“Worn” Teeth

When the enamel of a tooth is worn away, the tooth often becomes sensitive and is more susceptible to decay. Advanced cases often require crowns to save the teeth. Tooth enamel may be worn away in several ways. One or more of the following factors may cause premature wear: Attrition Attrition is the gradual loss of enamel through “wear”. A small amount of attrition may be caused by normal speaking and eating, but this typically doesn’t produce excessive wear. More extreme cases of attrition are typically caused by Bruxism, the grinding of teeth against teeth. Bruxism typically occurs at night while the patient sleeps, so often the patient is unaware of the grinding or enamel loss. Abrasion Abrasion is the wearing away of tooth enamel by a foreign object. Common causes of abrasion are: Brushing too hard or too long Fingernail biting, chewing on pens or pencils, holding needles or pins between the teeth, etc. Oral jewelery – Patients with pierced lips and/or tongue often wear away the enamel on adjacent teeth Erosion Erosion is the chemical wear of tooth enamel. Typically this kind of wear is caused by an acid. Citric acid is one of the most common agents. Citrus fruit (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit) contain citric acid, as do most soft drinks and citrus juices (like lemonade). Some candies also contain citric acid. Many soft drinks contain additional harmful acids. Coffee and tea also contain corrosive acids. Bulimic individuals (people who intentionally and repeatedly induce vomiting) also expose their teeth to very strong stomach acids. Occasional exposure to most dietary acids is rarely a problem, but repeated exposure to high levels of these acids can cause premature wear. Some common habits to avoid are: Regularly sucking on lemons or limes Regularly eating or sucking on candies, especially “sour” candies as they often contain sugar and citric acid! Drinking several soft drinks daily, even “diet” soft drinks Drinking several glasses of lemonade daily Drinking several cups of coffee or glasses of tea daily Even if you only occasionally eat or drink highly acidic foods, it’s a good idea to at least rinse your mouth with fresh water when you are finished in order to reduce the amount of time the acids have to work on your teeth. If you would like us to examine your teeth to determine whether or not there is premature wear of enamel, please contact us for an evaluation. It is possible that a mouth guard can be fabricated to control or prevent the enamel loss.


The danger of snoring Although the frequent subject of humor, in many cases, snoring is no laughing matter! Not only does snoring disrupt the sleep cycles of other family members, but in the case of sleep apnea, snoring can be a sign of a dangerous health problem. Sleep apnea actually cuts off the flow of oxygen to the brain, and in severe cases can cause serious damage. How snoring affects others Even if sleep apnea is not indicated, the disruption of the sleep cycles of family members can create a hazard. Recent studies have indicated that repeated disruption of sleep patterns can cause sufferers to perform motor skills at or below the levels of individuals who are legally intoxicated! So even if your snoring is not a sign of sleep apnea, it is likely that your snoring could be a real threat to your loved ones, because impaired reaction behind the wheel of an automobile can lead to disaster regardless of the cause. What causes snoring? Quite simply, snoring is caused by a partially obstructed airway. When you sleep, the soft tissue and muscles in your mouth and throat relax, causing your airway to become smaller. If your airway becomes small enough, your soft palate and uvula begin to vibrate when you inhale and exhale. These vibrations are the cause of the sound most people call snoring. What can be done to stop snoring? Many traditional treatments use cumbersome pressurization equipment to open the airway. A simpler, and more effective method is to keep the airway open by utilizing a simple mouthpiece that maintains proper jaw alignment for safe and healthful sleep. This mouthpiece, similar to a sports mouthpiece, allows the patient to breathe through either the nose or mouth. On the left, without a prevention mouthpiece, the patient’s lower jaw causes his airway to constrict, resulting in snoring. On the right, with the snore prevention mouthpiece in place, the lower jaw is maintained in proper position so the airway remains open, and snoring is eliminated.

