Dental Problems

Abscessed Tooth

An abscessed tooth is a tooth that has become infected. Tooth decay is often the culprit. When a tooth decay advances deep into the tooth, it can cause destruction of the pulp (core of the tooth). When this happens, the pulp becomes infected, swollen and pus builds up near the jawbone.

If left untreated, the infected pulp can cause more serious problems such as damage to the surrounding tissue and bone.

Root canal treatment is the most common form of treatment for an abscessed tooth. This form of treatment involves removing the infected tissue, cleansing and sealing the canal of the tooth and restoring the tooth with a crown or cap.

Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Bad breath is a common affliction in many people. When it advances or does not go away, it becomes known as Chronic Halitosis.

Bad breath is caused by decaying particles of food and bacteria that pass into your bloodstream and lungs. Odor is emitted through breathing.

While people spend money on over-the-counter products that treat this condition, they often neglect to take steps to address the root causes (i.e. bacteria, decaying food particles remaining between teeth, in the gums and on the tongue). In many cases, good daily oral hygiene (brushing, flossing and rinsing) can keep bad breath in check. This also applies to denture-wearers.

Other conditions, such as gum disease, can cause persistent bad breath. Under normal conditions, your saliva acts to cleanse your mouth of the particles that can decay and later cause bad breath. People with a condition known as Dry Mouth (a diminished production of saliva) can sometimes suffer from bad breath. If you eat certain foods (garlic or onions), take certain kinds of medication or smoke tobacco, you may experience bad breath. In some cases, persistent bad breath may be a sign of a more serious health problem (gastrointestinal, respiratory or sinus).

In most cases, over-the-counter mouthwashes and rinses will temporarily freshen breath but will only mask the root cause. The ADA (American Dental Association) acknowledges the effectiveness of some anti-microbial mouth rinses that are shown to reduce plaque and gingivitis. Brushing and flossing daily as well as routine professional cleanings by our office will reduce, if not eliminate, bad breath.

Canker / Cold Sores

Canker sores and cold sores are often confused the same as they are unrelated. Both can be painful, but knowing the differences will help you keep them in check.

A canker sore is typically one that occurs on the delicate tissue inside your mouth. It is usually light colored at its base and has a red exterior border.

In most cases, patience is the best medicine for treating canker sores. A healthy diet and good oral hygiene is the best remedy. Some special rinses and anesthetics are available to help as well.

A cold sore (also knows as a fever blister) occurs outside the mouth on or near the nose or lips. A cold sore is contagious as it is caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus. It is often painful and fluid filled.

Cold sores are effectively treated with some over-the-counter topical creams. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication.

Bulemia Nervosa

Those with eating disorders can suffer poor oral health. This is because many of the behaviors associated with Anorexia Nervosa and Bulemia Nervosa (binge eating, self-induced vomiting and use of diuretics / laxatives) compromises the health of mouth.

Repeated episodes of vomiting releases harmful stomach acid that wear away tooth enamel and can lead to gingivitis and/or tooth decay. Poor fitting fillings or braces are another byproduct of eating disorders.

Brushing after an episodic vomiting is actually more harmful that one would imagine. The best practice is to rinse thoroughly with a neutral solution such as baking soda and water.

Cavities / Tooth Decay

What is Tooth Decay?

Tooth decay is caused by a variety of things. In medical terms, cavities are called “caries”, which are caused by long-term destructive forces acting on tooth structure such as enamel and the tooth’s inner dentin material.

Cold sores are effectively treated with some over-the-counter topical creams. Your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication.

These destructive forces include frequent exposure to foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates. Some common culprits are soda, candy, ice cream and milk. Left inside your mouth without brushing or flossing, these culprits break down quickly. This allows bacteria to do their “dirty” work in the form of a harmful, colorless, sticky substance called plaque.

Plaque works in concert with leftover food particles in your mouth to form harmful acids that destroy enamel and other tooth structure.

If cavities are not treated early enough, they lead to more serious problems requiring more drastic treatment.

Preventing Cavities

The best defense against cavities is good oral hygiene (brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing and rinsing). Your body’s own saliva is an excellent cavity-fighter. It contains special chemicals that rinse away harmful materials. Chewing a sugarless gum stimulates saliva production between brushing. Special sealants and varnishes can also be applied to stave off cavities.

Some symptoms of a cavity:

  • Unusual sensitivity to hot / cold  liquids or foods
  • Localized pain in tooth or near gum line
  • Teeth that change color
  • Bad breath

“Baby Bottle” Tooth Decay

“Baby Bottle” tooth decay is caused by sugary substances in breast milk and some juices. Combined with saliva, pools form in the baby’s mouth. If left untreated, this can lead to premature decay of your baby’s future primary teeth. This can later hamper the proper formation of permanent teeth.

