Children are at risk to injure their teeth, or suffer dental trauma, at just about any time. This includes damage to teeth as well as surrounding areas. While eating, playing, or taking part in other daily activities, kids can fracture, chip, loosen, or even knock out their permanent teeth. Fights are among the most common causes of kids’ dental trauma. The upper front teeth are the most likely to be damaged.
Not all types call for expert urgent care. You may not even notice mild trauma until a child sees the dentist for a regular exam. However, when a child fractures, displaces, or loses a tooth, there can be major negative effects.
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The possible effects are not just aesthetic or functional, either. They can also be psychological, according to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.
In addition, according to Today’s Dentistry, the result of dental trauma may not be clear for some time. Hidden consequences may persist, and the true effects may be hard to guess until some time goes by. That’s because some types of impact can force teeth into the nearby bone and affect the supply of blood to the tooth. Over time, this can cause the tooth to fail.
The possible effects are not just aesthetic or functional, either. They can also be psychological…
So, for most dental injuries, it’s important to see a dentist soon or even right away for an expert diagnosis and treatment. However, the steps you should take in a dental emergency will depend on the type of trauma your child has suffered.
Tooth Extrusion: Loosened or Displaced Teeth and Kids
The signs and symptoms of tooth extrusion include loose, dislodged, or displaced teeth. Kids end up with this type of dental trauma frequently just by being kids. Rough play or an accident are the most common causes.
You may be able to save an extruded tooth if it is not broken and blood and nerve vessels are still attached. To save the tooth, do not remove it from the socket. Have your child carefully keep it in their mouth.
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You may give them an over-the-counter pain reliever or a cold pack to help them deal with the pain, if needed. Then, head for your dentist’s office or the nearest emergency room right away.
Tooth Avulsion: Knocked Out Teeth and Kids
Baby teeth are not re-implanted. However, if your child’s loses a permanent (or adult) tooth due to trauma, take these steps to help the tooth survive.
Before you see a dentist, be sure to do the following. Hold the tooth only by the top or crown, never by the roots. If it’s dirty, rinse it briefly in a dish filled with tap water. Do not scrub the tooth or detach tissue from it.
Then, if possible, gently insert the tooth into its socket and gently hold the tooth in place. It may not go all the way in, but you can have the child gently bite down on a small bit of gauze or a wet teabag to keep it in place, if needed.
Above all, be sure you do not allow the tooth to dry out. If it won’t go back into the socket, even partially, you can place it in milk or saliva. A warm mixture of ¼ teaspoon of salt to 1 quart of water can also be used to keep an avulsed tooth moist. If nothing else is available, have the child tuck the tooth into their cheek until you reach the dentist.
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Broken Teeth and Kids
If your child chips or breaks a tooth, call your dentist right away. Be sure to keep the pieces so you can take them to the dentist to be repaired.
Then, to clean the area, have your child rinse their mouth with warm water. Again, you may give the child an over-the-counter pain reliever or a cold pack to help them deal with any pain.
How to Help Prevent Dental Trauma in Children
Kids will be kids, and you can never protect them from every possible danger. However, if you know your kids will be taking part in rugged sports activities or other highly physical activities, wearing a fitted mouth guard can help to protect them from dental injuries.
You know you know someone who could use this information. So what are you waiting for?
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If you follow our blogs about oral health, you know that dentists can detect potentially serious conditions that affect your entire body simply by looking in your mouth. A new study suggests dentists may also be able to spot bullying.
Bullying has grown into a major problem. It puts countless adolescents under heightened emotional stress. According to the New York Daily News, data collected in Brazil reveals that kids who experience bullying are more likely to grind their teeth while they sleep.
A Strikingly Common Habit
Researchers looked at the oral health and academic experiences of over 300 children ages thirteen to fifteen.
Sixty-five percent of the bullied students ground their teeth.
“Both children and adults tend to grind their teeth when suffering from stress,” says Dr. Nigel Carter, CEO of the Oral Health Foundation. “…bullying is a significant contributor here,” he says. “Sleep bruxism can be particularly damaging as we are often unaware that we do it.”
What Causes Bruxism?
