Pain is a protective mechanism that signals a health issue to your body, whether that health issue be minor and resolvable, or more worrisome. Jaw pain can happen to anyone as a result of jaw bone pain, muscle injury, nerve damage, clenched teeth, trauma, or even other bodily systemic factors.
First, it is important to understand the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). Yes, that is a mouthful!
The TMJ is a joint that combines the maxilla (upper jaw bone, right above your top row of teeth and below your nose) and the mandible (lower jaw bone, more commonly referred to as the jaw). If you have jaw pain, you might have a TMJ disorder.
Sometimes, jaw pain can be referred to as temporomandibular joint and muscle disorder (TMD)which includes jaw pain related to jaw muscle injury or pain.
Common risk factors of a TMJ disorder include:
Trauma or injury to the jaw
Genetics or family history of TMJ
Arthritis or Connective tissue disease
Bruxism (gnashing one’s teeth at night)
It’s important if you’re experiencing jaw pain to monitor when and how often they have symptoms of jaw pain. By tracking your own symptoms, you can provide important details to our dental team or healthcare provider. This can lead to accurate and pain-relieving treatment for TMJ, TMD, or other jaw pain.
Symptoms of Jaw Pain
Jaw pain might present as mild, moderate, or severe. Everyone has different thresholds for pain, however, it’s important to always remember that pain is a signal to your body that something is wrong. Seeking out medical advice for jaw pain can help you locate the origin of such pain and hopefully resolve symptoms.
Below are some symptoms that a person with TMJ, TMD, or jaw pain might experience. These symptoms are listed to help you identify possible manifestations of this issue at home. If you believe you have any of these symptoms, please contact our team and set up an appointment.
Pain or tenderness of the jaw
“Locking” or popping of the jaw
Clicking or grinding sounds when moving one’s jaw
Jaw pain when chewing
Jaw pain upon waking up, after possible teeth-gnashing in one’s sleep
Aches around face, ears, neck, or jaw
Toothache or tooth pain
Tooth burning or sensitivity
Causes of Jaw Pain
There are common and rare causes of jaw pain that can be assessed and treated by your dental team.
Trauma, or injury, is one of the most common reasons for jaw pain. Someone who has experienced trauma to the face, possibly during an athletic activity, could have a face or jaw fracture and should get a facial x-ray. Another injury, a strain, might occur if a person is holding their jaw or neck in an abnormal position for too long. This should be a self-resolving injury, but that person should still seek out an x-ray to distinguish fracture versus strain. Finally, a person might dislocate their jaw, by opening their mouth too wide.
Arthritis or connective tissue disease, which includes abnormalities of jaw cartilage tissue or bone, can also be a possible cause of jaw pain. For example, if a disc in the jaw that typically protects and cushions movement is broken down due to arthritis or displaced, then you can experience jaw pain.
Tooth infections can also lead to jaw pain because the pain in one’s teeth can radiate to the jaw. Tooth nerves are very sensitive and can lead to burning or sharp pain! Dry sockets from surgery or cracked teeth can also lead to pain. All of these conditions can be assessed at your local dentist.
Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a common habit that does not always lead to jaw pain. However, if someone feels like their jaw often involuntarily locks, or they have jaw pain in the morning when waking up, they might be grinding their teeth in their sleep. This can lead to jaw pain.
In less common cases, some people might have jaw pain that is secondary to other infections or bodily changes and not associated with TMJ disorder, such as:
Nerve pain, referred to as trigeminal neuralgia
Coronary artery disease
These other bodily changes often present with specific signs. For example, someone with coronary artery disease will feel chest pain that radiates to the jaw. In this instance, it is recommended that this person seeks out emergent medical treatment. If a woman is pregnant, her hormones might cause bone weakness, thus leading to jaw pain. If a person often experiences cluster headaches or suspects nerve trauma after ruling out other causes of jaw pain, that person can consult with a neurologist.
What If I Have Jaw Pain?
The first step to take if you have jaw pain is to pay close attention to your symptoms and report them to a trusted healthcare provider. At Lifetime Dental Health in Columbus, OH, our dental team will perform x-rays and jaw examinations for patients. These thorough examinations can help identify the origin of jaw pain and possible TMJ or TMD.
