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Oral Health Little Rock, Arkansas

Common Dental Problems

Regular trips to the dentist are an important part of maintaining oral health but the best way to prevent dental issues is proper oral health care at home. Part of protecting your health from common dental problems is knowing what causes them. Minor issues can develop into far more serious conditions if left untreated, thus being aware of the symptoms and warning signs can allow for early detection and successful treatment Little Rock Family Dental Care has experience treating various dental conditions. We have provided a comprehensive look at common dental problems, causes, symptoms, prevention tips, and treatment methods. Contact us today to set up an appointment with our experienced dentists and get your dental issue taken care of!

Bad Breath

This is a very common condition that affects many people and can be easily treated. Bad breath, also known as oral malodor or halitosis, can be caused by something you eat, or in more serious cases, can indicate a deeper oral health issue or medical issue.

Causes of Bad Breath

There are over 6 billion bacteria that are present in your mouth. There are good bacteria but the buildup of bacteria is often the source of bad breath.

Dental Hygiene – If you don’t brush and floss regularly, a thin, sticky buildup of bacteria, known as plaque, forms on your teeth. When plaque isn’t brushed away at least twice a day, it produces a foul odor and can lead to tooth decay.

Food – Bacteria grow on the bits of food that get stuck in your teeth when you eat, and as they grow, they release foul-smelling sulfur compounds. All foods get stuck in your teeth, but certain foods like onions and garlic, certain vegetables and spices more commonly lead to bad breath (and even body odor) because digestion of these foods releases sulfur compounds into your bloodstream. When the blood reaches your lungs, it affects the odor of your breath each time you exhale.

High-Sugar Diets – A diet high in sugar can lead to bad breath due to how sugars interact with the existing bacteria in your mouth. The bacteria that naturally exist in your mouth feed on sugars turning sweet treats into sour smells.

Low-Carb & High-Protein Diets – When the body doesn’t get enough carbohydrates, it can cause changes to your body’s metabolism which can lead to bad breath. High-protein foods are sometimes difficult for your body to digest and they tend to release sulfurous gases when they don’t metabolize.

Coffee & Alcohol – What you drink affects the production of saliva. After drinking coffee or alcohol, saliva production declines. Saliva is important because it works around the clock to wash your mouth out and if you don’t have enough, your mouth isn’t being cleaned as much as it should be. Less saliva means an increase in odor-causing bacteria.

Prescription Medications – A common side effect of many medications is dry mouth. When your mouth is dry and saliva production decreases, odor-causing bacteria thrive. Also, when some medications are broken down in the body, they release chemicals that can be carried through your bloodstream to your breath.

Tobacco – Whether it’s cigarettes, chew, or pipe, all tobacco products cause bad breath and lead to much more serious oral health issues. Apart from leaving your mouth smelling like an ashtray, they damage the gum tissue and cause gum disease.

Acid Reflux – Although most bad breath problems begin in the mouth, the problem occasionally originates from elsewhere in the body. Acid reflux is the backward flow of stomach contents (undigested food, regurgitated bile, and stomach acids) into your esophagus. The foul odors easily make their way back up the esophagus and out of the mouth.

Tips for Getting Rid of Bad Breath

Apart from general good dental hygiene and oral care like brushing and flossing, these tips can help alleviate bad breath.

  • Drinking water throughout the day will keep your mouth hydrated and help saliva production
  • Eating oranges as an after-dinner dessert can help eliminate bad breath because vitamin C helps increase saliva production
  • Plain, nonfat yogurt has probiotics that are effective in reducing the severity of bad breath
  • Green tea and mint both have disinfectant and deodorizing properties that can temporarily freshen the breath
  • Fennel and anise seeds have been used to freshen breath for decades; they taste sweet and contain aromatic essential oils that give the breath a fresh scent
  • Zinc works to decrease the number of sulfurous compounds in your breath and is a common ingredient in mouthwash and gum
  • Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can effectively kill bacteria in the mouth so look for this ingredient in toothpaste, or make a homemade mouthwash (2 teaspoons of baking soda to 1 cup of warm water) and swish in your mouth for at least 30 seconds
  • Bacteria don’t like to grow in acidic environments, so make a homemade mouthwash with vinegar (2 tablespoons of white or apple cider vinegar to 1 cup of water)
  • Visiting your dentist regularly allows early detection of problems such as gum disease or dry mouth and you can stop them before they become more serious