An abnormal bite can lead to bruxism. However, dentists usually attribute tooth grinding to stress, anxiety, and sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
In 2017, actor Demi Moore confessed to Jimmy Fallon that over the past two years, stress caused her to grind her two front teeth. In fact, she ground them so hard that her dentist had to remove them. The two, shiny front teeth she sported on The Tonight Show were fake.
Symptoms of bruxism include worn down teeth, hypersensitive teeth and jaw aches. As Dr. Carter said, most bruxism sufferers don’t know they grind their teeth. Not, that is, until someone who sleeps in the same room hears them in the act.
While people usually grind their teeth at night, some sufferers grind their teeth while doing chores or driving, the BBC reported.
A Vital Insight into a Child’s State of Mind
With this new evidence about the likely cause, nonprofits like the Oral Health Foundation are taking action. They are urging parents and school nurses to view these symptoms in children as signs of bullying or other emotionally debilitating problems.
“Bullying of any form is absolutely abhorrent and can have both a physical and psychological impact,” Dr. Carter said. Moreover, “when experienced in childhood, [these] can lead to trauma that might last throughout adulthood.”
“Grinding teeth may not sound like a priority within the wider picture,” Dr. Carter added. However, “…it could prove to give a vital insight into a child’s state of mind and could be an important sign for us to identify bullying at an earlier stage.”
Grinding teeth could be an important sign for identifying bullying at an earlier stage.
Dentists who detect bruxism may fit the patient with a plastic mouth guard to help protect the teeth. Arguably, the most effective way to break the habit, however, is to relieve stress via exercise, meditation, or even psychological counseling.
The only way to know if you have bruxism or your symptoms are a cause for concern is by going to the dentist at least twice a year. The cost of preventing this and other oral health conditions will far outweigh the cost of repairing damage.
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America’s opioid epidemic has killed more than 180,000 since 2000. Unfortunately, many of the victims became addicted after doctors prescribed them drugs like Oxycontin and Percocet. These prescriptions, however, were likely not their first exposure to powerful painkillers.
According to the New York Times, most opioid prescriptions for people ages ten to nineteen are written by dentists and oral surgeons. This is largely due to the tradition of prescribing opioids after wisdom tooth removal. This procedure is performed on millions of patients under the age of 25 every year. Almost every patient who undergoes this procedure is prescribed opioids.
When health pros prescribe opioids for high school students, they are one-third more likely to abuse the drugs in the future.
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“They don’t develop their addiction from that experience,” says psychiatrist and addiction specialist Dr. Andrew Kolodny. “But because of it, they’re no longer afraid of the drug and they like the effect. They’re getting their first taste of the drug from a doctor or dentist, and that increases the likelihood they would use it recreationally.”
Reducing Opioid Addiction
The first step towards reducing opioid addiction is prescribing “more cautiously,” according to Dr. Kolodny. Increasingly, oral health professionals are heeding this advice.
Leading this initiative is Dr. Harold Tu, director of the division of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry. Last year, he successfully lobbied the school to implement a new, mandatory protocol that teaches students to avoid opioids for their clinical patients.
The first-line treatment now consists of non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs. These include ibuprofen (or NSAIDs) and acetaminophen. Tu’s students only prescribe opioids if the patient is allergic to one of these or needs stronger pain relief.
So far, Tu told the Times, “we have not seen an increase in patient complaints or patients returning saying ‘the NSAIDs are not working; I need something stronger’.”
Relief Equal To or Better Than Opioids
The notion that ibuprofen combined with acetaminophen could ever treat pain as effectively as opioids might seem a bit farfetched. However, a 2013 study found that the former treatment provides equal or better relief than the latter.*
Minneapolis oral surgeon Dr. Angie Rake used to give young patients “10 to 15 Vicodin” only to hear her parents’ ask for more. She has since reduced her opioid prescriptions by about 60%. She now makes an effort to speak to parents about addiction. “Now I have parents thanking me for taking time to educate them,” Dr. Rake said. “And a lot of times they say, ‘We’re really going to try to avoid these.’ ”
Now I have parents thanking me for taking time to educate them. And a lot of times they say, ‘We’re really going to try to avoid these.’
