Dental problems are like baseball umpires – you don’t think about them until they start causing you a problem, whether it be a toothache or that pitch you swore was outside but gets called strike three. Problems can range from a relatively simple (even if excruciating) toothache to the need for a root canal that hits you as hard in the wallet as it does in discomfort.
The good news about dental issues is that pretty much all of them are preventable, and if you are serious enough about prevention, you can avoid trips to the dentist’s office other than those recommended twice-a-year checkups and cleanings. The key is to brush thoroughly after each meal – or at least twice a day, floss once daily, and get to those checkups every six months, per verywellhealth.com.
A Summary of Tooth and Gum Problems
Per dailycaring.com, these can include:
- Tooth decay. Caused by buildup of plaque and tartar, leading to cavities.
- Gum disease. Caused by bacteria in plaque and tartar.
- Receding gums. A gradual process in which gums retreat from your teeth, related to several factors, among them family history, grinding of teeth (bruxism), and neglectful dental hygiene.
- Dry mouth. Decreased saliva production, which is related to age and possible side effects of medications.
- Oral cancer. Your dentist should check for persistent sores, ulcers, or changes in color of tissue in or around your mouth.
- Bad breath. Also known as halitosis. Studies have indicated that 85 percent of people with persistent bad breath have a dental condition that is the culprit, per verywellhealth.com.
Oral Health Is Linked to Overall Health
True story. As much as it makes you wince to hear this, your mouth is swarming with bacteria, which, although nowhere near as noticeable as, say, a swarm of bees or hornets buzzing around inside your mouth, is a source of long-term health concerns.
Regular brushing and flossing go a long way in keep those bacteria under wraps; otherwise, bacteria can grow and lead to oral infections, such as tooth decay and gum disease. It might not stop there, either. Oral bacteria and inflammation linked to periodontitis (a severe form of gum disease), per mayoclinic.org, can in turn contribute to other serious conditions and diseases elsewhere in your body, such as the following:
- Endocarditis. Your heart’s inner lining becomes infected with bacteria carried from other parts of your body through the bloodstream.
- Cardiovascular disease. The infection and inflammation from oral bacteria can be a contributing factor, producing an increased risk of clogged arteries and stroke, per mayoclinic.org.
- Premature birth. Also low birth weight.
Going back in the other direction, several conditions can also affect your oral health, to include diabetes, which reduces the body’s ability to ward off infection; HIV/AIDS, which can produce painful mucosal lesions; osteoporosis, in which bones – such as those in your teeth – can become weakened and even brittle; and Alzheimer’s disease, whereby oral health can progress in conjunction with the progression of Alzheimer’s.
How to Prevent Oral Health Issues
It’s all about developing the right habits:
- Brush. At least twice a day and with a fluoride toothpaste.
- Floss. Seven days a week ought to do it.
- Healthy diet. Start with fruits and veggies, and avoid sweets. Those simple rules go a long way.
- Vitamin D. Good for strong bones and teeth.
- Anti-plaque dental rinses. Helps kill harmful oral bacteria.
- Tobacco. Avoid it.
- Regular checkups. This should include a thorough cleaning and X-rays.
- Toothbrush care. Replace it every three or four months, or sooner if bristles are frayed.
- Avoid soft drinks. Too much sugar, and the acid eats away at tooth enamel.