Defend Your Smile!

This is the time of year that we start to think of winter sports and the one piece of equipment that we want our patients to include in their purchases – mouth guards!

Risk Management

Most sports related activity carry some element of risk for injury. The more contact involved in the activity the higher the risk. We’ve certainly seen our share of orofacial and dental trauma over the years. With many sports now mandating the use of mouth guards for dental protection during participation we hope to see a decline in the area of sports dentistry.

Reduce Your Risks

Your Smile is precious, and in some cases, an expensive investment in orthodontia or cosmetic dentistry has been made to obtain your great smile. Wearing a mouth guard while participating in any activity that carries a significant risk for injury extends this investment and is the best way to protect Your Smile.


Accidents ~ they’re unpredictable, so be prepared!


Prevention

Wearing a mouth guard can prevent serious injuries such as:

  • concussions
  • cerebral hemorrhages
  • unconsciousness
  • broken teeth
  • jaw fractures
  • neck injuries
  • lacerations and bruising or inner mouth, lips and cheek tissues

Customize Your Protection!

Your Smile is unique! We advocate the use of mouth guards – even it’s an off-the-shelf one from a store. However, having your dentist make a custom mouth guard offers you added protection and the benefit of a more customized fit since they are constructed from a durable, vinyl material consisting  two strong layers. This not only ensures that your guard will last longer, but will also fit snugly and comfortably especially when it matters most – during impact!

Mouth Guard Care

If you think of your dental sports guard as a “petri dish full of germs” you will better understand why cleaning your mouth guard after use is an important step in caring for the guard and your smile. To read more about how your can protect yourself from germs and the wear and tear of wearing a guard, read more about it in our blog called: Sports Guard Care

How often should you go to the dentist?

Your Smile is important and the health of your teeth has an impact on your overall health. But what if your teeth feel and look great to you?

Many people still believe that unless they are experiencing pain or have broken a tooth, it’s not necessary to see a dentist for regular examinations, but in a healthy mouth you shouldn’t be feeling any pain or sensitivity with your teeth!


“Pain should not be the only factor that makes you decide to go to the dentist.”


Dental pain is usually a warning that you have left an undetected problem too long.

Each tooth has a soft inner core consisting of blood vessels, lymphatic tissue and a nerve center. It plays an important role in the growth and development of the tooth, but once the tooth comes into the mouth, it is the lifeline that brings nutrients to the tooth and also sends out sensory signals in response to trauma and disease.

If you have ever broken a tooth or have had a painful cavity, you know the pain signals that your nerve sends out as a warning! However, it is actually located far enough away from the tooth’s outer surface that by the time an advancing cavity reaches the nerve it is usually too late to repair the problem with a simple fix.

The fact is, many oral disease are silent. We usually think that if our teeth are “quiet” that they are healthy, but you have to treat your oral health as you would your overall health.

Screenshot_20171211-222802

Regular maintenance check-up exams allows us to catch and manage the early signs of disease, before they become bigger, more complicated issues. At Your Smile Dental Care, we are here to help our patients restore their smiles to optimal dental health so that their future focus can be on prevention! We think that by encouraging our patients to maintain regular check-ups and cleanings and teaching them how to prevent dental problems before they occur is time well spent.

How often should you visit?

That depends!

Our recommendations are based on your own individual, “specific to you”  oral health, medical conditions and lifestyle habits. Maintaining regular professional dental care allows us to monitor and evaluate your oral health and advise you accordingly.

Some people see us twice a year for their regular check-ups and cleanings, while others, who have more tartar build-up or who are at a higher risk for cavities and gum disease, need more frequent visits. It is important to understand that there are many changes in our lives that can impact our oral health and change the schedule of our dental visits.


“Even if you maintain an excellent oral care routine and always have good check-ups, you still need to continue a proactive attitude to help ensure that you and your dentist can always stay on top of things.”