From there, if there is no connection between the jaw pain and the mouth/teeth, patients might be referred onward to neurologists or other specialized care to solve the mystery.
There aremany recommend treatments for jaw pain, including at-home treatments:
Reduce jaw movement. Try to avoid stress to reduce jaw-clenching.
Eat mostly soft foods. Avoid chewy or tough foods, like gum, gummies, beef jerky, apples, caramel, and tough meat. Avoid foods that are extremely hot or cold, which might trigger sensitivities or pain.
Apply ice packs or a warm moist towel to the jaw, intermittently. If applying an ice pack, place it in a plastic bag and wrap it in a towel to avoid ice burns. Leave it on for 10 minutes, or only as long as it is comfortable, and then remove for 10 minutes, and repeat as needed. For applying a warm moist towel, ensure the water is not too hot that it will burn your skin. The warm water might relax jaw spasms.
Gently massage your painful jaw. Using two fingers to press your jaw in a circular motion. Practice gently stretching your jaw, but do not stretch your jaw if it hurts.
Take over-the-counter acetaminophen or ibuprofen for pain relief.
Our dental team might also recommend or prescribe a mouth guard, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory or steroid medications, or antibiotics as needed. In some cases, a person with jaw pain might benefit from tooth extraction, root canal therapy, Botox injections, or jaw surgery. These procedures tend to be rare and only done when a person is properly diagnosed first.
Prolonged, or constant, jaw pain is unlikely to resolve on its own. If pain persists or becomes severe, it is important to contact your dental team and have them assess your jaw and teeth. Immediately seek medical attention if you have shortness of breath or are unable to swallow or if chest pain accompanies your jaw pain.
If you have jaw pain that you would like to have assessed, contact us here at Lifetime Dental Health.
Your teeth are composed of nerves, blood vessels, connective tissue, and enamel. When a tooth is damaged, either from bacteria (an untreated cavity), prior dental work or trauma, or decay, a tooth infection can form.
A tooth infection can happen to anyone. People who have weak immune systems, smoke, cannot keep up with regular dental hygiene, or have dry mouths are more likely to get tooth infections. Cavities, or holes in the teeth from decay, are very common and can easily be filled by any dentist. However, if cavities are left untreated, further damage can occur, leading to an infected tooth that needs more serious treatment.
What Is an Infected Tooth?
An infection occurs in the body when bacteria begins to invade and spread. For example, someone who has pneumonia has a bacterial infection of the lungs and needs treatment. A child who has an ear infection will usually be prescribed antibiotics to fight off bacteria. An infected tooth occurs when bacteria find entrance into damaged teeth. This bacteria then starts to spread, furthering the infection.
Teeth infections might present as abscesses, which cause intense pain secondary to pockets of pus in the teeth. Such infections can spread to the gums, surrounding teeth, bones, or blood and body. This is what makes treating an infected tooth extremely important.
Symptoms of an Infected Tooth
Below are some symptoms that might indicate a tooth infection or infected teeth. These symptoms are listed to help you identify possible manifestations of this issue at home. If you believe you have any of these symptoms, please contact our Lifetime Dental Health team to set up an appointment.
Tooth pain or toothache
Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods
Pain when eating or chewing
Disagreeable taste in your mouth
Fever or subjective fever at home
Neck swelling (lymph nodes will appear swollen)
Tenderness of the mouth, gums, or teeth
Loosening or loss of the tooth
Drainage of a sore in the mouth, especially near the tooth socket
Sometimes tooth pain can present as sharp, burning, gnawing, throbbing, aching, or dull. Any level of pain in the tooth could indicate infection or some other dental problem, so ensure that you follow up with a professional.
Effects of a Tooth Infection
Symptoms of a tooth infection, like pain or sensitivity while eating, can often be disruptive to your life. Unfortunately, in a tooth that is infected, these symptoms will not resolve on their own. The only way for these symptoms to resolve is with treatment.
Common treatments for a tooth infection include:
Incision and drainage: The team at Lifetime Dental Health cuts into the infected area, opening a small pocket that allows for bacteria-filled pus to drain. This removal of pus leads to healing.
