Recently my granddaughter experienced a canker sore, not an uncommon occurrence for her, but this one was on her throat. The pain was excruciating, more so because of the location. It hurt to swallow, to speak, and pretty much hurt constantly. It even kept her awake at night. Canker sores, also referred to as an aphthous ulcer, are small, shallow sores inside the mouth, under the tongue, cheeks, or along the gums.These lesions are usually no larger than a centimeter, are usually self-diagnosed and self-treatable and often clear up within a week or two, but the common point is they can be quite painful and irritating. I have seen patients from children to adolescents to adults who get them, but they seem to be more common in adolescents and young adults. The treatments, when necessary, range from over the counter natural remedies to mouth rinses, pastes ointments or sometimes a prescription medication.
Canker sores have varying causes, but can sometimes be prevented. Some people are more susceptible, so avoiding spicy or acidic foods, mouth injuries (like brushing too vigorously), and minimizing stress could help. Canker sores are not directly caused by a virus or bacteria, but are an autoimmune response, meaning the body attacks itself. In some cases, they could be caused by a vitamin or mineral deficiency, a hormonal imbalance, or a food allergy. Some medications can actually make certain individuals more prone, as in the case of some cancer treatments. Canker sores can even be hereditary. Determining the cause is not always easy, although doing so will help prevent them in the future. This is of little comfort to people when they already have one or are unable to directly attribute the cause to any of the aforementioned.
If and when I get the rare canker sore, I use a prescription oral paste to relieve discomfort. There are many different treatments and remedies I have heard of and some I have suggested. Rinsing with warm water and baking soda or salt, rinsing with an over the counter antiseptic oral rinse like Biotene, drinking chamomile tea with honey for the inflammation (not too hot), using an over the counter oral gel, ointment or paste. Clove oil has been shown to have fantastic ability to numb pain. My daughter uses clove oil and other essential oils for her canker sores with excellent results. As for my granddaughter and her canker sore on her throat, she found Chloraseptic sore throat spray brought the most relief. If you happen to get a canker sore you can try one of these suggestions or your own remedies. If you have recurring canker sores or some that last longer than fourteen days it could require more than an over the counter pain reliever and further investigation.
If you’ve ever thought about straightening your teeth but you didn’t want to go through the lengthy process of metal braces, then Invisalign just may be the answer you are looking for. The clear plastic aligners have become a popular alternative choice among adults and teens as well. Many of my patients who had metal braces years ago wish that Invisalign had been available to them.
Patients who want their teeth straightened and are considering braces ought to consider Invisalign. Here are some reasons why:
- The aligners are completely removable for eating, brushing and flossing.
- They are pretty much invisible.
- There aren’t really any dietary restrictions as with traditional metal braces and the risk of breaking a wire or bracket.
- The thin, flexible material is comfortable and will not irritate the mouth as metal braces can.
- The aligners can act like a mouthguard to protect the teeth from grinding.
The treatment plan for Invisalign is broken into stages. With the use of special computer software, Invisalign designs the clear plastic trays that will be worn for two weeks for a minimum of 20 hours per day. You then move on to the next set and so forth in order to gradually move the teeth into the best alignment.
Ask me about Invisalign if it is something that interests you. It has been a clear choice for many of our patients with remarkable results.
- What about amalgam fillings? Are they still used and do you replace existing ones?
We use porcelain or composite fillings for our patients and have for a number of years. Many patients still have amalgam fillings and if and when they require replacement we use the newer alternative materials. The controversy over the years surrounding amalgam fillings is in regards to mercury. It isn’t definitive whether mercury is a true safety concern or if it is harmless. The FDA had said any ties to diseases and autism, Alzheimer’s and MS is unfounded, but more recently has called for stricter regulations without sufficient evidence. In our practice, we take every precaution possible to ensure we meet and exceed safety guidelines and we use porcelain and composite for fillings.
- If I want to change the shape of my teeth what options do I have?
We can enhance the shape of teeth whether it is to close gaps, repair chipped or cracked teeth or have teeth appear longer. One way is by bonding, applying tooth-colored resin to the tooth surface and then harden it with a special light to “bond” it to the tooth. Crowns are another way to shape teeth. They are basically a cap that fits over the existing tooth, cemented into place and is visible above the gum line. Recontouring is another example of tooth shaping. And then there are veneers, thin translucent pieces of tooth-colored composite or porcelain are used to repair, strengthen and enhance the appearance of teeth. It is ideal for teeth that are chipped, cracked, stained or gapped.
- What are dental sealants?
Sealant is a thin plastic coating painted on the chewing surfaces of teeth (usually back molars) to protect enamel in the recesses or grooves. Studies have shown over the last two decades that the protective coating decreases tooth decay. This is ideal for children or people who are prone to cavities.
- Are dental x-rays safe?