Additionally, it is especially important to take care of your teeth and seek professional dental care if you are in one of the following high risk groups below:

  • smoke or use tobacco products
  • are pregnant
  • have diabetics
  • have current gum disease
  • have a weak immune system
  • tend to get cavities or build up plaque
  • suffer from *dry mouth (see below)
  • have limited dexterity
  • have poor dietary habits
  • Snack frequently or sip a beverage other than water all day
  • have bulimia or acid reflux

*Dry Mouth: If you suffer from dry mouth your oral health may be at risk. People can develop dry mouth for a number if reasons, especially if they have:

  • diseases, such as bulimia, Sjögren’s syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes mellitus or pernicious anemia, that alter the flow rate or content of saliva,
  • are receiving chemotherapy with drugs that cause xerostomia
  • are receiving radiation therapy directed to the head or neck.

Early Detection

Knowing that here are also a number of oral health problems that can exist before you even begin to have symptoms will better help you understand why seeing your dentist regularly is so important for your oral health. We want to catch and treat problems early before they become more complicated.

What’s Brewing in your Mouth?

GERMS!

You can’t see them, but you can sure feel, taste and even smell the hundreds of different types of germs that make their home in your mouth.

While many of these bacteria are harmless, others wreak havoc in the mouth causing tooth decay, inflammation of the gums and bad breath.

Let’s talk about bad breath. No one wants it, but everyone has it from time to time. Even though bad breath is a common condition and is oftentimes very embarrassing, it can also be an indicator of health problems in the mouth and/or rest of the body.

So what can you do to help fight bad breath as well as keep your mouth healthy?

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Tips

Aside from ensuring that you are in the habit of brushing your teeth 2-3 times a day and flossing daily, you will also benefit from following these other 13 tips:

1. Clean your tongue! Bacteria love to hide in the hair-like filaments that make up tbe upper side of the tongue, so don’t forget to also clean your tongue with a toothbrush or tongue scraper

2. Use an antiseptic mouth rinse once a day to help kill germs and fight bad breath

3. Reduce snacking in between meals. When you cut off the sugary food source that germs eat you also cut down on the number of acid attacks that occur in the mouth

4. Drink water often throughout the day to help wash away food particles and germs from the mouth and also prevent dry mouth

5. Eating a piece of sugarless candy or chewing sugarless gum will help stimulate saliva flow to wash away food debris and bacteria

6. Do not sip on sugary drinks or coffee/tea with milk, cream and/or sugar frequently or all day long

7. Consume alcohol and coffee in moderation as they also tend to dry out the mouth

8. Speak to your doctor if you suspect that you have a dry mouth condition as it can be an indicator of a health issue or be a side effect of medication

9. Ensure that other medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease is monitored by your physician regularly and is under control

10. Quit smoking or using other tobacco products

11. Eat a healthy, nutrient-rich diet that helps to control inflammation

12. Eating crispy, fresh fruits and vegetables also increases your saliva flow to help wash away other food debris and bacteria

13. Be aware that during illness and prolonged periods of hunger or fasting from meals, acids in the stomach can build up and cause foul breath also

11 Ways to Keep Your Teeth Healthy

Take care of your teeth

Achieving healthy teeth takes a lifetime of care. Even if you’ve been told that you have nice teeth, it’s crucial to take the right steps every day to take care of them and prevent problems. This involves getting the right oral care products, as well as being mindful of your daily habits.

1. Don’t go to bed without brushing your teeth

It’s no secret that the general recommendation is to brush at least twice a day. Still, many of us continue to neglect brushing our teeth at night. But brushing before bed gets rid of the germs and plaque that accumulate throughout the day.

2. Brush properly

The way you brush is equally important — in fact, doing a poor job of brushing your teeth is almost as bad as not brushing at all. Take your time, moving the toothbrush in gentle, circular motions to remove plaque. Unremoved plaque can harden, leading to calculus buildup and gingivitis (early gum disease).

3. Don’t neglect your tongue

Plaque can also build up on your tongue. Not only can this lead to bad mouth odor, but it can lead to other oral health problems. Gently brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth.

4. Use a fluoride toothpaste

When it comes to toothpaste, there are more important elements to look for than whitening power and flavors. No matter which version you choose, make sure it contains fluoride.

