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Oral Care

Image Gallery: Oral Health

Tooth Enamel

Tooth enamel is the strongest substance in the human body. This semi-translucent, hard, outer layer of the teeth has an important job: protecting teeth from the daily wear and tear of biting and chewing, as well as temperature extremes from hot or cold foods and drinks. Enamel covers the dentin; when it erodes, the dentin loses some of its protection. Read more.

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Bruxism: Effects of Teeth Grinding

Bruxism, or teeth grinding, can damage tooth enamel. Over time, the constant clenching and friction can damage teeth and other health complications can arise.  Bruxism is often worst when you sleep -- that's when you can't control it. Reducing stress may help. Read more.

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Bulimia: Impact on Oral Health

A dentist may be the first to notice signs of an eating disorder such as bulimia. The stomach acid from repeated vomiting can severely erode tooth enamel. Purging can also trigger swelling in the mouth, throat, and salivary glands as well as bad breath. Anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders can also cause serious nutritional shortfalls that can affect the health of your teeth.

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Teeth Damaged by Bulimia

Conditions that cause vomiting or acid reflux, such as the eating disorder bulimia, can damage tooth enamel. When stomach acid gets into the mouth, it can have a corrosive effect on the tooth enamel. The same goes for any condition that causes frequent vomiting, from gastrointestinal problems to eating disorders.

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Gum Disease and Diabetes

Diabetes can reduce the body’s resistance to infection. Elevated blood sugars increase the risk of developing gum disease. What's more, gum disease can make it harder to keep blood sugar levels in check. Protect your gums by keeping blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible. Brush after each meal and floss daily. See your dentist at least once a year.

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Gingivitis

Gingivitis, also generally called gum disease or periodontal disease, describes the events that begin with bacterial growth in your mouth and may end -- if not properly treated -- with tooth loss due to destruction of the tissue that surrounds your teeth. Read more.

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X-ray of Periodontal Disease

With periodontal disease like gingivitis, bacteria in plaque can cause receding gum lines. Pockets form that become infected and can cause bone loss. Proper oral hygiene can help prevent periodontal disease. Smoking, poor diet, and stress can make it worse.

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X-ray of Tooth Decay

Tooth decay occurs when foods containing carbohydrates (sugars and starches) are left on the teeth. Bacteria that live in the mouth digest these foods, turning them into acids. The bacteria, acid, food debris, and saliva combine to form plaque, which clings to the teeth. The acids in plaque dissolve the enamel surface of the teeth. Read more.

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Dental Bonding: Before and After

Dental bonding is a procedure in which a tooth-colored resin is applied and hardened with a special light, ultimately "bonding" the material to the tooth to improve a person's smile. Among the easiest and least expensive of cosmetic dental procedures, bonding can repair chipped or cracked teeth, close gaps, change the shape of teeth, or be used as a cosmetic alternative to silver amalgam fillings. Read more.

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Dental Veneers: Before and After

Veneers (sometimes called porcelain laminates) are wafer-thin, custom-made shells that cover the front surface of teeth, changing their color, shape, size or length. Veneers can be made from porcelain or resin composite. Veneers offer a conservative approach to changing a tooth's color or shape compared to crowns, but the process is not reversible. Read more.

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Enamel Reshaping: Before and After

Recontouring or reshaping is a procedure in which small amounts of tooth enamel are removed or shaped to change a tooth's length, shape, or surface. The procedure is usually done to improve appearance by creating more harmony or balance in the look of the smile. Read more.

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Dental Crown: Before and After

A dental crown is a tooth-shaped "cap" that is placed over a tooth ­‑‑ covering the tooth to restore its shape and size, strength, and/or to improve its appearance. The crown, when cemented into place, fully encases the entire visible portion of a tooth that lies at and above the gum line. Read more.

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Chipped Tooth

If your tooth is broken, chipped, or fractured, see your dentist as soon as possible. Otherwise your tooth could be damaged further or become infected, possibly causing you to end up losing the tooth. Read more.

