Posted on 12 December 2022
No matter how well we take care of our teeth and gums or how regularly we have check-ups at the dentist, we will likely have a dental problem at some point.
Obviously, following a good dental regimen will lessen the risk, but there are some conditions that are (almost) unavoidable.
The most common issues include:
Tooth decay (aka, cavities) is the Number One problem which is likely to affect almost everyone during their life. A bacterial film (plaque) forms on the teeth and this acidic substance gradually erodes the surface enamel before infecting the tooth's inner pulp. The result is damaged enamel, holes, cavities and tooth loss.
Also called halitosis, bad breath is a common issue and can usually be attributed to poor oral hygiene -- but this is not always the case. Other causes include dry mouth, oral diseases, infections, diet, acid reflux or even cancer. Proper care and using special mouthwash are often enough to cure bad breath -- but the problem should never be ignored and always discussed with a dentist.
Sensitivity to hot or cold substances is usually a sign that the tooth enamel has been damaged. This could be due to an accident causing a tooth to be cracked or chipped. Other common causes are gum disease or enamel erosion. Mild cases can sometimes be treated with special toothpastes or mouthwash -- but tooth sensitivity will normally require a dentist's intervention as it is often a precursor to the formation of cavities.
Most commonly seen in older people, but also affecting the young, dry mouth is often largely regarded as being more an annoyance than an oral problem. However, the causes of dry mouth can include serious conditions like nerve damage, diabetes and salivary gland disease. It also has been associated with HIV -- and should never be merely dismissed.
At its onset this condition is called gingivitis but, if left untreated, it will develop into periodontal (gum) disease. Gum disease is the result of bacterial infection and leads to red, sore, swollen and bleeding gums. This, in turn, can also cause tooth sensitivity and bad breath. Proper brushing and flossing can help prevent gum disease as can avoiding cigarettes and tobacco products.
Gum disease can often lead to the gums receding but this is not the only cause. Brushing and flossing too vigorously, poor oral hygiene, high blood pressure, smoking and pregnancy can also cause the gums to recede. Less severe cases can be successfully treated by a dentist but gum grafts or surgery may be required if the condition is allowed to deteriorate too far.
Often simply referred to as teeth grinding, bruxism is a habit rather than an actual physical complaint. A misaligned bite or sleeping disorder can cause the condition and the root cause of the problem should be investigated by a dentist or doctor -- or both if necessary.
Cracks, Chips or Breaks
Bruxism can result in cracked, chipped or broken teeth but more likely causes are accidental injuries and chewing on hard substances or foods. Repairing a chipped tooth is usually done with a crown if the broken piece is lost or cannot be reattached using a strong resin. Teeth should never be used as a tool for opening packets or for chewing pens or cracking ice.
Staining and Discoloration
A tooth's surface is porous and absorbs material from whatever is put in the mouth. There are a number of substances which can (and do) discolor the tooth's surface but the worst culprits are:
Brushing and rinsing with water after consuming or using these products will help prevent staining as will using a whitening toothpaste.
There is no easy fix for misaligned teeth and correcting these issues will require the use of braces, retainers, aligners and even surgery on occasion. These procedures will usually be carried out by an orthodontist who specializes in this area of dentistry.
What About Toothache?
A toothache can have a myriad of causes and is a general expression covering any pain experienced in the mouth or jaw. From something as simple as food particles trapped between the teeth to any of a number of oral diseases, a toothache is usually a warning sign that something is amiss. In many cases rinsing the mouth with a saline rinse or taking over-the-counter medication will resolve the problem. If, however, symptoms persist or worsen over a few days it is advisable to report the problem to a dentist for a proper diagnosis and suitable treatment.