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Common Dental Problems

This article is designed to help you seek appropriate help and treatment for some common dental problems.

Dental Abscess

Causes - A dental abscess is an infection of the mouth, face, jaw, or throat that begins as a tooth infection or cavity. Although these infections can be caused by poor dental health and can result from lack of proper and timely dental care, they can also be triggered by minor trauma in the oral cavity.

Symptoms - Symptoms of a dental abscess typically include pain, swelling, and redness of the mouth and face. With an advanced infection, you can experience nausea, vomiting, fever, and chills.

Treatment/Advice – Pain killers will help the pain, but they will not treat the abscess. Follow-up with a health-care provider is always indicated. If an abscess ruptures by itself, warm-water rinses will help cleanse the mouth and encourage drainage. Even then, a follow-up visit to your dentist is important.

Mouth Ulcers

Causes - The most common cause of mouth ulcers is trauma from inadvertent bites, burns or tooth brushing. Dentures and orthodontic appliances may also cause ulceration particularly when first fitted.

Some individuals suffer from recurrent oral ulceration (aphthous) and occasionally multiple ulcers may be caused by the Herpes virus.

Symptoms - In all instances the ulcers are painful when eating. Spicy and acidic foods are best avoided.

Treatment/Advice - Dentures or orthodontic appliances should be adjusted by the dentist who fitted them.

The condition will be helped by using an antibacterial mouth rinse such as Chlo-hexidine Gluconate twice daily for one minute. Bonjela gel also helps.

Ulcers normally heal within a week or so. If they persist for more than four weeks you should consult a dentist.

Oral Infections

Causes - Infection with the fungus Candidi albicans is not uncommon particularly in those who wear full upper dentures. People who have suppressed immune systems or those that are taking steroids are also more susceptible.

Signs/Symptoms - The roof of the mouth, beneath the denture, may be red and uncomfortable, a condition called denture sore mouth. Otherwise a white layer may be present which can be rubbed off leaving a sore red area.

Treatment/Advice - The upper denture should be removed, its surface brushed and then left overnight in Chlo-hexidine Gluconate. The mouth should also be rinsed with 10ml of Chlo-hexidine Gluconate for one minute, twice daily. Continue this schedule for a further 48 hours after the condition has resolved. If it persists for more than one week, consult your dentist. If you do not wear dentures and a white plaque is present, consult your dentist for advice and treatment with anti-fungal drugs.

Inflamed, Bleeding Gums

Causes - Bleeding from the gums on brushing or eating is an indication that they are inflamed. This is caused by inadequate removal of bacterial plaque by toothbrush.

Treatment/Advice - You will need to see your dentist or hygienist for removal of the plaque and calcium deposits. Once resolved good oral hygiene should be maintained coupled with regular visits to the hygienist. Flossing tape and/or the use of interproximal brushes may also be necessary.


Causes - In the most instances halitosis or bad breath is caused by poor oral hygiene and consequent accumulation of plaque bacteria and development of gum disease. The bacteria produce sulphides which result in bad breath.

Treatment/Advice - Brush your teeth effectively and use floss and interproximal brushes to clean between the teeth. Cleaning the tongue is also necessary as many bacteria are present on the back of the tongue. See your hygienist for advice on tongue cleaners.

Trauma to Teeth

Unfortunately, a high proportion of children damage one or more of their teeth in accidents. You should see a dentist as soon as possible

However, if the tooth is completely knocked out, there are certain things that you can do to improve the chances of it being saved.

Firstly, rinse the tooth under a running tap, but do not attempt to scrub it with a brush or your fingers. Then store the tooth in some milk.

Thirdly, see your dentist within 3 hours of the accident.


A dull, throbbing pain usually indicates that a tooth is dying or is already dead and infected. Apart from using analgesics such as paracetamol, the best thing to do is seek an early dental appointment.