Frequently Asked questions                              Oral Health                                                       ...
Frequently Asked questions                                  Normal, healthy gums               ...
Frequently Asked questions                              	   •	 Dentures	that	do	not	fit                        Cold sores....
Frequently Asked questions                                  range from medicines to diet changes.             rally in you...
Frequently Asked questions                              Diabetes. People with diabetes are at        Q: I’m afraid of the ...
Frequently Asked questions                                  Taking good care of your teeth and                 hygiene and...
Frequently Asked questions                                     good for teeth. But too much f luo-     	   •	 You	can	also...
Frequently Asked questions                                 Some	come	from	your	dentist,	and	oth-       	   •	 Drink	water	...
Frequently Asked questions                              	       •	 Limit	alcohol	use	to	one	drink	per	             you	nee...
Frequently Asked questions                              For more information                              For	more	informa...
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Oral Health


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Oral Health

  1. 1. Frequently Asked questions Oral Health Q: What are the most common oral health problems? A: The most common oral health prob- lems are cavities and gum disease. Celia’s Story Cavities We are all at risk of tooth decay, or I started having pain cavities. (Cavities look like chalky white in my mouth about and/or brown holes on your teeth). 10 months ago. At Bacteria (germs) that naturally live in first I just ignored it. our mouths use sugar in food to make I hoped it would go acids. Over time, the acids destroy the away on its own. But 1-800-994-9662 outside layer of your teeth. Then cavi- it didn’t. I told my ties and other tooth harm occur. TDD: 1-888-220-5446 daughter about it and she said, “Mom, you need to see a dentist.” But I didn’t make Gum diseases an appointment. I was afraid. I waited sev- Gum diseases are infections caused by eral more months and the pain got worse bacteria, along with mucus and other and worse. Then, my gums started bleed- particles that form a sticky plaque on ing when I brushed my teeth. Now I was your teeth. Plaque that is left on teeth really nervous to see the dentist. I was hardens and forms tartar. Gingivitis (jin- afraid and thought the treatment would juh-VEYE-tuhss) is a mild form of gum hurt worse than the pain I was already disease. It causes red, swollen gums. It having. Also, I felt embarrassed that I had can also make the gums bleed easily. waited so long to make an appointment. Gingivitis can be caused by plaque build- So my daughter made the appointment up. And the longer plaque and tartar for me. She even went with me to the stay on teeth, the more harm they do. dentist. And do you know what? It wasn’t Most gingivitis can be treated with daily bad at all! Dental treatments have gotten brushing and flossing and regular clean- so much better! I explained to my dentist ings at the dentist’s office. This form of that I was very anxious, and she made gum disease does not lead to loss of bone sure that I was comfortable through my or tissue around the teeth. But if it is not whole visit. Now I plan to schedule regu- treated, it can advance to periodontitis lar cleanings to keep myself healthy! (pair-ee-oh-don-TEYE-tuhss). Then the gums pull away from the teeth and form infected “pockets.” You may also Q: What is oral health? lose supporting bone. If you have perio- A: The word “oral” refers to the mouth, dontitis, see your dentist for treatment. which includes your teeth, gums, jaw- Otherwise your teeth may loosen over bone, and supporting tissues. Taking time and need to be removed. good care of your oral health can prevent disease in your mouth. Oral health can Your risk of gum disease is higher if you: affect the health of your entire body. • Smoke Good oral health does not just mean you • Have a disease such as diabetes or have pretty teeth. Your whole mouth HIV/AIDS needs care to be in good health. page 1 • Use methamphetamine U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
  2. 2. Frequently Asked questions Normal, healthy gums Periodontitis Advanced periodontitis 1-800-994-9662 Healthy gums and bone Plaque left on teeth hardens The gums recede further, TDD: 1-888-220-5446 anchor teeth firmly in place. into tartar. As plaque and destroying more bone and tartar build up, the gums pull the ligament around the away from the teeth and tooth. Teeth may become pockets form between the loose and need to be teeth and gums. Bone sup- removed. porting the teeth may get infected and start to weaken. Q: What are some other problems to clean food from your tongue. You I might have with my mouth? could also just brush your tongue A: Bad breath. Bad breath is also called with your toothbrush. But if doing so halitosis (hal-lih-TOH-suhss). Bad- doesn’t seem to help or if you always smelling breath can be caused by several need mouthwash to hide bad breath, things, including: talk to your dentist. • Poor oral hygiene Burning mouth. People with this con- dition describe a burning feeling in the • Some foods mouth or tongue. It is most common in • Dentures postmenopausal women. The cause is • Gum disease unknown, but might be linked to: • Hormones • Dry mouth • Dry mouth (which can be caused by • Tobacco use many medicines and disorders such • Respiratory, digestive, or other as Sjögren’s syndrome or diabetes) health problems • Taste problems • Some medicines • Nutritional deficiencies Practicing good oral hygiene and avoid- • Use of ACE inhibitors (blood pres- ing tobacco and some foods often helps sure medicines) people with bad-smelling breath. You page 2 may want to try using a tongue scraper • Anxiety and depression U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
