There are various dental and oral problems that can be easily prevented and even treated before they cause more serious damage – and require extensive procedures from your dentist. The following is some helpful information that can provide further insight to some of the most common issues.
Tooth Decay: Also known as cavities, tooth decay occurs when plaque forms due to the consumption of sugars or starches. This can worsen when the plaque lingers on teeth for a long time. Typically, children and older men/women are more susceptible to getting a cavity. However, increased water fluoridation can help decrease the chances of cavities, but the decrease in protective gum tissue in older adults still leaves them with a great risk of decay. The best way to prevent cavities is to brush at least twice a day and floss daily. Children may also protect their adult molars by having sealants applied. If decay is left untreated, patients may experience tooth infection, which may need to be treated with a root canal procedure.
Gum disease: The early stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis, while the more advanced stage is called periodontitis. From children to the elderly, gum disease can cause pain and possibly require invasive dental treatments. Those who are at a greater risk of gum disease are those with poor oral hygiene, a systemic disease (diabetes), and smokers. In addition, women tend to develop gingivitis during pregnancy. Stress, which weakens the immune system and a person’s genes, can also lead to gum disease. Patients who have early signs of gingivitis may repair damage by following a regular brushing/flossing routine. Furthermore, it is important to visit your dentist to learn if you are experiencing more advanced stages of gum disease.
Enamel Erosion: When the teeth are exposed to acid (sodas and citrus beverages) the surface of the teeth can become worn, rounded, and discolored. Additionally, those who brush aggressively may be wearing away at the enamel. It is often found that sipping on soft drinks is the main cause of erosion, which may mean that you should switch to water instead. However, if you just can’t stop drinking sodas, sip through a straw or make sure that you’re eating something in order to help the build-up from sticking to the teeth. Also, be sure to brush, chew on sugarless gum, or at least rinse with water after drinking sodas. You may also want to switch your toothbrush to a softer one or look into an electric toothbrush. Be sure to ask your dentist about the proper way to brush (gentle brushing can save your smile).
Dry mouth: When there is a low production of saliva in the mouth, the chances of tooth decay increase as the bacteria is not being washed away. It is noted that women in their 50s and 60s are more prone to experience dry mouth, as are those who are on various medications, such as antidepressants and diuretics. Women who have Sjögren’s syndrome may also be experiencing dry mouth. In order to help produce saliva, chew sugarless gum and drink plenty of water. It is also highly recommended that you avoid caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. If you feel that you are suffering from dry mouth, see your dentist as soon as possible.
TMJ: Temporomandibular joint disorder is often seen when individuals clench or grind their teeth, usually during their sleep. Women suffer from TMJ more often during childbearing years, and those with a great deal of stress often complain of symptoms. Chronic sufferers may have worn-down, sensitive teeth, sore saw, headaches, neck aches, and ear aches. Your dentist may recommend some exercises, cold compresses, pain relievers, and eating softer food. If you are clenching or grinding at night, a mouth guard may be necessary.
Oral cancers: Your dentist can screen for oral cancers during an examination. These typically start out as small, pale, red, painless lumps. Approximately 75 percent of diagnosed oral cancers are linked to tobacco use and/or heavy alcohol intake. These are usually found in individuals over the age of 40. It is extremely important for patients to be screened as early as possible, especially those who smoke or use other tobacco products. This could be the difference between receiving proper treatment and reducing the patient’s survival rate. Therefore, it is crucial to quit smoking and maintain regular dental visits to prevent further damage to the teeth, gums, and overall oral health.