Common Problems

Child smiling with baby teeth.

Tooth Decay

Caries, or tooth decay, is a preventable disease. While caries might not endanger your life, it may negatively impact your quality of life.

When your teeth and gums are consistently exposed to large amounts of starches and sugars, acids may form that begin to eat away at tooth enamel. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as candy, cookies, soft drinks and even fruit juices leave deposits on your teeth. Those deposits bond with the bacteria that normally survive in your mouth and form plaque. The combination of deposits and plaque forms acids that can damage the mineral structure of teeth, with tooth decay resulting.

Sensitive Teeth

Your teeth expand and contract in reaction to changes in temperature. Hot and cold food and beverages can cause pain or irritation to people with sensitive teeth. Over time, tooth enamel can be worn down, gums may recede or teeth may develop microscopic cracks, exposing the interior of the tooth and irritating nerve endings. Just breathing cold air can be painful for those with extremely sensitive teeth.

Gum Disease

Gum, or periodontal, disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss and bone damage. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of disease, or gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease progresses to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed by a dentist. Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing. One indicator of gum disease is consistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.

Canker Sores

Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are small sores inside the mouth that often recur. Generally lasting one or two weeks, the duration of canker sores can be reduced by the use of antimicrobial mouthwashes or topical agents. The canker sore has a white or gray base surrounded by a red border.

Tooth Grinding (Bruxism)

Teeth grinding or bruxism, is the habit of grinding, gnashing or clenching the teeth. Occasional teeth grinding is not harmful. However, severe teeth grinding that occurs on a daily basis, can lead to tooth fracture or loss. Other health complications as a result of severe and frequent teeth grinding include jaw disorders and headaches.

Although doctors do not completely understand what causes teeth grinding, possible causes include, stress, anxiety or the misalignment of the upper and lower teeth. Both children and adults can experience teeth grinding.

In most cases, no treatment may be necessary. Most children simply "outgrow" the condition, and many adults do not experience the severe teeth grinding that requires therapy.

If the problem becomes severe, we can fit you with a mouthguard or splint to prevent further damage to your teeth, or correct misaligned teeth. If stress is to blame, you need to find a way to relax.

Does Your Child Grind Their Teeth At Night? (Bruxism)

Parents are often concerned about the nocturnal grinding of teeth (bruxism). Often, the first indication is the noise created by the child grinding on their teeth during sleep. Or, the parent may notice wear (teeth getting shorter) to the dentition. One theory as to the cause involves a psychological component. Stress due to a new environment, divorce, changes at school; etc. can influence a child to grind their teeth. Another theory relates to pressure in the inner ear at night. If there are pressure changes (like in an airplane during take-off and landing when people are chewing gum, etc. to equalize pressure) the child will grind by moving his jaw to relieve this pressure. The majority of cases of pediatric bruxism do not require any treatment.

The good news is most children outgrow bruxism. The grinding gets less between the ages 6-9 and children tend to stop grinding between ages 9-12. This may become common again as children get closer and into college level academics and activities. At that time, it may be necessary to obtain a mouth guard/bite splint.

Orthodontic Problems

A bite that does not meet properly (a malocclusion) can be inherited, or some types may be acquired. Some causes of malocclusion include missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth or misaligned jaws. Accidents or developmental issues, such as finger or thumb sucking over an extended period of time, may cause malocclusions.