  3. 3. Frequently Asked questions • Dentures that do not fit Cold sores. These small, painful sores • Infections (especially fungal infec- are caused by herpes simplex virus type tions) 1. Once you are exposed to the virus, it can hide in your body for years. Things Talk to your doctor or dentist if you that trigger the virus and lead to cold have burning mouth. Treatment sores include: depends on the cause — if it can be • Getting too much sun determined — and might include adjusting your dentures, vitamin sup- • Having a cold or infection plements, or pain or other medicines. • Having your period Canker sores. These sores are small • Feeling stressed ulcers inside the mouth. They have a 1-800-994-9662 Cold sores can spread from person to white or gray base and a red border. TDD: 1-888-220-5446 Women are more likely than men to person. They most often form on the have canker sores that recur. The cause lips and sometimes under the nose or of canker sores is unknown. Risk fac- chin. The sores heal in about 7 to 10 tors include: days without scarring. You can buy over-the-counter drugs to put on cold • Fatigue sores to help relieve pain. If you get • Stress cold sores a lot, talk with your doctor • Having your period or dentist about a prescription for an antiviral drug. These drugs can help • A cut on the inside of your cheek or reduce healing time and the number of on your tongue new sores. • Allergies Dry mouth. Dry mouth is also called • Celiac disease xerostomia (ZEER-oh-STOM-mee- uh). This problem happens when you • Crohn’s disease don’t have enough saliva, or spit, in Canker sores most often heal on their your mouth. Some reasons why people own in one to three weeks. See your get dry mouth include: dentist if you get a large sore (larger than • Side effect of medicines or medical a half inch, or about the size of a dime). treatment, such as cancer treatments You may need medicine to treat it. • Health problems, such as diabetes, To help with pain: Parkinsons disease, and Sjogrens • Avoid hot, spicy foods syndrome • Use mild mouthwashes or salt water • A blocked salivary gland • Try over-the-counter pain medi- Dry mouth may make it hard to cines eat, swallow, taste, and speak. If left No proven way exists to prevent canker untreated, it can lead to cavities. This is sores. If you get them often, talk with because saliva helps break down bits of your dentist. food and helps stop acid from forming plaque on your teeth. Treatment of dry mouth depends on the cause and can page 3 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
  4. 4. Frequently Asked questions range from medicines to diet changes. rally in your mouth. Your risk of get- To lessen the dryness, use artificial ting thrush increases if: saliva, suck on sugarless candy, do not • You have a weak immune system smoke, do not drink alcohol, and use a humidifier. Tell your doctor if you have • You don’t make enough saliva dry mouth. • You take antibiotics Oral cancer. This cancer can affect Treatment includes antifungal mouth- any part of the mouth and part of the wash or lozenges. If the infection throat. If you smoke or chew tobacco, spreads or your immune system is weak, you are at higher risk. Excessive alcohol you may need antifungal medicine. use along with smoking raises your risk Thrush is common among: 1-800-994-9662 even more. However, nonsmokers can also develop oral cancer. To help pro- • Denture wearers TDD: 1-888-220-5446 tect yourself from lip cancer, use a lip • People who are very young or elderly balm with sunscreen (exposure to the • People with dry mouth sun can cause lip cancer). • People with HIV or other chronic Oral cancer most often occurs after age disease (like diabetes) 40. It isn’t always painful, so it may go undetected until the late stages. Ask your doctor to check for signs of oral Q: How might problems in my cancer during your regular checkup. mouth be linked to health prob- Oral cancer often starts as a tiny white lems in other parts of my body? or red spot or sore anywhere in the A: The health of your mouth can be a sign mouth. Other signs include: of your body’s health. Mouth prob- • A sore that bleeds easily or does not lems are not just cavities, toothaches, heal and crooked or stained teeth. Many • A color change in the tissues of the diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, mouth HIV, cancer, and some eating disorders are linked with oral health problems. • A lump, rough spot, or other change Regular dental exams help you main- • Pain, tenderness, or