Oral Health Conditions
Cavities, or tooth decay, are holes that form in your tooth when the enamel protecting it deteriorates. Cavities are one of the largest unmet health treatment needs in our country. Left untreated, they can cause pain and infections that may impact daily activities such as talking and eating. It is important to be aware of the risk factors for cavities so you can be proactive in preventing them. They include:
- Immediate family members having cavities
- Eating and drinking lots of sugary food and drinks, especially between meals
- Special health care needs
- Dry mouth
Being aware of these factors can help you identify your risk level and how to properly manage it. For everyone, however, preventative care is the best approach in avoiding tooth decay.
There are two classifications of oral cancer: one occurring in the oral cavity (your general mouth area) and the other occurring in the oropharynx (the middle region of your throat and base of your tongue). High risk behaviors, such as using tobacco products and consuming an excess amount of alcohol, should be avoided as preventative measures. It is also important to see a dentist regularly so they can screen for early signs of cancer. Early detection is crucial to increase survival rate.
Gum disease is an infection of tissues surrounding and supporting your teeth. The risk of developing gum disease is increased by factors such as diabetes, a weakened immune system, poor oral hygiene, heredity, and tobacco use. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. Gum disease is usually painless, so you may not know you have it. You should look out for symptoms such as:
- Gums that bleed easily
- Red, swollen, tender gums
- Gums that have pulled away from the teeth
- Persistent bad breath or taste
- Loose permanent teeth
- Changes in how your teeth fit together when you bite
- Changes in the fit of partial dentures
Regular dental check-ups are necessary to identify potential cases of gum disease before it leads to serious damage. The early stage of gum disease, called gingivitis, is reversible and usually eliminated by professional cleanings.
Brushing twice a day, flossing at least once a day, eating a balanced diet, and seeing a dentist regularly are the best methods to avoid the development of gum disease.
Losing a tooth can be the result of several factors such as tooth decay, gum disease, and using tobacco products. Tooth loss can be bothersome, causing issues when you speak or chew. It may also cause your remaining teeth to shift and bone loss to occur in the now empty space. To avoid any problems that may arise, you may consider options such as:
- Bridges: anchored to adjacent teeth, they are removable or fixed depending on what is best for your situation
- Dentures: best for when you have lost all or most of your teeth
- Implants: most similar to a natural tooth
The best way to prevent tooth loss is to avoid high risk behaviors such as using tobacco products and following recommended oral hygiene routines.