The Top Dental Problems, Treatments, and Prevention Tips
Dental health is an essential part of your oral health, but it is also crucial to your overall wellbeing. If you do not brush and floss regularly, it can lead to different dental problems, such as cavities and gum disease. At the same time, it can affect your heart and contribute to heart disease. Studies have also shown the relevance of poor dental health to diabetes and cancer.
Indeed, keeping your teeth and gums healthy is a lifelong commitment. According to the World Dental Federation, about 60 to 90 per cent of children have at least one cavity. Meanwhile, almost 100 per cent of adults have it. In Australia, three out of 10 people avoid seeing the dentist or at least delay the visit. Unsurprisingly, one out of 25 Australians aged 15 and up have no natural teeth left.
Because we use our mouths a lot, it is easy to acquire different dental problems, mainly if we don’t take care of our teeth. Many of these issues can be prevented with something as simple as visiting the dentist, brushing, and flossing.
Here is a list of the most common dental problems with the best recommendations on how you can manage them:
It’s one of the most embarrassing oral problems. Bad breath, also called halitosis, can affect everyone. About 2.4% of the population (adults) has bad breath. But even if it is common, it does not mean it’s acceptable. Usually, having bad breath also denotes that there are other dental issues present. Many people with gum disease and even oral cancer have halitosis as one of their symptoms.
Where does bad breath come from? Some of the leading causes include:
- Other dental problems, such as periodontitis (severe gum infection)
- Poor oral hygiene
- Dry mouth due to medicine, alcohol, or stress
If you think those mentioned above are not related to your case, your halitosis may be due to:
- Acid or bile reflux
- Chronic sinusitis and other similar conditions with post-nasal discharge
- Kidney failure
- Other carcinomas
- Biochemical and metabolic dysfunctions
- The food you eat, such as onions and garlic
The best way to know if you have halitosis is to ask another person if they smell something unpleasant when you speak.
Other symptoms to watch out for are:
- Dry mouth
- White coating on the front and most especially at the back of your tongue
- Plaque and build-up around your teeth
- Morning breath
- Thick saliva coupled with the need to keep clearing your throat
- Burning tongue
- Sour, bitter taste in the mouth that does not go away
Other people tend to turn their heads or back away whenever you speak, which can damage your self-esteem.
So, how is halitosis treated? There is no single treatment for bad breath because the solution depends on what causes it. If the reason for your halitosis is chronic sinusitis, deal with it first. One way is to use a saline nasal spray regularly. Some antibiotics can help with anaerobic bacteria, including sulphur-producing bacteria.
Nevertheless, some ways to treat and even prevent it from occurring are:
- Brushing twice daily and flossing at least once every day
- Using mouthwashes or lozenges for bad breath
- Avoiding dehydration
- Cleaning tongue effectively using a tongue brush or scraper
Visit your dentist and talk about this oral problem to get the help you need.
You may know dental calculus as tartar, which pertains to mineralised dental plaque. Just like halitosis, it can happen to anyone, but mostly on people with poor oral hygiene. Other risk factors include age, diet, ethnicity, and systemic diet.
Calculus is different from plaque, which is a sticky, almost invisible film that forms on the teeth repeatedly. Bacteria live in plaque, and they secrete harmful acids that cause tooth decay. If plaque is left untreated, it hardens and turns into calculus or tartar.
Treating calculus is not as easy to get rid of as plaque, which is through regular brushing and flossing. Once plaque hardens, only a dental professional can remove it for you. The dentist or hygienist will utilise a scrape or scale to eliminate the target below and above the gumline. After that, a smoothing procedure will be performed on the surface of the teeth. It helps prevent plaque from sticking and tartar from forming.
It’s vital to have calculus removed. Studies have shown that it is associated with other health issues, including heart infarction.
Chipped or Cracked Tooth
Teeth may be strong, but they can also crack or break.
The most common causes are:
- Injuries to the mouth
- Grinding teeth at night (bruxism)
- Chewing hard food
- Poor hygiene
Cracked teeth can cause discomfort and sometimes, pain. Chipping is often painless except for large chips where the nerves get exposed in the tooth’s inner layer. In such a case, tooth sensitivity and pain whenever you eat can be noticeable.
