Below are some of the most frequently asked questions patients have about dentistry and oral health issues. If you have any other questions or would like to schedule an appointment, we would love to hear from you.
What can I do to prevent bad breath?
Bad breath (halitosis) can be an unpleasant and embarrassing condition. Many of us may not realize that we have bad breath, but everyone has it from time to time, especially in the morning.
There are various reasons one may have bad breath, but in healthy people, the major reason is due to microbial deposits on the tongue, especially the back of the tongue. Some studies have shown that simply brushing the tongue reduced bad breath by as much as 70 percent.
Practice good oral hygiene – Brush at least twice a day with an ADA approved fluoride toothpaste and toothbrush. Floss daily to remove food debris and plaque from in between the teeth and under the gum-line. Brush or use a tongue scraper to clean the tongue and reach the back areas. Replace your toothbrush every 2 to 3 months. If you wear dentures or removable bridges, clean them thoroughly and place them back in your mouth in the morning.
See your dentist regularly – Get a check-up and cleaning at least twice a year. If you have or have had periodontal disease, your dentist will recommend more frequent visits.
Stop smoking/chewing tobacco – Ask your dentist what they recommend to help break the habit.
Drink water frequently – Water will help keep your mouth moist and wash away bacteria.
Use mouthwash/rinses – Some over-the-counter products only provide a temporary solution to mask unpleasant mouth odor. Ask your dentist about antiseptic rinses that not only alleviate bad breath but also kill the germs that cause the problem.
Keeping a record of what you eat may help identify the cause of bad breath. Also, review your current medications, recent surgeries, or illnesses with your dentist.
In most cases, your dentist can treat the cause of bad breath. If it is determined that your mouth is healthy, but bad breath is persistent, your dentist may refer you to your physician to determine the cause of the odor and an appropriate treatment plan.
How often should I brush and floss?
Brushing and flossing help control the plaque and bacteria that cause dental disease.
Plaque is a film of food debris, bacteria, and saliva that sticks to the teeth and gums. The bacteria in plaque convert certain food particles into acids that cause tooth decay. Also, if plaque is not removed, it turns into calculus (tartar). If plaque and calculus are not removed, they begin to destroy the gums and bone, causing periodontal (gum) disease.
Plaque formation and growth is continuous and can only be controlled by regular brushing, flossing, and the use of other dental aids.
What are receding gum lines?
Gum recession is the process in which the margin of the gum tissue that surrounds the teeth wears away, or pulls back, exposing more of the tooth, or the root of the tooth. When gum recession occurs, “pockets,” or gaps, form between the teeth and gum line, making it easy for disease-causing bacteria to build up. If left untreated, the supporting tissue and bone structures of the teeth can be severely damaged, and may ultimately result in tooth loss.
Receding gum lines are a common dental problem. Most people do not know they have receding gum lines because it occurs gradually. The first sign of gum recession is usually tooth sensitivity, or you may notice a tooth looks longer than normal. Often a notch can be felt at the top of the tooth, just below the gum line.
With regular dental check-ups, Dr. Wentz can also look for the signs of receding gums and can recommend ways of preventing the problem from becoming worse. Gum recession is not something you want to ignore. If you think your gums are receding, make an appointment with Dr. Wentz.
My gums bleed when I brush, what should I do?
Every time you eat, food is forced between your teeth. Sometimes the food between your teeth is big enough to feel but most times it is not. This food will either be removed by flossing and brushing or it will stay where it is until it breaks down into bacteria and acids. The acids cause tooth decay and the bacteria causes gum disease.
The first stage of gum disease (also known as periodontal disease) is gingivitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum tissue caused by bacteria wherein the gingival tissue becomes red, swollen, and forms blood blisters inside the pockets of the gum tissue surrounding your teeth (periodontal pockets). When these blood blisters are disturbed by either brushing or flossing they break open and blood rises to the top of the gingiva where you can see it.
There are many reasons gums bleed. However, almost all these problems involve plaque or bacteria that mixes with food and settles around the gum line. In most cases, bleeding gums (whether because of poor oral hygiene or tooth positioning) are exacerbated by plaque.
If your gums are bleeding when you brush, you need to see a dentist. If you are cleaning your teeth thoroughly, brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and using a mouth rinse, then your cleaning technique might be causing the bleeding, or you could have hardened plaque (calculus) on your teeth that should be cleaned out. Dr. Wentz will advise you about regular cleaning appointments and even special root-planing appointments that might be necessary to eliminate your bleeding gums.
I have a gummy smile, can I get this fixed?
A gummy smile can have a negative effect on the esthetics of your smile. The good news is that a gummy smile can be corrected through various treatment options.
Your smile line is determined by several factors, including:
- The shape and size of your lips.
- Your facial muscles.
- The shape and size of your teeth.
- Your gum tissue.
