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Words to the Wise

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Wisdom teeth, also known as Third Molars, are the last or most posterior teeth in the dental arch.

Not everyone has wisdom teeth.  Many people have wisdom teeth but can’t see them because they are impacted in the bone, under the gum tissue.  An x-ray is the only way to determine if you have wisdom teeth when they aren’t visible in the mouth.


To Extract or Not to Extract!  That is the Question!

Once your dentist has taken a panorex x-ray, it will be decided if these troublesome teeth should stay or go.  Pain, decay, swollen gum flaps (from partially erupted teeth), and periodontal disease are just a few factors when treating wisdom teeth.  Concern for the second molars (the molars right ahead of the wisdom tooth) is also a factor.

If your teeth erupt in a good position and you are able to brush and floss properly waaaay back there, then extractions are not usually recommended.

When there isn’t enough room for a wisdom tooth to erupt, sometimes the gum tissue will swell, have a bad taste/smell and there may be pus coming from the area.  It will be painful to chew and bite also.  This is called pericorontitis and is the reason most people have to have an emergency extraction.  This nasty infection can also cause swelling of the cheek and create pressure that radiates to the ear causing severe earaches.


Man!  The Dentist had his Knee on my Chest to get that Sucker Out!!!

We’ve all heard the horror stories about difficult extractions, particularly with wisdom teeth.  Does it have to be such a nightmare?  In most cases, wisdom teeth can be extracted with only freezing without any discomfort. With so many options out there now, even difficult extractions can be, well, not so bad.  From nitrous oxide to conscious sedation, dentistry has come a long way in helping patients get through unpleasant procedures.

When conscious sedation is recommended (usually for the more difficult cases), it is considered minor dental surgery.  Tissue and bone around the wisdom tooth are removed to make the tooth easy to remove from the socket.  Stitches or sutures are usually needed to close the site (protect it from getting food caught in there) and promote healing.  Not so bad, right?!


Time off Work!!  At Least There’s That!!

After an extraction like this, it’s advised to take it easy.  You may experience swelling, pain and tenderness.  Chewing food will be a little difficult so softer foods are best.

The no-no’s are:

  • No Smoking
  • No Sipping with a Straw
  • No Swishing and Spitting
  • No Booze

Smoking is probably the biggest no-no since it interferes with the healing process and boosts the chance of infection and pain.  The goal here is to allow the blood clot to stay put and let healing begin.  Everything on the no-no list disrupts the blood clot and increases the chances of developing dry socket.


Dry Socket….Quoted as Being Worse than Child Birth!

This occurs when the blood clot becomes dislodged and the bone underneath is exposed.   It will usually develop 2-5 days after the extraction if it’s going to happen. You’ll have an awful taste and smell in your mouth accompanied by the worst throbbing constant pain EVER!!!  I don’t think I need to tell you to contact your dentist IMMEDIATELY to have this treated!


Healing and Putting it all Behind You!

Any minor bleeding from an extraction should stop after 24 hours.  Once the freezing is gone, some jaw stiffness and difficulty opening is common.  Tylenol and an ice pack work wonders!

The gums will be completely healed in about 3-4 weeks.


Most people have all their wisdom teeth removed at the same time.  I mean, who would want to go through this 4 times!!

Million Dollar Smiles

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Would you be surprised to learn that many celebrities have had cosmetic dentistry done to give them those beautiful million dollar smiles?

Politicians, actors, singers and athletes know the importance of a great smile.  It is part of their brand and the product that they are selling.  It’s important for these public figures to have a great smile that is memorable and lend to the trustworthy and polished images they portray.  Without a beautiful smile, many of those careers wouldn’t be the same.

Cosmetic dentistry can be something simple like teeth whitening or more complex procedures such as: porcelain veneers, bonding, crowns, gum grafts or re-contouring, removal of teeth, dental implants, orthodontics and fixed bridges.

From Hilary Duff, Zac Effron, Nicholas Cage and Ben Afleck, most public figures have had the appearance of their teeth altered to create a fantastic smile.

Salivary Stones and Blocked Ducts…OUCH!!

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My son had a blocked salivary duct and I thought I’d share with you what it is, what it looks like and what we did about it!

Saliva is important because it keeps our mouth moist, helps with swallowing and protects our teeth.  We produce about a quart of saliva every day.  There are 3 major pairs of salivary glands in our mouth as well as several hundred minor glands through the mouth and throat.  Saliva drains into our mouth through ducts that are kind of like small tubes.  Sometimes there can be a buildup of crystallized saliva deposits that interferes with the drainage of saliva.  Until the blockage can be cleared, you end up with an infected gland or duct.  It causes swelling and pain, and sometimes there may even be drainage of foul-tasting pus in the mouth.

I took these pictures of my 6 year old, Cole.  The night before at bedtime he started complaining that the side of his face hurt.  There was no redness, swelling, lumps or bumps so I assumed, like any parent, that he was stalling bedtime!  This is what he looked like the next morning (yes, I felt like a schmuck for not believing him).  The pain was incredible and he was scared to eat because of the pain.  We took him to our doctor immediately and she diagnosed him as having a blocked salivary duct.  She prescribed an antibiotic and asked that we return for a follow up in 3 days.  In the meantime, like any worried mother, I turned to Google and researched everything I could about this type of infection!

Coley 2 (004)Coley (003)

One thing I read was to try encouraging the saliva to flow and help the blockage clear up by sucking on sour candies.  So, I went to Foodland and bought every sour hard candy that I could find.  Cole was happy that I actually wanted him to suck on Jolly Ranchers for the day!