Meanwhile, if you crack your tooth, it usually affects just the tooth enamel. However, your whole tooth all the way to its root may be affected. One symptom is increased sensitivity, mostly when you eat cold or hot food. It’s significant to see a dental professional right away if you have a cracked or broken tooth. Some treatments include:
- For small chipping, your tooth may simply be polished and smoothened without other treatments needed.
- For medium chipping where there is minor damage to the enamel, a filling, cap, or crown may be required. These options will help restore the natural look and function of your teeth.
- Large chipping may need a root canal, particularly if the tooth nerve is exposed. A crown or cap may also be performed to replace the tooth.
For a cracked tooth, the treatment will vary depending on the severity. Only professionals should treat your tooth, which can be done through any of the following:
- Bonding or sealing where a resin that has the same colour as your tooth will be used to repair your tooth
- Splint where the cracked tooth will be bonded to the nearby tooth for stability while waiting for the recovery of the bone and gum tissue around
- Root canal to deal with the damaged tooth pulp
A cracked tooth can seem like a simple case, but it can cause pain and is considered a dental emergency. Prevent it from happening by avoiding hard-to-chew foods, stopping your bruxism and bad habits like chewing on pens. If you play contact sports, wear a proper mouthguard.
When teeth are crowded, it means there is not enough space in the mouth. As a result, teeth grow crooked or misaligned and usually overlap each other. Crowding, which is also known as overcrowding, can either be of the following:
- Mild or when one anterior tooth (either on the upper or lower jaw) has rotated a little
- Moderate or when up to three anterior teeth overlap
- Severe or when most anterior teeth overlap
The cause of crowding is often challenging to determine, but the most common ones include:
- Genetics where the teeth grow larger than the jaw, causing the teeth to twist or overlap as they try to fit in the mouth
- Losing milk or baby teeth too early
- Over-retained baby teeth
Today, all types of crowding, from mild to severe, can be treated by an orthodontist.
The most popular treatment options are:
- Invisible aligners, such as Invisalign
- Conventional (metal) braces
- Lingual braces
- Clear or ceramic braces
Veneers can also be used to treat dental crowding, specifically mild to moderate cases. They are customised shells fitted over the teeth, which aid in improving their appearance. The dental professional will bond these shells to the teeth. Veneers can change the length, shape, colour, and size of natural teeth. For severe cases, veneers are typically placed after braces or any orthodontic treatment.
Retainers are also used for crowding but very rarely and definitely only for mild cases. Orthodontists, however, do not recommend the use of retainers to fix your crowding issue. Depending on the treatment and the severity of the misalignment, teeth can be straightened in 18 months to three years.
You cannot fix crowded teeth on your own at home. The treatment is an investment of money and time. You need to go back to your orthodontist every few weeks for an adjustment. It is all worth it because you will eventually achieve the smile you have always dreamt of.
Treating crowded teeth is not just for your self-esteem. It has its oral benefits as well once you have your teeth straightened. It helps improve the cleaning of teeth, which leads to better oral hygiene. Therefore, it’s likely that you will not develop oral infections and cavities.
Tooth discolouration is not something that you should ignore. It is usually a symptom of an underlying disease. Normally, teeth should be white to whitish-yellow. Having whitish-grey teeth is not unusual, either. However, if one or more of your teeth are black, it could mean you have a dental issue to take care of.
Teeth can turn black due to extrinsic and intrinsic causes:
- Extrinsic means that the damage is outside the teeth. Some examples of extrinsic causes are staining and tartar, which can directly affect the outer enamel.
- Intrinsic reasons are those that started on the inside of the teeth and manifested on the outside eventually. It often begins due to decay or cavities.
Teeth usually do not turn black overnight. It happens for a long time gradually except if you underwent dental restoration where the fillings contain amalgam. An example is silver sulphide, which causes teeth to look black. Other people who take certain medications, including liquid iron supplements, suffer from teeth stains that are difficult to remove and turn black over time. Tobacco, whether chewed or smoked, is also a popular teeth-staining substance.
It pays to check your teeth as much as you can. Black teeth begin as brown or grey spots. Later on, they turn black. Other people notice a speck on their teeth usually below the gumline. Common areas to observe are the front lower teeth. When they develop holes, it means your tooth enamel has been destroyed.
You need to see a dental professional to help stop the damage from progressing. The treatment is often with the use of special tools, such as a hand scaler, particularly if your black teeth are due to black tartar. A hand scaler is often used to scrape plaque and tartar.
