We all want healthy teeth and gums for a winning smile, fresh breath, and a boost in our confidence level. But, did you know that about half of adults have or have had halitosis (aka bad breath)? It is one of the most common dental problems and also one of the most treatable.
Here is a look at halitosis, nine other common dental problems, and treatment options for each one.
1. Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is also known as dental caries or dental cavities. It is the most common dental problem that dentists see in patients. Practically everyone, at some point in their life, has experienced tooth decay.
Tooth decay occurs when bacteria form a film, called plaque, on the surface of teeth. The bacteria produce acids from the sugars in food. The acids eat away at and permanently damage the enamel, or outer layer, of the tooth. The acids then start working on the softer dentin layer beneath the enamel.
This breakdown of the tooth can lead to cavities or holes in your teeth. It can also cause toothaches, including pain when you eat and drink hot, cold, or sweet things.
Other symptoms of tooth decay may include:
- Bad breath
- Black or brown spots on your teeth
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
Dental care begins with assessing the extent of your tooth decay and recommending a course of action. This may include fillings, crowns, or a root canal. The option chosen may be extraction followed by dental implants or dentures.
You can help to prevent tooth decay with regular (twice daily) brushing and flossing. Also, get regular checkups from your dentist to have the plaque scraped from your teeth.
2. Gum Disease
Gingivitis is the early stage and mild form of gum or periodontal disease. It is a bacterial infection that is caused by the buildup of plaque. Common symptoms are gums that are red, swollen, and bleed easily. You may also experience bad breath and sensitive teeth that hurt when you chew.
Skipping brushing and poor brushing techniques can contribute to gum disease. So, too, can crooked teeth that are hard to brush properly. Other risk factors include tobacco use, pregnancy, and diabetes.
It is important to note that gingivitis can be painless and as such, you may not notice it. This makes regular dental checkups a good idea.
Gingivitis can be treated by a thorough cleaning from your dental health professional. To prevent it from coming back, you will have to practice twice-daily brushing and flossing.
Left untreated, gingivitis can become a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis. This is when pockets in the gum become infected. This can lead to damage of the bone and tissue that hold the teeth, as these, too, become infected.
It can also lead to
- Shrinking and receding gums
- Loose permanent teeth
- A change in bite
- An unpleasant taste in your mouth
- Persistent bad breath
What's more, periodontitis can trigger an inflammatory response throughout your body.
Dental care for periodontitis includes topical antibiotics to treat the infection or a referral to a periodontist – a gum disease specialist.
3. Bad Breath
Bad breath or halitosis is one of the most common dental problems. It is also among the most distressing. Bad breath can be caused by several different factors, including:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Dry mouth
- Acid reflux
One or more of the foods you eat could also be the cause of your halitosis. Spices such as garlic and onion are common culprits.
Because the causes of bad breath are so varied, your dentist will do a complete assessment and prescribe a course of action that best suits your case.
4. Sensitive Teeth
Your teeth become sensitive to hot and cold foods and drinks when the enamel is worn away and the dentin is exposed.
The dentin has tubes that lead to the nerve deeper inside the tooth. Hot or cold substances can travel along the tubes to the nerve and cause intense pain.
Tooth sensitivity, also known as dentin hypersensitivity, can be caused by tooth decay. Other possible causes include:
- Gum disease
- Root infection
- A cracked or broken tooth
- Worn-down crown or fillings
- Enamel erosion
- Receding gums
You could also have sensitive teeth because the enamel layer of your teeth is naturally thin.
There are kinds of toothpaste and mouthwashes meant specifically for use with sensitive teeth. Your dentist might also recommend a fluoride treatment, crown, gum graft, or a root canal. The chosen treatment depends on the severity of your case.
5. Cracked or Broken Teeth
Cracked or broken teeth are most often caused by:
- Chewing hard foods
- Mouth piercings
- Grinding of teeth while you sleep
A cracked or broken tooth can cause you a lot of pain, depending on the extent of the damage. Regardless of how bad you think the crack or chip is, you should have it examined and treated by a dentist as soon as possible. Options for fixing this dental problem include a veneer, crown, or the use of tooth-colored filling.
6. Receding Gums
Receding gums can be caused by and can lead to other common dental problems. The condition can also lead to more serious issues, such as losing a tooth. This is because the condition exposes the delicate root of the tooth, making it susceptible to damage. Receding gums can be caused by a range of factors, including:
- Poor oral hygiene
- Brushing your teeth too hard
- High blood pressure
- Hormonal fluctuations in women
Your receding gums might also be genetic, that is, the condition runs in your family. Dental care for receding gums includes a thorough cleaning of your teeth by a dental professional. You may also be shown proper brushing techniques. Severe cases may need to be treated with a gum graft or other form of surgery.
7. Root Infection
The base or root of your tooth can become infected and swollen with bacteria. This most often happens because of cavities, cracks, or fractures in the tooth. Root infection can lead to damaged tissues and nerves of the tooth, and eventually to the development of abscesses.
A chronic (long-lasting and persistent) throbbing toothache is one sure sign of root infection. Both chewing and biting will be painful and the part of your mouth where the infection is will be very sensitive to hot and cold food and drinks. In some cases, the area of the face around the infection also becomes swollen.
A root infection is treated by a root canal. And, although many of us cringe in fear at the thought of having a root canal performed, the procedure is actually very safe with minimal pain since dentists use anesthetic while performing root canals.
8. Enamel Erosion
Enamel erosion is a condition that develops very slowly and leaves teeth both discolored and rounded-looking. Its primary cause is consuming plenty of sugary and acidic foods such as soda and sweets over a long period of time. A rare cause is brushing your teeth too often, too hard, and too long.
Enamel erosion leads to teeth that are very sensitive, weaker, and more susceptible to cracks, chips, and cupping. The lost enamel cannot be restored on teeth that have suffered enamel erosion. However, you can greatly reduce any further enamel erosion by cutting back on sugary and acidic foods. Using toothbrushes with softer bristles helps, too. You can also greatly improve the appearance of your teeth with dental veneers.
9. Dry Mouth
Anyone can be affected by dry mouth. It is not a natural part of aging but it is more common among the elderly. Causes of dry mouth include cancer treatments, salivary gland disease, nerve damage, and diabetes. HIV/AIDs and certain medications can also bring on dry mouth and dry throat.
You can relieve dry mouth and dry throat by taking sips of water throughout the day. You should also avoid substances that are known to be drying. These include alcohol, tobacco, caffeine, and sweets.
10. Teeth Grinding
Bruxism is the dental term for when you grind your teeth. Grinding most often occurs while you sleep but can also happen while you are awake. It can damage your teeth, cause you to develop jaw pain, and might even lead to headaches and earaches.
Some dental conditions can lead to grinding. These include:
- A new filling or crown that is higher than your other teeth
- An abnormal bite
Some persons suffer from bruxism when they have a sleep disorder, are stressed, or are dealing with anxiety. Treating these underlying issues could help to ease or stop your grinding.
What your dentist can do is give you a custom-made mouthguard to use at night. It will help to minimize the grinding and offer some protection to your teeth. It will also help to correct bite issues.
Get Your Dental Problems Treated at Kneib Dentistry
Dental problems can affect your self-confidence, general health, and quality of life. Reach out to us at Kneib Dentistry whenever you notice signs of any of these common dental problems and treatment can begin as soon as possible. Contact us, as well, for regular dental care to keep common dental problems at bay. Our dental professionals can assist with all aspects of your dental health.