Take care of your teeth

Achieving healthy teeth takes a lifetime of care. Even if you’ve been told that you have nice teeth, it’s crucial to take the right steps every day to take care of them and prevent problems. This involves getting the right oral care products, as well as being mindful of your daily habits.

1. Don’t go to bed without brushing your teeth

It’s no secret that the general recommendation is to brush at least twice a day. Still, many of us continue to neglect brushing our teeth at night. But brushing before bed gets rid of the germs and plaque that accumulate throughout the day.

2. Brush properly

The way you brush is equally important — in fact, doing a poor job of brushing your teeth is almost as bad as not brushing at all. Take your time, moving the toothbrush in gentle, circular motions to remove plaque. Unremoved plaque can harden, leading to calculus buildup and gingivitis (early gum disease).

3. Don’t neglect your tongue

Plaque can also build up on your tongue. Not only can this lead to bad mouth odor, but it can lead to other oral health problems. Gently brush your tongue every time you brush your teeth.

4. Use a fluoride toothpaste

When it comes to toothpaste, there are more important elements to look for than whitening power and flavors. No matter which version you choose, make sure it contains fluoride.

While fluoride has come under scrutiny by those worried about how it impacts other areas of health, this substance remains a mainstay in oral health. This is because fluoride is a leading defense against tooth decay. It works by fighting germs that can lead to decay, as well as providing a protective barrier for your teeth.

5. Treat flossing as important as brushing

Many who brush regularly neglect to floss. “Flossing is not just for getting those little pieces of Chinese food or broccoli that may be getting stuck in between your teeth,” says Jonathan Schwartz, DDS. “It’s really a way to stimulate the gums, reduce plaque, and help lower inflammation in the area.”

Flossing once a day is usually enough to reap these benefits.

6. Don’t let flossing difficulties stop you

Flossing can be difficult, especially for young children and older adults with arthritis. Rather than give up, look for tools that can help you floss your teeth. Ready-to-use dental flossers from the drugstore can make a difference.

7. Consider mouthwash

Advertisements make mouthwash seem necessary for good oral health, but many people skip them because they don’t know how they work. Schwartz says mouthwash helps in three ways: It reduces the amount of acid in the mouth, cleans hard-to-brush areas in and around the gums, and re-mineralizes the teeth. “Mouthwashes are useful as an adjunct tool to help bring things into balance,” he explains. “I think in children and older people, where the ability to brush and floss may not be ideal, a mouthwash is particularly helpful.”

Ask your dentist for specific mouthwash recommendations. Certain brands are best for children, and those with sensitive teeth. Prescription mouthwash is also available.

8. Drink more water

Water continues to be the best beverage for your overall health — including oral health. Also, as a rule of thumb, Schwartz recommends drinking water after every meal. This can help wash out some of the negative effects of sticky and acidic foods and beverages in between brushes.

9. Eat crunchy fruits and vegetables

Ready-to-eat foods are convenient, but perhaps not so much when it comes to your teeth. Eating fresh, crunchy produce not only contains more healthy fiber, but it’s also the best choice for your teeth. “I tell parents to get their kids on harder-to-eat and chew foods at a younger age,” says Schwartz. “So try to avoid the overly mushy processed stuff, stop cutting things into tiny pieces, and get those jaws working!”

10. Limit sugary and acidic foods

Ultimately, sugar converts into acid in the mouth, which can then erode the enamel of your teeth. These acids are what lead to cavities. Acidic fruits, teas, and coffee can also wear down tooth enamel. While you don’t necessarily have to avoid such foods altogether, it doesn’t hurt to be mindful.

11. See your dentist at least twice a year

Your own everyday habits are crucial to your overall oral health. Still, even the most dutiful brushers and flossers need to see a dentist regularly. At minimum, you should see your dentist for cleanings and checkups twice a year. Not only can a dentist remove calculus and look for cavities, but they will also be able to spot potential issues and offer treatment solutions.

 

Bulimia’s Effect on Teeth

A life of bingeing and purging

Bulimia is an eating disorder in which people binge-eat large amounts of food. Then they purge — throw up, fast, or engage in some other “purging” behavior such as using laxatives or exercising to excess — in an attempt to rid their bodies of all the extra calories.

