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Oral Health

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20 Aug, 2018

Oral health and hygiene is a very important aspect of your over health and well-being. Many sufferers have reported that they are embarrassed about how their mouths and teeth appear because of such oral problems, leading to a lack of self-confidence and impacting social life in a huge way! Maintaining oral health is a lifelong commitment and every part of the mouth needs to be taken care of on a daily basis, with proper oral hygiene habits such as regular brushing, flossing, mouth washing, and cutting down on your sugar intake. Poor oral hygiene can result in bad breath, teeth cavities, and various gum diseases because of harboring infectious bacteria.

 

Causes

The mouth naturally harbors good bacteria (normal flora) which is harmless. Triggers such as a sugary diet create favorable conditions for these bacteria to multiply in excess, leading to acid-production. This acid dissolves tooth enamel and causes dental cavities.

Bacteria flourish in a sticky matrix called plaque, that lines the gums. If plaque isn’t removed regularly by brushing and flossing, it starts to accumulate, harden, and migrate down the length of your tooth. This leads to gingivitis or inflammation of the gums. If this is not treated, the gums start to pull away from the teeth as they are severely inflamed. Such gaps between the teeth and gums are later filled with pus leading to an advanced stage of gingivitis, now called as periodontal disease. Factors that can lead to such diseases include

  • smoking
  • poor brushing habits
  • frequent snacking on sugary foods and drinks
  • diabetes
  • Dehydration of the mouth
  • family history, or genetics
  • certain infections, such as HIV or AIDS
  • hormonal fluctuations in women
  • acid reflux, or heartburn
  • frequent vomiting, due to the acid

 

Symptoms

If you experience any of the following symptoms, make sure you visit your dentist immediately:

  • bleeding or swollen gums after brushing or flossing
  • constant bad breath
  • pain or a toothache
  • increased sensitivity to hot and cold temperatures (e.g. sipping on a hot or cold beverage)
  • loose, cracked or broken teeth
  • ulcers, sores, or tender areas in the mouth that won’t heal after a week or two
  • receding gums
  • jaw clicking
  • pain from chewing or biting
  • facial swelling
  • frequent dry mouth

 

Diagnosis

During a dental/oral examination, your dentist will closely inspect your teeth, tongue, mouth, cheeks, jaw, neck and throat.

  • Your dentist will physically examine your teeth by gently tapping at it or scraping using tools to assist with the diagnosis.
  • A dental X-ray of the mouth is taken (Do not undergo X-ray imaging if you are pregnant as X-rays are very harmful in that case)
  • The size of your gum pockets is measured using a probe. The pocket depth between the teeth is normally between 1 to 3 mm in a healthy mouth. A depth higher than that may indicate gum disease.
  • Gum biopsy: This is done when any abnormal growths, lesions or lumps are observed in your mouth. A small tissue sample is collected from the lesion or lump and sent for a laboratory analysis to check for any pathogenic bacterial growth or cancerous cells, etc.
  • If oral cancer is suspected, your dentist may also want to conduct imaging tests such as CT, MRI, X-ray imaging or endoscopy to check the spread of cancer.

 

Treatment

No matter even if you take good oral care, you will still need to have a professional dental visit for cleaning at least twice a year. Based on such routine checkup, your dentist can identify potential problems even before symptoms show up and advise you on any treatment accordingly.

  • Cleanings: Your dentist will follow procedures to get rid of any plaque you may have missed while brushing and flossing. It’ll also remove tartar, followed by brushing your teeth using a high-powered toothbrush, flossing and rinsing to wash out any debris. 
  • Fluoride treatments: Fluoride is a naturally occurring mineral that is used to strengthen the enamel, making your teeth more resistant to bacterial growth and acid development, thus fighting cavities.
  • Antibiotics: Antibiotics in the form of a mouth rinse, gels, tablets, and capsules are prescribed if any gum infection is suspected. Antibiotics are also used to heal tooth abscess that has spread to other teeth or the jaw.
  • Fillings, crowns, and sealants: These are used to repair a cavity, crack, or hole in the tooth. First, the tooth is drilled to remove the damaged part and then the gap is filled with some material, such as composite or amalgam.
  • Root canal: This procedure is required if the dental pulp (containing nerves and blood vessels) has been damaged. The pulp is removed and filled with biocompatible material.
  • Surgery for dental and oral problems: Surgeries are usually performed only to replace or fix missing caused by an accident or broken teeth or treat more serious cases of periodontal disease.

 

Tips to keep oral problems at bay:

  • Brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste at least twice a day
  • Floss at least once a day
  • Use mouth-wash and rinse your mouth after every meal
  • Go for a dental check-up and professional cleaning at least twice a year
  • Tobacco or nicotinic products are a strict no-no
  • follow a high-fiber, low-fat, low-sugar diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Cut down on sugary snacks and drinks such as flavored yogurt, sweetened ice tea, energy bars and drinks, canned fruits etc.
  • Consume foods that are probiotics (good bacteria) as they have been shown to be beneficial for good oral health and prevent disease and inflammation. Examples of foods are kimchi, yogurt, pickles, etc.