Oral health is important for your overall health and quality of life. Poor dental hygiene can lead to problems like cavities, and is also linked to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
1. Tooth decay
- One of the most common oral diseases is tooth decay (cavities), which affects people of all ages and is entirely preventable.
- Cavities form when bacteria in the mouth collects on the teeth and gum line, eventually causing enamel wear and tear.
2. Gum disease
- Gum disease develops due to a buildup of bacteria on the teeth and beneath the gum line, which can cause inflammation and infection.
- When a person has a chronic health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, or arthritis, their risk of gum disease increases.
- In most cases, a deep cleaning is needed and you may be prescribed medications such as antibiotics to help fight the infection.
3. Mouth injury
- Mouth trauma results from injury to the teeth or mouth, with many cases linked to sports injuries.
- Preventive measures such as wearing a mouth guard and helmet can reduce the likelihood of sustaining a mouth injury when playing sports.
- Some injuries require multiple surgeries, which can be costly and sometimes lead to complications.
4. Oral cancer
- This type of cancer is typically found in people who have poor oral habits, such as smoking tobacco products.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the 5-year survival rate is approximately 61%, but early detection and intervention can lead to more promising numbers.
5. Birth defects
- Cleft lip and cleft palate are openings or splits in the upper lip, palate (roof of the mouth), or both, which occur when facial structures that are developing in an unborn baby don't close completely.
- While genetic predisposition may contribute to these conditions, poor nutrition, tobacco use, and obesity during pregnancy may play a role.
Other oral problems
Apart from above, below are other common oral health conditions:
- Chronic mouth and facial pain
- Oral sores
- Xerostomia (dry mouth)
- Wisdom teeth pain
- Tooth sensitivity
How common is oral cancer?
Oral cancer is the least common of oral health diseases, but it is one of the most dangerous. According to the American Cancer Society, 54,010 people will be diagnosed with oral cancer in 2021. The tongue, tonsils, gums, and oropharynx are the most commonly affected areas (section of the throat at the back of your mouth). Signs and symptoms include:
- White or red patches on the gums, tonsils or other areas inside the mouth
- Lip or mouth sore that doesn’t heal for a long while
- Lump inside the mouth
- Mouth pain
- Problems with swallowing
- Continuous bad breath
- Weight loss
Oral cancer can be cured. The key to battling the disease is avoiding high-risk behaviors such as smoking cigarettes, cigars, or pipes and excessive alcohol consumption.
A dentist can detect early signs of oral cancer before it becomes difficult to treat. Depending on the type of oral cancer and stage of cancer at the time of diagnosis, treatment may include a combination of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.
What are tips for good oral hygiene?
According to the American Dental Association, many systemic diseases can affect the mouth, and common life-threatening diseases have been linked to poor oral health.
Brushing with fluoride toothpaste, flossing daily, and visiting your dentist on a regular basis is essential for good oral health:
- Brush your teeth thoroughly with a soft-bristled toothbrush twice a day.
- Eat fruits that are high in vitamin C.
- Maintain a nutritious diet and avoid snacking in between meals.
- Replace your toothbrush every 3-4 months or more frequently if the bristles are frayed.
- After each meal, rinse your mouth.
- Schedule dental check-ups every 6 months.
- Floss at least once a day to remove plaque and food particles that get stuck between the teeth.
- Avoid tobacco and alcohol.
- Use a tongue cleaner to remove plaque from your tongue and freshen your breath.
- To prevent tooth decay, avoid foods and drinks with high sugar content.
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