5 common tooth problems to consider!
Teeth are an underappreciated asset of the human body. Not only do they decorate our smiles and add to our beautiful but they also anchor our jaws for proper opening and closure helping us communicate as well as bite and chew the food we eat for proper digestion. Its arrangement too is unique for each individual making them use personal identification markers akin to fingerprints.
What are dental diseases?
Any disease that affects the appearance, form, or function of our teeth can be considered a dental disease and needless to say, any disease that stands in the way of man and food is a serious disease indeed! Moreover, anyone who has experienced it will vouch for the fact that dental pain is one of the worst kinds of pain that the human body can go through.
Preventing dental diseases and maintaining a hygienic environment in the oral cavity are essential for the day-to-day functioning of a human being. First of all, toothaches in themselves are so debilitating that you would withdraw from any and all forms of work when suffering from them. Add to it the fact that you cannot eat or drink anything if your teeth aren't healthy and you can see how oral health problems become a precedent for deteriorating general health too. Oral health is also a conspicuous marker of personal hygiene and a reflection of your systemic health. This is why it's of utmost importance to care every day for your teeth and their supporting cast in the mouth (the gums and the alveolar bone).
Here are some of the most common dental diseases and what to do if you get them.
Dental Caries. You would know them better by the word cavities. Dental caries is nothing but the dissolution of the hard part of the tooth brought about by acids formed by bacteria metabolising the sugars from the food debris left uncleaned in the mouth for prolonged periods of time. All caries aren't cavities though. They may begin as just a slight discoloration or a pit or a fissure on the tooth. This is how it looks in its initial stages and it's easier to arrest its progress here provided you consult your dentist immediately as soon as you notice it. The smaller the extent of caries, the lesser the dentist has to work on it and lesser amount of material needs to be used to restore it saving you time and money. More importantly, smaller the extent, the farther it is from the pulp of the tooth which brings us to the next common dental problem.
Pulpitis. This is where the pain begins. Cavities are generally painless. They become increasingly sensitive as its depth increases and this is the tooth's way of warning you to see your dentist and get it filled immediately. If you don't heed these warnings, the cavity grows, eating more and more of the hard part of the tooth until the soft central core of the tooth gets exposed. This part of the tooth is known as the pulp and its exposure immediately results in sharp shooting pains that can sometimes radiate to the ears as well. From this point on, filling the cavity with a restorative material is longer an option. Antibiotics and painkillers may give temporary relief but won't solve the problem either. This condition, which is nothing but an infection and inflammation of the dental pulp is known as pulpitis and it may be acute or chronic depending upon the speed of onset and the nature of pain. Root Canal Treatment is the only option of treatment for acute pulpitis. If you self medicate with painkillers and wait for the symptoms to subside, know that the infection will continue to spread even if the pain subsides and this may lead to complications like abscesses and granulomas beneath the teeth. Hence, just get the root canal treatment done and save your tooth while you can once you've been diagnosed with pulpitis. Also, get checked regularly for cavities and get them filled if you want to avoid root canal treatments altogether!
Periodontal diseases. This is the second major infectious disease that affects the mouth after dental caries, caused by harmful microbial biofilms that form on the surfaces of teeth and gums. It begins as just a mild inflammation of the gums but it can progress in a destructive manner causing bone destruction, tooth mobility, pain, spontaneous bleeding and bad breath and can have a devastating effect on the overall health of the body if left unchecked. Periodontitis has been associated with heart diseases, diabetes and respiratory illnesses. Bleeding while brushing is an early marker of periodontal disease which one should vigilantly look out for everyday. Also look for deposits that resemble the tooth in colour but aren't and consult a periodontist immediately for an oral prophylaxis to reset one's oral health to optimal levels.
Sensitivity. People, nowadays self-medicate with toothpaste like Sensodyne for relief from symptoms of sensitivity in the teeth. While they do provide relief from sensitivity, this isn't necessarily a good thing. Because sensitivity in itself isn't a disease but a symptom and your body's way of telling you that all is not well in the oral cavity. You could have an undetected cavity that is getting close to the pulp, your gums could be receding exposing the sensitive roots of the teeth or your enamel could be wearing off due to abrasion or attrition from faulty brushing or bruxism. Masking the symptom with toothpaste only serves to hide the underlying problem which will continue to progress as you remain unaware. Always consult a dentist first when you experience tooth sensitivity to figure out its exact cause and get proper treatment.
Malaligned teeth. Improper alignment of teeth can cause aesthetic as well as functional limitations in a person and is a problem that begins in childhood as a result of improper oral care during the development and eruption of permanent dentition. It can be attributed to childhood habits like thumb sucking and mouth breathing that weren't recognized and corrected at the right time. Parents should start working in tandem with a pediatric dentist as early as the 6th month of pregnancy to plan for the proper dental development of the child.
It is high time people understood that the role of good oral health and hygiene isn’t limited to looking good, keeping bad breath at bay and comfortably chewing and gulping down food. If you protect your oral cavity from injuries and infections, it will help you protect your body and its systemic health in general.
See a dentist immediately if your mouth gives you any warning signs in the form of spontaneous toothaches, pain while chewing, sensitivity, bad smell, bleeding gums, ulcers or even a visible discoloration on a tooth that you haven’t noticed before.
Meanwhile, here are some common as well as uncommon practices for maintaining good oral health.
- Brushing daily. Well, that is sort of a given! There are people who may not shower daily but there isn’t anyone who would step out of their house without brushing their teeth anymore. But do you know if your brushing technique is proper? Did you know that improper brushing techniques can aggravate your gums and abrade your teeth leading to sensitivity? Did you know that there are different types of toothbrushes you can use depending on your current periodontal health? Be sure to ask your dentist about correct brushing practices in your next visit!
- Flossing. A practice that is slightly less common in India as compared to the west. It is important to integrate flossing into your daily brushing routine as it helps clean out plaque and debris from tight interdental spaces and gingival crevices where your toothbrush bristles may not reach, especially for people with crowded or malaligned teeth.
- Mouthwashes. Antimicrobial mouthwashes containing betadine or chlorhexidine are quite effective in destroying plaque forming bacteria in the mouth. However, since these mouthwashes contain alcohol and other chemicals that cause stains, they should be used only as instructed by a dentist with regards to frequency and dosage.
- Tongue Cleaning. We tend to focus mostly or only on our pearly whites during our daily oral hygiene routines, and never pay attention to our tongue which has the ability to house a large number of microbes on its large and rugged surface. We rarely even notice if it starts to change color or a coating starts to form on its surface. Using a tongue scraper or the back of your tooth brush to clean and rinse your tongue every day along with other oral health practices goes a long way in reducing bad breath and the risk of tooth decay and gum diseases. It also contributes to a feeling of freshness and cleanliness in the mouth.
- Regular dental checkups and Oral Prophylaxis. Oral Prophylaxis refers to the professional cleaning of the teeth and gums by a dentist. A dentist uses an ultrasonic scaler which is a device that employs ultrasound to break down calcified deposits on the teeth and crevices of the gum formed by bacterial aggregation.