Dental Problems

Abscessed tooth

An abscessed tooth is a tooth that becomes infected – it swells with pus and can be extremely painful. You should seek help immediately because the spread of infection can sometimes be life threatening.

In general, a tooth that becomes abscessed is one whose pulp (nerve and blood supply) has become infected from trauma or tooth decay. This infection travels to the tip of the root and into the bone of the jaws. A localized bump in the gums or diffuse facial swelling with pain often follows.

Gums, as well as teeth, can become abscessed.

Antibiotics are often required to kill the bacterial infection and reduce the swelling and discomfort. Your dentist will prescribe the appropriate antibiotic and assess the proper treatment to restore you to a healthy state.

Canker / Cold Sores

People sometimes confuse canker sores and cold sores. Both can be painful and often reoccur, but knowing the differences can help you keep them in check.

A canker sore (or Aphthous ulcer) occurs inside your mouth; typically on the cheeks, floor of mouth, underside of the tongue or inside of lips. It is usually light-colored at its base and can have a red exterior border. They can appear as single or multiple ulcers, and they are not contagious. Fatigue, stress or contact allergies can increase the likelihood of a canker sore.

Avoiding spicy or acidic foods and using topical medicine, like Zilactin, is generally best for managing canker sores which will heal on their own in 2 weeks. A healthy diet and good oral hygiene always helps. Very large canker sores may require an evaluation and prescription medicine from a dentist. If you get recurring canker sores, try avoiding sodium lauryl sulfate which is found in many toothpastes and mouthwashes.

A cold sore (or fever blister), on the other hand, usually forms outside of the mouth, on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious because it is caused by the herpes simplex virus. Cold sores look like multiple tiny fluid-filled blisters and an outbreak can follow a fever, sunburn or stress. They generally last for 7 – 10 days.

Cold sores can be treated effectively with some over-the-counter topical creams, like Abreva, or an antiviral medication prescribed by your dentist. However, to be effective, antiviral medications must be used at the first sign of an outbreak.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth (also called Xerostomia) is a lack of saliva flow (hyposalivation) or the perception of having a dry mouth (xerostomia), or sometimes both. Millions of Americans are affected by dry mouth, especially women, older people and those using any of the 400 commonly prescribed drugs that list dry mouth as a side effect. It is caused by certain medical conditions (such as eating disorders, diabetes and Sjogren’s syndrome) and is often a side effect of medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers, diuretics and cancer chemotherapy.

Patients with dry mouth will usually complain of soreness in the mouth, impaired taste, difficult or painful eating – especially dry or spicy food – and waking up regularly during the night. Many with chronic dry mouth also suffer feelings of self-consciousness and embarrassment.

Dry mouth can cause an overly-sensitive tongue or burning sensation, cheek biting and chronic bad breath. Without saliva to wash away acids caused by dental plaque, tooth decay can occur quickly.

It is critical to minimize the effects of dry mouth. You can sip water regularly, chew sugarless gum to stimulate saliva, avoid smoking and alcohol which dry your mouth and use a humidifier at night to keep the air full of moisture. Many over-the-counter products are available to help relieve dry mouth symptoms (like Biotene products) and topical fluoride use is strongly recommended to help prevent or minimize tooth decay. Regular professional cleanings and good oral hygiene are imperative to help manage dry mouth problems.

In some cases, Pilocarpine, which stimulates the secretion of large amounts of saliva and sweat, may be prescribed to treat xerostomia. Cevimeline (Evoxac) can be prescribed to treat dry mouth associated with Sjogren’s syndrome.


Fluorosis is a condition in which your body has been exposed to too much fluoride. In normal doses (typically found in a safe drinking water system and ADA-approved toothpastes), fluoride is a safe and effective compound that promotes strong teeth and helps remineralize incipient tooth decay. Fluoride has helped significantly to reduce the amount of tooth decay by making tooth enamel more resistant to cavity causing acids. In fact, studies indicate that people who drink optimally fluoridated water from birth will experience approximately 35% less tooth decay over their lifetime (American Dental Association).

A little fluoride is great, but too much is bad. Fluorosis can occur when natural drinking water (like well water) has fluoride levels in excess of CDC recommended safe levels (especially common in India), and when fluoride-containing toothpastes or rinses are swallowed instead of expelled. Other common causes of fluorosis include inhalation of fluoride dust/ fumes by industrial workers, use of coal as an indoor fuel source (common in China) and consumption of fluoride from drinking black tea.

Fluorosis causes a number of aesthetic problems, including abnormally darkened or stained teeth. While such problems are generally harmless to your health, they can create concerns with your appearance. Skeletal fluorosis is a bone disease caused by excessive consumption of fluoride. In advanced cases, it causes pain, joint stiffness and thickening of bones (osteosclerosis) resulting in increased frequency of bone fractures.

