Dentistry addresses overall oral health. This includes bad breath, toothaches, tooth decay, oral cancers and more. Keeping on top of oral health problems is critical to overall health and well-being.
The most common dental health complaints involve cavities. Affecting almost all of the adult population, cavities occur as a result of tooth decay. When decay eats away at tooth enamel, a dentist cleans it out and then fills the cavity. If ignored, cavities can destroy teeth and necessitate a root canal. In severe cases, cavities can result in tooth loss. Sugary and high carb food cravings can make anyone more vulnerable to developing cavities.
Periodontal disease (also known as gum disease) is one of the most common dental concerns worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, 15 to 20 percent of middle-aged adults experience it. Along with cavities, gum disease is a leading cause of tooth loss. The disease is caused by inflammation of the gums due to a buildup of plaque on the teeth. This plaque is linked to harmful bacteria. Gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease and only affects the gums. According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), daily brushing and flossing can usually reverse it. Gingivitis on its own does not impact the bone or tissue that secures teeth in place. But if left untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis. This is a form of gum disease that causes gums to recede away from the teeth. This leads to infections that can ultimately deteriorate bone and tissue. This, in turn, causes loose teeth and can also affect your bite. According to the NIDCR, symptoms of gum disease include persistent bad breath, red or swollen gums, bleeding gums, painful chewing, loose and/or sensitive teeth, and receding gums.
The organization recognizes smoking, hormonal changes, genetics and diabetes as major risk factors. Medical conditions like HIV and cancer can also impact gum health. In some cases, certain medications can lead to gum disease, as well. Treating gum disease often involves a deep cleaning of the teeth. According to the NIDCR, this includes a method known as scaling and root planning. This involves scraping off tarter both above and below the gum line, as well as removing bacteria from the roots of teeth. Other treatments include antibiotics, antimicrobial mouth rinses and surgery. A procedure called flap surgery lifts up gums to remove excess tarter. Bone and tissue grafts assist in the regeneration of bone or gum tissue that’s been lost.
Other oral health issues
Oral cancer is another top dental issue. According to the Oral Cancer Foundation, approximately 42,000 Americans will be diagnosed with oral or pharyngeal cancer (cancer of the head and neck) each year. Dentists and other oral health professionals also address fungal, bacterial and viral infections of the mouth. HIV-positive people are at particularly increased risk for these types of infections. Another common oral health issue is sustaining trauma to the mouth, which is most common in children. Oral health care providers also address birth defects of the mouth. Cleft lip and palate, for example, occur in every 500 to 700 births worldwide. Dentists recommend brushing and flossing daily to remove plaque and prevent cavities. Routine cleanings should also be sought every six months.