Are You a “Do It Yourself” Dentist?

Many people these days are resorting to “do it yourself” dental remedies. Here are some useful tips for the DIY dentist, along with advice as to when it’s time to consult a healthcare professional.

Sensitive teeth are often caused by exposed nerve roots due to receding gums. If you suffer from this condition, avoid teeth whitening, tartar control, and baking soda toothpaste. They are abrasive agents and these products often times contain phosphates which can increase sensitivity in teeth. Consider using a soft bristle toothbrush and don’t brush your teeth with too much force. If sensitivity persists, visit your oral health care professional.

A dislodged tooth can result from contact sports or falls. It is important to rinse the tooth off and attempt to place it back in the original position before the incident. You may bite down gently on a soft cloth to hold the tooth in place. Knocking a tooth out tears the ligaments that attach the tooth to your gums and bone. Drinking hot liquids, smoking, and poking at the tooth with your tongue will reduce the chances of reattachment. Even if the tooth does reattach, the nerve inside can still die due to trauma. You should definitely consult your health care provider to follow up.

A burned palate or tongue can often be caused by hot food and beverages. Avoid anything that may irritate the burn, such as acidic foods like oranges and tomatoes. Over-the-counter anesthetics containing benzocaine may be used to provide temporary relief to the affected area. The wound usually heals on its own in 7-10 days. Keep the area as “clean” as possible by rinsing with salt water or non-alcohol mouth rinses. If the wound persists for greater than 7-10 days, your oral health care provider can often prescribe a medication to help with the discomfort.

Jaw soreness is often caused by grinding or clenching of teeth, which can develop into a condition known as TMJ (temporomandibular joint disorder). TMJ may lead to headaches, jaw aches, and muscle aches. Oftentimes, teeth and dental fillings may crack or fracture due to heavy grinding/clenching. Ideally, it is recommended to disarticulate or keep the top teeth off of the bottom teeth for a period of time (preferably at night) to give the muscles, joints, and ligaments a rest. There are a variety of methods to treat this condition at home – relaxation techniques, warm compresses, anti-inflammatory medication.

It is, however, highly discouraged to purchase a DIY bite guard or splint. These devices (yes all of them) are never going to allow the forces that are creating this problem to be placed properly along the long axis of the teeth! You are better off not wearing a bite guard/splint purchased in a drug store. If nothing works, see your dentist to be custom-fitted for an appropriate bite appliance.

Canker sores are often caused by weather, stress, and foods. Chips, salsa, and other crunchy, sharp, spicy, and sour foods can further irritate the sore. Applying cooking oil (on a cotton ball) to the sore for about a minute 3- 4 times per day helps to coat the sore and protect it from irritation. You can also purchase over-the-counter remedies to help sores heal faster. Again, if the sore does not resolve within 7-10 days, consult your dentist.

Dr. Batra is a general/cosmetic dentist practicing in Troy, Michigan. For further comments, questions, and concerns feel free to contact her office at 248-362-1100.