Constant cycles of bingeing and purging are hard on the heart, kidneys, and other organs. But bulimia can be especially damaging to the teeth.

The Best Eating Disorder Videos of 2016 »

Purging and your teeth and mouth

Repeated vomiting can cause serious damage to the teeth. Vomit is especially toxic because it contains stomach acids. These acids break down food in your stomach so your body can digest it.

But in the mouth, these acids are corrosive, enough to wear away at the enamel that covers and protects your teeth. Brushing your teeth too hard after you vomit can also contribute to tooth decay.

Cavities

Cavities

The acids from frequent vomiting can wear away so much tooth enamel that they leave a hole, or cavity. Bingeing on sugary foods and sodas can also contribute to tooth decay.

When you have dental decay, you may notice that your gums bleed when you brush them. If you don’t get a cavity filled, the hole will eventually become so big that you can lose the tooth.

Yellow, brittle teeth

yellow brittle teeth

As the erosion gets worse, you may also notice the color and texture of your teeth change. Your teeth may be weaker and more brittle than usual.

They can chip easily and may look ragged at the bottom. Sometimes they’ll turn a yellowish color or take on a glassy appearance. Bulimia can also change the shape and length of your teeth.

Swollen salivary glands

Swollen salivary glands

The acids in vomit can irritate the glands on the sides of each cheek. These glands produce saliva, the fluid that helps you swallow. It also protects your teeth against decay. You’ll notice a swelling around your jaw if your salivary glands are affected.

Although most changes in your teeth from bulimia aren’t reversible, salivary gland swelling should go down once you get treated and stop bingeing and purging.

Mouth sores

Mouth sores

Just as stomach acid wears away at the enamel on your teeth, it can also wear away at the skin on the roof and sides of your mouth. It can also damage your throat.

This can leave painful sores inside your mouth and throat. The sores can swell up and even become infected. Some people feel like they have a constant sore throat.

Dry mouth

A lack of saliva can also lead to the constant feeling that your mouth is parched. Also known as dry mouth, this condition is more than just a minor annoyance. It can affect the way you eat by changing the flavor of food.

Dry mouth can also damage the teeth because saliva washes the away bacteria that cause tooth decay. Having dry mouth can make existing tooth decay from bulimia even worse.

Pain

As your tooth enamel wears away, it leaves the sensitive inner part of your teeth exposed. You may start to notice that your teeth hurt.

Some people have pain and sensitivity whenever they eat hot or cold food. They may feel discomfort when they bite into an ice cream cone or eat something hot such as soup.

Damage to your gums and soft palate can cause additional pain when chewing or swallowing.

How to Get Rid of Cavities

What causes cavities?

Dental cavities, or caries, are tiny holes in the hard surface of the teeth. They are caused by bacteria on the surface of teeth creating acid out of sugar. The most common culprit is a bacterium known as Streptococcus mutans.

The bacteria form a sticky film known as plaque. The acids in plaque remove minerals from (demineralize) your enamel — a coating of the teeth made mostly of calcium and phosphate. This erosion causes tiny holes in the enamel. Once the acid damage spreads into the dentin layer underneath the enamel, a cavity forms.

Getting rid of cavities at home

Many home treatments are based off of a study from the 1930s that suggested that cavities are caused by lack of vitamin D in the diet. In this study, kids who added vitamin D to their diets showed a reduction in cavities. However, those who added vitamin D while also removing grain products from their diets had the best results. This is possibly because grains can stick to the teeth.

Not getting enough vitamin D may make teeth more susceptible to cavities, but we now understand that this is only a part of the puzzle. Other risk factors for cavities include:

  • dry mouth or having a medical condition that reduces the amount of saliva in the mouth
  • eating foods that cling to teeth, like candy and sticky foods
  • frequent snacking on sugary foods or drinks, like soda, cereals, and ice cream
  • heartburn (due to acid)
  • inadequate cleaning of teeth
  • bedtime infant feeding

Once a cavity has penetrated the dentin, you won’t be able to get rid of it at home. The following home remedies might help prevent cavities or treat “pre-cavities” by remineralizing weakened areas of your enamel before a cavity develops:

1. Sugar-free gum

Chewing sugar-free gum after meals has been shown in clinical trials to help remineralize enamel. Gum containing xylitol has been researched extensively for its ability to stimulate saliva flow, raise the pH of plaque, and reduce S. mutans, but long-term studies are needed.

