14 Dental Problems and Diseases That You Should Know About
Last updated 23 March 2021.
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:
Tooth pain is a broad topic. It can be due to several things, including other dental health problems that we will tackle later on, such as tooth decay.
Toothache is easy to describe. Most of us have had a toothache and will have at least one in our lifetime. It is not just pain but also soreness that can affect the tooth itself and those around it. The pain can either be sharp or dull. Regardless, it is not a pleasant experience.
The tooth can also be sensitive to temperature. It is often difficult to bite or chew. Toothaches can happen because you have tooth decay, which is probably the most common cause. Meanwhile, some people suffer from a toothache because of the following reasons:
- Abscesses: Defined as a pocket of pus that forms in any part of the tooth because of bacterial infection, a dental abscess can cause you to be in severe pain. The most common sign is pain that radiates to your neck or ear.
- Tooth pulp inflammation: Also known as pulpitis, inflammation of the tooth pulp occurs when tooth decay reaches deep into the tissue or nerve in the centre of the tooth (pulp). This part of the tooth has plenty of nerves and blood vessels that can become irritated and swollen.
- Cracked tooth: Also known as a fractured tooth, cracks can occur because of mouth trauma. A cracked tooth is common in athletes who can repeatedly receive blows to the face.
- Sensitivity: Exposing your teeth to different situations, such as cold air or liquid can cause tooth pain. It typically develops from the tissue underneath the cementum or the tissue covering the root of the teeth) and the enamel.
- Gum disease: When you have gum disease, it means that your gums are infected. Gingivitis, which is a type of gum disease, shows inflamed and red gums. Periodontitis occurs when you have a gum infection.
- Bruxism: It is when you clench or grind your teeth, usually while sleeping. At first, you may not know about it, but it can eventually lead to tooth pain and even facial discomfort.
Toothaches can be difficult to deal with, which is why you may want to go to your dentist right away. If the appointment cannot come soon enough, you can swish warm water around your mouth. Flossing can also help to remove food that may have been caught between your teeth. Pain relievers are also available over the counter.
I f you are a coffee or tea drinker, you know teeth stains all too well. However, teeth discolouration is not just because of your favourite food or drink. It can also be due to poor oral hygiene.
Stains appear on the surface of the teeth, but can also go underneath the tooth enamel. Some people can have the same types of stains. Another type is related to ageing since the enamel that covers the teeth’s core tissue known as the dentine can get thinner as we grow older. As a result, dentine shows its real colour, which is yellowish.
Not to worry though because you can still have your pearly white smile back. A good option that people can explore is tooth whitening, which is provided by dentists.
Brushing and rinsing with whitening toothpaste can help, but it is only a temporary solution. You can, however, seek help from your dentist who will give you recommendations and treatment as well.
For a cavity to develop, you need a number of factors to come together. There needs to be a suitable surface (tooth), a sugary source (from food), bacteria and sufficient time. Even though the chance that decay develops varies between individuals, with some people being more susceptible, the reality is that without sugary decay will not occur.
The structure of the enamel of the individual
1,000 microorganisms in the body that dictate the immune response
Polymorphisms in saliva affect the bacteria in the mouth
Teeth Shape and Size
Cavities are small holes in the teeth that start as plaque. It will build upon the teeth and slowly destroy the outer shell or enamel of the teeth. The best way to prevent cavities is to follow the simplest guideline: brush your teeth twice daily. Brushing helps get rid of plaque and can also Florride helps reduce cavity risk.
Chipped, Cracked or Broken 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.
Does eating ice cream, making you wince every time the cold touches your teeth? According to the Academy of General Dentistry, more than 40 million adults suffer from tooth sensitivity. You may recognise it as sudden pain, often sharp yet temporary.
The good news is that you can prevent tooth sensitivities. However, the bad news is that it can happen to anyone. Sensitivities have many causes, including brushing too hard, the recession of the gums, and gingivitis.
You can also have cavities or your tooth fillings have worn out. The treatment for sensitivity depends on the underlying reason. You might require a root canal, filling, or gum treatment. The latter is for those who may need tissue replacement at the root. In simple cases, changing the toothpaste into a desensitising product is an effective solution. A fluoride gel and strip can also help.
Have you heard about hyperdontia? If not, then you surely know about having too many teeth. If you have such a problem, you have hyperdontia. For most people, there are 32 teeth when they reach adulthood. Some would have extra teeth though, including those with Gardner’s Syndrome or a cleft palate.
Gardner’s syndrome forms tumours in the mouth but they are not cancerous. The cause of hyperdontia isn’t clear up until now. Some researchers believe it is due to a genetic factor while others think that certain environmental factors can increase the risk of a person.
