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Ask a Dentist

Have an oral health question? Ask Dr. Sheila Strock, DMD, MPH, Delta Dental of Illinois' vice president, dental services and science officer. Dr. Strock is full of helpful hints and the oral health wisdom you need for a lifetime of healthy smiles.

Click on a question below to view past Ask a Dentist responses.

I've noticed that my gums are starting to recede. How can I make my gums grow back?

Unfortunately, the effects of gum recession cannot be reversed and your gums will not simply grow back. Once the gum tissue has moved away from your teeth, you need to see your dentist to determine if treatment is recommended. You do have options that may help the look of your smile and improve your oral health. If you have a considerable amount of recession, your dentist may recommend a gum graft to replace the lost gum tissue. This surgical procedure takes tissue from another source and attaches it to the receded area. Talk with your dentist or periodontist about your options to help correct the recession and prevent it from getting worse. Once you’ve received treatment, it’s important to prevent future recession so be sure to always maintain good oral health habits: brush twice daily, floss once daily and regularly visit your dentist.

What steps can I take to prevent bad breath?

The most common cause of bad breath is inadequate oral hygiene. Many people brush their teeth everyday but may not use the correct technique and may not floss. Flossing is necessary to remove food from between your teeth. Thankfully, there are a few things you can do to prevent halitosis or bad breath. If you have not visited your dentist recently, we encourage you to make an appointment and have a discussion with your dentist. Your dentist will be able to assist you in finding out the reason for your bad breath and recommend a course of action. The dentist may recommend treatment, a specific toothpaste or mouthwash. Be mindful of the foods you eat as certain foods - like garlic, onions, coffee, eggs, tomatoes, red meats and cheeses - can give you bad breath. It is also important to check any of your medications as some medications can cause dry mouth. Dry mouth can also contribute to bad breath as the saliva flow is diminished. If you have dry mouth or xerostomia, the dentist can assist you with this as well. And, lastly, continue to brush and floss two times per day for two minutes. Good oral hygiene is the key to avoiding bad breath.

I'm experiencing major tooth pain and I think I may need a root canal. How does a dentist know if you need root canal therapy?

According to the American Association of Endodontists, the most common symptom that may indicate the need for a root canal is tooth pain. There are several diagnostic tests a dentist may use to determine if a particular tooth requires root canal therapy. This includes an examination and, usually requires X-rays to determine the cause of tooth pain. Some other tests are used to determine if the tooth is vital (for example, reaction to cold stimulus or pressure). The dentist will let you know which tooth is affected and recommend a course of action.



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