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Monthly Archives: April 2015

Dealing with sensitive teeth

Is the sensation of a cold ice cream or sipping a hot cup of tea painful? Having sensitive teeth is a common problem that can cause a lot of discomfort, which can unfortunately make some of the simplest joys in life unpleasant. You don’t have to suffer with this condition, however, as your dentist can provide you with a number of treatment options.

What causes tooth sensitivity?

Tooth sensitivity is the result of the wearing down of the enamel, which exposes the soft dentin underneath. When the dentin becomes exposed, the tooth becomes sensitive. This can be caused by:

  • General wear and tear due to aggressive brushing or the use of a hard-bristled toothbrush.
  • Age. Teeth are the most sensitive between the ages 25 and 30
  • Tooth decay
  • Gum disease, which causes the gums to recede and expose the roots of the teeth
  • Teeth whitening products
  • Acidic food such as citrus fruits, tomatoes and pickles and can damage the enamel of teeth, resulting in sensitivity
  • Long-term mouthwash use. Some mouthwash products are highly acidic which damages the enamel. It is best to use neutral fluoride mouthwashes
  • Dental work including crowns and tooth restorations can make teeth sensitive, although this is usually only temporary

What can you do?

If you experience tooth sensitivity, make an appointment with your dentist. A range of treatment solutions will be discussed, which may include the following:

  • Desensitizing toothpaste: switching toothpastes is one of the easiest treatment solutions. This blocks the pain
  • Fluoride: to strengthen tooth enamel, fluoride may be applied to the affected tooth or teeth. Your dentist will apply the fluoride and may also prescribe it for you to use at home
  • Bonding: Sometimes applying a bonding resin to exposed root surfaces can treat sensitivity
  • Surgical gum graft: If your gum has receded extensively, a surgical gum graft may be necessary. This procedure involves taking a piece of gum from elsewhere in the mouth and surgically grafting it to the exposed area to reduce sensitivity and other dental issues
  • Root canal: As a last resort and if other treatments are not successful, a root canal might be recommended, which will treat the cause of the sensitivity in the tooth’s core


Maintaining oral health is the key to preventing tooth sensitivity. Ensure that you brush and floss regularly with a soft-bristled toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste and avoid hard scrubbing as this can wear the enamel down. Avoiding acidic food and drinks or ensuring that you rinse your mouth after the consumption of these is also recommended to maintain neutral acid levels in the mouth.

The causes of bad breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, is a common condition that can affect anyone at any age. It can be caused by a wide variety of factors. The good news is that, in many cases, bad breath can be prevented through the practice of a healthy lifestyle as well as good oral hygiene practices.

Causes of bad breath

Bad breath occurs as a result of sulphur-producing bacteria that normally live at the back of the tongue and in the throat. Sometimes, when these bacteria begin to break down proteins at a very high rate, an unpleasant-smelling gas is released into the mouth.

Apart from the sulphur-producing bacteria, the other main causes of bad breath include:

The consumption of certain foods:
o Foods such as garlic, onions, spicy food, fish, cheese, as well as some acidic beverages such as coffee or wine can leave a lingering unpleasant smell on the breath, although this is usually temporary. Sometimes food may get caught in the teeth, which promotes the growth of bacteria. This, in turn, causes bad breath. In addition, diets low in carbohydrates can result in bad breath odour as a by-product of the body burning fat stores for energy.
Dental factors:
o Poor oral hygiene habits can result in the build up of plaque, which can cause periodontal (gum) disease. This disease causes bad breath. Irregular brushing and flossing can result in food particles remaining trapped in the teeth, which can rot and cause unpleasant odours.
• Tobacco products:
o Smoking or chewing tobacco leaves chemicals in the mouth that are odorous.
Health problems:
o Bad breath is related to a number of health conditions such as sinus and throat infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, thrush, diabetes, lactose intolerance and other dietary disorders, as well as some liver and kidney disorders.
Dry mouth:
o Saliva helps to clean and moisten the mouth, but when the body fails to produce sufficient saliva, bad breath can result. This may be caused my medical conditions such as salivary gland dysfunction, connective tissue disorders or certain medications.
o A number of commonplace medications such as antihistamines and diuretics can cause dry mouth, which can lead to bad breath. Insulin, triamterene and paraldehyde can also cause this condition.
Other causes:
o Alcoholism or the consumption of large quantities of vitamin supplements may cause bad breath.