One of the best ways to avoid “Baby Bottle” tooth decay is refraining from your baby nursing on a bottle while going to sleep. Encouraging your toddler to drink from a cup as early as possible will also ward off the problems associated with this condition.


Simple toothaches can often be relieved by rinsing the mouth to clear debris and other matter. Sometimes a toothache can be caused or aggravated by debris being lodged between the teeth. Avoid placing an aspirin between your tooth and gum to relieve pain. Dissolving an aspirin can actually harm your gum tissue.

Broken / Fractured / Displaced Teeth

A broken, fractured or displaced tooth is usually not cause for alarm. Quick, decisive action should be taken by doing the following:

1. Rinse your mouth of any blood or debris and place a cold cloth / compress on the cheek near the injury. This will keep swelling down.

2. If the tooth has been knocked out, place the tooth back in its socket until you can see your dentist. If you are not successful in placing the tooth back in the socket, hold the tooth by the crown, not the root. Place it in a container of warm milk, saline or the victim’s saliva. Keep it in this solution until you arrive at the emergency room or dentist office.

3. For a fractured tooth, it is best to rinse with warm water and again, apply a cold pack or compress. Ibuprofen may be used to keep swelling down. If the fracture is minor, the tooth can be sanded, or if necessary, restored by your dentist if the pulp is not severely damaged.

4. If a child’s primary tooth has been loosened by an injury or an emerging permanent tooth, have the child bite down on an apple or piece of caramel. In some cases, the tooth will easily separate from the gum.


Those living with diabetes are vulnerable to a host of systemic problems within the entire body. Unfortunately, the mouth and teeth are not immune from such problems. Many diabetics with oral problems go undiagnosed until conditions become advanced.

Infections and other problems such as receding gums, gum disease or periodontal disease, are common afflictions among diabetics. For example, diabetics are often plagued by diminished saliva production which can hamper proper cleansing of cavity-causing debris and bacteria from the mouth. Additionally, blood sugar levels which are out of balance, lead to problems promoting cavities and gum disease.

As with any condition, good oral hygiene (regular brushing, flossing, rinsing and a proper diabetic diet) will go a long way in preventing needless problems.

Dry Mouth

Saliva is one of your body’s natural defenses against plaque as it acts to rinse your mouth of cavity-causing bacteria as well as other harmful materials. Dry Mouth (also called Xerostomia) is a fairly common condition that is caused by diminished saliva production.

Those with medical conditions such as eating disorders or diabetes, are often plagued by Dry Mouth. Eating garlic, tobacco use, some kinds of medications or some treatments such as cancer therapy, can diminish the body’s production of saliva. This leads to Dry Mouth. Other causes are related to aging and compromised immune systems.

Some less alarming symptoms of Dry Mouth include bad breath leading to more serious problems such as burning tongue syndrome (a painful condition caused by lack of moisture on the tongue).

If Dry Mouth is not readily apparent, you may experience other conditions that can cause an overly-sensitive tongue, chronic thirst or difficulty in speaking.

If you do not have a medical condition that causes Dry Mouth, it can be minimized by sipping water regularly, chewing gum and avoiding smoking. There is no substitute for regular checkups and good oral hygiene.


Fluorosis is a condition which your body has been exposed to too much fluoride. In normal doses (found in safe drinking water and ADA approved toothpaste), fluoride is a healthy compound that promotes healthy teeth and fights cavities and other problems.

Fluorosis can occur when fluoride-containing toothpastes or rinses are swallowed instead of expelled.

Fluorosis causes a number of aesthetic problems including abnormally dark / stained teeth. While such problems are generally harmless to your health, they can create concerns with your appearance.

Gum Disease (Gingivitis)

Gingivitis is the medical term for early gum disease, or periodontal disease. Gum disease can be caused by long-term exposure to plaque (a sticky / colorless film on teeth that forms after eating or sleeping).

Gum disease originates in the gums where infections form as a result of harmful bacteria and other materials left behind after eating. Early warning signs include chronic bad breath, tender / painful swollen gums and minor bleeding after brushing / flossing. In many cases, Gingivitis can go unnoticed. The infections can eventually cause the gums to separate from the teeth creating greater opportunities for infection and decay.

Early Signs of Gum Disease

Although gum disease is the major case of tooth loss in adults, it is avoidable! If left untreated, serious problems can occur (abscess, bone loss or periodontitis).