Dr. Rake is a firm follower of Dr. Tu along with Dr. Douglas Fain, president of the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. He recently conducted a survey that found that half of his members have reduced opioid prescriptions. They now prescribe just three to four days’ worth of the drugs.
In addition to the number of prescriptions written, Dr. Fain has reduced dosage levels at his practice. “They’re here if you need them,” he says, but only for those in unbearable pain.
Read next: Ways to Avoid a Painful Visit to the Dentist
*Article Citation: JADA, Combining ibuprofen and acetaminophen for acute pain management after third-molar extractions, August 2013Volume 144, Issue 8, Pages 898–908.
The effect of pot or marijuana on oral health is unclear due in large part to its status as a controlled substance. That alone has stalled much research on the plant’s uses for years.
Science has shown that cigarettes cause a slew of potentially fatal diseases. But they have yet to show a direct link between regular pot use and any single health condition.
A recent study at Columbia University (CU), though, suggests that people who smoke marijuana often may be at an increased risk for gum disease.
Who the Team Looked At
CU researchers led by Dr. Jaffer Shariff enlisted 1,419 Americans who had not used cannabis one or more times per month throughout the last 12 months. The study also had 519 people who had used pot at least once per month in the same period.
The team took variables such as income level, alcohol use and tobacco use into account. Each participant had a dental exam to look for symptoms of gum disease. These include plaque, inflammation, bleeding, and gum recession.
Pot Use and Oral Health: Interpreting the Results
The team found that frequent pot smokers were more likely to display signs of moderate to severe gum disease than those who had abstained or those who had used pot less often in the last 12 months.
“Even controlling for other factors linked to gum disease, such as cigarette smoking, frequent recreational cannabis smokers are twice as likely as non-frequent users to have signs of periodontal disease,” said Dr. Shariff.
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The researchers aren’t sure what it is about pot use that could reduce oral health. Some ideas include the fact that smoking marijuana can lead to dry mouth, and gums need saliva in order to stay healthy. Pot users may also be less likely to seek health services of any kind.
Dr. Shariff plans to do more studies that might shed some light on marijuana and its link with oral health.
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The benefits of seeing your dentist every six months stretch far beyond simply having healthier, better-looking teeth. Oral health is directly connected to your overall wellbeing. Every time you make a dentist appointment, your chances of enjoying the future increase.
The truth is, some of life’s best rewards will most likely go to people with good oral health. Here are just five rewards, all of which are much harder to get if you don’t take care of your teeth:
1. A Longer Life
When you see your dentist often, you lower your risk for a large range of ills. If left untreated, oral bacteria causes gum disease and tooth decay. It can even enter the blood and spread plaque through the body.
Depending on your family history, this could put you at risk for heart disease, diabetes, pneumonia, and cancer. It can even lead to diseases like stroke, Alzheimer’s or dementia.
Here’s the thing, though. Oral bacteria are incredibly easy to eliminate. Your dentist can help you to stave off these diseases through the benefits of regular exams and cleanings. That is, as long as you manage plaque build up by keeping your regular dentist appointments.
2. Higher Income
Speaking of benefits, research has shown that people with great teeth and smiles are more likely to earn higher salaries and get more job opportunities than people who seem to view their smile as less of a priority. One study used fake job interviews and found that those who had the best smiles were viewed as more confident and skilled.
Learn more: Dental Inequality in America
This isn’t much of a surprise, though. It’s only natural for someone with good oral health to be seen as serious, disciplined, and concerned about his or her effect on others. So, if you want to make your dream job a reality, it can help to keep up with regular dental visits.
3. More Money in the Bank
People with good oral health tend to have lower bills as they get older. The cost of regular dental visits to prevent problems is a fraction of the cost for the type of reactive care patients who have advanced gum disease may need.
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4. Less Stress
When you work to address oral health problems head on, there is less need to worry about the state of your teeth. People who never skip the dentist also have to worry less about certain foods or beverages causing pain or long-term damage.
With some types of oral health issues, cold or hot foods or drinks can be a problem. When you see your dentist often, she can help you to manage the effects of sugar, alcohol and caffeine, which may be the cause. Lastly, if you have a lot of stress, your dentist will know, and be able to tell you, what you can do to help.