The optimal smile line appearance should reveal the least amount of gum tissue possible. Gum tissue visible in the smile line should have balanced, even contours that are in harmony with the upper lip. It is for this reason that many people with a gummy smile or excessive gingival display feel their smile to be unattractive, oftentimes feeling reluctant to smile at all.
If you think you have a gummy smile, visit Dr. Wentz for confirmation and treatment options. Dr. Wentz will examine your mouth, teeth, and gums to determine the extent of the excessive gingival display and any possible causes. Depending on the nature of your specific clinical condition, treatment for your gummy smile could include one or more of the following:
- Same-day laser treatments (in minor cases).
- Surgical lip repositioning.
- Orthodontics (braces) to move the teeth into more suitable positions.
- Surgical Sculpting of the gingival tissues and bone to create healthier and more attractive looking gum contours.
- Maxillofacial surgery to reposition the bone.
What health issues are linked to periodontal disease?
Just as your skin protects your muscles, bones, and major organs, your gums protect your teeth and the structures that hold them in place. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, starts when plaque, made up of bacteria, mucus, and food particles, invades the small space between your gums and teeth. If left to fester, your gums can become infected, putting them and your teeth at risk. If gum disease progresses, it becomes increasingly difficult and painful.
Besides what it does to the mouth, periodontal disease has been linked to conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and premature births or low birth weight.
My gums are sore, what should I do?
In the quest to keep teeth clean, you might be tempted to brush teeth as vigorously as you can. Gums are made of delicate tissue, so brushing the wrong way could damage them. When you brush, make sure you use gentle, circular motions to massage and clean the teeth and gums. While many people use a back-and-forth motion, this motion can irritate and damage your gums, making them sore and more likely to bleed or recede.
To help prevent sore gums:
- Brush your teeth at least twice each day. Make sure you follow the proper brushing technique. If you are not sure what to do, ask Dr. Wentz for a quick lesson at your next appointment.
- Floss daily. It does not take more than a few minutes, but flossing may be the most important thing you can do to prevent gum problems now and in the future.
- Eat a well-balanced diet. A balanced diet, including plenty of vitamin C and calcium, may minimize the likelihood you will have gum problems.
- Drink plenty of water. Drinking water, especially after eating, can help wash food off your teeth and make it less likely that bacteria will form gum-damaging plaque.
- Say no to tobacco. If you smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products, try to quit.
- Be cautious about extremely hot or cold foods and drinks. When you have gum problems, you may find you are more comfortable having lukewarm or cool foods and beverages.
- Relax. Being stressed out raises levels of the stress hormone cortisol, increasing the likelihood of inflammation throughout your body, including in your gums.
If I have periodontal surgery how long will I be out of work or miss my normal daily activities?
Dr. Wentz will give specific instructions regarding postoperative care, such as diet, physical activity, and medications.
The amount of pain you have after surgery depends on the type of periodontal surgery performed. If no tissue is removed from your palate, you should have little to no discomfort. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication or prescription pain medication can help keep you comfortable in the days following surgery.
While it may take a week or two for your mouth to fully heal, you should be able to return to work or normal activity the day after surgery.
What is gum grafting?
Many of us may be familiar with the term “skin graft” or “bone graft,” which is why, when we hear the words gum graft, we think the procedure will be worse than it actually is. Gum surgery is not really that bad, the procedure is much easier than having to deal with the consequences of not going through with the treatment at all.
Oftentimes, a gum graft is necessary to protect your teeth from gum recession, which is what happens when the tissues around your teeth literally begins to pull away, or recede, from the tooth. As well as giving your teeth an elongated appearance, gum recession can become extremely painful as more and more of your tooth becomes exposed. Eventually, if not taken care of, gum recession can cause extensive damage to your bone structure and actually result in tooth loss.
Some dentists prefer to use graft material from a tissue bank instead of from the roof of the mouth. Sometimes, tissue-stimulating proteins are used to encourage your body and its natural ability to grow bone and tissue. Dr. Wentz can tell you which method will work best for you.
Recovering from a gum graft tissue procedure is a lot like recovering from getting your wisdom teeth pulled, or recovering from a tonsil removal. You will be on a strict diet of soft, cool foods, you will have to keep physical activity to a bare minimum and you will be required to take medications. You will have to follow these rules for one to two weeks.
What is crown lengthening?
Crown lengthening is generally performed in order to improve the health of the gum tissue or to prepare the mouth for restorative or cosmetic procedures. In addition, crown lengthening procedures can also be used to correct a “gummy” smile, where teeth are covered with excess gum tissue. Crown lengthening exposes more of the natural tooth by reshaping or recontouring bone and gum tissue. This treatment can be performed on a single tooth, many teeth or the entire gum line, to expose a pleasant, aesthetically pleasing smile.
Crown lengthening is a very common surgical procedure, oftentimes performed in less than one hour and is usually done at the office of your dentist using local anesthesia. If necessary, sedation dentistry can be used to ease dental fear during the procedure.