We all want to have healthy teeth and gums to have an attractive smile, fresh breath and increase our level of confidence. But did you know that about half of adults have or have ever had halitosis (also known as bad breath)? It is one of the most common dental problems and also one of the most treatable. Tooth decay, gum disease, and oral cancer are some of the most common diseases that affect our oral health. Tooth decay is the most common dental problem that dentists see in patients.
It occurs when bacteria form a film, called plaque, on the surface of the teeth. Bacteria produce acids from sugars in foods which corrode and damage the enamel, or outer layer, of the tooth. The acids then begin to act on the softer layer of dentin under the enamel. Dental care begins with evaluating the extent of tooth decay and recommending a course of action.
This may include fillings, crowns, or a root canal. The option chosen may be extraction followed by dental implants or dentures. Gingivitis is the mild, early form of periodontal or gum disease. It is a bacterial infection caused by plaque build-up.
The most common symptoms are red, swollen, and easily bleeding gums. You may also experience bad breath and sensitive teeth that hurt when you chew. Skipping brushing and using poor brushing techniques can contribute to gum disease as can crooked teeth that are difficult to brush properly. Other risk factors include smoking, pregnancy, and diabetes.
If left untreated, gingivitis can develop into a more serious form of gum disease called periodontitis. This occurs when gum pockets become infected which can cause damage to the bone and tissue that support the teeth, as they also become infected. Dental care for periodontitis includes topical antibiotics to treat the infection or referral to a periodontist, a specialist in gum disease. Bad breath can be caused by many different factors so your dentist will conduct a thorough evaluation and prescribe the course of action that best suits your case.
You may also have sensitive teeth because the enamel layer on your teeth is naturally thin. There are types of toothpaste and mouthwashes specifically designed for use with sensitive teeth. Your dentist may also recommend a fluoride treatment, a crown, a gum graft, or a root canal depending on the severity of your case. Gum disease is often the result of not flossing regularly which leads to the accumulation of bacteria that cause plaque ultimately leading to gingivitis or periodontitis, the early stages of periodontal disease.
The good news is that periodontal disease can be treated over the course of a few dental appointments with deep dental cleanings being required to remove plaque and tartar accumulated on and around the gums. Tooth decay is caused by not brushing your teeth after consuming substantial amounts of sugary and acidic foods and beverages which pierce the enamel allowing bacteria that cause tooth decay to flourish. Oral cancer can attack multiple regions of the mouth such as the throat, tongue, cheeks, and lips and may go unnoticed for a while if you don't visit the dentist every six months as recommended. This disease usually appears as a swollen or tingling ulcer with a red or white surface that may be caused by excessive smoking or by human papillomavirus (HPV).
Your regular dental checkup should include an oral cancer screening test which involves examining all regions of the mouth to detect the early stages of this disease. To reduce your chance of developing tooth decay brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day, drink fluoride water, use fluoride toothpaste, stay away from sugary foods and beverages, and see your dentist regularly. If you regularly bite hard foods such as nuts or ice cubes grind your teeth or pierce your mouth you're at greater risk of breaking a tooth which may require fillings crowns root canals or even extraction depending on their severity.