Scottsdale Dentists, Hugh W. Gruhn, DDS & Gary Robinett, DDS - 480.948.4353 | View Map

Frequently Asked Dental Questions

Q. What is Dry Mouth?

A. Dry mouth is the feeling that there is not enough saliva in the mouth and as such can cause difficulty with tasting, chewing, swallowing and even speaking. As a dentist in Scottsdale AZ, I see many patients who are looking to treat dry mouth or bad breath, which can be caused by dry mouth. Patients like to blame our dry desert air, but that is rarely the case, unless you continuously breathe through your mouth! If you have a dry mouth all or most of the time, it can be uncomfortable and can lead to serious health problems. It can also be a sign of certain diseases and conditions.

Many causes can reduce saliva flow and even though dry mouth is usually associated with old age, it can affect people at any age. Many factors can influence whether you will suffer from dry mouth. Simple causes may relate to snoring, smoking or over-indulging in alcohol. Pregnant women many times will have dry mouth as well as diabetic patients...but one of most common causes is a medication.

There are many prescription and non-prescription drugs that can cause the salivary glands to make less saliva. If you have been started on a new prescription and also have dry mouth, it's easy to pinpoint the cause, but even if you know the cause, what can be done about it? Question your doctor whether you can lower the dose or change the medication. Dry mouth even though it is a condition and not a disease can cause serious health problems, it can interfere with your digestion and cause tooth decay as well as mouth infections. That’s why aside from comfort, dry mouth remedies are so important.

Many dry mouth treatments are simply a matter of avoiding tobacco and alcohol; add humidity to your bedroom and getting medication dosages adjusted. If you are suffering with dry mouth syndrome, see your dentist. He or she can try to determine what is causing your dry mouth and offer possible solutions for treating it.

Some suggestions that we offer in our Scottsdale dental practice include, sipping water often, avoid drinks with sugar and caffeine. Chew sugarless gum (Oasis is our choice) and suck on hard candies sweetened with xylitol. Also avoid spicy or salty foods and use a humidifier at night.

Be sure to visit your dentist at least twice a year, brush your teeth twice a day with a soft toothbrush, floss and use toothpaste with fluoride in it to help prevent dental decay. Hopefully these dry mouth remedies will be work for you!

Q. How do I keep my teeth for a lifetime?

A. For the best answer to this question see Alleviate Dental Problems.

Q. How did my gums get in this shape?

A. Gum diseases are infections caused by bacteria, that form a sticky plaque on your teeth. Plaque that is left on teeth hardens and forms tartar. You are as higher risk for Gingivitis if you smoke, have diabetes or other systemic diseases. You'll know when you have a problem if you have red, swollen gums or if your gums bleed easily. Gingivitis can be caused by plaque buildup. And the longer plaque and tartar stay on teeth, the more harm they do. That's why we highly recommend a Professional teeth cleaning twice a year (more if you already have an existing problem).

Most gingivitis can be treated with daily brushing and flossing and regular cleanings at the dentist’s office. This form of gum disease does not lead to loss of bone or tissue around the teeth. But if it is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis. Then the gums pull away from the teeth and form infected “pockets.” You may also lose supporting bone. If you have red and swollen gums see your dentist right away for treatment. Otherwise your teeth may loosen over time and need to be removed.

Q. I get sores in my mouth a lot, I guess they're canker sores, what can I do about them?

These sores are small ulcers inside the mouth. Women are more likely than men to have canker sores that recur. The cause of canker sores is unknown.

Risk factors include:

  • fatigue
  • stress
  • your period
  • a cut on the inside of your cheek or on your tongue
  • allergies
  • celiac disease
  • Crohn’s disease
  • hot, spicy foods
  • some mouthwashes and even toothpaste

Canker sores most often heal on their own in 1 to 3 weeks. See your dentist if you get a large sore (larger than a half inch). You may need medicine to treat it. Be sure to mention it to your dentist he may be able to help.

Q. Help, What can I do about Bad Breath?

Bad breath, called halitosis, can be caused by several things, including:

  • poor oral hygiene
  • some foods (like garlic or onions)
  • dentures
  • gum disease
  • dry mouth
  • tobacco use
  • respiratory, digestive, or other health problems
  • some medicines

Practicing good oral hygiene and avoiding tobacco and some foods often helps people with bad-smelling breath. Mouthwashes claim to freshen your breath. But they really only mask breath odor for a few hours. If you always need to use a mouthwash to hide bad breath, see your dentist.