Sugar-free gum containing a compound called casein phosphopeptide-amorphous calcium phosphate (CPP-ACP) has been shown to reduce S. mutans even more than xylitol-containing chewing gum. You can find this type of gum in stores.

Shop online for sugar-free gun.

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is important to help absorb calcium and phosphate from the food you eat. Studiesshow an inverse relationship between eating foods high in vitamin D and calcium, like yogurt, and cavities in young children. You can get vitamin D from dairy products, like milk and yogurt. You can also get vitamin D from the sun.

More recent research has challenged how vitamin D can affect dental health.

Shop online for vitamin D supplements.

3. Brush with fluoride toothpaste

Fluoride plays an important role in preventing cavities and remineralizing enamel. Extensive research has been done to show that regularly brushing your teeth with a fluoride toothpaste prevents cavities.

Most studies have been conducted either in children or adolescents, so more research is needed in adults and the elderly.

Shop online for fluoride toothpaste.

4. Cut out sugary foods

This is the cavity remedy that no one likes to hear — stop eating so much sugar. The World Health Organization says that eating sugar is the most important risk factor for cavities. They recommend reducing your sugar intake to less than 10 percent of your total caloric intake for the day.

If you’re going to eat sugar, try not to snack on sugary foods throughout the day. Once the sugar is gone, your enamel has a chance to remineralize. But if you are constantly eating sugar, your teeth don’t get the chance to remineralize.

5. Oil pulling

Oil pulling is an ancient practice that involves swishing around an oil, like sesame or coconut, in your mouth for about 20 minutes, then spitting it out. Claims that oil pulling “removes toxins” from the body aren’t backed up by evidence. But a small, triple-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial showed that oil pulling with sesame oil reduces plaque, gingivitis, and the number of bacteria in the mouth just as effectively as chlorhexidine mouthwash. Larger studies are needed to confirm these effects.

Shop online for coconut oil.

6. Licorice root

Extracts from the Chinese licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) can combat the bacteria responsible for dental cavities, according to at least one study.

One researcher has taken this to the next level and created a licorice lollipop to help fight tooth decay. Pilot studies using licorice extract in a lollipop showed they were effective in significantly reducing S. mutans in the mouth and preventing cavities. Larger and more long-term studies are needed.

Shop online for licorice root tea.

Chipped Tooth

Overview

Enamel — or the tough, outer covering of your teeth — is one of the strongest substances in your body. But it does have it limits. A forceful blow or excessive wear and tear can cause teeth to chip. The result is a jagged tooth surface that can be sharp, tender, and disfiguring.

Causes of chipped teeth

Teeth can chip for any number of reasons. Common causes include:

  • biting down on hard substances, like ice or hard candy
  • falls or car accidents
  • playing contact sports without a mouth guard
  • grinding your teeth when you sleep
Risk factors for chipped teeth

It makes sense that weakened teeth are more likely to chip than strong teeth. Some things that reduce the strength of a tooth include:

  • Tooth decay and cavities eat away at enamel. Large fillings also tend to weaken teeth.
  • Teeth grinding can wear down enamel.
  • Eating a lot of acid-producing foods, such as fruit juices, coffee, and spicy foods can break down enamel and leave the surface of teeth exposed.
  • Acid reflux or heartburn, two digestive conditions, can bring stomach acid up into your mouth, where they can damage tooth enamel.
  • Eating disorders or excessive alcohol use can cause frequent vomiting, which in turn can produce enamel-eating acid.
  • Sugar produces bacteria in your mouth, and that bacteria can attack enamel.
  • Tooth enamel wears down over time, so if you’re 50 years or older, your risk of having weakened enamel increases. In one study published in the Journal of Endodontics, nearly two-thirds of those with cracked teeth were over 50.