Sensitivity / Toothache

Teeth can be sensitive for many reasons. Pressure Sensitivity to chewing pressure can be caused by: Clenching/Grinding Decay Abscess Cracked tooth Sweets Sensitivity to sweet foods is usually caused by decay. Hot and/or Cold Sensitivity to hot and/or cold foods usually indicates: Decay Abscess Worn Teeth (Attrition) Receded Gums It is not unusual for recent dental restorations to be sensitive to hot, cold, or pressure. This sensitivity should decrease with time. If sensitivity from a recent dental restoration worsens or persists, contact your dentist. Whitening Whitening can also temporarily cause mild sensitivity during treatment that disappears within a few days. Toothache Sensitivity due to a dental problem will worsen with time and become a toothache. A toothache is not like a headache. It won’t just go away, even if the pain temporarily subsides. The problem that is causing the pain will just get worse, as will the pain, and simple treatment may no longer be possible. (See our pages on cavities, root canals, abscesses, and extractions to see how a cavity progresses from a minor to a major problem). At the first sign of a toothache, contact us for immediate treatment.


Mal – occlusion literally means “poor closing” or “bad bite.” A bad bite can be caused by several factors: Dental malocclusion A dental malocclusion occurs when the teeth are not lined up properly, even though the jaws may be properly aligned. Dental malocclusion caused by crowding Skeletal malocclusion A skeletal malocclusion occurs when the upper and lower jaws don’t line up correctly. Overbite: Upper jaw protrudes or lower jaw recedes (or both). Underbite: Lower jaw protrudes. Bad Habits Your teeth are not as fixed in place as you might think! Just as a constant breeze can cause a tree to grow at an angle, repetitive forces on your teeth can cause them to become “out of alignment.” Thumbsucking can lead to an Open Bite. Tongue thrusting (pushing your tongue against your teeth) can slowly, but surely, move your teeth out of alignment. Fingernail biting, or habitually biting or chewing on most objects, can cause worn teeth. Mouth breathing: Breathing primarily through your mouth instead of your nose can dry out the tissues of your mouth leading to swollen and irritated gums. Also, the unnatural jaw alignment of mouth breathing creates and imbalance that can lead to a malocclusion. If mouth breathing is caused by blocked nasal passages, the obstruction must be corrected as well to prevent a relapse. Thumbsucking Why Do Children Suck Their Thumbs? Children suck on things because sucking is one of a baby’s natural instincts. Sucking makes them feel secure and content and may induce drowsiness. Prolonged thumbsucking (or pacifier sucking) interferes with the proper growth of the mouth and the alignment of the teeth. This improper development, if not corrected, will change the appearance of the child’s face. When Should Children Stop Sucking Their Thumbs? Children should have ceased sucking between the ages of 2 to 4. If you are having trouble breaking your child’s habit, try to: Comfort him if he is feeling insecure. Sometimes children suck their thumb for a sense of security. Instead of scolding your child for thumbsucking, praise him when he doesn’t suck his thumb, especially during difficult periods. Explain to older children the dangers of thumbsucking and involve them in choosing the method to break the habit. If you need help stopping your child’s thumbsucking habit, we can provide you with a patient-friendly dental appliance that will break the habit. Contact Us for more information and an appointment. Open Bite An open bite often results from thumbsucking or prolonged use of a pacifier. If the open bite is not corrected early, the child may develop a habit of deviated swallowing and/or anterior tongue thrust. (This is when the child presses against the back of his teeth repeatedly and subconsciously with his tongue). These habits lead to further dental problems and make correction of the open bite more difficult. The best cure for open bite is to prevent it in the first place by eliminating thumbsucking and the use of pacifiers as early as possible for your child. Untreated, open bite can lead to facial malformation, abnormal speech patterns and significant orthodontic complications.

