the facts about what you’re taking, and be sure you consult with your doctor or dentist before trying any herbal remedy.
If you would like more information on Arnica Montana and similar remedies, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Herbal and Homeopathic Remedies.”
Q: What exactly are porcelain veneers?
A: The term “veneer” usually means a very thin covering that’s designed to improve the way a surface looks. The porcelain veneers we use in cosmetic dentistry are just like that: They cover up flaws in the natural teeth, while preserving their strength and vitality. Porcelain veneers are wafer-thin layers of super-strong material, which are bonded to the front surfaces of the teeth. Once placed on your teeth, they offer a permanent way to improve a smile that’s less than perfect.
Q: What kinds of smile defects can porcelain veneers fix?
A: Veneers can help with a whole range of issues, including:
- Color: Teeth that are deeply stained or yellowed — even those which can’t be lightened with professional bleaching — can be restored to a brilliant white (or a natural luster) with porcelain veneers.
- Shape and size: If your teeth have become worn down with age, or have chips or roughened edges, veneers can restore them to a more pleasing shape. They can also lengthen teeth that appear too short, for a dramatic enhancement of your smile.
- Alignment and spacing: For closing a small gap between teeth or making other minor adjustments in tooth spacing or position, veneers may be just what you need; more serious issues can be handled with orthodontics.
Q: What's involved in getting porcelain veneers?
A: First, we will talk with you about what aspects of your smile you’d like to improve, and develop a plan to accomplish that. When we’re all agreed, the next step will probably be to remove a small amount of tooth material in preparation for placing the veneers. (Some types of veneers, however, don’t require this step.) Next, we will make a mold of your teeth and send it to the dental lab; you’ll leave our office with a set of temporary veneers. In a few weeks, you’ll return to our office to have the final veneers permanently bonded to your teeth.
Q: Is it possible to preview the results?
A: Yes! The options for a preview range from computer-generated images of your new smile to an accurate, life-sized model of your teeth with veneers applied. It may even be possible to make acrylic “trial veneers” that we can actually place on your teeth to try on! So if your smile could use a little help, ask us about porcelain veneers.
Next to brushing and flossing, a regular dental checkup is the single most important thing you can do for a healthy mouth. It’s also one of the best lifetime habits you can instill in your child, a task that’s a lot easier if your child sees visiting the dentist as a normal, even enjoyable part of life. Here are some things you can do to help make that happen.
First, if you’re not in the habit of taking your child for regular dental checkups, the sooner you start the better. We recommend you schedule your child’s first checkup around their first birthday. This will help your child become better accustomed to visiting the dentist, and get both of you on the right track with proper hygiene techniques. And by identifying and treating dental problems early, you may be able to avoid more stress-prone treatments in the future.
Who you see is just as important as making the visit. It’s important to find a practice that strives to create a comfortable, home-like atmosphere for their patients, especially children. Pediatric dentists (and many general dentists) are trained in child behavior and understand the importance of relating to a child first (pleasant chatting and upbeat explanations of what they’re going to do) to put them at ease before beginning examination or treatment.
Perhaps the most important factor in getting your child accustomed to dental care is you — your attitude toward not only visiting the dentist, but caring for your own teeth. Children tend to follow the lead of their parents: if you have developed healthy habits regarding oral hygiene and a nutritious, “tooth-friendly” diet, your children are more likely to follow suit. As for dental visits, if you’re calm and pleasant in the dentist’s office, your child will then see there’s nothing for them to be nervous about.
Going to the dentist at any age shouldn’t be an ordeal. Following these steps will go a long way in making dental visits something your child looks forward to.
If you would like more information on dental treatment for children, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Taking the Stress Out of Dentistry for Kids.”