Root canal: Our team drills into the center of the tooth, removing the pulp, which contains infected nerves and vessels. The tooth can survive without pulp if it is a mature adult tooth. Afterward, a crown is typically placed to protect the tooth.
Antibiotics: These are typically given supplementally to an incision and drainage or root canal procedure to fight off remaining bacteria.
Tooth extraction: if an infection is severe, the tooth might need to be removed from the socket to prevent the infection from spreading to other teeth or the body.
Even if you feel comfortable managing the symptoms of an infected tooth, you can experience surprising and unexpected complications that can arise from leaving an infected tooth untreated. Many people do not realize how interconnected dental health is to the health of the rest of the body, and that their teeth are connected to the vascular, or blood, system, and nervous system.
Surprisingly, an infected tooth can lead to three unique adverse effects: sepsis, meningitis, and Ludwig’s Angina.
Sepsis is a bacterial infection of the blood that is typically moderate or severe and must be treated with intravenous (IV) antibiotics in a hospital setting. People who are more at risk of getting sepsis are elderly adults, people with weakened immune systems, people with medical conditions, and children. However, anyone with an untreated infected tooth is at risk for sepsis.
High fever, swollen lymph nodes, rapid heart rate, entire body aches are emergent signs that sepsis has occurred. Someone with these signs should immediately seek emergency care.
Other signs of sepsis include shortness of breath and hyperventilation. The skin might appear to be pale or mottling, or an abnormal blue-ish tie-dye color of the skin. Sepsis is a serious complication. Early treatment of sepsis is crucial to knocking out the infection and protecting one’s body.
Another unknown possible effect of an untreated tooth infection is meningitis. Because bacteria have the ability to move from a tooth to the bloodstream, bacteria also have the ability to invade the nervous system. The nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).
Once bacteria get into the nervous system, they can cause inflammation and damage to the brain and spinal cord. A severe manifestation of this inflammation is a bacterial disease called meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is another serious effect that can lead to prolonged hospitalization and be life-threatening.
Signs of meningitis include neck rigidity, difficulty moving the neck from side to side, pain in the neck, fever, prolonged and severe headaches, decreased level of consciousness, altered mental status, fatigue, and even seizures. It’s surprising that an infected tooth can lead to meningitis, and it is a risk that not many people know. Please seek emergency treatment if these symptoms develop.
Thirdly, a surprising effect of an infected tooth is the development of Ludwig’s Angina. This complication occurs when bacteria from the infected tooth spread to the throat. Throat pain, throat swelling, shortness of breath, difficulty speaking, difficulty swallowing, difficulty eating, difficulty breathing, fever, neck pain, and ear pain can be common symptoms of Ludwig’s Angina.
If this adverse effect develops, it is typically treated with antibiotics. A person who feels shortness of breath or difficulty breathing should seek emergency care. Throat swelling can prevent you from getting the oxygen you need, and in some cases, leads to intubation, or stabilization of the airway with a tube. This is one of the most severe scenarios for Ludwig’s Angina.
These three surprising effects may be interesting and intimidating. However, now that you are knowledgeable about the causes and effects of an infected tooth, you are prepared to seek out treatment in a timely manner if suspicious of a tooth infection.
If you think you have an infected tooth and want to get your teeth assessed, contact us here at Lifetime Dental Health.
Dental care procedures, such as teeth cleanings, inserting a crown, or performing a root canal, can occasionally result in bleeding of the gums. While bleeding is always minimized, some bleeding is unavoidable in dental procedures. There are typically no long-term effects nor high risks associated with slight gum bleeding.
However, in general, a person can bleed more while taking blood-thinning medications. Therefore, patients who are on blood thinners should inform our dental team prior to undergoing any dental care.
What Are Blood Thinners? Anticoagulants and Antiplatelets Explained.
Antiplatelet and anticoagulant medications, colloquially referred to as blood thinners, are important medications that can help reduce the chance of blood clots in a high-risk patient. Anticoagulant medications act upon blood cells by slowing down or preventing the process of blood cells forming clots, known as coagulation. This “thins” out the blood, making it flow more easily through the veins, and subsequently, making it flow more quickly and easily out of an open wound.
These blood thinners can often be prescribed to someone who has coronary artery disease (CAD), a congenital heart defect (CHD), a history of clots, a history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), a history of pulmonary embolism (PE), or a history of cerebrovascular accident (CVA), also known as stroke.
