A Guide to Dental Disease Prevention

Dental diseases are a set of disorders involving the mouth, particularly the teeth and gums. Collectively they represent one of the most common ailments in human beings. Problems with the mouth often start unnoticed, however, they can escalate to the point that they become a major and irreversible problem. Fortunately, these diseases of the mouth are preventable if they are caught early enough and the right care is applied. To best take care of one’s dental needs, people should learn what diseases can affect their mouths and how to prevent them from damaging their teeth and gums.

Gingivitis

A buildup of plaque on and between one’s teeth is the primary cause of a condition that is known as gingivitis. This is the earliest stage of gum disease and is defined as inflammation of the gums. Signs of gingivitis typically include bleeding and redness of the gums. If left untreated the plaque and tartar begin to damage the gums and can lead to infection and more severe gum disease. While failure to remove plaque due to poor dental hygiene is one of the most commonly discussed causes of this condition, other risk factors exist such as illness, hormonal changes due to pregnancy, and diabetes that is uncontrolled. Fortunately, it may be prevented, stopped, and occasionally reversed when the right steps are taken. Routine brushing of the teeth on a twice daily basis is the first preventative step. Flossing and using a mouth rinse are also common preventative measures, as are regular dental examinations and cleanings.

Caries

Caries are a disease that results in damage or decay to the teeth and bone. Also known as dental caries, tooth decay, or cavities, it is considered one of the world’s most chronic diseases. It is caused by bacteria which attack sugars and carbohydrates that are in the mouth and on the teeth from foods that are eaten. The bacterium creates an acid that removes calcium and minerals from the teeth in what is called demineralization. If proper dental hygiene in the form of brushing and flossing does not occur, this acid and plaque remain on the teeth and remineralization does not occur. As the bacteria moves into the teeth or tooth this causes decay. In addition to improved oral hygiene at least twice a day and preferably between meals and snacks, preventative maintenance to avoid caries can include using a fluoride mouth rinse, and adjusting diet so that foods containing sugar and other simple carbohydrates are reduced. If one is diabetic, pregnant or has a health condition that reduces salivary response, a person should inform his or her dentist.

Abscess Teeth

When pus, or infected materials form in a tooth, it is called a tooth abscess or abscess teeth. Typically, the pus gathers in a sac and is caused by bacteria that have infected the tooth. The pus filled sac or pouch forms as the bacteria is unable to drain properly. The bacteria that causes the abscess is caused by caries or tooth decay that has been untreated, gum disease, or a cracked tooth. Dental procedures such as root canals may also lead to this type of problem. An untreated abscess can cause loss of the tooth or it can spread and infect the surrounding bone. The best way to prevent abscess teeth is to follow proper oral hygiene to prevent tooth decay. This includes twice a day brushing of the teeth, daily use of dental floss and routine dental cleanings. Drinking water regularly or chewing gum that is sugar-free can help prevent or reduce dryness of the mouth, which may also cause decay and as a result contribute to abscess teeth.

Gum Disease

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is an umbrella term that covers any condition or disease that affects the gums. It is typically divided into two categories: gingivitis and the more advanced periodontitis. These diseases often include inflammation, loss of gum tissue, and may even result in tooth loss as it also damages the bone that supports them. Plaque and the failure to remove it through brushing, flossing and routine dental cleanings are the causes for gum disease. Left to build, plaque forms in the area between the teeth and gums and causes the onset of the disease. In addition to these causes, there are certain factors that increase one’s risks of developing this type of problem, such as taking certain medications, diabetes and other illnesses, smoking, hormonal changes, and genetics.

Brushing, mouthwash, and flossing are common ways to prevent the disease from occurring; however, treating health conditions such as diabetes and making one’s dentist aware of certain health conditions can also help reduce the risk. People who smoke should also discontinue smoking. Treatment of gum disease depends on the type. With gingivitis, a dentist may scrape away the build-up of plaque that has formed around the gum line. The treatment of periodontitis involves the scraping of tartar and plaque from the teeth and below one’s gum line. As this can be uncomfortable, a local anesthetic may be necessary. Because of the elevated risk of infection, antibiotics are often prescribed. More involved procedures may also be necessary such as grafting to replace gum tissue that has been lost.

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