Which teeth are at risk?

Any weakened tooth is at risk. But one study shows that the second lower molar — possibly because it takes a fair amount of pressure when chewing — and teeth with fillings are most prone to chipping. That being said, intact teeth are also subject to chipping.

Chipped tooth treatment options

Treatment of a chipped tooth generally depends on its location, severity, and symptoms. Unless it’s causing severe pain and significantly interfering with eating and sleeping, it’s not a medical emergency.

Still, you should make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible to avoid infection or further damage to the tooth. A minor chip can usually be treated by simply smoothing and polishing the tooth.

For more extensive chips your doctor may recommend the following:

Tooth reattachment

If you still have the tooth fragment that broke off, place it in a glass of milk to keep it moist. The calcium will help keep it alive. If you don’t have milk tuck it into your gum, making sure not to swallow it.

Then get to your dentist immediately. They may be able to cement the fragment back onto your tooth.

Bonding

A composite resin (plastic) material or porcelain (layers of ceramic) is cemented to the surface of your tooth and shaped to its form. Ultraviolet lights are used to harden and dry the material. After drying, more shaping is done until the material fits your tooth exactly.

Bonds can last up to 10 years.

Porcelain veneer

Before attaching a veneer, your dentist will smooth away some of the tooth’s enamel to make room for the veneer. Usually, they’ll shave away less than a millimeter.

Your dentist will make an impression of your tooth and send it to a lab to create the veneer. (A temporary veneer may be used in the meantime.) When the permanent veneer is ready, your dentist will bond it to your tooth.

Thanks to the durable materials, the veneer could last about 30 years.

Dental onlays

If the chip only affects a part of your tooth, your dentist may suggest a dental onlay, which is often applied to the surface of molars. (If damage to your tooth is significant, your dentist might recommend a full dental crown.) You may receive anesthesia so the dentist can work on your teeth to make sure there is room for an onlay.

In many cases, your doctor will take a mold of your tooth and send it to a dental lab to create the onlay. Once they have the onlay, they will fit it onto your tooth and then cemented it on.

With advances in technology, some dentists can mill porcelain onlays right in the office and place them that day.

Dental onlays can last for decades, but a lot depends on whether you eat a lot of foods that put wear and tear on the onlay and what tooth was affected. For example, one that gets a lot of pressure when you chew, such as a molar, will wear more easily.

Dental costs

Costs vary greatly by what part of the country you live in. Other factors are what tooth is involved, the extent of the chip, and whether the pulp of the tooth (where the nerves are) is affected. In general, though, here’s what you might expect to pay:

  • Tooth planing or smoothing. About $100.
  • Tooth reattachment. You’ll have to pay for the dental exam, which is usually between $50 to $350. However, because tooth reattachment doesn’t require much in the way of materials, the charge should be minimal.
  • Bonding. $100 to $1,000, depending on the complexity involved.
  • Veneers or onlays. $500 to $2,000, but this will depend on the material used and how much the tooth has to be prepared before affixing the veneer/crown.
Self-care for a chipped tooth

While you most likely will need a dentist to repair a chipped tooth, there are steps you can take to reduce injury to the tooth until you see your doctor.

  • Place temporary dental filling material, a teabag, sugar-free gum, or dental wax over the jagged edge of the tooth to protect your tongue and gums.
  • Take an anti-inflammatory painkiller such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) if you have pain.
  • Place ice on the outside of your cheek if the chipped tooth is causing irritation to the area.
  • Floss to remove food caught between your teeth, which can cause even more pressure on your chipped tooth when you chew.
  • Avoid chewing using the chipped tooth.
  • Swipe clove oil around any painful gums to numb the area.
  • Wear a protective mouth guard when you play sports or at night if you grind your teeth.
Complications of chipped teeth

When the chip is so extensive that it starts to affect the root of your tooth, infection can ensue. Treatment usually is a root canal. Here, some symptoms of such an infection:

  • pain when eating
  • sensitivity to hot and cold
  • fever
  • bad breath or sour taste in your mouth
  • swollen glands in your neck or jaw area

Identifying and Treating a Dead Tooth

Overview

Teeth are made up of a combination of hard and soft tissue. You may not think of teeth as living, but healthy teeth are alive. When the nerves in the pulp of the tooth, which is the inner layer, become damaged, such as by injury or decay, they can stop providing blood to the tooth. That can cause an infection and cause the nerve to die. This is also sometimes known as a non-vital tooth.