The concern people have with x-rays is the exposure to radiation. Keep in mind that x-rays done at a routine dental exam expose a person to very low amounts of radiation, less than a day’s worth of typical background radiation from things like our TVs or spending time outside in the sunshine. Improvements in protective aprons and x-ray equipment allow for much less exposure to radiation than we had decades ago. X-rays allow dentists to see beneath the tooth’s surface and thus are the best diagnostic tool we have for identifying hidden tooth decay and periodontal disease. Uncovering problems before they become bigger is the goal. According to the ADA, how often a patient should have x-rays varies with age and history of tooth decay. The bottom line is that we do not want to do them unnecessarily.
- Can you just not use the drill?
The drill is used to create an opening and remove decay completely before filling and bonding the cavity. Drills are also used to remove plaque or old fillings. Most people’s fear is associated with the high-pitched sound of the drill and once a dentist begins the procedure, the patient is often able to relax as they soon realize it is harmless.
- Why is a teeth cleaning and checkup appointment necessary every 6 months?
Regular visits are so important because it is a preventative measure, avoiding problems before they start. We suggest twice a year, but if your teeth are in great condition and your habits are good then you might get by with once a year. We can usually catch small oral health issues before they become big issues. Many diseases and health conditions have symptoms that appear in the mouth so finding them early is essential to overall health.
Here are some of my go-to food and drink choices that maximize nutrients for our bodies and our teeth. They all offer benefits to build healthier teeth and gums, prevent tooth decay and fight infection by neutralizing harmful acids, providing vitamins and minerals for tooth enamel and stimulating saliva production.
Things like breads, citrus, sugary sweets produce acid-causing tooth decay. Eating cheese, which is high in calcium, raises the pH level in our mouths and can counteract that acid erosion.
- Fatty Fish
My personal favorite, salmon, contains plenty of vitamin D which helps the teeth, gums and body absorb much-needed calcium.
- High Fiber Vegetables and Fruit
The fiber in vegetables and fruit acts like tiny scrub brushes and promotes saliva production, discouraging plaque buildup. Vegetables and fruits also have a high water content which aids in hydration.
While not a food by itself, xylitol is a sweetener found in sugarless gum that fights tooth decay by killing bad bacteria. Chewing gum increases saliva which prevents both tooth decay and bad breath.
- Green Tea
Admittedly I do not drink tea much, because I favor coffee. Green tea, however, contains polyphenol antioxidants which interact with and kill plaque-forming bacteria. Those bad bacteria feed on the sugars in your mouth, but the polyphenols in the tea prevent the forming of acids from those bacteria that destroy tooth enamel.
- Leafy Greens
Another personal favorite of mine that I eat daily. Kale, spinach, romaine for example contain folic acid and again, the calcium. Folic acid purportedly helps with gum disease.
Almonds are an excellent source of calcium, vitamin E, magnesium and fiber. Vitamin E is said to help reduce gum pain and inflammation.
Preferably whole-fat Greek yogurt. The good bacteria from probiotics are not only excellent for your digestive tract, but they also protect your mouth against gum disease by countering the bad bacteria. Yogurt is another great source of calcium.
According to the American Dental Association, oral health is one of the first clear areas affected by a poor diet. Sugars cause cavities, tooth decay and gut inflammation, in addition to harming overall immune system. You can start by making small changes that add up. By making better choices we can improve our oral and overall health and encourage our bodies to heal naturally.
The last of the baby teeth are not usually lost until around age 11, although by then many children stop believing in the tooth fairy long before. Often it is kids at school or older siblings that ruin it for the younger ones. Children (like my granddaughter) will happily play along just to collect a little money for their teeth. A recent patient asked me if I knew where the myth of the tooth fairy began and because I did not have an answer I did some digging. There are differing accounts as for the very first, but many cultures have stories.
In the Middle Ages it was believed a witch could place a curse on someone with the use of their teeth, so they had to get rid of them by swallowing, burying or burning. Sometimes they were left for rodents or crows who reportedly had strong teeth. People thought a tooth fed to a rodent or crow could then lead to development of a good and strong adult tooth.
In 18th century France, the tooth fairy myth took on more fairytale features. A bedtime story, La Bonne Petite Souris, tells the tale of a mouse that turns out to be a fairy and helps a good queen imprisoned by an evil king. The mouse hides under the evil king’s pillow and defeats him by knocking out his teeth.
The idea of leaving the teeth under the pillow in exchange for money may have originated in Scandinavia. The Vikings paid children coins for a lost tooth. The teeth were then made into necklaces and worn as good luck charms in battle. You can just picture an image of a fierce Viking in a horned helmet taking the teeth of children.
The more delicate description of a fairy came later, as recent as the 1900’s. When WWII ended, American society became more prosperous, families became more focused on children and the tooth fairy idea gained popularity.
Many legends of the tooth fairy have been passed down throughout generations and cultures.
This website includes materials that are protected by copyright, or other proprietary rights. Transmission or reproduction of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use, as defined in the copyright laws, requires the written permission of the copyright owners.