6 Facts About Oral Health
September 01, 2023
Most people have been taught the basics of dental health. Brush twice a day, floss once a day and get dental checkups twice a year. But your teeth aren’t the only factor in a healthy mouth. University Hospitals pediatric dentist Margaret Ferretti, DMD, answers some common questions about oral health.
Are the Basics Enough?
“The general rule to brush at least twice a day and floss at least once a day applies to most people,” says Dr. Ferretti. “Depending on your gingival health, you may benefit especially from extra flossing. And the purpose of dental checkups twice a year is to make sure things are normal and healthy. If they’re not, you and your dentist can explore solutions before symptoms get worse or progress to disease.”
Canker Sores and Cold Sores: Are They Different?
Yes, canker sores and cold sores are different conditions. A canker sore is a small sore or ulcer inside the mouth. It can occur on your tongue, inner cheeks or lips, gums or the roof of the mouth. Canker sores are often painful or uncomfortable when eating or talking, but they aren’t contagious and resolve in 7-10 days. Common causes include a mouth injury, certain foods, NSAIDS, braces, ill-fitting dentures and stress. If canker sores are large and don’t resolve quickly, it can be a sign of an immune system condition such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, celiac disease or lupus.
Cold sores, another term for oral herpes, are fluid-filled blisters that occur on the lips or around the mouth. Cold sores are caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) and are contagious through skin-to-skin contact and sharing utensils or towels. Not everyone who has the virus develops cold sores, but young children with severe cases can develop extremely painful blisters inside the mouth. Cold sores go away in a couple of weeks, and antiviral ointments or pills can shorten their duration. Research is contradictory on natural treatments, so they should be used with caution.
What Causes a Swollen Taste Bud?
An inflamed or swollen taste bud is often caused by irritation from spicy foods, burning your tongue, poor hygiene, dental appliances like braces or smoking. Other causes can include underlying conditions such as GERD, an allergy, dry mouth or stress. Swollen taste buds heal on their own and a saltwater rinse can help to ease symptoms.
Do Taste and Taste Buds Fade with Age?
Yes, your sense of taste diminishes with time. The number of taste buds decreases and they shrink and atrophy as you age. This brings reduced sensitivity to salt, sweet, sour and bitter tastes. Compounding the problem, your sense of smell also diminishes, further weakening your sense of taste.
Is Mouthwash with Alcohol Bad?
“Mouthwashes containing alcohol should never be given to children and they do have some negative side effects for adults,” cautions Dr. Ferretti.
One negative is that the alcohol can increase dry mouth. Salivary flow decreases over time for most people and many adults suffer from dry mouth. Alcohol makes that worse. Those who suffer from dry mouth or low salivary flow due to age, medications or other medical conditions should use an alcohol-free rinse.
Another problem is that alcohol eliminates most of the bacteria in the mouth, including normal, healthy bacteria. This can increase the potential for bad bacterial to multiply in the mouth, increasing the risk of cavities, gingivitis and – paradoxically – bad breath.
Does Gingivitis Cause Heart Disease?
Gingivitis does not cause heart disease. However, it could be a risk factor for heart disease, like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity, poor diet and physical inactivity. This is primarily due to the inflammation caused by gingivitis and its association with poor health habits.
“Better health includes good oral health, and your dentist is a great resource for prevention and treatment,” says Dr. Ferretti.
UH Rainbow Pediatric Dentistry is specially designed just for children and staffed by pediatric dentists, dental residents and staff who are experts in the care of kids. Learn more.