Read on to learn how to identify a dead tooth and what you should do if you see signs that your tooth is injured.

What are the signs of a dead tooth?

A dead tooth is a tooth that’s no longer receiving a fresh supply of blood. For many people, discoloration may be one of the first signs of a dying tooth. You may also experience pain in the tooth or gums.

Healthy teeth are usually a shade of white, though the color can vary depending on your diet and oral hygiene. For example, if you regularly consume foods that are staining, like coffee, blueberries, or red wine, or smoke, your smile may appear off-white or light yellow. This discoloration will likely be uniform, however.

If you have a tooth that’s discolored because it’s dying, it will be a different color than the rest of your teeth. A dying tooth may appear yellow, light brown, gray, or even black. It may look almost as if the tooth is bruised. The discoloration will increase over time as the tooth continues to decay and the nerve dies.

Pain is another possible symptom. Some people don’t feel any pain. Others feel mild pain, and still other people will feel intense pain. The pain is often caused by the dying nerve. It can also be caused by infection. Other signs of infection may include:

  • bad breath
  • bad taste in your mouth
  • swelling around your gum line

If you experience any symptoms of a dying tooth, it’s important to see your dentist right away.

What causes a tooth to die?

Trauma or injury to your tooth is one possible cause for a tooth to die. For example, getting hit in the mouth with a soccer ball or tripping and hitting your mouth against something can cause your tooth to die. A tooth may die quickly, in a matter of days, or slowly, over several months or years.

A tooth can also die as the result of poor dental hygiene. That can lead to cavities, which when left untreated can slowly destroy your tooth. Cavities begin on the enamel, which is the outer protective layer of your tooth. Left untreated, they can slowly eat away at the enamel and eventually reach the pulp. That causes the pulp to become infected, which cuts off blood to the pulp and, eventually, causes it to die. You’ll likely experience intense pain once the decay has reached the pulp.

Diagnosis

A dying tooth may be identified during a routine dental appointment that includes X-rays. It may also be identified if you see your dentist because of pain or concerns over discoloration.

You should always see your dentist following any tooth injury, or if you have any signs of a dying tooth. That way your dentist can begin treatment as soon as possible.

Treatment

It’s important to treat a dying or dead tooth as soon as possible. That’s because left untreated, the bacteria from the dead tooth can spread and lead to the loss of additional teeth. It could also affect your jawbone and gums.

Your dentist may treat a dead or dying tooth with a procedure known as a root canal. Alternatively, they may remove the entire tooth.

Root canal

With a root canal, you may be able to keep your tooth intact. During the procedure, the dentist makes an opening into the tooth and then uses small instruments to remove the pulp and clean out the infection. Once all of the infection has been removed, your dentist will fill and seal the roots and place a permanent filling in the small opening.

In many cases, you may need to have a crown following a root canal. This may be a good option if the enamel was damaged or if the tooth had a large filling. With time, a tooth that had a root canal can become brittle. That’s why crowns are usually recommended for posterior teeth (due to grinding and chewing). A crown is a covering that’s specifically molded to your tooth. Your dentist will file away part of your existing tooth and then permanently fit the crown over the tooth. A crown can be made to match the color of your surrounding teeth so that it’s not noticeable.

If your doctor determines that you don’t need a crown, you may be able to use tooth bleaching to treat any discoloration to the affected tooth. This is usually seen on anterior teeth only. Alternatively, your dentist may recommend covering the tooth with a porcelain veneer. Talk to your doctor about the different aesthetic treatments available.

Removal or extraction

If your tooth is severely damaged and unable to be restored, your dentist may recommend completely removing the dead tooth. During the procedure, the dentist will completely remove the tooth. Following the extraction, you can replace the tooth with an implant, denture, or bridge. Talk to your dentist about your options. Some questions you should ask are:

  • Will it need to be replaced over time?
  • How much will it cost? Will my dental insurance cover it?
  • What’s recovery like?
  • Will I need to do anything different to take care of the replacement tooth?

