A visit to the dentist can be overwhelming, especially if you don’t know anything about the possible oral health issues and possible treatments.
Below are 8 of the most common oral health issues, what to expect, and how you can treat them with the help of the dentist.
Tooth decay is a very common health issue all around the world, second only to the common flu and cold.
Tooth decay—also known as dental cavities or caries—, is essentially the breakdown of your tooth enamel, the outermost layer of your teeth due to acids made by bacteria. The damage is permanent and can develop into tiny openings (cavities).
Left untreated, tooth decay can get larger and affect deeper parts of the tooth and even the jawbone, leading to an abscess, mild to severe toothache, and ultimately, tooth loss.
While there are many different factors that might cause dental cavities, diet and oral hygiene are among the most determining causes: maintain good oral hygiene practices and avoid high-sugar diets.
2. Gum Diseases
There are two different stages of gum diseases: gingivitis—gum inflammation—, and periodontitis—gum infection or gum disease—.
Gingivitis is inflammation of the gums caused by bacteria in plaque buildup, causing the gum to easily bleed during toothbrushing, mild to severe irritation, and sensitivity.
Left untreated, gingivitis can advance (but not always) to periodontitis. The infection in this stage will cause the inner layer of the gum and bone to pull away from the tooth, creating a pocket that can collect debris and become more infected. As the disease progresses, the pocket will become bigger and ultimately causing tooth loss.
3. Bad Breath
Bad breath—the official medical term is halitosis— affects more than a quarter (25%) of people all around the world, and can be very embarrassing. While there can be various causes of bad breath, most of them are related to bad oral hygiene:
- Smoking habit. Tobacco can stain the teeth and gums and produce its own odor. Tobacco also increases the risk of gum diseases, which can also cause halitosis.
- Dry mouth: various health issues and old age can cause dry mouth.
- Food and plaque buildup: food particles that are stuck in the teeth can cause odors especially foods like onions and garlic. Plaque is a thin film of bacteria, which can cause foul-smelling odor as well as various oral diseases.
Proper dental hygiene practices like regular brushing, flossing, and professional cleaning by a dentist can effectively cure halitosis. If the bad breath persists, most likely there is another disease causing the problem.
4. Stained Teeth
There are many different reasons to tooth discolorations:
- Extrinsic: when stain particles (i.e. pigment from food or drink particles) accumulate on the tooth enamel (the outermost layer of your tooth). Typically caused by the consumption of tobacco, coffee, tea, and other colored drinks (cola, red wine, etc.). Regular brushing with a whitening toothpaste can effectively remove extrinsic stains.
- Intrinsic: the stain occurs below the outer surface of the teeth, within the enamel. This can occur as the extrinsic stains progress, or other causes like excessive fluoride use (thinning the enamel). Intrinsic stains are harder to remove, but possible via professional dental cleaning and teeth-whitening products.
- Age-related: as we age, the enamel becomes thinner allowing dentin (the inner part of the tooth) to be more visible and exposed to potential stains. Age-related stains are typically a combination of both intrinsic and extrinsic stains.
5. Chipped Teeth
Chipped teeth is the most common form of dental injury, and typically caused by an impact injury. However, in some cases biting hard food can cause a chipped tooth (or even relatively soft foods when your tooth is already brittle).
Besides the obvious aesthetic issue (if the chip occurs on the visible front teeth), chipped teeth might cause mild pain and sensitivity, even risking infections and abscess.
Various treatments are available depending on the severity of the case and the size of the chip.
6. Impacted Teeth
Typically occurs on wisdom teeth, “impacted” tooth is when a tooth is not developed properly, and so is stuck against the adjacent tooth or angled at the back of the mouth, and can cause mild to severe pain, as well as increased risks of infections.
Impacted tooth growth is caused by unavailability of space, which happens when our jawbone is too small or various other reasons.
Impacted teeth (including fully impacted wisdom teeth), might not produce any symptoms at all, and so your dentist may recommend to leave it alone and monitor its development. However, if it’s causing pain—or worse, infections—an oral surgery to extract the tooth is necessary.
7. Tooth Sensitivity
Sensitivity to hot or cold foods and drinks can be a sign of underlying oral health issues. The most common cause is tooth decay or cavity, while other causes like gum disease, exposed pulp, cracked/chipped tooth, and worn tooth enamel/fillings can also be the culprit.
When you experience sensitivity, it’s wise to visit the dentist immediately so the dental specialist can figure out the cause. Depending on the underlying cause, the dentist might recommend a filling, tooth extraction, and root canal among other possible treatments.Sometimes, however, fluoride gel or toothpaste for sensitive teeth can be an answer.
8. Mouth Sores
There are actually various types of mouth sores besides the infamous canker sore. Canker sore, however, is indeed the most common form, and unless it lasts more than a couple of weeks, you might as well leave it alone to heal by itself, and probably take some remedies to relieve the pain.
However, persistent mouth sores that last for more than a month can be caused by underlying health problems from diabetes, herpes simplex infection, oral cancer, and others. It is wise to get yourself checked up immediately in such cases.
The 8 common dental problems above can develop into serious diseases and conditions—even life-threatening ones—, however, all of them can be treated effectively during their early stages for a full recovery.
The key to avoiding them is to maintain good oral hygiene practices and regularly visit your dentist at least twice a year. This way, your dental specialist can recognize the issue early, allowing a more effective treatment. A professional dental cleaning can also help prevent most oral health issues.