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Amalgam Fillings Replaced by Tooth-Colored Fillings

Existing fillings sometimes need to be replaced due to wear, chipping, or cracking. Many people use this opportunity to replace silver amalgam fillings with tooth-colored composites. Their reasons may be aesthetic or concern about amalgam fillings, which contain mercury. The American Dental Association asserts that the mercury in amalgam combines with other metals to render it safe for use in filling teeth.

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Dental Implant

Dental implants are replacement tooth roots made of titanium. Implants provide a strong foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that are made to match your natural teeth. Instead of individual crowns, some patients may have attachments on their implant that support a removable denture.

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Dentures

A denture is a removable replacement for missing teeth and surrounding tissues. Two types are available -- complete and partial dentures. Complete dentures are used when all the teeth are missing, while partial dentures are used when some natural teeth remain. Read more.

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Dental Bridge: Before and After

Dental bridges literally bridge the gap created by one or more missing teeth. Traditional bridges involve creating a crown for the tooth or implant on either side of the missing tooth, with a false tooth/teeth in between. A cantilever bridge is used when there are teeth on only one side of the open space. Maryland bonded bridges have plastic teeth and gums supported by a metal framework. Read more.

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Orthodontics (Braces): Before and After

Braces can correct crooked teeth or a misaligned bite, and can improve the health and appearance of anyone's smile, adult or child. Braces work by applying continuous pressure over a period of time to slowly move teeth in a specific direction. As the teeth move, the bony tooth changes shape as pressure is applied.

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Types of Braces

Metal braces are still used, but many other options are available. Brackets -- the parts that attach to each tooth -- can be clear, tooth-colored, or multi-colored. They can even be attached to the back of the tooth so they are out of view. There are even "invisible" braces that use a series of clear, plastic molds to gradually move the teeth into alignment.

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Dental Makeover

A combination of dental techniques can be used to achieve a great smile. Porcelain veneers and crowns can correct crooked teeth, an uneven gum line, and other chipped, worn, and discolored dentistry. Cosmetic dentists can make a dramatic difference in a person's smile and overall oral health, but the work must be carefully planned.

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Teeth Whitening

Many teeth-whitening systems are available, including whitening toothpastes, over-the-counter gels, rinses, strips, and trays, and whitening agents obtained from a dentist. Teeth whitening is ideal for people who have healthy, unrestored teeth (no fillings) and gums. Individuals with yellow tones to their teeth respond best.  Read more.

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Amalgam Tattoo

Amalgam tattoos occur when a tiny piece of amalgam filling embeds in your cheek or gum during or after dental work. The silver in the amalgam leaches into your mouth's soft tissue, resulting in a blue-gray "stain" that looks a bit like a tiny tattoo. Amalgam tattoos pose no harm, but it's not likely an amalgam tattoo if the blue-gray spot grows or changes color. Ask your dentist to check it out.

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Canker Sore

Also called aphthous ulcers, canker sores can show up on your tongue, cheek, and even your gums. They usually last a week or two. Triggers include hypersensitivity, infection, hormones, stress, and not getting enough of some vitamins. Persistent, severe canker sores can be treated with numbing creams or prescription treatments.

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Strep Throat

Strep infection often produces a distinct pattern of white patches in the throat and on the tonsils, as well as red swollen tonsils. Strep throat is treated using antibiotics, which kill the bacteria causing the infection.

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Thrush

Thrush is an infection of the mouth caused by the candida fungus, also known as yeast. Thrush can affect anyone, though it occurs most often in older adults or babies. A weakened immune system, antibiotics, diabetes, or certain medications such as inhaled corticosteroids can give candida a chance to grow wild.

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Yeast Infections (Thrush) in Babies

Thrush is a yeast infection that causes white patches in the mouth and on the tongue. Thrush is most common in babies and older adults, but it can occur at any age. Read more.

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Oral Candidiasis (Thrush)

Small amounts of the candida fungus are present in the mouth, digestive tract, and skin of most healthy people and are normally kept in check by other bacteria and microorganisms in the body. However, certain illnesses, stress, or medications can disturb the delicate balance, causing the fungus candida to grow out of control, causing thrush. Read more.

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Tonsil Stones

Tonsil stones (also called tonsilloliths) form when bacteria and mucus get trapped and calcify in your tonsils’ nooks and crannies, leaving a hard piece of matter and a bad taste in your throat. Although those bad smelling lumps can be uncomfortable, they usually are harmless. Read more.