Q. I’m pregnant, do I need to take special care of my mouth?

It is especially important that take extra care of your teeth and mouth during this time! Years ago before dentistry evolved to where it is today, that is when many women of that day lost their teeth!

Before you become pregnant, it is best to have dental checkups every 6 months. You want to keep your mouth in good health before your pregnancy.

If you are pregnant and have not had regular checkups:

  • Have a complete oral exam early in your pregnancy. Because you are pregnant,
  • your dentist might not take routine x-rays. But if you need x-rays, the health risk to your unborn baby is small.
  • Remember dental work during pregnancy is safe. The best time for treatment is between the 14th and 20th weeks. In the last months, you might be uncomfortable sitting in a dental chair.
  • Have all needed dental treatments. If you avoid treatment, you may risk your and your baby’s health.
  • Use good oral hygiene to control your risk of gum diseases. Pregnant women may have changes in taste and develop red, swollen gums that bleed easily. This condition is called pregnancy gingivitis. Both poor oral hygiene and higher hormone levels can cause pregnancy gingivitis.

Until now, it was thought that having gum disease could raise your risk of having a low-birth-weight baby. Researchers have not been able to confirm this link, but studies are still under way to learn more.

Q. Is my hypo-thyroidism linked to problems in my mouth?

The health of your mouth can be a sign of your body’s health. Mouth problems are not just cavities, toothaches, and crooked or stained teeth. Many diseases, such as diabetes, diabetics can delvelop tooth and gum problems easily and HIV, cancer, and some eating disorders, can also cause oral health problems.

It is important to inform your dentist of any health conditions you may have that you know of, as he may use change his treatment method for you. Some local anesthetics contain epinephrine, and at times can cause cardiac problems if you suffer from hyperthyroidism. Those patients with  hypothyroidism may also be sensitive to certain drugs used by dentists.

Q. I get a burning sensation in my mouth, my tongue feels on fire sometimes! Can anything help?

People with this condition describe a burning feeling in the mouth or tongue. It is most common in postmenopausal women. The cause is unknown, but might be linked to:

  • hormones
  • dry mouth
  • taste problems
  • nutritional deficiencies
  • use of ACE inhibitors (blood pressure medicines)

Talk to your doctor or dentist if you have burning mouth. Treatment depends on the cause—if it can be determined—and might include menopausal hormone therapy, vitamin supplements, or pain or other medicines

Here are our recommendations for a healthy smile and mouth, these are small easy steps that anyone can do:

1. Brush your teeth at least twice each day with fluoride toothpaste. Aim for first thing in the morning and before going to bed. Once a day, use floss to clean food your toothbrush missed.

   Make sure you:

  • Drink water that contains added fluoride if you can. Fluoride protects against dental decay. Most public water systems in the United States have added fluoride. Check with your community’s water or health department to find out if there is fluoride in your water. You also may want to use a fluoride mouth rinse, along with brushing and flossing, to help prevent tooth decay.
  • Gently brush all sides of your teeth with a soft-bristled brush. Round and short back-and-forth strokes work best.
  • Take time to brush along the gum line, and lightly brush your tongue to help remove plaque and food.
  • Ask your dentist or dental hygienist to show you the best way to floss your teeth.
  • Change your toothbrush every 3 months, or earlier if the toothbrush looks worn or the bristles spread out. A new toothbrush removes more plaque.
  • If you wear dentures, be sure to remove them at night and clean them before putting them back in the next morning.

2. Maintain a healthy lifestyle.

  • Eat healthy meals. Cut down on tooth decay by brushing after meals. Avoid snacking on sugary or starchy foods between meals.
  • Don’t smoke. It raises your risk of gum disease, oral and throat cancers, and oral fungal infections. It also affects the color of your teeth and the smell of your breath.
  • Limit alcohol use to one drink per day for women. Heavy alcohol use raises your risk of oral and throat cancers. Using alcohol and tobacco together raises your risk of oral cancers more than using one alone.
  • Limit how much of soda you drink. Even diet soda contains acids that can erode tooth enamel.