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.
Dental cavities, which dentists may refer to as caries, or tooth decay represent holes in the teeth forming when acid in your mouth (oral cavity), erodes your tooth enamel. Untreated cavities or tooth decay can not only cause toothaches, but they can result in infections and tooth extractions. Individuals of all ages can have tooth decay.
Having the proper dental care, including flossing, brushing, and regular checkups with a dentist in Columbus, OH, can help prevent tooth decay.
Causes of Tooth Decay
Our mouths are chock-full of bacteria. While some good bacteria are certainly helpful, others can be harmful, including those that play a tooth decay role. The food combines with these bacteria to form a sticky, soft film named plaque. The bacteria present in plaque use the starch and sugar in the foods and drinks we consume to produce acids.
The acids begin to erode the minerals in the enamel. Over time, the plaque can turn into tartar. In addition to damaging the teeth, plaque and tartar can also irritate your gums and cause gum disease. If you don’t take care of your teeth and/or eat and drink too much sugar or starch, your enamel will continue to lose minerals. This leads to tooth decay.
Symptoms of Cavities
At the onset of tooth decay, there are usually no symptoms. As tooth decay worsens, it can cause:
Brown or white spots on the tooth’s surface
Sensitivity of the teeth to sweets, heat, or cold
Diagnosis Cavities/Tooth Decay
Having dental checkups at least twice a year is the best way to detect cavities early when the dentist can save a large part of the tooth. A tooth with decay or a cavity will be softer when the dentist examines it. You can also do dental x-rays. X-rays show cavities before the decay becomes visible.
Our dentists can usually identify tooth decay in the following ways:
Asking about sensitivity or toothache
Examining your teeth and mouth
Using dental instruments to probe your teeth to check soft areas
Having a look at dental X-rays, which can show the extent of decay and cavities
Our dentist will also be able to tell you which of the three forms of cavities you have: pit and fissure, smooth surface, or root.
Treatments for Cavities/Tooth Decay
Regular checkups can help identify cavities and tooth decay before they lead to more serious problems. The earlier you seek help, your chances to reverse the early stages of tooth decay and prevent its progression are greater. If tooth decay is treated before it starts causing pain, you probably won’t need extensive treatment. Options for treatment include:
Fluoride treatment: If tooth decay has just started, fluoride treatment can help restore tooth enamel and reverse tooth decay in the early stages. Fluoride treatments contain more fluoride than the amount found in toothpaste, tap water, and mouthwashes. Fluoride treatments can be liquid, gel, or foam that are brushed onto your teeth or placed on a small tray that fits your teeth.
Dental Crowns: For weakened teeth extensive decay, a crown may be needed. This is a custom-made cover that replaces the entire natural crown of your tooth. Your dentist drills the entire damaged area and enough of the rest of the tooth to ensure a good fit. Crowns can be made of gold, high-strength porcelain, resin, metal-fused porcelain, or other materials.
Dental Fillings: Fillings, also referred to as restorations, are the primary treatment option when tooth decay has progressed beyond the initial stage. Various materials are used for fillings, such as porcelain, tooth-colored composite resins, or dental amalgam.
Root canals: When the cavity or decay finds its way to the pulp (which is inside the tooth), it may be necessary to have a root canal. Instead of removing a tooth, this treatment repairs and saves a tooth that is infected or damaged badly. The pulp of the diseased tooth is removed. Sometimes, a drug is inserted into the root canal to clear any infection. The pulp is then replaced by a filling.
Tooth extractions: Some teeth are so badly damaged that they cannot be restored and must be removed. Extracting one tooth can leave a gap allowing the other teeth to move. If possible, consider getting a bridge or dental implant to replace the missing tooth.
Good oral hygiene and regular dental checkups are essential to prevent tooth cavities or decay. New dental treatments, including fluoride rinses, and dental sealants, have reduced the risk of tooth decay in children and adolescents. Adults with dental fillings from childhood can develop cavities around the edges of old fillings. It is advisable to ask one of our dentists, Dr. Love, Dr. Barry, or Dr. DiDonato what steps you can take to protect your oral health and prevent tooth decay.