If the tooth can no longer be saved, it may be removed. Meanwhile, if it is severe staining, teeth whitening may be performed.
Periodontitis is a term that means “inflammation around the tooth.” When bacteria or other microorganisms stick to the tooth surface and pockets, they multiply quickly. They release toxins, causing the immune system to react. That’s when the inflammation starts.
If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to tooth loss. Some patients are at risk of stroke and heart attack. The good news is that many periodontitis cases can be prevented by merely brushing teeth and flossing daily.
You may know periodontitis as gum disease. The treatment varies from person to person, but the target is to remove the bacteria from the teeth pockets. This way, further destruction of the gum tissue and bone can be prevented.
Believe it or not, many people avoid brushing and flossing because they see that their teeth and gums are healthy. But oral hygiene is for everyone. Periodontitis is a chronic issue. Even if it is already treated, it can come back if you skip cleaning your teeth again.
When visiting a dental professional, you may be recommended scaling and cleaning, which are services that remove plaque and calculus. They help restore periodontal health. It usually takes one visit, but some severe cases require two treatment sessions. Cleaning is recommended every six months. If plaque has accumulated, you may need to visit a few more times than normal.
Root Canal Infection
Root canals are a standard dental procedure. However, a study showed that very few endodontists in the country perform the treatment routinely.
Teeth are made of several layers, including the enamel, dentin, and pulp. The pulp has blood vessels and nerves where the teeth grow. It’s also where odontoblasts are found, which are cells that retain the health of the teeth. Through a root canal procedure, the infected pulp is removed. It is a teeth-saving procedure and is considered safe for almost everyone.
The symptoms of root canal infection may range from mild to unbearable. When you press on your tooth, while eating, or you expose it to hot or cold temperatures, you may feel pain.
Other symptoms include:
- Greenish to yellowish pus discharge
- Swollen, red tissue near your tooth
- Swelling around the face and neck
- Tenderness on the swollen tissue
- Bad breath
- Bad taste in the mouth
The infection can spread quickly to other teeth, as well as your gums and cheek tissue. Unfortunately, you cannot ignore the infection and hope it will go away. Once you know you have root canal infection, don’t wait any longer. The more you delay your dental visit, the farther the infection can spread.
Root canal infections can be due to complicated root canal shape, narrow tooth or curved canals that cannot be fully cleaned, and extra canals that could house more bacteria. Some patients have an infection because of their cavities, cracked, and damaged teeth.
Regardless of the cause, the treatment can only be performed by a dentist or root canal specialist. Prevention is achieved by brushing and flossing twice daily. Using an antiseptic mouthwash can help, as well. Note that even if you already have a root canal, the infection can recur if you do not take care of your oral health.
When you have sensitive teeth, brushing, eating, and drinking can be affected. There’s that sharp pain that makes you stop what you are doing. Although the pain is temporary, it can be extremely uncomfortable.
This sensitivity is often due to having worn tooth enamel. Sometimes, it is because your tooth roots are exposed. Cavities, cracked or chipped teeth, and worn fillings are also other causes of discomfort.
For many people, teeth sensitivity is not a severe issue. They even live normally without going to the dentist and seeking treatment for it. However, if it bothers you, be sure to talk to your dentist about it. In some cases, tooth pain may be due to an underlying problem.
Some treatments for teeth sensitivity include:
- Using desensitising toothpaste that can block pain away
- Applying fluoride to the sensitive areas to help strengthen the tooth enamel or reduce the pain
- Using custom trays with a prescribed fluoride product
- Bonding the exposed root surfaces
- Through surgery of the gum graft to replace the gum tissue you lost
- Through root canal, especially for severe pain
After the treatment, you can prevent sensitivity from recurring by brushing and flossing daily. When brushing, make sure that you do not brush too hard. Use a toothbrush with softer bristles. If you grind your teeth at night, use a mouthguard. What you eat or drink can affect your sensitivity level. Regularly consuming acidic food and drinks can increase teeth sensitivity.
Your mouth is just like all the other parts of your body. As long as you take good care of it, you will not face a lot of trouble. The best way to maintain excellent oral health is to be responsible. It doesn’t take a lot; simply brushing and flossing can save you emergency trips to the dentist and losing teeth. Kingsley Orthodontics is an advocate of proper oral hygiene and visiting your dental professional once or twice a year.