Occasionally, blood thinners are prescribed after surgery to prevent post-surgical clots. Blood thinners are typically halted or discontinued prior to surgery to prevent bleeds during surgery.
Because these are serious medical conditions, most patients who are prescribed blood thinners are aware of the reason for their medications. Some patients who deal with polypharmacy are not aware of every medication function, and therefore, should get a list of current medications from their healthcare provider before seeking dental care.
Antiplatelet medications work specifically to stop platelet blood cells, which do most of the binding together in coagulation, from clumping together.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Advil or ibuprofen can also cause blood thinning, although not always. Furthermore, NSAIDs are typically not taken on a daily basis, like anticoagulants and antiplatelets.
What to Know About Dental Care on Blood Thinners
If you are only taking blood thinners (anticoagulants, antiplatelets, NSAIDs) for a temporary condition or finite amount of time, such as use for one week after surgery, then the smartest decision usually is to postpone dental care if possible until after the cessation of using blood thinners.
However, dental care can be done safely when on blood thinners. If you are taking blood thinners daily or indefinitely, stopping the use of blood thinners is generally not feasible. In fact, there can be more risk in stopping the use of blood thinners for patients who need them (which can lead to the aforementioned medical conditions, like clots, stroke, or heart attacks in at-risk patients) than with dental care with blood thinners.
Dental prophylaxis, or teeth cleaning, is a common dental procedure that dentists can most likely provide while a patient is on blood thinners. While bleeding can occur, there are many techniques in dental care to staunch or slow bleeding. One example is the use of gauze to staunch bleeds. Furthermore, the practice of minimally invasive dental techniques, suctioning and hemostatic devices, and even simply biting down during certain parts of a procedure, can reduce bleeding.
As long as our dental team is fully informed about your medication use, they can come up with a safe dental care plan that specifically caters to your use of blood thinners.
A thorough examination of medical history should include any current medications, medication or food allergies, medical conditions, genetic conditions, surgical history, major cardiac event history, dental history, dental surgery history, pregnancy status, alcohol or smoking or drug use, level of hydration, and labs such as clotting factor presence and Internalized Normal Ratio (INR) or Partial Thromboplastin Time (PTT).
By assessing these factors, you can be most prepared and knowledgeable about your own health. If you do not know this medical history information, you can contact any prior physician’s office or your primary care physician to obtain a medical record. Labs can be obtained at standard lab testing facilities or at an urgent care, emergency room, or physician’s office, depending on the situation.
Other dental procedures can often incorporate more bleeding than simple dental prophylaxis.
Some examples of these dental procedures are:
Scaling and deep teeth cleaning
Dental crown placement
Tooth extraction or removal
Biopsies of teeth or gum tissue
Wisdom teeth removal
If you’re taking blood thinners on a long-term basis, then you should inform our dental team, physician, and any specialists to identify the best course of action for upcoming dental procedures. This will be a unique decision from patient to patient.
Sometimes, the best way to protect oneself is through thorough communication and support from professionals. That is why it is important to consult with our dental team and your prescribing physicians about blood thinners prior to dental care.
Moving Forward: Care for Oral Bleeding
So what if you are on blood thinners and have oral bleeding after dental care?
Oral bleeding after dental care may occur after a procedure, but it is usually well-controlled and short-lived. Some simple bleeding might last for around 30 minutes after surgery, but it can be controlled through the use of gauze. Drinking cold or room-temperature fluids from a cup is recommended.
Some behaviors to avoid limiting oral bleeding after dental care:
Excessive spitting or rinsing out the mouth
Drinking hot beverages
Eating sharp foods like chips, popcorn, or nuts
Using a straw, which might irritate or poke gums (unless a straw is needed to prevent choking)
If you have bleeding from your gums or mouth for several hours in a row, and it is constant and non-staunchable with gauze, you should call your doctor. Alternatively, if you feel worried about the amount of blood loss you’ve experienced, you can go to an emergency care facility. Although this is highly unlikely in a patient who is on blood thinners, if you are experiencing large blood clots coming from the mouth, you should seek emergency care as well.
