By Dr. Alexander Gaukhman
For a relatively small space, your mouth has a whole lot going on. If not taken care of, bacteria can take over and cause many problems. The following is a list of the most common dental problems and suggestions on how to avoid them. Educating yourself about common dental problems and their causes can also go a long way in prevention.
1. Bad Breath
If you suffer from bad breath, you are not alone. The tongue is the main culprit of halitosis (bad breath) due to the layers of bacteria that get embedded on it, resulting in that unpleasant odor. “Dry mouth,” which occurs naturally during sleep (but can also be caused by a glandular condition), is also a cause, as are the consumption of certain foods and beverages. Aside from regular brushing, important steps in preventing bad breath are daily “tongue scraping,” flossing, and gargling with a bacteria-killing mouthwash.
2. Tooth Decay (Cavities)
Did you know tooth decay, also known as cavities, is the second most prevalent disease in the Univted States? Tooth decay is caused by bacteria in the mouth being left alone and given time to turn into plaque causing damage. These bacteria feast on sugar and starch remnants left on and between our teeth. After they eat these carbohydrates, they secret an acid waste product, which dissolves the tooth enamel and allows the bacteria to move in and live in the spaces left behind. Good oral hygiene is your best bet on prevention, and parents should be particularly mindful, as cavities most often occur in kids. Once a cavity has formed, however, a dentist must treat it with a crown, filling or, if necessary, a “root canal.”
3. Gum Disease
Gum disease is typically caused by three factors: bad oral hygiene, smoking and genetic susceptibility. While symptoms tend to show in middle age, teenagers can often have gingivitis, which is the milder form of the disease. Periodontitis, whose symptoms can include constant bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums and loose or sensitive teeth is the more severe form of gum disease and can put you at greater risk for heart attack or stroke. Practicing good dental habits and making wise food choices are good prevention strategies, but if you already have gum disease, a “deep cleaning,” antibiotics, or even surgery may be in order.
4. Mouth Sores
There are generally two types of mouth sores: canker sores and herpes. Canker sores are non-virus based and caused by everything from stress to a plain old hereditary predilection. They typically take about 12 days to run their course. The second type of sore, herpes, is virus-based and contagious (through direct contact, like kissing, or sharing things like drinking glasses). An outbreak typically involves skin lesions around the mouth and lips and small blisters, and while there’s no cure for oral herpes, it can be treated with anti-viral creams and pills.
5. Tooth Sensitivity
Millions of people suffer from tooth sensitivity. Sensitive teeth can have several causes, like exposed root surfaces, for example, which occur if the gums recede, even just 1 or 2 millimeters, permanently exposing the root of a tooth. Since the root surface is extremely porous, it can allow fluids and air to indirectly stimulate the nerve in the center of the tooth. Other causes can include exposure to heat or cold, sensitivity to acidity or cracked teeth. To reduce tooth sensitivity, use a soft bristled brush (and don’t brush too vigorously), and avoid acidic drinks (or, when you do, rinse your mouth thoroughly with water)!
6. Wisdom Teeth
Ever wonder why some of us have to have our wisdom teeth removed, while others do not? The answer is because some people have enough space in their jaw for them (which means they’ll come in just fine), while others do not, meaning they’ll come in, or “erupt,” only partially. When this happens, bacteria are able to enter the soft tissue around the partially erupted tooth and reside deep in the gums where the tooth is stuck. Eventually, an infection will occur. Painful, impacted wisdom teeth are usually removed through surgery, though sometimes dentists will opt to remove impacted wisdom teeth that are not causing pain, as a means of preventing infection.
7. Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding or Bruxism, is very common in adults and can be very destructive, sometimes resulting in jaw problems. The most common causes are misaligned teeth and stress. Orthodontic or restorative dentistry can correct alignment and we can fabricate a custom a plastic guard for people to wear while they sleep to protect their teeth from the destructive forces our jaws can produce. Other prevention methods include physical therapy and daily relaxation techniques.
8. Enamel Erosion
Acid on the enamel of your teeth causes erosion. Sometimes, a disorder like acid reflux or bulimia can be the cause of enamel erosion, or it can result from dietary habits, in which the sugars and starches mix with your saliva to form an acid, which extracts minerals from your enamel, causing it to weaken. As the enamel is worn away, bacteria can then attack, leading to tooth decay. To prevent this, be sure to drink lots of water, cut down on acidic drinks and foods, chew sugarless gum with xylitol and, if necessary, get treatment for any disorder that can bring acid into the mouth, such as bulimia, alcoholism, or acid reflux.
9 Yellow Teeth
Although not a “health concern,” most people consider yellow or discolored teeth as a really big problem. Sometimes, as we age, our teeth do darken, and some teeth are just naturally yellowish. But, more often than not, stained teeth are caused by personal habits, like smoking, and by the food and beverage we consume. The good news is that the yellower your tooth stains, the easier it will be to remove them, and there are plenty of options to deal with this problem – from laser whitening to drug store strips – all of which you can talk to us about.
10. Oral Cancer
Last, but certainly not least, is oral cancer, a disease affecting millions every year, worldwide. Oral cancer is a serious disease that can affect the mouth, lips and throat. It can be life threatening if not diagnosed and treated early and its high lethality rate is mainly due to the lack of screening. Therefore, early detection is the key to beating it and maintaining positive dietary and lifestyle habits are keys to preventing it.
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Osprey, FL 34229
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Venice, Fl 34285