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What should I do if my child has a toothache?

April 19th, 2018

Toothaches in children can be tricky ordeals that cause distress for both the child and the parent. You may feel helpless and frustrated because you cannot pinpoint the location of the pain. It is so hard to see your little one experience discomfort and feel like there is nothing you can do about it. But there are ways you can help. Try these tips the next time your child has a toothache.

Zero in on the Painful Area

The first thing you need to do is find out where the pain is coming from. If your child is old enough, ask him or her to point to the painful area. In younger children, look for swelling and redness on the gums and cheek, dental caries (discolorations on the tooth), or broken teeth. Try to get as close to the location of the pain as possible so you can determine an effective course of action to relieve it.

Try to Find the Cause

Not all toothaches are actually toothaches. A child can bite his or her tongue or cheek, have sore gums, or develop ulcers in the mouth. Teeth that are coming in can also be quite painful. If a tooth is discolored, broken, loose, or has spots that are either darker or lighter than the rest of the tooth, those could be causes of pain.

Five-Step Approach to Dental Pain Relief

  1. Floss. Help your child floss to remove any food particles that may be wedged between the teeth and could be causing pain.
  2. Rinse with warm salt water. Use a warm salt-water solution and have your child rinse well by swishing or holding the salt water over the painful area.
  3. Use a cold compress. This can relieve pain and swelling. If there is no swelling, you can try it anyway to subdue the pain. Try it on for about 15 minutes, then off for 20.
  4. Give the child ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Use the appropriate dosage for your child’s age and administer it regularly as directed.
  5. See Dr. Jeffrey Ellenberg. If you determine that the tooth or gum is damaged, or if the pain simply cannot be relieved, call our Clearwater, FL office.

If your child is experiencing throbbing pain, fatigue, or fever, you should call your pediatrician as soon as possible. If your child is experiencing mouth pain accompanied by trouble breathing or swallowing, it can indicate a more serious situation and you should take your son or daughter to the emergency room.

Most mouth pain in children can be remedied with the simple steps here. The important thing is that you remain calm, no matter what. You child is taking cues from you and if you panic, he or she will panic.

I’ve lost a filling; now what?

April 12th, 2018

Dental fillings usually protect our teeth, but sometimes they need to be protected, too. If you lose a filling, contact our Clearwater, FL office immediately and let us advise you on the next steps to take.

Fillings serve an important function in oral health by preserving the structural integrity of your tooth. With the materials we use today, dental fillings usually last for many years, but they are subjected to the same stresses as your natural teeth are.

You can wear down, chip, crack, or break your fillings by eating, clenching, and grinding, and sometimes they can fall out completely. While you may not notice normal wear and tear, you should not ignore any fillings that loosen or fall out. Contact us as soon as possible so we can advise you about whether you need to be seen immediately.

If your fillings get damaged or fall out, a timely response can be important. There may be gaps or holes in your tooth which provide an easy access point for bacteria. Once bacteria begin working into your tooth structure, your tooth could become damaged even worse. Since cavities usually form in hard-to-reach places, it will be difficult for you to remove these bacteria through brushing alone.

When is a lost filling an emergency?

A lost or cracked filling is usually not an emergency unless you are in great pain or are bleeding excessively. In that case, contact our office immediately so we can schedule an emergency appointment. Otherwise we will schedule a regular appointment to evaluate and repair your filling. Before coming in for your appointment, try to avoid chewing on that side of your mouth, rinse with warm salt water, and be sure to brush and floss thoroughly after every meal.

Once you come to our office, Dr. Jeffrey Ellenberg will examine your tooth, assess the situation, and advise you of your options. We may be able to replace the filling and can discuss whether an amalgam or composite material would be the best for your teeth. If the filling was large, a root canal or a dental implant and crown may be necessary.

A lost or cracked filling may not always pose a dental emergency, but it’s always important to contact us so our team can help you take the proper action to preserve your oral health.

Oral Cancer Awareness Month

April 5th, 2018

Happy Oral Cancer Awareness Month! We know oral cancer can be kind of a scary topic, but it’s worth using this opportunity to learn about the disease and spread knowledge so everyone becomes more aware. The more we know, the better we can work to prevent it!

Oral cancer is exactly what it sounds like: cancer that occurs anywhere in the mouth. It could occur on the tongue, the lips, the gums, the tongue, inside the cheek, or in the roof or floor of the mouth. Every  year, more than 8,000 people die from oral cancer. It’s a truly deadly disease.

