Most people are aware that oral hygiene, regular dental checkups, and professional dental cleanings play an important part in maintaining good oral health. However, it’s also important to be aware of common oral diseases and conditions, to watch for potential symptoms.
Below are some of the most common oral diseases and dental problems.
Tooth decay is the most common dental problem; the majority of adults have had at least one cavity.
Tooth decay occurs when plaque and bacteria build up on teeth. The plaque produces acid which damages teeth and causes holes in teeth known as dental cavities, or dental caries. Dentists treat cavities by clearing out the decayed tooth, and filling the hole with a dental filling to prevent further damage.
Symptoms include tooth sensitivity and pain, dark spots or visible holes on the tooth. You can prevent tooth decay by brushing and flossing regularly, and seeing your dentist or dental hygienist regularly for checkups and cleanings. A professional cleaning removes built-up plaque that you can’t remove yourself.
Tooth Enamel Erosion
Tooth enamel is the outer layer of the tooth, can be eroded or worn away, and cannot grow back. The enamel can be worn away by grinding or scraping, over-aggressive brushing, or eroded from acidic foods and drinks.
Erosion causes tooth sensitivity and may lead to cracking and other damage. Good dental care can help prevent erosion.
Periodontal (Gum) Disease
There are different types of periodontal diseases; nearly half of all adults over 30 have indicators of gum disease.
Plaque and tartar along the gum line irritates the gums, and leads to gingivitis. This is an infection of the gums, causing mild swelling of the gums. Symptoms can be reversed if treated at this stage. Root planing and scaling to remove all tartar may be needed.
If gingivitis is not properly treated, the condition will progress to periodontitis, which is more severe and cannot be treated. Gums start to bleed and pull away from the teeth, creating pockets. Antibiotic treatment and surgery may be required to manage the condition, but advanced gum disease can’t be cured.
As periodontal disease worsens, if not managed carefully, it can lead to loss of bone and permanent teeth.
Symptoms of gum and periodontal disease include red and swollen gums, receding gums, bad breath, sensitive or painful teeth and gums, and pain when biting.
Impacted Wisdom Teeth
When wisdom teeth start to erupt, if there is not enough room in the mouth, or if they erupt at awkward angles, they may become impacted. The teeth are stuck fully or partially underneath the gums and/or bone. This leads to increased risks of infection, pressure and damage on other teeth, and other concerns.
Impacted wisdom teeth are very common; a dentist will perform a tooth extraction in these cases.
Sores may develop in the mouth for a variety of reasons. Unless they last for more than a couple of weeks, they are usually not a significant concern.
Thrush causes sores in the mouth and is common in people with dentures and those with diabetes or cancer. It does not need treatment unless it lasts for an extended time or keeps coming back.
Canker sores, found in the mouth, are not contagious, but cold sores, found on the lips and caused by the Herpes simplex virus, are contagious and can’t be cured.
There are different types of oral cancers, which can affect the tongue, gums, tonsils, and throat.
Early diagnosis is critical for a more positive outlook. If you notice any of the symptoms of oral cancer, be sure to see a dentist right away. These signs include sores that don’t heal, lumps, red or white patches, rough patches, pain swallowing, and difficulties moving the tongue, jaw, or while chewing. Loose teeth can also be a symptom.
While some people experience symptoms, others don’t notice anything, so seeing a dentist regularly is important for screening.
The main risk factors for oral cancer are alcohol and tobacco use, human papillomavirus, genetics, and poor nutrition. Treatment can include any or all of radiation, chemotherapy and surgical procedures.
Teeth grinding is usually caused by stress, and can happen at night or other times when a person isn’t aware of it. It can lead to jaw pain, headaches, worn or cracked teeth, temporomandibular joint disorder, and other concerns. Night-time mouth guards are recommended for preventing damage to teeth and jaw pain from grinding.
Infections in Root Canals
The dental pulp, which are the nerves, blood vessels, and soft tissues inside the canals of a tooth root, can become infected. A root infection happens when bacteria reaches these tissues. Root canal therapy is required to clean out the infected tissue, and fill the area. Poor oral hygiene is often a factor in root canal infections.
While a concern in itself, chronic bad breath can also be a symptom of significant dental issues. It can be a sign of a cavity, gum disease, or oral cancer. Bad breath is not due to other health issues and is usually caused by bacteria. Dry mouth allows bacteria to flourish, so bad breath is often associated with it.
Cracked or broken teeth and knocked out teeth from an accident are another common concern. Keeping the tooth or tooth piece in saline or milk, and getting a dentist appointment as soon as possible for these dental emergencies is recommended. In some cases, the tooth can be saved if treated soon enough.
Checkups to Screen for Oral Disease
A dental professional can identify oral health conditions in the early stages, before you may have noticed any symptoms. This can make a big difference in the successful treatment of a condition.
Hamilton Mountain Dental Group offers regular dental checkup services, which include screening for oral cancers and other oral health conditions, to help ensure early diagnosis and treatment.