numbness any- tain good oral health and avoid related where in the mouth or on the lips health problems. • Problems chewing, swallowing, Cancer. If you are being treated for speaking, or moving the jaw or cancer, you may develop sores or other tongue problems with your mouth. Pay atten- tion to your mouth each day, and • A change in the way the teeth fit remember to brush and f loss gently. together Call your doctor or nurse if you notice Thrush. Thrush is also called oral can- a mouth problem, or if an old problem didiasis (CAN-dih-dye-uh-sis). These gets worse. See also: I’m starting cancer fungal infections appear as red, yellow, treatment. How can I best take care of or white lesions, f lat or slightly raised, my mouth? in the mouth or throat. It can look like page 4 cottage cheese. This fungus lives natu- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
  5. 5. Frequently Asked questions Diabetes. People with diabetes are at Q: I’m afraid of the dentist. What special risk for gum disease. Gum dis- can I do to make my visit better? ease can lead to painful chewing and A: Many people get nervous at the thought even tooth loss. Dry mouth, often a of visiting the dentist. Don’t let your symptom of undetected diabetes, can nerves stop you from having regular cause soreness, ulcers, infections, and appointments, though. Waiting too tooth decay. People with diabetes can long to take care of your teeth may also get thrush. Smoking makes these make things worse. Here are a few tips problems worse. By controlling your to make your visit easier: blood glucose, brushing and f lossing • Tell the dentist and dental staff that every day, and visiting a dentist regular- you are feeling anxious. Getting ly, you can help prevent gum disease. If 1-800-994-9662 your concerns out in the open will your diabetes is not under control, you TDD: 1-888-220-5446 let your dentist adapt the treatment are more likely to develop problems in to your needs. your mouth. • Try to choose a time for your dental Heart disease. Before some dental visit when youre less likely to be treatments, patients who have certain rushed or under pressure. For some heart conditions or joint replacements people, that means a Saturday or an may take antibiotics. These people may early-morning appointment. be at risk of getting an infection in the heart when bacteria that lives in the • If the sound of the drill bothers you, mouth goes into the bloodstream dur- bring a portable audio player and ing treatment. Antibiotics lower this headset so you can listen to your risk. Talk to your doctor or dentist if favorite music. During the dental you are not sure whether you should visit you might try visualizing your- take antibiotics before dental treatment. self someplace relaxing, like on a HIV. Oral problems are common in warm beach. people with HIV because of a weak • Ask your dentist if there are medica- immune system. These problems can tions he or she can give you to help make it hard to eat. If mouth pain or you relax (this is sometimes called tenderness makes it hard to chew and “sedation dentistry”). swallow, or if you can’t taste food like you used to, you may not eat enough. The most common mouth problems Q: As a woman, why do I have to linked with HIV can be treated. worry about oral health? A: Everyone needs to take care of their Nutrition problems. Sometimes peo- oral health. But female hormones can ple who are missing teeth have to limit lead to an increase in some problems, their food choices because of chewing such as: problems. This can lead to a lack of vitamins in the body. If you are missing • Cold sores and canker sores teeth and have trouble chewing, check • Dry mouth with your doctor to make sure you are • Changes in taste eating the right foods. • Higher risk of gum disease page 5 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
  6. 6. Frequently Asked questions Taking good care of your teeth and hygiene and higher hormone levels gums can help you avoid or lessen oral can cause pregnancy gingivitis. Until health problems. now, it was thought that having gum disease could raise your risk of having a low-birth-weight baby. Q: I’m pregnant. Do I need to take Researchers have not been able to special care of my mouth? confirm this link, but studies are still A: Yes! If you are pregnant, you have spe- under way to learn more. cial oral health needs. Before you become pregnant, it is best to have regular dental checkups. You Q: I’m a new mother. What can I want to keep your mouth in good do for my baby’s oral health? 1-800-994-9662 health before your pregnancy. A: You can do a lot! Below are some TDD: 1-888-220-5446 things you need to know about your Also, remember that what you eat baby’s oral health. affects the development of your unborn child — including teeth. Your baby’s • The same germs that cause tooth teeth begin to grow during the third decay in your mouth can be passed and sixth months of pregnancy, so it is to your baby. Do not put your baby’s important that you eat a balanced diet items, such as toys, spoons, bottles, that includes calcium, protein, phos- or pacifiers in your mouth. phorous, and vitamins A, C, and D. • Wipe your baby’s teeth and gums If you are pregnant: with a clean gauze pad or baby toothbrush after each nursing and • Have a complete oral exam early feeding. This can help remove sugars in your pregnancy. Because you found in milk that can cause tooth are pregnant, your dentist might decay and also get your baby used to not take routine x-rays. But if you having her teeth cleaned on a regular need x-rays, the health risk to your basis. unborn baby is small. • If you bottle-feed your baby, try • Remember dental work during to finish bottle weaning by age pregnancy is safe. The best time for 1. Avoid giving your baby bottles treatment is between the 14th and or pacifiers at naps and bedtime. 