Take control of your oral health and request an appointment with Little Rock Family Dental Care.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay (dental caries or cavities) is destruction to the tooth that can happen when decay-causing bacteria produce acids that attack the outer layer of your teeth, called the enamel. This can lead to a cavity (a small hole in the tooth). If tooth decay is not treated, it can cause pain, infection, and even tooth loss.

Symptoms of Tooth Decay

  • Toothache, spontaneous pain or pain that occurs without any apparent cause
  • Tooth sensitivity
  • Mild to sharp pain when eating or drinking something sweet, hot or cold
  • Visible holes or pits in your teeth
  • Brown, black or white staining on any surface of a tooth
  • Pain when you bite down

How to Prevent Tooth Decay

  • Brush your teeth twice a day, preferably after each meal, but especially before going to bed. 
  • Drink tap water or bottled water that has added fluoride (it can help reduce tooth decay significantly). 
  • Use toothpaste and mouthwash containing fluoride.
  • Eat nutritious meals and limit snacks. Avoid candy, pretzels, and chips, which can remain on the tooth surface and destroy tooth enamel. If you snack or drink throughout the day, your teeth are constantly under attack.
  • Consider dental sealants. It is a plastic protective coating applied to the chewing surfaces of your back teeth (molars). It seals off grooves and crannies that tend to collect food, which in turn protects tooth enamel from plaque and acid.

Treatment for Tooth Decay

Treatment depends on how advanced your case of tooth decay is. The dentists at Little Rock Family Dental Care will be able to examine the tooth and determine the best option.

  • A filling or crown may be needed. This involves removing the decay, numbing the tooth with anesthetic, and filling the hole.
  • A root canal may be needed if the decay has spread to the pulp (the center of the tooth, containing blood and nerves).
  • If the tooth is so badly damaged that it cannot be restored, it may need to be removed. The tooth may be able to be replaced with a partial denture, bridge, or implant.

Sensitive Teeth

Sensitivity is typically the result of the tooth’s enamel being worn away or a tooth’s roots being exposed. The hard, protective layer of enamel helps your teeth deal with everything you put them through, and when it’s gone, nerve endings that cause pain are exposed.

What Tooth Sensitivity Feels Like

If you experience tooth sensitivity, you’ll feel a sudden, sharp flash of pain because the nerve inside your tooth is responding to some type of stimulus on the surface. Some may try to prevent that temporary twinge by simply avoiding certain stimuli.

Many things can be stimuli for sensitive teeth including:

  • Hot or cold food and drink
  • Sweet/sour food
  • Acidic food and drink
  • Cold air

Ways to Prevent or Stop Damage Causing Sensitive Teeth

Don’t brush too hard – Brushing your teeth side-to-side right at the gum line can wear down the enamel, cause the dentin (layer under the enamel) to become exposed, or encourage gum recession. Use a soft-bristled brush at a 45-degree angle to your gums.

Unclench your teeth – Over time, teeth grinding your teeth wears away the enamel. Try addressing stress to help solve the problem. Your dentist can fit you for a splint or mouth guard if needed.

Take a break from bleaching – Teeth-whitening treatments, from either the dentist’s office or over-the-counter, contain harsh chemicals that remove stains, but they can also remove the enamel, leading to tooth sensitivity. Sensitivity from bleaching your teeth is usually temporary, but talk to your dentist about how the treatment might be affecting your teeth’s enamel and if you should continue.