By dinner time he was still swollen but not as sore.  By bedtime he was only a little sore and the swelling had started to go down.  The next morning he woke up looking like his cute normal self.  I never thought Jolly Ranchers could save the day!!

Blocked ducts and salivary stones can happen to people of all ages, including infants.  Treatment includes warm compresses and getting to your doctor for an antibiotic…oh, and sour Jolly Ranchers!

What is “Meth Mouth”?

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Note:  Graphic photo at the end of this blog.

Does anyone else watch ‘Intervention’ on A&E?

I decided to do a little research on Methamphetamine and its effect on the mouth.  In just one year a meth addict can go from a beautiful smile to missing and decayed teeth.

Methamphetamine is a highly addictive and dangerous drug.  The devastating effects it has on the mouth is caused by a combination of factors.   Dry mouth (resulting in poor gum health and cavities), poor dental hygiene and the fact that meth itself is acidic, all contribute to ‘Meth Mouth’.  When a user is high, there are often cravings for sugary carbonated drinks that will destroy teeth over time, especially when oral hygiene is not good.

“Meth Mouth” involves rampant tooth decay, dry mouth, cracked teeth and gum disease in a short period of time.  Teeth and gums need blood in order to stay healthy but meth causes the vessels that supply blood to oral tissues to shrink.  This is why meth can be so destructive to the mouth.

The first stage of meth mouth is bad breath, cavities and red, swollen gums.  The front teeth are usually the first to decay.

In the second stage of deterioration, sores appear on the lips, gum tissue starts to recede and the decay gets worse.

In the final stage of meth mouth, teeth rot down to the gum line and teeth start to fall out.  Meth users may severely grind and clench their teeth and this also damages the teeth.

Methamphetamine blocks or lessens pain so users don’t usually experience dental pain that would be expected of such extensive damage and destruction.

Methamphetamine use is prevalent here in Timmins.  If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, there is help.  Call the Jubliee Center 705-268-2666.




Dental Emergencies

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Dental Emergencies

(and of course they always happen on a long weekend when your dentist is on a 3 week cruise)

Although we don’t have a dentist in our office and don’t treat dental emergencies, I thought a mini crash course in ‘What do I do when my 3 year old smashes his mouth on the coffee table?!!’ would be a good idea. It’s always best to be prepared, and knowing how to be ready for a dental emergency can be important to your oral health. If left untreated, a chipped or broken tooth, or a broken crown or filling can provide an opening for cavities because the damaged area is hard to keep clean.

If you have a dental emergency that involves trauma to your teeth, don’t panic (I know, easier said than done, especially if it’s your child). Follow these simple steps to hold you over until you get to the dentist:


  • Chipped tooth: If you break or chip a tooth, rinse your mouth with warm water. Apply gauze to any areas that are bleeding. Once any bleeding stops, apply a cold compress to the area and see your dentist as soon as possible.
  • Dislodged tooth: If your tooth becomes partly dislodged, get to the dentist immediately, and put a cold compress on the area to decrease swelling.
  • Knocked out tooth:  If possible, find the tooth and pick it up by the crown end, not the root.  Rinse the tooth if it is dirty but don’t scrub it – you want to preserve any tissue fragments.  Teeth that have been knocked out have the best chance to be saved if they are put back in place within an hour of the accident.  Try to put the tooth back in place (be sure that it is facing the correct way!)  but don’t force it.  If you can’t reinsert the tooth, place it in a small container of milk, or water with a pinch of salt, and get to your dentist!


Stinky breath? Who me?!

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Stinky Breath? No one will kiss you? Try flossing!

 Flossing is one of the easiest ways to prevent and get rid of bad breath. Flossing at least once a day can help improve bad breath by effectively removing the food particles and bacteria that contribute to it.

Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is a common topic here at Smiles for Life. You may joke about bad breath, whether it’s your own or someone else’s, but it’s an important oral health issue.  Bad breath can be embarrassing but it can also be a sign of disease or illness.

Some serious dental health conditions associated with bad breath include:

  • Throat problems such as strep throat
  • Dental cavities or gum disease
  • Throat or oral cancer
  • Tonsils that contain trapped food particles
  • An infected root canal or abscessed tooth

In addition, bad breath can be a symptom of a variety of serious non-dental related health problems including liver disease, diabetes, HIV, digestive system ailments such as acid reflux and even lung infections or lung disease. These aren’t health issues to ignore so make an appointment to see your doctor if you have any other symptoms other than bad breath.

If you experience chronic bad breath that doesn’t seem to improve despite a consistent oral hygiene routine, talk to us a Smiles for Life, your dentist or family doctor for further investigation to identify or prevent serious health problems.


Get into the Habit!

Research proves that not flossing (among other poor oral hygiene behaviors) causes bad breath. Your oral care routine to help prevent bad breath should include not only daily flossing, but also brushing the teeth, tongue, gums and roof of your mouth twice each day.  Using a mouthwash can provide short-term relief for bad breath, but use it only as an addition to (not a substitute for) brushing and flossing.

It seemed like a fun thing to do at the time….

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tongue stuck to-pole

If you ever get your tongue — or any exposed skin — frozen solid to a flagpole or any other type of metal, just relax and don’t panic!

Don’t try to pull it off right away, as you’ll leave a nice coating of skin on the metal…and that won’t feel very good at all! Instead, just get help from someone as quickly as possible. Pouring warm water on and around your skin and the metal should heat things up, so that you can thaw your skin enough to separate it from the metal without permanent injury.