20th weeks. In the last months, you Sucking on a bottle when lying might be uncomfortable sitting in a down can cause cavities and lead to dental chair. "baby bottle tooth decay." • Have all needed dental treatments. • All babies should visit a dentist by If you avoid treatment, you may risk age 1. The dentist will screen for your own and your baby’s health. problems in your baby’s mouth. You • Use good oral hygiene to control will also be shown how to care for your risk of gum diseases. Pregnant your child’s teeth and mouth. women may have changes in taste • Talk with your doctor about the best and develop red, swollen gums that water choices for infants. Fluoride is bleed easily. This condition is called page 6 pregnancy gingivitis. Both poor oral U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
  7. 7. Frequently Asked questions good for teeth. But too much f luo- • You can also use a tongue scraper ride can harm development of tooth to freshen breath. A tongue scraper enamel in infants. removes food particles trapped in the pits along the tongues surface. Brushing your tongue with your Q: I’m starting cancer treatment. toothbrush can also remove these How can I best take care of my bits of food. mouth? A: Cancer treatment can cause side effects in your mouth. A dental checkup Q: I’m not happy with the stains before treatment starts can help prevent on my teeth. How can I safely painful mouth problems. Serious side whiten them? 1-800-994-9662 effects in the mouth can delay, or even A: There are three ways that you can whit- TDD: 1-888-220-5446 stop, cancer treatment. To fight can- en your teeth: cer best, your cancer care team should • In-office bleaching include a dentist. A dentist will help protect your mouth, teeth, and jaw • At-home bleaching bones from damage caused by head and • Whitening toothpastes neck radiation and chemotherapy. The first thing you should do before whitening your teeth is talk to your Q: I’m confused! What type of dentist. He or she will be able to help toothpaste or mouthwash you decide the best option for you. should I use? Whiteners will not fix all kinds of A: So many different kinds stains. Also, if you have bonding or of toothpaste are avail- tooth-colored fillings, these will not able today. Some say be affected by whiteners and they may they’re made for whiten- stand out if you whiten your teeth. ing, others for reducing Remember that a using a whitener does gingivitis and plaque, not make your mouth healthier. and others for sensitive teeth. Before In-office bleaching. choosing toothpaste for your family, This kind of whitening, called “chair- know the basics. side bleaching,” is done in your den- • As long as toothpaste contains f luo- tist’s office. It may require more than ride and its box has the American one office visit. Each visit may take Dental Association’s (ADA) seal of from 30 minutes to one hour. During acceptance, it is good for your oral chairside bleaching, the dentist puts a health. Beyond that, choosing tooth- whitener on the teeth and uses a spe- pastes is a personal choice. cial light to make the whitener work. Lasers are sometimes used during tooth • Mouthwashes claim to freshen your whitening to make the whitening agent breath. But they really only mask work better. breath odor for a few hours. If you always need to use a mouthwash to At-home bleaching. hide bad breath, see your dentist. There are a few different products that page 7 can be used to whiten teeth at home. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
  8. 8. Frequently Asked questions Some come from your dentist, and oth- • Drink water that contains added ers can be bought over-the-counter. f luoride if you can. Fluoride protects These contain peroxide(s), which bleach against dental decay. Most public the tooth enamel. Most come in a gel water systems in the United States and are placed in a mouth guard or tray have added f luoride. Check with that fits inside your mouth. They help your community’s water or health many types of staining. Only the dentist- department to find out if there is dispensed solutions have the American f luoride in your water. You also may Dental Association (ADA) seal. want to use a f luoride mouth rinse, Other over-the-counter whitening along with brushing and f lossing, to products include whitening strips, help prevent tooth decay. 