If you are concerned about bad breath, make an appointment with your dentist to discuss the cause as well as treatment options.

Teething: Symptoms and Care

A child’s primary teeth, also known as baby teeth, are just as important as the adult set and require daily care. Baby teeth begin to appear in children when they are between 6 months and 12 months old. Baby teeth can arrive in any order, although the central bottom teeth are usually the first to appear.

It is important to see your dentist within six months of the appearance of the first tooth and no later than the child’s first birthday. This dental examination is important for the purpose of checking for dental tooth decay, assessing the potential effects of thumb sucking, and also for advice on how to clean and care for your baby’s teeth.

Teething Signs

Even before a child’s first teeth appear, you should gently wipe the gums with a soft, moist cloth once a day. When a baby begins teething, it is normal for he or she to experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sore, swollen or tender gums
  • Drooling
  • Irritability
  • Sleeplessness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sucking on objects such as dummies, toys or bibs
  • Rubbing of the face

If your baby experiences vomiting, diarrhoea, fever or a runny nose, these symptoms are generally not associated with teething, especially if they last for more than 24 hours. One explanation for the common appearance of these symptoms during the teething period is that because babies are frequently putting objects in their mouths at this time, they are more likely to come into contact with germs and viruses.

Teething Remedies

Gently rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or a small, cold spoon can be soothing and giving your baby a teething ring to chew on can also be helpful. Products containing beonzocaine, an anaesthetic, are not recommended as this has been associated with a rare but sometimes fatal condition called methemoglobinemia, a disorder that causes a dramatic reduction in the amount of oxygen carried in the bloodstream.

Caring for Baby Teeth

Once the first primary tooth comes through, brushing with water should begin once a day after the last feed with a specially designed baby’s toothbrush with soft bristles and a small head. A pea-sized amount of low-fluoride toothpaste should be used for brushing. This will gently clean the teeth and massage the gums. In general, a baby’s first four teeth appear sometime around 6 months of age, although some babies don’t get their first teeth until they are over a year old. By the age of 3, a child’s full set of 20 primary teeth should have appeared.

Book an appointment with your dentist if you have any concerns about the teething process.

Thumb Sucking: When to Intervene

Thumb sucking is a common childhood habit that can be difficult to break. It is so widespread, in fact, that some studies have estimated that as many as 90% of children between the ages of 2 and 4 suck their thumbs. Thumb sucking does not usually pose long-term problems, with most children growing out of the habit naturally. When this doesn’t occur, however, it is important to intervene so that the dental health of your child is not compromised in the long-term.

Why it happens

Children suck their thumbs primarily because it is calming and comforting. Some babies begin to do this before they are even born and are still in the womb. Babies have instinctive sucking reflexes and when objects (or thumbs) are placed in their mouth, sucking is their natural reaction. Because the act of sucking is soothing for babies, they may naturally develop a habit of thumb sucking and may resort to it if they are feeling anxious, tired, sick, bored, or when trying to adjust to new challenges, such as starting day care, for instance.

How long does it last?

Most children will gradually grow out of the habit without intervention during their toddler years. Sometimes a child will continue sucking his or her thumb beyond this age. It’s also important to remember that even though a child may appear to have grown out of the habit, he or she may revert back to it as a comfort if they experience negative emotions.

When to intervene

Usually thumb sucking is not a cause for concern until the child’s set of permanent teeth comes through, usually around age 5 – 6. After this point, thumb sucking may begin to impact the roof of the mouth (palate) or the alignment of the teeth. This is especially the case if the sucking is aggressive. At this point, it is important to intervene because otherwise the habit could cause long-term dental effects.

Long-term effects of thumb sucking

If a child continues to suck his or her thumb beyond the age of 5 – 6, some of the long-term effects can include:

  • The movement of teeth, which may result in alignment problems, causing either an overbite or an underbite
  • The jaw bone positioning changing which can cause a lisp
  • The palate becoming more sensitive or damaged

How to intervene

The best intervention methods to discourage thumb sucking in children older than 5 or 6 include:

  • Eliminating sources of stress which can lead to thumb sucking as a coping mechanism
  • Positive reinforcement for the exhibition of desirable behaviour that does not involve thumb sucking. Negative reinforcement may cause a stress reaction.
  • Distractions such as toys or games if the child begins sucking his or her thumb
  • Offering gentle reminders to stop
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