Jaw Joint Problems

What is TMJ? TMJ is an acronym for temporomandibular joint, which is a fancy way of saying jaw joint. Clinically, we refer to problems associated with the TMJ (jaw joint) as TMJ Syndrome or TMD (disorder). But many patients just call it “TMJ”. Often, TMJ Syndrome presents itself as a popping sound and sensation near the jaw joint. Who can have TMJ Syndrome? TMJ problems can afflict people of all ages, although patients under 40 are more susceptible and it occurs more frequently in women. What are the Symptoms of TMJ Syndrome? TMJ Syndrome symptoms include: Headaches Earaches, stuffiness, or ringing in the ears Pain or soreness in and around the jaw joints Dizziness Numbness in fingers and arms Difficulty swallowing Limited movement or locking of the jaw Clicking or grating sounds in the jaw joints Pain behind the eyes Neck, shoulder, or back pain Facial pain Unexplained loosening of teeth Left untreated, the TMJ symptoms increase in number and severity as you get older. What should I do if I suspect TMJ Syndrome? In order to determine the best course of treatment, an accurate diagnosis is imperative. Consult with Dr. Loar to determine if you are suffering from TMJ Syndrome. Many times all that’s needed is a simple adjustment to your bite (the way your teeth come together), or a small mouthpiece that corrects the way your jaw joint closes.

Impacted Tooth

Impacted teeth are unerupted or partially erupted teeth that cannot fully erupt due to: Lack of space (crowding) Misalignment (tooth is rotated out of position) Conflicting position (another tooth has erupted over that position) Ankylosis – when other causes of impaction are not corrected in a timely manner, the roots of the impacted tooth can fuse to the surrounding bone creating a tooth frozen in an unerupted or partially erupted state. The teeth most likely to become impacted are the third molars, also known as “wisdom teeth.” The first molars are also known as the 6-year molars since they generally erupt at around age 6, and the second molars are also known as the 12-year molars since they generally erupt at around age 12. If the third molars erupted normally, they might be called 18-year molars. But there is rarely enough space to fit these last teeth into the small space left behind the second molars, so the third molars often become impacted. The most important thing to know about impacted teeth is that they almost always require extraction. The longer the extraction is postponed, the longer the tooth roots grow. When the tooth roots of an impacted tooth are allowed to develop, the risk of complication due to extraction increases significantly because the tooth roots may “wrap around” sensitive facial nerves. The risks of keeping an impacted tooth extend beyond the impacted tooth itself. Any impacted tooth will exert forces on the arch of your smile that may cause unnecessary crowding of your teeth. An impacted tooth below the gum surface may erode the roots of adjacent teeth. An impacted tooth above the gum line may create a “food trap” that is difficult to brush or floss and is likely to lead to decay. If you have an impacted tooth and you are not FULLY aware of the risks and alternatives associated with keeping or extracting an impacted tooth, please Contact Us for an appointment.

Gum Pain

Gum pain can be caused by many things, such as: Toothbrush trauma Food trauma (e.g. spicy food, hot food, or jagged food fragment) Mouth ulcer (of various types) Gum Disease Herpes Simplex Abscess Tooth erupting Impacted tooth Cyst Oral cancer Various other conditions If gum pain persists, it is important to Contact Us for an appointment to determine the cause and begin treatment, if needed.