Pregnancy has also been known to cause a form of Gingivitis. This has been linked to hormonal changes in women’s bodies that promote plaque production.

Impacted / Wisdom Teeth

Wisdom teeth are the third and final set of molars that erupt in the back corners of the upper and lower normal adult mouth. Unfortunately, most people experience problems from wisdom teeth. In most cases, this is because the teeth erupt too close to existing permanent teeth causing overcrowding, improper bites and other problems.

If wisdom teeth are not extracted, they can sometimes become impacted. Impacted wisdom teeth can be extremely painful as well as harmful to your oral health. Symptoms are easy to recognize: pain, inflammation and infection.

Many people need to have their wisdom teeth extracted to avoid future problems. In general, the lack of four wisdom teeth does not hamper one’s ability to properly bite down, speak or eat.

Lacerations / Cuts

Any kind of cut to your face and/or delicate tissue inside your mouth should be addressed immediately in order to prevent further tissue damage of infection.

If a traumatic injury involves a broken facial bone such as the jaw, nose, chin or cheek, maxillofacial surgery may be required.

With jaw surgery, rubber bands, tiny wires, metal braces, screws or plates are often used to keep a fractured jaw in place following surgery. This allows the bone to heal and stay in proper alignment. Dental splints or dentures may also be required to supplement the healing process following jaw surgery.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers today and has one of the lowest survival rates. Thousands of new cases are reported yearly. Fewer than half of those diagnosed with oral cancer are cured.

Moreover, people with many forms of cancer can develop chronic and painful complications as a result of their cancer treatment. These include Dry Mouth and overly sensitive teeth as well as accelerated tooth decay.

If oral cancer is not treated in time, it could spread to other facial and neck tissues leading to disfigurement and pain. Older adults over the age of 40 (especially men) are most susceptible to developing oral cancer. However, all ages are at risk.

Oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth. The most common location is the tongue. Other oral structures include the lips, gum and other soft palate tissues in the mouth.

Early signs of oral cancer can occur in the form of lumps, patchy areas or lesions / breaks in the tissues of the mouth. In many cases, these abnormalities are not painful in the early stages making self-diagnosis difficult.

Some additional warning signs:

  • Hoarseness or difficulty swallowing
  • Unusual bleeding or persistent sores in the mouth that won’t heal
  • Lumps or growth in other nearby areas such as the throat or neck

If a tumor is found, surgery will generally be required to remove it. Some facial disfigurement could result.

Prevention of oral cancer:

  • Discontinue use of tobacco and alcohol products
  • Do not allow yourself to be overexposed to the sun
  • Eat diet rich in fruits and vegetables
  • Maintain good oral hygiene
  • Have regular dental checkups

Sensitive Teeth

Many people suffer from sensitive teeth. A major cause of discomfort and pain is exposure to cold or hot foods / liquids or inhaling suddenly.

Tooth sensitivity is caused by a number of things:

  • An unnoticed cavity or abscessed tooth
  • Changes in temperature
  • Tooth grinding (Bruxism)
  • Overly aggressive brushing which can lead to microscopic cracks / fissures in teeth

Hypersensitive teeth can cause people to change their eating habits, avoid social situations or even avoid proper oral hygiene because the simple act of brushing or rinsing causes pain. Relief can sometimes be had by using a desensitizing toothpaste, sealants or special fillings.

Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)

Teeth grinding is often reviewed as a harmless, though annoying, habit. Some people develop Bruxism from the inability to deal with stress or anxiety. Teeth grinding can literally transform your bite and worse, severely damage your teeth and jaw over time.

Teeth grinding can cause abrasion to the chewing surfaces of your teeth. This abnormal wear and tear will prematurely age and loosen your teeth and open them to problems such as hypersensitivity. 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 this condition:

  • Your jaw is often sore
  • You hear popping sounds when you open / close your mouth
  • Your teeth look abnormally short or worn down
  • You notice small dents in your tongue

Bruxism is somewhat treatable. A common therapy involves the use of a special appliance worn while sleeping. Less intrusive, though just as effective, some alternatives are biofeedback and behavior modification (tongue exercises and learning how to properly align your tongue, teeth and lips).

For Existing Sunshine Dental Patients - In the Event of a Dental Emergency Call: (315) 681-0100*

*We will try our best to return all calls, but we are not “on-call”. This number is intended to be a resource, and not a substitute for emergency care. If it is a true emergency, please contact your nearest emergency room.

315-779-8080 Fax: 315-779-8085 • 140 Eastern Blvd., Watertown, NY 13601 •