If you believe you’re safe from oral health problems, you might want to think again. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 80% of people have had at least one cavity by age 34, and more than 40% experienced mouth pain at some point in the last year. If you want to avoid such issues and protect your smile, you need to be aware of the different threats to your teeth and gums. Below are 3 common oral health problems as well as tips for avoiding or addressing them.
1. Tooth Decay
Tooth decay is when the enamel protecting your teeth is gradually broken down. This is usually due to harmful oral bacteria that can build up in your mouth. When these bacteria feed on carbohydrates (simple sugars and starches), they produce acids that can eat through your enamel, creating cavities. If enough of the enamel erodes, bacteria might enter the tooth and cause an infection.
Fortunately, while tooth decay is extremely common, it’s also highly preventable. Regular brushing and flossing can remove harmful bacteria before they have a chance to cause cavities. You should also make sure you’re getting plenty of fluoride through your drinking water or your toothpaste; this naturally occurring mineral will strengthen your teeth and raise their resistance against decay. And of course, your dentist can check for signs of tooth decay during your regular checkups.
2. Gum Disease
Gum disease is also known as periodontal disease. It’s the result of the gum tissues becoming infected, usually due to poor oral hygiene. At first, you may only notice mild symptoms like swelling and occasional bleeding. Over time, though, gum disease can cause the gum and bone tissues holding the teeth in place to weaken. If the issue isn’t treated in time, you could end up losing your teeth, and the infection could spread to other parts of your body.
Brushing and flossing thoroughly every day can go a long way toward helping you avoid gum disease. Don’t forget to visit your dentist twice a year; they can catch gum disease while it’s still developing and treat it before it reaches the more severe stages.
3. Oral Cancer
In the United States alone, there are about 54,000 new cases of oral cancer every year as well as over 10,000 deaths. The 5-year survival rate for oral cancer is about 61%, but it largely depends on how early the condition was caught. Patients who are diagnosed with oral cancer before it has a chance to spread will have a much more favorable prognosis.
While smoking and excessive alcohol use are common risk factors for oral cancer, almost anyone can suffer from the disease. As such, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to visit your dentist. They can perform an oral cancer screening during your checkup so that you can have a biopsy performed as soon as possible if there is anything to be concerned about.
The more proactive you are about your oral health, the easier it will be to protect your smile from the problems listed above. If it’s been a while since you last saw your dentist, now’s a good time to call them and schedule an appointment so that they can catch any developing issues.
About the Author
Dr. Gretchen Anjomi has over two full decades of dental experience, and she loves being able to build trusting relationships with her patients in Newton. She earned her Doctor of Dental Medicine at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, and she’s currently a member of the Massachusetts Dental Association. If you’d like to schedule an appointment with her at Newton Corner Dental Care, visit her website or call (617) 332-6232.