Most people want to have healthy teeth and gums, but there are a lot of factors that can get in the way. Brushing twice daily with fluoride toothpaste and flossing at least once a day can go a long way toward preventing plaque build-up, as can scheduling and attending twice-yearly dental cleanings and exams.
The problem is, there are also genetic and environmental factors that influence oral health, and most people, despite their best intentions, wind up experiencing at least one serious dental problem in their lifetimes. Read on to find out about the most common types of dental problems to get a better idea of how to avoid them.
Decay occurs when the acid-forming bacteria found in plaque eat away at a tooth’s protective enamel. Over time, the enamel gets worn enough that the acid can reach and damage the tooth’s underlying connective tissue, known as dentin, to form cavities. Cavities are a very common problem, and they should be filled by a qualified dentist as soon as possible to prevent further decay.
Gingivitis, colloquially known as gum disease, causes inflammation of the soft tissues. It occurs as a result of plaque build-up beneath the gum line and is most often caused by insufficient brushing and flossing. Signs of gingivitis include swollen gums and bleeding during flossing or brushing.
It’s important for patients who believe they may have gingivitis to schedule a dental exam as soon as possible. If left untreated, gingivitis can progress into a more serious type of infection known as periodontitis or periodontal disease.
Periodontal disease occurs when a gum infection spreads to the jaw and bones. This kind of serious infection can also spread to other areas of the body, causing inflammation and potentially dangerous health complications. Treatments for periodontitis include planing and scaling, gum surgeries, and the targeted use of antibiotics.
Cracked or Broken Teeth
Cracked or broken teeth can be quite painful. They can occur as a result of acute injuries, ongoing problems with teeth grinding, or even chewing hard foods. Patients with cracked teeth should visit their dentists as soon as possible to restore the affected teeth and prevent decay.
People with tooth sensitivity often experience pain and discomfort when they consume hot or cold food or beverages. Referred to by dentists as dentin hypersensitivity, tooth sensitivity can occur as a result of:
- Receding gums
- Gum disease
- Cracked teeth
- Worn crowns
- Worn fillings
- Thin enamel
Dentin hypersensitivity may also occur temporarily following root canals and the placement of crowns or fillings. It can usually be treated with changes in home oral health routines or specialized kinds of toothpaste and mouthwashes.
Dentists are usually the first professionals to diagnose oral cancer. They perform screenings of the gums, tongue, lips, cheek, mouth floor, and hard and soft palate at every check-up. The reason behind these frequent screenings is simple: early detection is the best way to improve patient outlooks.
The Bottom Line
Avoiding oral health problems isn’t just a matter of brushing and flossing regularly. People who want to maintain optimal oral health also need to schedule twice-yearly dental cleanings, exams, and oral cancer screenings. Those who are at high risk of developing gum disease may want to schedule cleanings every three months instead as advised by their dentists or periodontists.