Petersen Family Dentistry
123 West Francis Avenue, Suite 104
Spokane, WA 99205
When your teeth and gums are consistently exposed to large amounts of starches and sugars, acids form that may begin to eat away at tooth enamel. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as candy, cookies, soft drinks and even fruit juices leave deposits on your teeth. These deposits bond with the bacteria that are normally present in your mouth and form plaque. The combination of deposits and plaque forms acids that can damage the mineral structure of teeth, with tooth decay (a cavity) resulting.
Tooth decay typically forms in the grooves on the chewing surfaces and in interproximal areas (the surfaces where the teeth touch each other). A thorough clinical exam in combination with radiographs allows us to diagnose tooth decay. The earlier it is diagnosed, the easier it is to treat. Left untreated, tooth decay will continue to enlarge and if it reaches the center of the tooth where the nerve is located, a root canal would be necessary.
Over time, tooth enamel can be worn down, gums may recede, or teeth may develop microscopic cracks, thereby exposing the interior of the tooth to variations in temperature. This exposed layer of tooth structure contains tubules (microscopic passageways) that connect to the nerve endings within the tooth. In such cases, drinking hot or cold beverages, eating hot or cold food, or simply breathing cold air can cause discomfort. Sometimes, using toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth, such as Sensodyne or Crest Sensitivity, can provide relief. In other instances, a filling, crown, biteguard, or surgical gum procedure may be required to address the sensitivity.
Gum (periodontal) disease is a process in which the supporting structures of the teeth are compromised. If plaque accumulates on the tooth structure near the gum line, it causes inflammation within the gum tissues, which is called gingivitis. Over time, plaque calcifies and leads to the formation of calculus (also known as tartar). Left untreated, this chronic irritation caused by plaque and calculus leads to the degradation of the surrounding tissue and bone, causing pockets in the gums. The bacteria present in the pockets create byproducts that break down the bone and connective tissue that support the teeth. Periodontal disease can progress to the point where the teeth are no longer anchored in the bone, thereby leading to tooth loss.
Recent studies have shown that tooth loss is not the only concern when it comes to advanced periodontal disease. Researchers have discovered links between periodontal disease and other serious health conditions such as stroke, heart disease, and diabetes. As a result, early intervention to prevent and control periodontal disease is critical to help minimize greater health risks.
The joint where the jaw hinges is called the temporomandibular joint, or TMJ. Many people experience pain, popping, clicking, or even locking in this joint. Joint sounds like clicking or popping can be normal for some people, but if it is accompanied by pain, treatment is often necessary. A bite splint (also called a biteguard or nightguard) is often fabricated as a first step of treatment. In rare and severe cases, surgery may be required to provide the desired outcome.
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
Daily brushing and flossing helps to prevent the buildup of food particles, plaque, and bacteria in your mouth. Food particles left in the mouth deteriorate and cause bad breath. While certain foods, such as garlic or anchovies, may create temporary bad breath, consistent bad breath may be a sign of gum disease or another dental problem. Brushing the tongue can often help diminish bad breath.
Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are small sores in the mouth that often arise during physically or emotionally stressful times. The canker sore has a white or gray base surrounded by a red border and they can be very uncomfortable. They usually heal themselves within a week to ten days, though applying a topical agent such as Cankaid or Zilactin-B can help soothe and protect the area.
A bite that does not meet properly (a malocclusion) can be inherited or some types may be acquired. Some causes of malocclusion include missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth, or misaligned jaws. Accidents or developmental issues, such as finger or thumb sucking over an extended period of time, may also cause malocclusions.