Common Problems

Crooked teeth

Having crooked teeth or large gaps between your teeth can cause problems. Food and bacteria could get stuck between the teeth, which could cause decay. Similarly, if your teeth stick out, this could cause problems, either with mouth ulcers and decay, or with speech. Your dentist might suggest that you have your teeth straightened through orthodontics - by wearing a brace.

The majority of orthodontics is carried out on teenagers, but increasing numbers of adults are opting for orthodontics too. Your dentist will probably refer you to a specialist - an orthodontist - who will examine and probably x-ray your teeth to see how best to straighten them.

To find out more about orthodontic braces, click here.

Mouth ulcers

Mouth ulcers can be uncomfortable. They look similar to small blisters and can be caused by a tooth rubbing against the tongue or cheek, a lack of vitamin B12, anaemia or even stress. Treatment of ulcers is quite simple and they will usually heal within seven days. If they last for more than two weeks, you should go and see your dentist as they may be an early indication of something more serious.

If you have a mouth ulcer, you can help clear it up by using a special antiseptic mouthwash or pastilles. These are available from most pharmacies - just ask the pharmacist for advice.

Having a healthy diet can help prevent mouth ulcers and ensure you keep in good health generally. Remember to eat five portions of fruit and vegetables a day. If you have an ulcer, avoid citrus fruits and tomatoes as the acid may aggravate it.

When Accidents Happen

Accidents happen, especially if you're playing  sports. You can help avoid injuries to your teeth when playing sports by wearing a specially-fitted mouthguard which your dentist can supply for you. However if your teeth do get chipped or damaged, then your dentist may be able to repair them. If a tooth gets knocked out completely, there is a chance that they can be put back in by a dentist. Simply follow these steps:

  • Hold the tooth by the part usually visible in the mouth, not by the root. Don't scrub the tooth or place it in disinfectant.
  • If the tooth is clean, hold it by the white part (the bit that is usually visible) and, making sure it's the right way round, gently push it back into its socket.
  • If the tooth is dirty, rinse it in milk or cold water before gently pushing it back into place.
  • Hold the tooth in place by biting on a handkerchief and go to the dentist immediately for advice. 

If you can't put the tooth back in, try this:

  • Place it in a cup of milk or, if not available, keep the tooth in the mouth between the cheeks and gums.
  • Don't let the tooth become dry and don't put it in disinfectant.
  • Go to your dentist immediately. If this isn't possible, contact NHS Direct (0845 4647) to find out your nearest Accident & Emergency department that has a dentist on call.

British Dental Association