Pain management

If your tooth is causing lot of pain, there are somethings you can do at home while you wait for treatment:

  • Avoid hot beverages. They can increase inflammation, which can make your pain worse.
  • Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
  • Avoid eating hard things. The force of biting down on them may aggravate the damaged nerves.

It’s important to see your dentist right away. Home treatment should not be used in place of professional medical treatment. Instead, you should use these methods while you wait for your appointment.

Tips for prevention

Preventing a dead tooth isn’t always possible, but there are some things you can do to reduce your risk.

  • Practice good oral hygiene. Brush your teeth twice a day, and floss at least once a day.
  • See your dentist every six months. Preventative dental care can help stop problems before they start. Your dentist can also identify early signs of tooth decay and treat them before the decay reaches your pulp.
  • Wear a mouth guard. If you’re participating in contact sports, like hockey or boxing, always wear a mouth guard to protect your teeth from trauma.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Avoid eating a lot of sugary foods, which can increase your risk for tooth decay.
  • Drink water, especially after eating. Water can help wash away bacteria from your teeth between brushings.

What does a physician have to say about teeth? Lots!

Our friends at The Mighty Mouth have done a fantastic job using video to promote good oral health. Some of our favorites are those featuring Dr. Ben Danielson, a pediatrician in Seattle, Washington with lots to say about the oral health of kids and expectant mothers.

Dr. Ben Danielson reviews smart snacks for a healthy mouth: Choosing healthy snacks can lead to healthy teeth! Watch Dr. Ben Danielson – with a really big carrot – talk about smart snacks!

Dr. Ben Danielson shares best brushing practices: Children with healthy baby teeth are more likely to have good oral health for life. Watch Dr. Ben Danielson – with an enormous tooth brush – talk about best brushing practices!

Dr. Ben Danielson discusses child’s first dental screening: Did you know? It’s important to take care of baby’s teeth starting with their very first tooth! Learn why.

Dr. Ben Danielson shares how to keep your child’s mouth healthy: Cavities are preventable – and prevention saves you money. Learn more about helping your child have a healthy mouth.

Dr. Ben Danielson discusses importance of prenatal dental care: Know anyone who is getting ready to have a baby? Good oral health during pregnancy is important for mom and baby.

Dr. Ben Danielson explains why baby teeth matter: Keeping baby teeth healthy will help your child enjoy a lifetime of better teeth.

We hope you enjoy these brief, informative videos as much as we do. Oh. While you’re on YouTube, check out Lou the Toothfairy. He’s a hoot!

Exploring a 2Gen Approach to Improve Dental Health

When children struggle to get the dental care they need, the obstacle often can be traced to challenges being faced by their parents or caregivers. The Children’s Dental Health Project (CDHP), a nonprofit policy institute, has launched an initiative to examine these connections and explore whether multi-generational policy solutions can improve oral health.

In a new video, CDHP Executive Director Meg Booth explains why the initiative — sometimes called a 2Gen approach — is needed. Although the percentage of kids with dental coverage has steadily risen in recent decades, Booth points out that many adults “don’t have the same access (to care) they had as children.” Although children enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP are eligible for a comprehensive set of dental services, adults face a different reality when it comes to oral health coverage. In most states, Medicaid offers adults only limited or emergency dental services.

Research has revealed a variety of links between children and parents when it comes to getting dental services. For example, an analysis of Connecticut’s Medicaid dental program showed that children were much more likely to receive dental services during a year when their parents or caregivers also had seen a dentist. In fact, 81 percent of children whose parents had obtained dental care also received dental care. By contrast, only 52 percent of kids whose parents had no dental visit received oral health services themselves.

At this stage, CDHP’s research will focus on how oral health intersects with the economic stability of families, children’s educational outcomes and other areas. Their hope is to uncover policy solutions that could support the integration of oral health into models, communities, and programs that put all families on the path to well-being and success.