5. Better Love Life
Not only will people who take care of their teeth stay attractive to their partners, but they will also have less difficulty finding romantic partners. In fact, a 2013 survey of nearly 5,500 single adults ages 21 and older revealed straight, white teeth to be the quality single men and women look for most when choosing a mate.
When you visit the dentist every 6 months, you won’t be as worried about your partner seeking greener pastures. And who knows? You may even be able to win over the object of your affections, regardless of your age.
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Sounds like a happy life, right? You can gain these rewards and a lot more if you simply go to the dentist and follow through with their advice and care.
Missing just one or two appointments might not seem like a big deal. But as you age, you may grow more conscious of how your teeth look and feel. So think of your long-term health and financial strength, and stick to your regular dental exams!
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If you think flossing your teeth regularly is a pain, prison lawsuits highlight the problems that can arise when you skimp on flossing.
Inmates filed suits against the Palm Beach County Jail in Florida and the Westchester County Jail in New York because they did not have access to dental floss. The lack of floss, one inmate stated, resulted in “oral abscesses, pain, discomfort, tooth decay (loss), and could contribute to endocarditis.” [“Jail inmate goes beyond oral arguments in fight for right to floss,” The Palm Beach Post.]
Of course, not flossing your teeth won’t land you in prison, but it’s a fact that skipping the dental floss truly can be a serious offense when it comes to oral health.
What is a dental abscess?
Let’s look at one of the problems cited by litigious inmates: dental abscesses. A dental abscess is a pocket of tissue inside the mouth or throat that is filled with pus.
The pus is the result of a bacterial infection. Bacteria typically get into teeth through a chip or crack, due to tooth decay, or as a result of periodontal disease.
Bacterial infections may also be the result of a cavity that has been left untreated. The symptoms of dental abscesses include extreme throbbing and relentless toothache-like pain, swelling, tenderness, sensitivity to heat and cold, and redness.
The lymph nodes in the neck may become swollen when a dental abscess is present. Chills, diarrhea, fever, nausea, sweating, and vomiting may also accompany acute cases.
Complications and consequences of dental abscesses
Whether you believe inmates should have access to floss or not, the jury is unanimous on one point: the consequences of leaving a dental abscess untreated can be deadly. Dangerous and sometimes life-threatening complications can result if a dental abscess is not treated properly. In some very advanced cases, immediate hospitalization may even be necessary.
Swelling related to an abscess can perforate bone. The pressure from an untreated abscess can block airways and make it hard to breathe. When related to upper teeth, dental abscesses may lead to blood infection, a condition called septicemia. Extremely rare complications include brain abscesses and meningitis.
…even in cases where an abscess spontaneously drains or releases the stored up pus, the infection will not go away without proper treatment and care.
While an abscess may drain without intervention, if left untreated the bacteria may spread to the jaw, to other parts of the head, neck, and chest, or throughout the entire body through a condition known as sepsis. It is important to note that, even in cases where an abscess spontaneously drains or releases the stored up pus, the infection will not go away without proper treatment and care.
Who’s at risk for dental abscesses, and why?
Several factors can put a person at greater risk for developing a tooth abscess. The risk of developing dental abscesses is obviously greater in people who do not take proper care of their teeth. Diet also plays an important role in dental health, and consuming too much sugar is known to promote cavities, which can progress to form dental abscesses in some cases.
In addition, complications from abscesses can spread more easily in people with underlying health issues and weakened immune systems. People with HIV/AIDS, diabetes, or any medical condition that makes it more difficult for the body to stay healthy are at greater risk, generally speaking.
When to seek professional care
Considering the life threatening nature of dental abscesses, it is important to seek professional care if you have any of the symptoms related to dental abscesses:
- If you suspect you or someone you know has an abscess, call your dentist right away
- If you cannot reach your dentist, or if you are experiencing advanced symptoms such as fever, nausea, or vomiting, an emergency room should be your first stop
Treatments and medications for dental abscesses
In order to eradicate the infection the abscess must be drained. Abscesses sometimes rupture or drain on their own, or they may be drained by a doctor or dentist.
