What is oral disease exactly, and how to you ensure that you and your family are not at risk? This term is used to describe teeth and surrounding dental tissue that is infected, inflamed and diseased. While teeth are ideally meant to last a lifetime, the majority of people will at some point or another require a dentist. Tooth decay and gum disease are both fairly common. The good news is that they are both preventable and treatable as well.
What is Oral Disease?
The most common types of oral diseases include caries (tooth decay) and periodontitis (gum disease). These diseases are extremely common in many patients, with plaque being one of the main causes of both diseases. Both diseases are the leading cause of tooth loss. Understanding the underlying causes behind dental disease can go a long way in helping to prevent or treat problems with your teeth or gums. Some important things to note about oral diseases include the following:
- Dental Caries. Caries affect the tooth structure and are typically caused by a build-up of plaque. Caries cause cavities, which are holes in the tooth enamel. Plaque is comprised of saliva, bacteria and food particles. All three of these need to be present for plaque to occur. Regular brushing and flossing will remove the build-up of plaque that occurs over the course of each day. When plaque is not removed, a substance called calculus (tartar) appears. This is made of hardened plaque. It cannot be removed by brushing alone and instead needs to be cleaned by your dentist. Calculus is one of the major causes of periodontitis, which in turn is one of the leading causes of tooth loss in adults over the age of 35. Caries can also lead to other problems, ranging from abscesses to increased sensitivity to hot and cold and damage to the roots.
- Periodontitis. Periodontitis is often referred to as gum disease, but it affects all of the delicate tissue that surrounds your teeth – not just the gums. The periodontal ligaments and bone are also affected, causing progressive degeneration of the teeth and dental tissue. The word is Latin, translating to ‘infection around the tooth’. The disease begins relatively slowly and painlessly, starting with gingivitis (inflammation of the gums). Warning signs include red, swollen gums, bleeding during brushing and flossing, bad breath and uneven gum contours. If left unchecked, excessive calculus causes full blown periodontitis. Receding gums, loosened teeth and abscesses are a major risk, and tooth extraction may be a final resort in harder to treat cases.
How Can You Prevent Oral Disease?
Like many things, prevention of oral disease is almost always a lot easier (and cheaper) than cure. Simple, daily habits such as correctly brushing and flossing your teeth can be all that is needed to prevent both of these diseases. Steps that you can take to keep your teeth and gums healthy include:
- Visit your dentist at least once a year. A scheduled appointment once or twice a year is the best way to get professional dental cleaning and a check-up to ensure that everything is working as it should. It is a lot easier to deal with small problems before they become bigger problems.
- Brush your teeth twice a day, using a fluoride toothpaste. You may even find that brushing after meals is more effective. Use a good quality toothbrush, with soft or medium bristles that clean without hurting your gums.
- Replace your toothbrush frequently. A toothbrush or toothbrush head should be replaced every three to four months. Using old toothbrushes can end up causing more harm than good!
- Floss at least once per day. Go slowly and carefully, making sure that you remove any and all food particles that have gotten stuck between teeth or in hard to reach places. This post outlines how to floss correctly.
- Brush your tongue. Don’t forget to brush your tongue after brushing your teeth. This will allow you to remove bacteria, while keeping your breath minty fresh as well.
- Mouthwashes and other treatments. You may find that a mouthwash or fluoride treatment also helps to keep your teeth and gums clean and healthy. Ask your dentist for advice on choosing the right rinse.
At Gateway Dental, we actively encourage our patients to get into a healthy dental routine from an early age. Once plaque begins to accumulate, and caries and other problems occur, it becomes a lot harder to smile with confidence. Keep your teeth healthy and free of oral disease so that they last a lifetime!