1-800-994-9662 paint-on products, gels, and trays. They • Gently brush all sides of your teeth have a low amount of peroxide. For with a soft-bristled brush. Round TDD: 1-888-220-5446 better results, have a cleaning at the and short back-and-forth strokes dentist before you use these products. work best. These gels and trays do not have the • Take time to brush along the gum ADA seal. line, and lightly brush your tongue Whitening toothpastes. to help remove plaque and food. All toothpastes help remove sur- • Ask your dentist or dental hygien- face stains through mild abrasives. ist to show you the best way to f loss "Whitening" toothpastes that have the your teeth. ADA seal have special polishing agents or chemicals that remove even more • Change your toothbrush every three stains. Unlike bleaches, these products months, or earlier if the toothbrush do not change the actual color of teeth. looks worn or the bristles spread They help surface stains only. out. A new toothbrush removes more plaque. Products used to whiten teeth can make teeth more sensitive. They can also • If you wear dentures, be sure to bother your gums. These side effects remove them at night and clean most often go away after you stop using them before putting them back in the product. the next morning. 2. Have a healthy lifestyle. Q: What small, easy steps can I • Eat healthy meals. Cut down on take to have a healthy teeth and tooth decay by brushing after meals. gums? Avoid snacking on sugary or starchy A: 1. Brush your teeth at least twice foods between meals. each day with f luoride toothpaste. • Don’t smoke. It raises your risk of Aim for first thing in the morning gum disease, oral and throat cancers, and before going to bed. Once a day, and oral fungal infections. It also use f loss or an interdental cleaner to affects the color of your teeth and remove food your toothbrush missed. the smell of your breath. Make sure you: page 8 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
  9. 9. Frequently Asked questions • Limit alcohol use to one drink per you need extra care. Other providers day for women. Heavy alcohol use include: raises your risk of oral and throat • Dental hygienists: Members of cancers. Using alcohol and tobacco the dental staff who clean gums together raises your risk of oral can- and teeth and teach patients how cers more than using one alone. to maintain good oral health. • Limit how much soda you drink. • Periodontists: Dentists who treat Even diet soda contains acids that gum disease and place dental can erode tooth enamel. implants. 3. Get regular checkups. • Oral surgeons: Dentists who • Have an oral exam once or twice a operate on your mouth and sup- 1-800-994-9662 year. Your dentist may recommend porting tissues. TDD: 1-888-220-5446 more or fewer visits depending • Orthodontists: Dentists who on your oral health. At most rou- straighten teeth and align jaws. tine visits, the dentist and a dental hygienist will treat you. During reg- • Endodontists: Dentists who per- ular checkups, dentists look for signs form root canals. of diseases, infections, problems, • Prosthodontists: Dentists trained injuries, and oral cancer. in restoring and replacing teeth. • See your dentist right away if: 4. Follow your dentist’s advice. • Your gums bleed often Your dentist may suggest ways to • You see any red or white patches keep your mouth healthy. He or she on the gums, tongue, or f loor of can teach you how to properly f loss the mouth or brush. Follow any recommended steps or treatments to keep your mouth • You have mouth or jaw pain that healthy. won’t go away 5. If you have another health prob- • You have sores that do not heal lem, think about how it may affect within two weeks your oral health. • You have problems swallowing or For instance, if you take medicines that chewing give you a dry mouth, ask your doctor • Besides your dentist, there are other or nurse if there are other drugs you types of dental providers. Your den- can use. Have an oral exam before start- tist may send you to a specialist if ing cancer treatment. And if you have diabetes, practice good oral hygiene to prevent gum disease. n page 9 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health
  10. 10. Frequently Asked questions For more information For more information on oral health, call at 800-994-9662 or contact the following organizations: Division of Oral Health, NCCDPHP, American Dental Association (ADA) CDC, OPHS, HHS Phone number: 312-440-2500 Phone: 770-488-6054 Web Address: Web Address: OralHealth Academy of General Dentistry Phone number: 888-243-3368 1-800-994-9662 National Institute of Dental and Web Address: TDD: 1-888-220-5446 Craniofacial Research (NIDR), NIH, HHS American Academy of Periodontology Phone: 301-496-4261 Phone: 312-787-5518 Web Address: Web Address: National Oral Health Information The Oral Cancer Foundation Clearinghouse (NOHIC), NIDR, Phone: 949-646-8000 NIH, HHS Web Address: http://oralcancerfoundation. Phone: 301-402-7364 org Web Address: OralHealth American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) Phone: 312-337-2169 Web Address: Reviewed by: Marian Mehegan, DDS, MPH CAPT, USPHS Regional Womens Health Coordinator USDHHS Office on Women’s Health All material contained in this FAQ is free of copyright restrictions, and may be copied, reproduced, or duplicated without permission of the Office on Womens Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. Citation of the source is appreciated. Content last updated November 17, 2010. page 10 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health