Treatment typically includes prescription pain killers and may include the use of antibiotics, especially where a weakened immune system is present. Tooth extraction is sometimes necessary, but a root canal may be performed to wipe out the infection and attempt to save the tooth.
Treatment typically includes prescription pain killers and may include the use of antibiotics…
To treat pain related to a dental abscess at home — either before seeing the dentist or doctor or after receiving treatment — over-the-counter pain relievers may be used. Ice packs can be applied to the swelling for a few minutes on and off. In addition, if an abscess drains on its own or is drained by a professional, rinsing the mouth with lukewarm water can help.
Preventing dental abscesses
Chances are you’ve never had a dental abscess. But, are you doing everything you need to do to make sure it stays that way? When it comes to anything as potentially life-threatening as dental abscesses, an ounce of prevention makes a ton of sense.
Maintaining good oral alth and preventing dental abscesses and tooth decay requires a daily regimen of brushing and flossing. To help ensure that tooth decay is exposed early and advanced problems such as dental abscesses are avoided entirely, be sure to have regular professional cleanings and dental checkups. Finally, drinking water that has been fluoridated and eating a healthy, well-balanced diet play important roles in maintaining overall dental health.
Chances are, you’ll never have a dental abscess. But then, no one’s challenging your right to floss. And only you can challenge yourself to do all you can to protect your teeth.
Rotten teeth, tooth decay, and gum diseases like gingivitis or periodontitis are usually the result of poor oral care. These health conditions cost far more to repair than to prevent.
You may not be able to kill two birds with one stone, but when it comes to oral health there is one very simple and affordable thing you can do to avoid these serious – and potentially expensive – problems. That is: take preventive oral hygiene seriously.
Tooth decay and gum diseases get their start with a substance called plaque. Preventive oral hygiene includes daily efforts to eliminate plaque and prevent its build up. It also includes regular checkups and professional cleanings to remove plaque and tartar that can build up on teeth despite dedicated daily care.
What is plaque?
Plaque is the name for a sticky and translucent substance that is constantly being produced by our mouths. The bacteria in plaque consume sugars that are contained in various types of food. This creates acids that attack the surface of the teeth and toxins that may attack the bone beneath the gums.
The acids assault tooth enamel for 20 or more minutes after you have sugary food or beverages. Eventually, the acids may begin to destroy the enamel, which is how tooth decay gets a foothold, so to speak.
Plaque can also penetrate below the gum line, where the toxins can threaten the underlying bone.
Plaque can also penetrate below the gum line, where the toxins can threaten the underlying bone. The result is gingivitis or periodontitis. Obviously, neither situation – a rotten tooth or poor gum health – is high on anyone’s wish list.
Treatments and costs
Not least among the reasons for avoiding tooth decay or gum disease is the expense involved in treatment. In either case, treatment options depend on the severity of the problem, and as the severity mounts, so do the costs for professional care.
…as the severity mounts, so do the costs for professional care.
Milder cases of tooth decay may be treated by simply using a fluoride-based treatment. If cavities have developed, however, a filling will be required. More severe cases may require that a dentist fit the tooth with a crown, perform a root canal operation, or even pull the tooth altogether.
Gum disease is likewise increasingly more expensive to deal with the longer it is ignored or left undiagnosed and allowed to progress. If a milder case of gum disease is caught in time, patients may be able to simply brush and floss their way back to optimal health. More serious cases will require professional cleaning by a dental hygienist to get rid of built up plaque. A severe case of gum disease may require antibiotics or even surgery.
Preventing tooth decay and gum disease
Repair or prevent? Well, we think it’s a “no brainer” – but then, consider the source…
If you really need any more convincing, try plugging the phrases “Oral Conditions and Diseases” or “Tooth Conditions and Disorders” into your browsers’ search bar and see what images come up. YUCKA!!!
But, if you’re already convinced about the power of prevention – and could use a brush up on oral care basics – check out this overview of basic dental care in our blog archives.
While you’re at it, why not call to schedule your next dental checkup?
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Check out these mini infographics, which help explain the current state of oral health in the US. [Click images for larger versions.]
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