A Water Pick can be a helpful aid in oral hygiene. For orthodontic patients who have braces, it can be a big help to flush food particles that are trapped in the little nooks and crannies under the wires and brackets. For periodontal patients (those with advanced gum disease), it can be helpful to deliver chemotherapeutic agents deep into the pockets between the teeth and gums where the bone has been destroyed by the disease. It is important to not use the Water Pick at a high setting in order to avoid stripping away the gingival attachment (the portion that connects the gums to the teeth). Although a Water Pick can be a good adjunct, it is not a full alternative to using a toothbrush and floss. Plaque is formed by bacteria which converts sugar into a sticky substance. With the bacteria stuck to the teeth, they are free to form acids and toxins which are the cause of decay and gum disease. A Water Pick is not strong enough to clean the sticky plaque off the tooth surfaces, therefore, a brush and floss must be used.
Canker sores (aphthous ulcers) are those annoying little white spots on your cheeks and gums that hurt a whole lot compared to their size. A canker sore is usually formed when a part of one’s oral mucosa gets traumatized. Other factors include stress and hormone changes. They are characterized by a small, white, exquisitely tender area surrounded by a red “halo”. The underlying cause of canker sores is unknown, although they can tend to run in families which means that there could be a hereditary component. Although a canker sore is a totally benign condition, it does need to be distinguished from more serious afflictions such as cancer or diseases of the immune system. If the ulcer disappears in a week to ten days, then it’s probably nothing to worry about. As far as treating the ulcer, usually symptomatic relief such as numbing ointment is usually sufficient. I have prescribed a mild steroid preparation that works well if applied to the sore on its first day, however after that, it merely lessens the severity.
Night grinding (nocturnal bruxism)* is a very common occurrence in children. It is possible that it could be caused by the stresses of everyday life which is new to a child. Some theories include attempting to open up the middle ear to equalize the pressure. Regardless of the cause, most childhood grinding does not need to be treated. A majority of the cases tend to clear up as the child gets older. I have seen many cases where a child has ground their baby teeth down to little numbs only to end up with a fully healthy set of permanent teeth. The first line of defense for night grinding in an adult is the construction of a nightguard. However, a child is actively growing and wearing a nightguard can stunt the growth of the roof of the mouth, causing more problems in the future than there would have been with no treatment. So if you go into your child’s room at night and hear sounds of gnashing teeth reverberating off the walls, don’t be too concerned.