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Herpes Blister (Cold Sore)

Cold sores (fever blisters) are caused by the herpes simplex virus (HSV), passed on through contact with infected skin or body fluid. There are two types of HSV, type 1 and type 2. Cold sores are usually caused by type 1. HSV-1 damages the skin as it reproduces itself, creating cold sores that last about a week. Between outbreaks, HSV-1 hides inside nerve cells, so it’s never completely cured. Read more.

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How Cold Sores, Canker Sores Differ

Cold sores and canker sores aren't the same. Cold sores usually appear on the lip; canker sores affect the inside of the mouth. Canker sores don't involve the herpes virus and aren't contagious. Their cause is unknown. Cold sores generally herald their arrival with a warning period of red, irritated skin. Blisters form, rupture, then crust over before healing.

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Cold Sore Between Nose and Mouth

Can a cold sore appear somewhere other than your lip? They are not as common, but cold sores can appear anywhere on the face, including on the cheek, chin, or nose. Most people's cold sores reappear in the same area each time.

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Cold Sores: Treatment

You can't cure HSV or a cold sore, but you can alleviate the pain it causes by avoiding spicy or acidic foods, applying ice, and using over-the-counter remedies. Read more.

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Cold Sore

Cold sores, also called fever blisters, aren't caused by fevers or colds but can be triggered by them. The herpes simplex virus that causes cold sores is usually passed via a kiss, shared utensils, or other close contact. Over-the-counter creams and ointments may help discomfort and speed healing. Frequent sores may sometimes be helped with a prescription medication.

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Leukoplakia

Leukoplakia is a white or gray patch that develops on the tongue, the inside of the cheek, or on the floor of the mouth. It is the mouth's reaction to chronic irritation of the mucous membranes of the mouth. Read more.

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Black Hairy Tongue

The name -- black hairy tongue -- may sound scary, but the condition is actually harmless. Black hairy tongue is caused by bacteria or fungi in the mouth, which make the tongue appear black and hairy. It's easily remedied by good old-fashioned oral hygiene. Read more.

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Lichen Planus

A rare rash that shows up as lacy, white patches or red shiny bumps on the inside of the cheeks or tongue could be lichen planus. No one knows what causes it. Generally, mild lichen planus doesn't need any treatment. If it causes pain or ulcers, it can be treated with oral and topical medication. Oral lichen planus can be chronic and may increase the risk for oral cancer. Lichen planus can also affect skin, scalp, nails, and genitals.

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Geographic Tongue

Geographic tongue is a condition that gets its name from its map-like appearance on the upper surface and sides of the tongue. It may occur in other areas of your mouth, as well. Geographic tongue is a harmless, benign condition that isn't linked to any infection or cancer. Read more.

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Oral Cancer: Cancer of the Tongue

Oral cancer appears as a growth or sore in the mouth that does not go away. Oral cancer, which includes cancers of the lips, tongue, cheeks, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, sinuses, and pharynx (throat), can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early. Read more.

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Actinic Cheilitis

Actinic cheilitis is a precancerous condition that usually appears on the lower lips. Scaly patches or persistent dryness and cracking of the lips may be present. Actinic cheilitis may evolve into invasive squamous cell carcinoma if not treated.

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Allergic Hypersensitivity Reaction to Red Tattoo

Some people develop allergic reactions to tattoo pigments -- especially red pigments. The woman in this picture developed an allergic reaction to the red pigment used in her cosmetic lipstick tattoo. Tissue injury and inflammatory reactions to dyes or metals into the skin can occur. Occasionally a contact dermatitis can happen.

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"Lie" Bumps

According to an old wives' tale, telling a lie causes a bump on your tongue. So-called "lie bumps" or transient lingual papillitis are common even if you tell only the truth. These small, harmless bumps go away on their own after a few days, but they may be uncomfortable. Their cause is a mystery -- it could be a reaction to a food or a minor trauma like biting the tongue. You don't need to treat them, although oral anesthetics may relieve discomfort. Read more.

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Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on June 30, 2011

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