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Dental FAQs for You

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Q: What are wisdom teeth?

A: They’re the last teeth to erupt in the back of your mouth. Usually, they erupt between the ages of 17 and 25. Occasionally, though, they find their way out much later than that; some never erupt at all.

Thanks to evolution, we’re evolving into the proud ownership of smaller jaws; unfortunately our teeth aren’t quite keeping pace. Most of our jaws only have room for 28 teeth; we have 32.

Basically, this means that the last teeth to erupt, which are the wisdom teeth, have nowhere to go if there’s not enough room remaining.

Q: What does periodontal treatment involve?

A: In the earlier states of gum disease (mild to moderate periodontitis), most treatment involves scaling and root planning. The procedure aims at removing plaque and calculus from the surface of the tooth adjacent to gum tissue.

The periodontal pockets around the tooth are cleaned and all effected root surfaces are smoothed. In the majority of early gum disease cases, treatment entails improved home care techniques and scaling and root planning. Advanced cases may require surgical treatment.

Q: How should I prevent gum disease?

A: Conscientious removal of plaque by flossing, brushing and regular professional cleanings will minimise your risk of gum disease. However, there are other factors that can affect the health of your gums, such as stress, diabetes, genetics and pregnancy.

Q: What happens if I just ignore my teeth?

A: As the plaque and calculus accumulate, the periodontal disease continues. Supporting tissues around the teeth (gums, periodontal ligaments, bone) are lost. Periodontal pockets form which trap additional plaque. Bad breath often accompanies this condition. Once the bone that supports the teeth is lost, it will not regrow without surgical intervention.

Q: What is periodontal disease?

A: Periodontal disease is caused by the bacteria found in plaque. If plaque is not regularly removed, it calcifies into a rough, porous deposit called calculus, or tartar. Bi-products of bacterial metabolism irritate the gums, making them red, tender, swollen and more prone to bleed.

Eventually, the supporting periodontal structures begin to breakdown. The result of this slow process is tissue loss, bone loss and eventual tooth loss.

Q: While biting hard food I broke one of my teeth. What should I do?

A: If you are not in any pain then ring the dentist as soon as possible and make an appointment, but try and keep the tooth as clean as possible and avoid biting hard on that tooth.

If you have pain, then you will need to go to your dentist immediately as an emergency.

Q: When a tooth is pushed out of position

A: Attempt to reposition the tooth to its normal alignment using very light finger pressure, but do not force the tooth. Bite down to keep the tooth from moving.

Your dentist may splint the tooth in place to the two healthy teeth next to the loose tooth.

Q: My tooth was knocked out, how soon should I see a dentist?

A: Immediately. Getting to a dentist within 30 minutes can make the difference between saving and losing a tooth. When a tooth is knocked out: Immediately call your dentist for an emergency appointment.

Handle the tooth by the crown, not the root. Touching the root (the part of the tooth below the gum) can damage cells necessary for bone reattachment. Gently rinse the tooth in milk or a neutral saline solution to remove dirt. Do not scrub.

Place the clean tooth in your mouth between the cheek and the gum to keep it moist. It is important not to let the tooth dry out. If it is not possible to store the tooth in the mouth, wrap the tooth in cling wrap or immerse it in milk or neutral saline.

Q: What can gum disease mean for a diabetic?

A: Gingivitis is an infection within the gums caused by bacteria found in plaque. A diabetic’s body doesn’t respond as quickly to infection as a non-diabetic. If the infection persists, it can spread to the underlying bone that supports and anchors the teeth.

It has been shown that diabetics who keep their condition under control and maintain good oral hygiene have a far better chance of combating infections than those who are poorly controlled.

Q: Why do I need X-Rays?

A: Radiographic or X-ray examinations provide your dentist with an important diagnostic tool that shows the condition of your teeth, their roots, jaw placement and the overall composition of your facial bones. X-Rays can help your dentist determine the presence or degree of periodontal disease, abscesses and many abnormal growths, such as cysts and tumours.

X-rays can also show the exact location of impacted teeth. They can pinpoint the location of cavities and other signs of disease that may not be possible to detect through visual examination (such as changes in the jaw bone structure as a result of systemic disease).

Q: When should my child first see a dentist?

A: The ideal time for your child to meet the dentist is six months after their first (primary) teeth erupt.

This gives your dentist a perfect opportunity to carefully examine the development of their mouth and catch problems such as baby bottle tooth decay, teething irritations and prolonged thumb-sucking early.

Q: I brush my teeth constantly but still have bad breath. What can I do?

A: Brushing and flossing are definitely the first steps to eliminating bad breath. Brushing and flossing remove bacteria responsible for creating odourous sulphur compounds and the food they feed on.

However, bacteria hide not only on and around the teeth but also on the tongue under a layer of mucous. Here they are free to create odours. You might want to consider a tongue scraper. They’re extremely effective at removing this protective mucous layer from the back of the tongue.

The latest products on the market for bad breath are toothpastes and mouthwashes containing chlorine dioxide. The chlorine dioxide neutralises the odourous sulphur compounds, instead of simply covering up the odour.

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