Most people can obtain safe, healthy, and beneficial dental care while on blood thinners. Dental health is connected to heart health and happiness, so it’s important not to neglect dental care because of mild worry. This information is intended to help educate, empower, and inform all patients on blood thinners.
For further questions about blood thinners and dental care, contact our dental team here at Lifetime Dental Health.
The mouth is the opening to many joys in our lives. Our complex oral and periodontal system helps us eat delicious foods, stay hydrated, talk to friends and family, and even breathe in the air.
But you may not know that the mouth is full of vibrant bacteria at all times. These bacteria are considered “good” bacteria, specifically known as normal flora, that help protect the mouth from outside threats and damage. Saliva works to protect the mouth too, by neutralizing harmful acids and breaking down food.
The mouth can be particularly vulnerable, as well. Along with the nose, the mouth is one of the primary openings through which bacteria and viruses can enter. Bacteria can enter the throat, lungs, teeth, or even the gums, and can proceed to infect other areas of the body, leading to the potential for advanced infections.
Fortunately, there have been strong evidence-based connections that protecting one’s oral health, especially nurturing healthy gums, can also lead to a healthy immune system. A healthy immune system can prevent someone from getting, or getting severely sick from, bacterial infections.
First, it is important to understand the steps and foundation behind oral health.
A few important steps to help protect your oral health are listed below:
Brushing your teeth at least twice per day with fluoride-containing toothpaste
Flossing your teeth, preferably daily
Brushing your gums and tongue, preferably daily
Reaching the back of your mouth when brushing
Attending regular dental appointments, at least every 6 months
Reducing consumption of food and drink that damages tooth enamel
Treating tooth cavities, decay, damage, or infections
When you don’t protect your oral health, you’re at higher risk of bacterial infections, as mentioned earlier. Bacteria can enter through the mouth, leading to lung infections (pneumonia), heart infections (endocarditis), or cardiovascular disease. There are typically other factors that must come into play to lead to such advanced infections and diseases, however, many people have no idea that poor oral health can lead to heart disease.
Oral health can also be made more difficult if you have diabetes, are pregnant, have a weakened immune system, have osteoporosis, have dementia or Alzheimer’s, is immobile or bed-ridden, are severely ill, or cannot perform their own dental care.
Due to its connectedness to the whole body, oral health should always be prioritized when it is possible.
Fortunately, there are dental professionals, including the team at Lifetime Dental Health, who can help you to accomplish dental hygiene goals.
What is the Immune System?
The immune system is a combination of bodily features that protect the body from disease and sickness, such as bacterial invaders. There are many parts to the immune system, including external barriers and internal protective measures.
The skin is the first line of defense. Thick skin cells and antibacterial secretions from the skin prevent bacteria from entering the body
The mucosal lining of the mouth is another external barrier. Mucus is secreted by the epithelial cells of the throat to trap bacteria. Cilia, little hair-like projections from the throat, also trap bacteria. Together, these barriers push bacteria out of the body
Internal Protective measures:
Bone Marrow creates immune cells, such as lymphocytes, macrophages, B cell antibodies, T cells, and more. These immune cells are innately wired to fight off bacteria.
Immune cells are also enriched in the spleen, which helps bolster their ability to fight.
Next, immune cells need to find their way to the infected areas of the body. Sometimes immune cells travel via the bloodstream, but more often, immune cells travel via the lymphatic system.
The lymphatic system acts like a highway, similar to the vascular system of blood, that allows immune cells to travel around the body. Lymph cells and lymph fluid live within this system, ready to fight off infections at any time. When bacterial infections occur in the body, lymph nodes can become swollen via a process called inflammation. This allows the swollen area to expand in size, creating room for the incoming immune cells.
How Healthy Gums Boost the Immune System
Keeping one’s gums healthy can have a very positive effect on the immune system. If a person has healthy gums, it is a sign that they have been practicing good oral hygiene and that there are no periodontal infections present.
Healthy gums will appear as normal-sized and pink, without any swelling. When gums become swollen, especially chronically swollen, or red, this is a sign that gums are unhealthy. The body’s immune system responds to bacteria through inflammation of gum tissue because all of the immune system’s internal protective measures must arrive at the location where bacteria are and begin fighting the infection.