The only solution is to have the extra tooth (or teeth) removed. After that, you may require orthodontics to correct your bite. Usually, those who have hyperdontia also have crooked teeth. Straightening them is easy with orthodontic appliances, such as braces.
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.
Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease manifests itself in many ways, including bleeding gums, teeth sensitivity, red and tender gums, and painful chewing. Gum disease is not something that you should ignore. Many adults suffer from it, and they end up losing their teeth earlier than normal. Additionally, studies have shown that there is a link between gum disease and heart disease.
No one is safe from gum disease. There is no at-risk group that can develop periodontal disease. However, you need to watch out for it when you hit the age of 30. Also, if you smoke, you have a higher risk of acquiring the disease.
Those who suffer from dry mouth, as well as people with diabetes, can have gum disease. There are two stages of gum disease, which are gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is when you see a build-up of plaque below your gum line. Make sure that you have it treated to avoid bone loss. In many cases, teeth can move or become loose.
The best treatment for gum disease is to brush and floss daily. You can also use an antiseptic mouthwash to help rid the bacteria. Of course, you should not forget to see your dentist, especially to get regular cleanings.
The word “cancer” alone is frightening. According to The Oral Cancer Foundation, more than 450,000 people are diagnosed with this disease every year. In Australia, about 2,500 new cases arise each year, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Mouth or oral cancer is a type of head and neck cancer that targets the oral cavity. It starts in the mouth, particularly on the lips, flour of the mouth, and tongue. However, it can also begin in the gums, tonsils, roof of the mouth, cheeks, and salivary glands.
Some of the symptoms to watch out for are:
- Loose teeth
- Changes in speech
- Lump in the neck
- Lip sores that do not heal
- Mouth bleeding or numbness
- Patches (either white or red or both) on the tongue, gums, and mouth
If you suddenly lost weight, along with some of the symptoms above, you need to see a doctor. Mouth cancers can happen to those who consume tobacco and alcohol. However, it can also be due to other causes, including viruses, such as human papillomavirus (HPV) and Epstein-Barr.
Those who have a history of oral cancers in their families also have a higher risk of developing this cancer than others. Meanwhile, other risk factors include poor oral hygiene and existing gum disease. Those who chew betel nut or the seed of the areca palm tree also have an increased risk, as well as those who continually have sun exposure.
Regular dental health checks can help catch this cancer early. As with any type of cancer, you have a higher chance of combatting oral or mouth cancer when it is treated in its early stages.
Most mouth sores last two weeks. You do not have to treat the sore because it will just go away. It can be pesky, but it should not worry you unless it takes longer than usual to disappear. Canker sores, known as aphthous ulcers, are the most common type. They appear inside the mouth, so they are not visible outside, particularly on the lips.
Cold sores, on the other hand, or those you may know as fever blisters, are due to the Herpes simplex virus. You can find them usually on the edge of the lips. Cold sores are contagious and incurable but they do go away.
Meanwhile, there is another type of mouth sore, which is a yeast infection of the mouth. This type can affect almost everyone, including infants and those who wear dentures. During cancer treatment, mouth sores can appear, as well as in patients with diabetes.
Saliva is important not just to the health of the teeth but the entire mouth. It helps cleanse the mouth and serves as a food digestion aid. It also prevents mouth infection by controlling fungi and bacteria. Dry mouth or xerostomia occurs when there is not enough saliva in the mouth.
It may be a condition that you would simply ignore but dry mouth can be uncomfortable. Many treatments exist in helping solve the problem, but they usually start by determining the main cause. Some of the top reasons why people get a dry mouth include:
Taking medications for depression, allergies, colds, pain, and anxiety, as well as diuretics for hypertension and some bronchodilators for asthma cause dry mouth
- Sedatives and muscle relaxants can also lead to a dry mouth
- Those with anaemia, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, and cystic fibrosis often complain about having a dry mouth
- Other medical conditions whose patients have a dry mouth include stroke, mumps, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjögren’s syndrome. Medical treatments also cause dry mouth as one of the side effects, such as chemotherapy for cancer patients.
- Injuries or surgeries that caused nerve damage can also lead to dry mouth.
- If you are dehydrated due to excessive sweating, diarrhoea, vomiting, and blood loss, dry mouth can result as well. Your lifestyle can also affect the amount of saliva in your mouth. For instance, if you smoke or chew tobacco, it can affect saliva production.
Treating dry mouth will depend on the cause. If it is due to your medication, you can ask your doctor to give you a different drug or perhaps lower the dose.
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.
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.
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.