Grinding / Clenching Teeth ( Bruxism )

Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is often viewed as simply a harmless, annoying habit. However, teeth grinding and clenching can prematurely age your bite and smile, as well as severely damage your teeth and jaw joints over time. Bruxism often occurs while you sleep and can result from stress, anxiety, sleep disorders or other dental problems.

Teeth grinding will cause abrasion to the chewing surfaces of your teeth. This abnormal wear and tear can loosen and crack your teeth. Problems such as chipping enamel and tooth hypersensitivity (from the small cracks that form exposing nerve endings in your dentin) are common. Deep cracks from bruxism can require crowns, root canal treatment or extraction. Bruxism can also lead to chronic jaw and facial pain, as well as headaches.

If no one has told you that you grind your teeth, here are a few clues that you may suffer from bruxism:

  • Your jaw or face is often sore especially in the morning, or you hear popping sounds when you open and close your mouth.
  • Your teeth look abnormally short or worn down.
  • Your teeth are sensitive, cracked or chipped.

Bruxism is manageable with the use of a dentist-made mouthguard worn while sleeping. Physical therapy, muscle relaxants, counseling and even exercise may help reduce stress or alleviate associated jaw, face or head pain.

Gum disease (Gingivitis)

Gingivitis is the medical term for early gum disease (periodontal disease). In general, periodontal disease is a localized bacterial infection of the gums caused by long-term exposure to plaque - the soft, sticky but colorless film of bacteria that forms on teeth.

Early warning signs include red, tender or painful swollen gums and bleeding after brushing or flossing. In many cases, however, gingivitis can go unnoticed. If gingivitis goes untreated, these infections can eventually lead to periodontal bone loss and loose teeth.

Risk factors include smoking, diabetes, poor oral hygiene, and stress. Pregnancy and oral contraceptives have been associated with a form of gingivitis in women. This has been linked to female hormonal changes that produce an overreaction to plaque.

Although gum disease is the major cause of tooth loss in adults, gingivitis can be controlled and treated with proper oral hygiene and regular professional dental cleanings. (Also read "Periodontal disease")

Impacted Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the third set of molars that develop in the upper and lower jaws of most people. Unfortunately by the age of 15 to 20, many people experience problems from wisdom teeth. Partially impacted (only partly erupted into the mouth) teeth cause pain and swelling or become infected. Fully impacted (unerupted, fully submerged below the gums) teeth can lead to future pain, periodontal disease and adjacent tooth loss as well as jaw disfiguring tumor growths with life changing corrective surgery.

Many people need to have their wisdom teeth extracted to avoid potential future serious problems. Your dentist can best advise you of the options for your wisdom teeth.

Jaw Disorders / TMJ / TMD

One of the most common jaw disorders is related to a problem with the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the joint that connects your lower jaw to your skull, and facilitates jaw movements for chewing and speaking.

People with temporomandibular joint disorders (TMD) often have a grinding, clicking or popping sound when opening and closing their mouths. Such disorders are often accompanied by frequent headaches, neck aches, limited jaw opening and TMJ pain.

Some treatments for TMD include stress reducing exercises, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatory medication, or wearing a small plastic appliance in the mouth during sleep.

Minor cases of TMD involve discomfort or pain in the jaw muscles. More serious conditions involve arthritic or dislocated joints and jaw bone damage.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal diseases are infections of the gums and bone that surround and support the teeth. In its early stage, called gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, tender, and may bleed. In its more serious form, periodontitis, the gums pull away from the tooth, bad breath and bad tastes occur, and teeth loosen or even fall out. Factors that increase the risk of periodontal disease include: smoking, diabetes, poor oral hygiene, stress, heredity, fillings that have become defective, and female hormonal changes.

To help prevent or control periodontal diseases, the staff at Dr. Yanik’s office recommends you:

  • Brush and floss daily
  • Visit our dental office at least once a year for checkups and professional cleanings; more frequently if you have any of the warning signs or risk factors

Research has shown, and experts agree, that there is an association between periodontal diseases and other chronic inflammatory conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease & stroke, pregnancy problems like premature births & low birth weight babies, pneumonia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Although the American Heart Association stated in April 2012 that there is no evidence that periodontal disease directly causes heart disease, there remains a common link.

One out of every two adults in the U.S. age 30 or older have some form of periodontal disease according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study published last month. The data indicates that periodontal disease is higher in men than women (56.4% versus 38.4%), current smokers (64.2%), Mexican-Americans than other races (66.7%), and those with less than a high school education (66.9%). In adults over age 65, the prevalence of periodontal disease is 70.1% (or about 80 million Americans). (August 2012)


Plaque is a film of bacteria that forms on your teeth. When plaque is allowed to remain on your teeth, the bacteria produce acids that cause tooth decay and infect the gums (gingivitis) contributing to further gum disease formation (periodontitis).

Fortunately, proper daily brushing and flossing removes this soft coating on your teeth and helps control the unhealthy affects of plaque.

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