Redness, swelling, and bleeding can be signs of this internal fight between the immune system and bacteria in unhealthy gums.
So in order to keep the immune system healthy and happy, it is important to protect one’s gums.
Some habits to keep gums healthy include:
Use a soft-bristled toothbrush
Replace your toothbrush at least every 3 months
Do not forget to floss and/or use mouthwash to remove food particles between the gums. Floss at least once daily if possible. Do not press floss too forcefully into your gums, or you might cause damage
Reduce the number of sugary foods and “added sugar” foods in your diet
Avoid tobacco use if possible
If you would like to come to Lifetime Dental Health for a cleaning or a regular check-up of your gums, please contact us today.
Dental hygiene is one of the most commonly overlooked aspects of our overall health. Nearly 180 million Americans are missing one tooth, and an estimated 40 million are missing all of their teeth, according to the American College of Prosthodontists. There are many things to be done for damaged or missing teeth, including dental implants. Below you will learn more about what could prevent you from getting a dental implant.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant acts as an orthodontic anchor and is made of titanium that connects to the jaw or skull to support a dental prosthetic, such as a denture, bridge, or crown.
The process in which the titanium implant forms a bond to the bone is called osseointegration. The dental implant is placed first, allowing a moderate amount of time for healing and osseointegration to occur before a prosthetic is added.
What Disqualifies Me as a Candidate for a Dental Implant?
Dental implants require a certain level of health to be maintained by the recipient. Patients are often told they are not a candidate for dental implants for several reasons such as:
Smoking increases a patient’s risk of dental implant failure. If a patient is a smoker, their dental professional will often give them a time frame that they will need to stop smoking to be considered for a dental implant.
Gum disease often goes untreated for long periods, destroying our healthy gingiva, the tooth itself, and even the bone. Gum disease must be successfully treated before a dentist considering approving a dental implant
Poor overall health
Receiving one or more dental implants is considered a surgical procedure requiring incisions and sutures. If you as a patient are not healthy enough to undergo an operation, you may be denied the procedure.
Diabetes not only affects the blood sugar of a patient, but it is a systemic disease affecting essentially all parts of the human body. A patient with diabetes must receive treatment to get their diabetes under control before they are deemed safe to receive a dental implant.
A patient currently receiving, or who has recently received, radiation therapy near the face or neck may be denied dental implant surgery due to an increased risk to the patient.
Medications, such as blood thinners or steroids, increase the patient’s risk during a dental implant procedure deeming it unsafe for the patient. A dentist may recommend the patient stop taking their current medications, if approved by their primary care physician, for a certain length of time before being approved for a dental implant.
Surgery is not recommended in pregnant females unless medically necessary. It is recommended to wait until after pregnancy to receive a dental implant.
Low bone density
Many dentists will not perform dental implants if they do not believe there is enough bone for the implant to attach to. Low bone density is the number one reason that patients are denied dental implant surgery. The dental implant must osseointegrate to the bone before a prosthetic being placed, however, when there is not enough bone density available within your jaw the implant cannot attach securely.
Rather than approve you for a surgery that is not medically safe for you, or that is beyond the skill level of the dentist of choice, they will often deem you a bad candidate. You may seek out a second opinion from a more highly trained professional.
A highly skilled, and properly trained dentist may recommend a bone graft to be considered a candidate for a dental implant. A bone graft replaces missing bone in your jaw with bone tissue from either the chin, hip, or shin, to allow new bone to grow.
A bone graft, depending on the severity, requires several weeks of healing prior to the start of a dental implant procedure. As a bone graft patient, you may require several appointments to ensure proper bone density once a graft is completed before being approved to receive a dental implant. Again, the implant may take several weeks to heal before receiving the prosthetic whether that be a crown, bridge, implant, or anchor for your orthodontic treatment.
Young patients, whose bones have not fully developed, are considered at risk for a dental implant. A dentist will not perform a dental implant procedure on a patient whose jaw is still growing. You must be an adult with a fully developed bone structure.
Considerations for a Dental Implant
To be considered for a dental implant procedure, there are many things your dentist will take into consideration. First and foremost, you must be missing one or more teeth. Your dentist will require that you not smoke or drink for a set number of days or weeks prior to the procedure to ensure there is no risk associated.