Gum Disease / Gingivitis

What is Gum Disease? According to the American Dental Association, 9 out of 10 Americans will develop gum disease at some time in their lives! No doubt, you’ve heard some of the terms: Plaque, Tartar, Calculus, Gingivitis, Periodontitis, Pyorrhoea, Periodontal Disease, Gum Disease. But what does it all mean? Quite simply, Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease) starts when plaque and tartar (calculus) are allowed to accumulate at the base of your teeth. The bacteria in the plaque leads to an infection in the gums (gingiva) called Gingivitis. Left untreated, the infection spreads to the tissue and bone that holds your teeth in place, a condition called Periodontitis (Pyorrhoea). Because of the bacterial infection associated with Periodontitis, tooth abscesses are also common. This patient has Periodontitis. Notice the bone deterioration and uneven level of bone. Healthy gums and bone. What are the Signs of Gum Disease? Gum Disease is rarely painful, especially in the early stages. Although there may be no visible signs, some of the common indications of Gum Disease are: Gums that bleed when you brush or floss (healthy gums will not bleed) Gums that are red, swollen, or tender Gums that have pulled away from the teeth (receded) Pus (infection) between the teeth and gums Loose permanent teeth or separating (drifting) teeth Changes in the way your teeth fit together when chewing Persistent bad breath What are the Dangers of Gum Disease? Gum Disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. More importantly, the infection releases toxins into the bloodstream leading to serious health risks: Is There a Cure? Gum Treatment can effectively be used to treat and control even advanced cases of Periodontitis (Pyorrhoea), but the more advanced the disease, the more likely it will lead to tooth loss. Prevention and Early Detection are your best defenses against Gum Disease. It is critical to catch and treat Gum Disease early before destruction of bone and tissue has compromised your oral health. How Can I Prevent Gum Disease? The best “brushers” in the world will naturally build up tartar on their teeth. Even patients with “healthy” gums and teeth should see their dentist regularly to remove the build-up of tartar and check for the formation of new cavities. Patients with Gum Disease, or patients that build up large amounts of tartar, may need to have their teeth cleaned frequently to help control the amount of bacteria in the mouth. At your regular recall appointments (Cleanings), we always evaluate the condition of your gums. A thorough exam, which includes x-rays, visual inspection, and an analysis of hard and soft tissue, helps determine the health of your gums. If you have any specific questions about Gum Disease that weren’t answered here, or if you would like an appointment for a Gum Disease screening, please Contact Us.

Grinding Teeth / Bruxism

What is Bruxism? Grinding of teeth, also known as Bruxism, occurs in children as well as adults. Grinding of teeth generally occurs during sleep. What if my Child is Grinding His or Her Teeth? Children often grind their teeth when their teeth are erupting. This is not uncommon, nor is it a problem if it is mild. However, in more severe cases the child can develop a malocclusion. Malocclusion may then lead to TMJ problems or to a need for Orthodontics. If you have any concerns about your child’s Bruxism, be sure to have Dr. Loar check for signs of excessive wear so that treatment options can be discussed and implemented to prevent serious problems. What about Bruxism in Adults? Adults may grind their teeth at night due to: Malocclusion Stress The result of bruxism can be: Worn spots (attrition) that can lead to: Malocclusion (if the patient doesn’t have already) Sensitivity Brittle teeth that require crowns TMJ problems Noise that sometimes disrupts the partner’s sleep How can Bruxism be Treated? Sometimes, the damage caused by bruxism must be addressed first. Any malocclusion, sensitivity, brittle teeth, or TMJ problems should be discussed with Dr. Loar first to be sure those problems are resolved and that the subsequent treatment for bruxism prevents a recurrence of those problems. Further damage from bruxism can be prevented with a mouth guard that is worn during sleep. This guard is easy for most people to wear. Contact Us for an appointment to stop the damage caused by bruxism and correct any serious problems.

Tooth Discoloration

What Causes Tooth Discoloration? Teeth become discolored for different reasons: Drinking coffee, tea, or colas. Some antibiotics may darken developing teeth in children. Aging – The dentin underneath the enamel of a tooth gradually darkens with age. Use of tobacco products. Accidents – If a tooth has been traumatized, sometimes the nerve will gradually “die”, and the tooth becomes dark. After Root Canal Therapy, a tooth will generally darken. What Can Be Done About Tooth Discoloration? The three most common remedies for tooth discoloration are: Bonding Whitening Veneers Caps (Crowns) Each patient must be evaluated individually, so Contact Us to set up a Cosmetic Dentistry consult. Dr. Loar will discuss the appropriate options with you for your particular case.