Avoid acidic mouthwash – Dentin is the layer of tissue that lies underneath the enamel. It is the part of the tooth that surrounds the pulp and connects to the pulp. Some over-the-counter mouthwashes contain acids and if you’re using an acidic mouthwash for a long period of time with the dentin exposed, the acids can make existing tooth sensitivity worse and also further damage the dentin layer.

Gum Disease

Gingivitis (gum inflammation) is a mild variety of gum disease and means that only your gums are infected. If it isn’t treated, the infection can travel below your gum line and into your bone where it can then become a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. Not all gingivitis progresses to periodontitis but both have been shown to raise your risk of things like diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, pneumonia, and cancer.

Signs You May Have of Gum Disease

  • Red, swollen, or tender gums
  • Gums that bleed during and after brushing and flossing
  • Persistent bad breath or bad taste in the mouth
  • Receding gums
  • Deep pockets between teeth and gums form
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Loose or shifting teeth
  • Changes in how the teeth fit together when biting down
learn more about bleeding gums

Stages of Gum Disease

With gingivitis, the gums may be irritated but the teeth are still firmly planted in their sockets. No irreversible bone or other tissue damage has occurred at this stage.

If it progresses to periodontitis, the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets. Plaque spreads and grows below the gum line and the pockets deepen as more gum tissue and bone are destroyed. This causes the teeth to no longer be anchored and they become loose and can fall out.

Gum Disease Treatment

With proper plaque control, nearly all cases of gingivitis can be reversed and the progression of gum disease can be stopped. Proper plaque control includes:

  • Professional cleanings at least twice a year
  • Brushing teeth daily to eliminate plaque on the surface of teeth
  • Flossing daily to remove food particles and plaque from between the teeth and under the gum line
  • Antibacterial mouth rinses to reduce bacteria that cause plaque and gum disease

How to Prevent Gum Disease

Stop smoking – Use of tobacco products makes you seven times more likely to get gum disease than nonsmokers
Reduce stress – Stress may make it difficult for your body’s immune system to fight off infection
Avoid teeth clenching and grinding – Putting excess force on the supporting tissues of the teeth could increase the rate at which these tissues are destroyed
Get proper nutrition – Eating foods with antioxidant properties like those containing vitamin E (vegetable oils, nuts, green leafy vegetables) and vitamin C (citrus fruits, broccoli, potatoes), can help your body repair damaged tissue

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and throat. If not diagnosed and treated early, it can be life-threatening.

Symptoms of Oral Cancer

Oral cancer usually appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. Symptoms of oral cancer can also be in the form of:

  • Swellings, lumps or bumps, rough spots, crusts, or eroded areas on the lips, gums, or other areas inside the mouth
  • Velvety white, red, or speckled (white and red) patches in the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding in the mouth
  • Unexplained numbness, loss of feeling, or pain/tenderness in any area of the face, mouth, or neck
  • Persistent sores on the face, neck, or mouth that bleed easily and last more than two weeks
  • A feeling that something is caught in the back of the throat
  • Difficulty chewing or swallowing, speaking, or moving the jaw or tongue
  • Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice
  • Ear pain
  • A change in the way your teeth or dentures fit together
  • Dramatic weight loss

To make sure your symptoms are not related to a different condition, it is best to have a dentist inspect and diagnose the issue.

Leading Causes of Oral Cancer

  • Smoking and smokeless tobacco
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Family history of cancer
  • Excessive sun exposure (especially at a young age)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Oral Cancer Treatment

The same treatment for many other cancers is also done for oral cancer — surgery to remove the cancerous growth, followed by radiation therapy and/or chemotherapy to destroy any remaining cancer cells. Early detection is extremely important in successfully treating oral cancer. Regular visits to the dentist will ensure your oral cancer screening exam is done.

Little Rock Dentist

Proper oral health is crucial for preventing many common dental problems. If you are experiencing any of these dental issues mentioned, the knowledgeable dentists at Little Rock Family Dental Care will diagnose the condition and develop a treatment plan. Early detection is important, so contact us today!