Ask The Doctor | Dr. Mead Q & A

Q.

Why should young adults get periodic dental checkups when so many have grown up with few or no cavities or other obvious problems?

A.

The key word in the question is “obvious.”  Many tooth and gum problems develop slowly, with no apparent signs.  Tooth decay, for example, starts beneath the surface, unseen.  Routine examination by the by the dentist often turns up signs of decay long before a cavity appears. When detected early, tooth decay and other dental problems are much easier and less costly to treat than if they are allowed to progress.  A professional cleaning is a step toward maintaining healthy teeth and gums for a lifetime.

Q.

What causes dry mouth, and what are its effects?

A.

A reduced flow of saliva that makes one very conscious of having a dry  mouth is most common among older adults although it can occur at earlier ages.  Sometimes the condition arises from use of anti-histamines, barbiturates, sedatives, muscle control drugs or other medications.  Waking up with a hoarse throat and dry nasal passages is a common sign.  In some cases the condition may cause cracked lips or continued throat soreness or burning sensation.  In addition to the discomfort of dry mouth, it can lead to tooth decay and other dental problems.  If you experience dry mouth, consult a dentist about rinses and other products that may help relieve the condition.

Q.

How does gum disease affect the teeth?

A.

More than fifty percent of adults have some form of periodontal disease.  The common form is known as gingivitis, in which gums become swollen and bleed easily.  Unless prevented or treated early, gum disease steadily worsens and causes teeth to loosen.  To understand the process, bear in mind that the gums normally fit tightly to the teeth.  Everyday, a bacteria laden sticky film known as plaque hardens into calculus, at and under the gum line.  Gums gradually begin to part from the teeth as deepening pockets form.  In time, tissue and bone that hold the teeth deteriorate.  Teeth loosen and may fall out.  Professional cleaning in the dentist’s office is necessary to remove any buildup.  Twice a year cleanings are the rule for most people, more often for others who experience plaque buildup at a rapid rate.