The reason oral cancer scores a higher death rate than other common cancers such as testicular cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, thyroid cancer, cervical cancer, or even skin cancer, is because it often goes undetected until it's become too advanced and has spread to another part of the body.

So what causes this devastating disease? There is no clear answer, but some potential causes have been identified. By being aware of these, we can be alert and promote prevention of this illness:

  • Age: Most patients who develop oral cancer are above the age of 40. If you’re over 40, make sure your doctor checks for signs of oral cancer and that you stay on your dental hygiene regimen.
  • Tobacco: Excessive tobacco use, whether in the form of cigarette smoking or tobacco chewing, can be a substantial contributor and cause of oral cancer. So that’s another reason, among many, you should avoid tobacco.
  • Alcohol: Excessive alcohol consumption can put you at risk because alcohol converts into a chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages the body’s DNA and blocks cells from repairing the damage. When paired with tobacco, the dehydrating effects of alcohol make it even easier for tobacco to infiltrate mouth tissue.
  • Sun exposure: Your lips need SPF, too! Repeated sun exposure increases your risk of contracting cancer on your lips, especially the lower lip.
  • Diet: Not getting all the nutrients you need, from vegetables and fruits for instance, can weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to the disease.

Obviously, many of these causes relate to lifestyle choices, which we have control over. It's all about balance, being aware, and making small tweaks to our habits if we need to.

If you’re concerned that you may be at risk for oral cancer, give us a call to talk about a screening. And if you’ve been putting off a visit to our Clearwater, FL office, now is an excellent time to schedule one. Regular visits to the dentist can be the first line of defense against oral cancer!

Four Oral Health Issues Seniors Face

March 29th, 2018

Oral health is an important and often overlooked component of an older person’s general health and well-being. Dr. Jeffrey Ellenberg and our team know that for many of our older patients, oral health can become an issue when arthritis or other neurological problems render them unable to brush or floss their teeth as effectively as they once did. Today, we thought we would discuss four common oral health issues our older patients face and how they can avoid them:

Cavities: It’s not just children who get tooth decay—oral decay is a common disease in people 65 and older. Ninety-two percent of seniors 65 and older have had dental caries in their permanent teeth, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. The risk for tooth decay increases because many older adults don’t go to the dentist as often as they used to, thus cavities go undetected and untreated for longer than they should. Keeping regular appointments with Dr. Jeffrey Ellenberg is the key to getting cavities treated in a timely manner.

Difficulty eating: Oral health problems, whether from missing teeth, cavities, dentures that don’t fit, gum disease, or infection, can cause difficulty eating and can force people to adjust the quality, consistency, and balance of their diet.

Dry mouth: Also called xerostomia, dry mouth is a common issue for a lot of seniors. Our friends at the Oral Cancer Foundation estimate that 20 percent of elderly people suffer from dry mouth, which means the reduced flow of saliva (saliva plays a crucial role in preventing tooth decay). Many seniors are on multiple medications for a variety of chronic illnesses or conditions. Common medications taken that may cause dry mouth are decongestants, antihistamines, blood pressure medications, pain pills, incontinence medications, antidepressants, diuretics, muscle relaxers, and Parkinson’s disease medications. To help counter this, we suggest drinking lots of fluids and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol. We also encourage you to check with Dr. Jeffrey Ellenberg during your next visit if you think your medications are causing your mouth to feel dry.

Gum Disease: Gum (periodontal) disease is an infection of the gums and surrounding tissues that hold teeth in place. While gum disease affects people of all ages, it typically becomes worse as people age. In its early stages, gum disease is painless, and most people have no idea that they have it. In more advanced cases, however, gum disease can cause sore gums and pain when chewing.

Gum disease, which can range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease, is usually caused by poor brushing and flossing habits that allow dental plaque to build up on the teeth. Plaque that is not removed can harden and form tartar that brushing simply does not clean. Only a professional cleaning at our office can remove tartar. The two forms of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. In gingivitis, the gums become red, swollen, and can bleed easily; in periodontitis, gums pull away from the teeth and form spaces that become infected.

Proper brushing, flossing, and visiting our office regularly can prevent gum disease. Seniors with limited dexterity who have trouble gripping a toothbrush should ask Dr. Jeffrey Ellenberg about modifying a handle for easier use or switching to a battery-powered toothbrush.