Your dentist will evaluate your bone density to ensure your jaw bone is a strong candidate to take on and be able to hold the implant securely in place. Overall, a good candidate for a dental implant is overall healthy, an adult, and has good bone density.
One of the most common dental issues in patients of all ages is the development of cavities or tooth decay. Causes for this vary, but the most common are bacteria, sugary drinks or foods, certain health conditions, and the lack of brushing or flossing. You may experience symptoms such as pain or sensitivity or have no idea that one is forming until you visit your dentist for a bi-annual cleaning and exam.
A cavity essentially is a damaged section of tooth enamel that shows up as tiny holes or openings. If left untreated, these openings can grow larger and begin to affect the underlayers in your tooth. As a result, you may experience an increasingly painful toothache, swelling, and infection, or even eventual tooth loss.
One of the best-proven ways to keep cavities away is by practicing good oral hygiene. Brushing and flossing daily accompanied by regularly scheduled visits with your Columbus, OH dentist can help keep your dental health at its best. And when you experience any symptom of a cavity forming, your dentist will know how to detect it. Such detection can be confirmed in a few different ways, including the following.
Visual Inspection and Oral Exam
The first step a dentist will take is to visually inspect your teeth, gums, and the soft tissue of your mouth. Your dentist is looking for any discoloration or damage to your tooth’s enamel. In some instances, cavities can be seen right away. Usually, this occurs with larger cavities in prominent areas.
If no evidence of a cavity is identified, or if your dentist suspects a certain tooth or area may be affected, the next method to detect a cavity is by using a dental explorer or probe. This probe is maneuvered around your teeth and specifically into the crevices between teeth. Any soft spots or sensitivity found to indicate a cavity is most likely present. At this point, the severity of the cavity is difficult to determine, so the next steps of detection may be taken.
Many times, a cavity is not detectable by a visual inspection or probing exam alone. The next step a dentist may take is the snapping of dental x-rays. A cavity in an x-ray appears as a darker shadow or spot on a tooth, while a regular filling will be brighter.
Dental x-rays, a method that has been around for years, help to remove any guesswork on the part of the dentist. Images of the inner and outer tooth are captured, and this helps your dentist discover the cavity and determine how severe it is. Dental x-rays are also a good way to determine when a cavity exists between teeth.
Typically, your dentist will obtain bitewing x-rays, where a small x-ray film is inserted between your teeth, and you bite down, holding it in place. An x-ray image is created, producing an image of that particular part of your mouth. These images include your teeth, soft tissues of the mouth, and your jaw, providing your dentist with information on the overall health of your teeth. Hidden structures, such as wisdom teeth and any bone loss, may also be revealed.
For identifying cavities deep in your back molars are other difficult-to-access areas, some dentists may use a Dental Cone Beam CT. The use of this device can provide more thorough x-rays of your jaw, teeth, and overall facial structure, creating a three-dimensional head image for further evaluation.
Laser Cavity Detection
Cavities can start out as microscopic defects under the tooth’s tough enamel. Oral exams and x-rays can’t always diagnose decay on the subsurface level of your tooth. For this, your dentist may turn to the use of a laser cavity detection device.
With this device, lightwave refraction is used. A wand scans the surface of your teeth within seconds. For areas where you have healthy teeth enamel, the light will pass through easily. If decay is present, the light will bounce or reflect back. In turn, the exact location, size, and shape of the cavity can be determined. Your dentist will also see how large and deep the cavity is.
More accurate than x-rays, the laser cavity detection device is completely safe. It can provide a wider, more exact view of the cavity, helping the dentist determine the best treatment options going forward.
Your dentist may only need to use one of these cavity detection methods or a combination of them to obtain the most information possible. From there, together you can discuss whether a filling will suffice or if you need to consider other options such as replacing the damaged tooth with a crown or other measures.
Contact Lifetime Dental Health for all Your Dental Needs
The earlier a cavity is caught, the better. If you are currently suffering from any of the symptoms of a cavity, including toothache or sensitivity, contact our office at 614-321-1887 to schedule an appointment. If you haven’t had your bi-annual cleaning and exam, we can schedule that also. Our compassionate, professional staff look forward to helping with whatever dental needs you may have now or in the future.