Tooth Decay

Caries, or tooth decay, is a preventable disease. While caries might not endanger your life, they may negatively impact your quality of life.

When your teeth and gums are consistently exposed to large amounts of starches and sugars, acids that begin to eat away at tooth enamel may form. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as candy, cookies, soft drinks, and even fruit juices leave deposits on your teeth. Those deposits bond with the bacteria that normally survive 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 resulting.

Advanced decay can sometimes be seen with the naked eye as a black or brown area on the enamel of the tooth; however, decay at this point has been present for an extended period of time. Decay caught in the early stages cannot usually be seen but can be felt by a professional as a softening in the enamel. It can also often be seen on dental X-rays and is the reason that preventive cleanings and checkups are so important in reducing the costs and damage of decay.

Decay can often be detected by the patient from hot and cold sensitivity, sweet sensitivity, or tooth pain, so these types of symptoms should be reported to your dentist.

Sensitive Teeth

Your teeth expand and contract in reaction to changes in temperature. Hot and cold foods and beverages can cause generalized pain or irritation to people with sensitive teeth. Generalized sensitivity such as this can be reduced by regular extended use of over-the-counter desensitizing toothpaste. This type of sensitivity can also be the result of worn-down tooth enamel, receding gums, fractured fillings, and microscopic cracks. Hot and cold sensitivity that seems to be radiating from a specific area should be evaluated by a dentist.

Gum Disease

Gum, or periodontal, disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss, and bone damage. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of disease, called gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As gingivitis progresses to periodontitis, loss of supporting bone occurs. If left untreated periodontal disease can result in loss of teeth. Gum disease is typically a gradual loss of the gum and bone structures retaining your teeth. See the section on periodontal disease for more information.

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 other dental problem. Systemic problems, medications, stomach problems, and sinus problems can also cause halitosis. If you suspect you are having a persistent problem with halitosis, it is important to mention this to the hygienist or dentist.

Canker and Cold Sores

These types of mouth sores can often be painful, unsightly, and uncomfortable. The causes for these lesions are many, and it is not unusual for these types of sores to reoccur. Canker sores usually occur inside the mouth and lips while cold sores typically occur outside the mouth. Over-the-counter topical anesthetics can sometimes relieve the discomfort from these lesions, while rinsing with antimicrobial mouth rinses may help reduce the irritation. Occasionally, prescription-strength medication and salves may be necessary. Also, for some canker sores a professional applied substance is available that reduces pain and speeds healing. Any mouth sore that persists longer than two weeks should be evaluated by a dentist.

Orthodontic (Braces) Problems

Our practice does not offer orthodontic services, so any issue involving braces, retainers, or orthodontic appliances should be directed to your orthodontist. On the other hand, keeping your teeth whole and healthy for a lifetime is a high priority of our practice. In order to accomplish this goal it is important for you to be able to clean your teeth effectively. Crooked, overlapping, or crowded teeth are impossible to clean effectively; therefore, orthodontic services are recommended to correct these situations in many cases.

Dry Mouth

When a person is not able to keep his or her mouth moist due to low saliva secretion, several problems can arise. Some of those problems are increased tooth decay, oral infections, and discomfort with swallowing, chewing, and tasting. Dry mouth can be caused by medications, health problems, radiation and chemotherapy, or stress, anxiety, and depression. It can cause your mouth to feel dry, sticky, or like it is burning. You may also have sores in or around your mouth. It is important to let a dentist or hygienist know about any such problems you are experiencing. To alleviate the discomfort and prevent tooth decay, it is important to drink plenty of water, brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss daily, use fluoride, avoid caffeinated and sugared beverages, chew sugar-free gum or suck on sugar-free candy, and ask your dentist about preparations designed to moisten the mouth.

TMD (Temporomandibular Disorders)

The joints in front of your ears are the temporomandibular joints (TMJ). Frequently these joints and the muscles connected to them can cause problems such as soreness, pain, aching, catching, locking, popping, freezing, or “going out of place.” Unfortunately, these joints are among the most complex joints in the body and problems connected to them can often be difficult to diagnose and treat.

The causes for TMD are many: arthritis, trauma, dislocation, stress, an incorrect bite, trauma, a fall, or other similar occurrences. At our office, treatment is usually incremental, starting with rest, anti-inflammatory medication, hot compresses and specially made night guards. If pain and other symptoms persist, referral to a specialist may be necessary.

Pain, Sensitivity, or Soreness After Treatment

It is not unusual to have pain, sensitivity, or soreness after particular dental procedures. Usually, this condition will correct itself. For more information on this subject, please see the section on post-treatment instructions.

PermanentTeeth Erupting Behind Baby Teeth

Occasionally a child will have a permanent tooth erupting prior to the loss of the baby tooth. When this happens, the permanent tooth erupts either in front or in back of the present baby tooth. When this condition is present it is best to try to shed the tooth within the next two weeks. If the child is not able to remove the baby tooth within two weeks, please call our office and set up an appointment to have the baby tooth removed by the dentist.

Gray or Darkening Tooth

This occurrence usually indicates that the tooth has been traumatized and the trauma has damaged the nerve. Unfortunately, these teeth cannot be whitened with the normal whitening process; a special whitening process is available but is usually short-lasting. Porcelain veneers or crowns are the best solution for these darkened teeth, unless, of course, it is a baby tooth that will be shed.

Moving Teeth and Changing Bite

Teeth will move over their lifetime. The movement can be due to periodontal disease, the pressure of retained wisdom teeth, the lack of wearing a retainer, the loss of teeth, bone loss, trauma, or simply age and wear. Please inform us if you notice this type of movement occurring.

Gray or Brown Band of Discoloration Across Teeth

During the developmental stages of the teeth, certain oral medications can create a brown or gray banding of stain across the teeth. This stain is internal and is often difficult to change; however, success has been achieved with extended whitening processes, crowning, or veneers.

Make an appointment
Send us a message
Click Here to E-Mail Us
Visit Us
1340 University Ave, Sewanee, TN