Bad breath, also called halitosis, can be downright embarrassing. According to dental studies, about 85 percent of people with persistent bad breath have a dental condition that is to blame.
Gum disease, cavities, oral cancer, dry mouth, and bacteria on the tongue are some of the dental problems that can cause bad breath. Using mouthwash to cover up bad breath when a dental problem is present will only mask the odor and not cure it. If you have chronic bad breath, visit your dentist to rule out any of these problems.
Tooth decay, also known as cavities, is the second only to the common cold as the most prevalent disease in the United States. Tooth decay occurs when plaque, the sticky substance that forms on teeth, combines with the sugars and/or starches of the food you eat. This combination produces acids that attack tooth enamel.
You can get cavities at any age—they aren’t just for children. As you age, you can develop cavities as your tooth enamel erodes. Dry mouth due to age or medications can also lead to cavities.
The best way to prevent tooth decay is by brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and going to your regular dental check-ups. Eating healthy foods and avoiding snacks and drinks that are high in sugar are also ways to prevent decay. Your dentist can recommend further treatments that may help reduce your risk.
Gum (Periodontal) Disease
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums surrounding the teeth. It is also one of the main causes of tooth loss among adults. Some studies have indicated that there may be a link between heart disease and periodontal disease.
Everyone is at risk for gum disease, but it usually occurs after age 30. Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors. Diabetes and dry mouth also increase your risk. The symptoms include bad breath, red, swollen, tender, or bleeding gums, sensitive teeth, and painful chewing.
The two major stages of gum disease are gingivitis and periodontitis. Regular dental check-ups along with brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily play an important role in preventing gum disease. You should see your dentist if you have any signs of gum disease so you can get treatment to prevent further complications, such as tooth loss.
Oral cancer is a serious and deadly disease that affects millions of people. The Oral Cancer Foundation estimates that someone in the United States dies every hour from oral cancer, but it is often curable if diagnosed and treated in the early stages. It is most often seen in people over the age of 40.
The biggest risk factors are tobacco and alcohol use, including chewing tobacco. HPV—a sexually transmitted wart virus—also increases the risk.
The symptoms of mouth or throat cancer include sores, lumps, or rough areas in the mouth. You may also have a change in your bite and difficulty chewing or moving your tongue or jaw.
Regular dental visits can help catch oral cancer early. You may ask your dentist whether an oral cancer exam is part of their usual checkup. If you notice any of the symptoms or have trouble chewing, swallowing, or moving your tongue or jaw, see your dentist.
There are several types of mouth sores and they can be pesky and bothersome. Unless a mouth sore lasts more than two weeks, it is usually nothing to worry about and will disappear on its own.
Common mouth sores are canker sores (aphthous ulcers) that occur inside the mouth and not on the lips. They are not contagious and can be triggered by many different causes. They are only a concern if they don’t go away after two weeks.
Fever blisters or cold sores are caused by the Herpes simplex virus and occur on the edge of the outer lips. They are contagious and will come and go but are not completely curable.
Mouth sores are also seen in oral thrush or candidiasis, a yeast infection of the mouth that can be seen in infants, denture wearers, people with diabetes, and during cancer treatment.
Tooth erosion is the loss of tooth structure and is caused by acid attacking the enamel. Tooth erosion signs and symptoms can range from sensitivity to more severe problems such as cracking. Tooth erosion is more common than people might think, but it can also be easily prevented.
Tooth sensitivity is a common problem that affects millions of people. Basically, tooth sensitivity involves experiencing pain or discomfort to your teeth from sweets, cold air, hot drinks, cold drinks or ice cream. Some people with sensitive teeth even experience discomfort from brushing and flossing. The good news is that sensitive teeth can be treated.
Sensitive teeth can also be a sign of a cracked tooth or a tooth abscess, which needs to be treated by your dentist to prevent losing a tooth or getting an infection in your jaw bone. If you suddenly develop tooth sensitivity, make an appointment with your dentist to see if there is a source that needs to be treated.
Toothaches and Dental Emergencies
While many toothaches and dental emergencies can be easily avoided just by regular visits to the dentist, accidents can and do happen. Having a dental emergency can be very painful and scary. Common problems that require an urgent trip to your dentist include a broken or cracked tooth, an abscessed tooth, or a tooth knocked out in an accident.
Go to a hospital for trauma care if you have a fractured or dislocated jaw or severe cuts to your tongue, lips, or mouth. If you have a tooth abscess that is causing difficulty swallowing or you have developed a fever or facial swelling, get emergency care as well.
While an unattractive smile is not technically a “dental problem,” it is a major reason why many patients seek dental treatment.
An unattractive smile can really lower a person’s self-esteem. Luckily, with today’s technologies and developments, anyone can have a beautiful smile. Whether it’s teeth whitening, dental implants, orthodontics or other cosmetic dental work, chances are that your dentist can give you the smile of your dreams.