Book Your Dental Exam and Cleaning at Lifetime Dental Health
Are you due for a dental exam and cleaning? Along with brushing and flossing daily, visiting us twice a year for a dental exam and cleaning is one of your best defenses to prevent cavities. Don’t ignore your oral health. Call us at 614-321-1887 or book your appointment online.
TMJ, an acronym for temporomandibular joints, are some of your most commonly used joints. These joints, located in front of your ears, connect your skull to your jaw and are used when you swallow, talk, eat. Temporomandibular joints are located on both sides of your jaw and can be affected by injuries or disorders such as arthritis, an injury, teeth grinding among others, and then become TMJ disorders or dysfunctions.
Because of the frequency in which these joints are used, any injury or disorder to the joints can be extremely painful and debilitating, with issues such as:
Pain while eating and chewing
Jaw popping and clicking
Pain is not only your jaw but your ear, head, and neck
Much of the issues with TMJ can be solved by self-care and home remedies. While you should check with your doctor before starting any TMJ treatment plan, here are some resistance, stretching, and strengthening exercises you may be able to do to release TMJ pain:
Look in the mirror. Open your mouth slowly. While you are opening your mouth, center your two front teeth with your bottom two. Repeat between 5 and 10 times.
Put a wooden pop stick between your top and bottom front teeth. Move your jaw slowly from side to side while holding the popsicle stick between your teeth.
Repeat exercise number two but instead of side to side, move your bottom jaw forward. Hold for 20 seconds. Repeat with your top jaw. During the movement, the item will rest between your back and front teeth.
For exercises two and three, if completed successfully with no pain, you can then use items with more thickness. As each “level” is completed successfully, you can continue to build upon thickness. For instance, start with a popsicle stick and move to a pen then a marker, etc.
Open your mouth as wide as you can without it beginning to cause any pain. Then close your mouth. Repeat the exercise but only open your mouth half as wide. Continue the process to stretch your jaw muscles.
Place your tongue to the roof of your mouth, behind your front teeth. Apply slight pressure to your palette. With your tongue held there, slowly open and close your mouth. Repeat.
Put your index and middle fingers at the top/hinge of your jaw. Begin massaging downward. Massage down and then back up again.
Place your index finger and thumb on your chin’s center. Open your mouth slowly and put pressure on your chin with your two fingers. Hold your mouth open for approximately 3-5 seconds then close slowly while continuing to put pressure with your index finger and thumb. Repeat 3-5 times.
Open your mouth as wide as you can without it beginning to cause any pain. Push on the right side of your jaw with your right hand. After holding it for 10 seconds, return to the middle. Then do that with your left side and hold for another 10 seconds before returning to the middle.
Remember, these are supposed to be gentle exercises. If they are causing you pain, cease the exercise, limit the frequency, or lessen the pressure. To get started, make sure you complete them during a time you are most relaxed, sit upright, and start by doing these in front of the mirror until you are comfortable.
Ideally, these exercises help with:
Relaxing not only your jaw but your mind and body
Alleviating joint tension
Relieving muscle tension
Strengthening muscles and joints
Broadening mouth open range
Helping your jaw to heal
Additional TMJ Pain Relief Tips
In addition to the exercises, there are additional things you can do that may add some additional relief. A combination of lifestyle changes and gentle exercises should help alleviate your TMJ pain, but you may need to check with your doctor for additional measures. In the meantime, try:
Maintaining good posture
Talk to your doctor about medication
Applying an ice pack for 20 minutes
Alternating between heat and ice
Avoiding foods that are hard to chew
Speak to your doctor about mouthguards
Do not bite your fingernails or bite on your teeth
Get a good night sleep (this is great for all overall health)
As always, check with your doctor before starting any treatment plans. However, people often have success with at-home remedies and exercises for their TMJ pain. Remember to be gentle with yourself (and your body) and that these exercises are not designed for immediate relief. Your jaw and muscles need time to strengthen so make sure you keep up on your exercise for long-term relief.
Contact Lifetime Dental Health for TMJ Treatment
We’re here to help! If you suspect your TMJ pain is from grinding your teeth at night, Dr. Love, Dr. DiDonato, or Dr. Barry may advise you to wear a custom night guard. These not only protect your teeth from unnecessary wear, but they can help relax muscles to relieve pain. Please call our office at 614-321-1887 or schedule an appointment online.