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Oral conditions and dental diseases are issues that impact the health of your teeth, gums, and surrounding tissues. Your oral health is tied to the health of your entire body, so it’s essential to prevent, diagnose, and treat these issues quickly.
Understanding the most common oral health issues can help you identify when to consult a doctor.
Common oral diseases and conditions include cavities, gum disease, periodontal disease, and oral cancer.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common oral health conditions and dental diseases:
A cavity, also known as tooth decay or dental caries, is a hole in your tooth caused by bacteria interacting with sugar. It’s one of the most common dental conditions, with 90% of people over 20 having at least one cavity in their lifetime.1
A cavity first appears as a small light brown spot on the enamel. As it progresses, the hole deepens and may turn black.
Cavities won’t go away on their own. You’ll need a dentist to provide treatment involving dental fillings or crowns. If you wait too long to get a filling, a root canal or extraction may be necessary.
Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease that causes gum inflammation. Many adults over 30 show signs of gingivitis.2
Gum disease is an early stage of periodontal disease (PD), a severe oral condition that permanently damages the gums and jawbone. If you don’t treat your gingivitis, it can progress into PD.
Periodontal disease results from poor oral hygiene worsened by smoking or a high-sugar diet. Symptoms of periodontal disease include:
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, affects 30% of the population.3 Common causes of bad breath include tobacco use, high-sugar diets, excessive coffee or alcohol consumption, poor oral hygiene, and dry mouth.
It can also be a symptom of gum disease and periodontal disease, so you don’t want to ignore your bad breath. Depending on the condition’s severity, there are professional dental treatments available and natural ways to reduce bad breath.
An estimated 1 in 4 people experience dry mouth, a condition characterized by an underproduction of saliva.4 While not usually a life-threatening condition, it can indicate a deeper issue or feel uncomfortable.
Common causes of dry mouth include:
You may also experience a sore throat, hoarseness, or bad breath if you have a dry mouth.
Tooth sensitivity refers to the sensation of tooth pain or discomfort after exposure to extreme temperatures, sweets, or highly acidic substances. Anyone can experience it.5
Many different dental issues can cause tooth sensitivity, including:
Dental plaque is a sticky, non-mineralized mass of bacteria that forms on a tooth’s surface. It accumulates when substances containing refined carbohydrates (starches and sugars) are routinely left on the teeth.
Plaque builds up when you don’t practice good oral hygiene and visit your dentist for routine cleanings. It can erode your enamel and cause tooth decay.
Once plaque hardens, it turns into tartar (calculus). Tartar can cause periodontal disease and can only be removed during a professional dental cleaning.
Cracked tooth syndrome results from bruxism, which occurs when excessive grinding or teeth clenching causes an internal crack in your tooth.
A tooth crack is usually challenging to see but can cause extreme pain when biting down at the right angle. A minor tooth crack typically isn’t painful and may be harmless.
However, tooth cracks have the potential to grow and cause severe damage.5 If you have a crack in one of your teeth, visit your dentist immediately. They can provide common treatments in indirect restorations, such as an onlay or crown.
Going to the dentist can be nerve-wracking for many people. Up to 16 percent of adults experience dental anxiety or phobia while receiving dental treatment.6
If you have extreme dental anxiety, anesthesia or sedation dentistry may help during more involved procedures.
Oral thrush (oral candidiasis) is a yeast infection resulting from an overgrowth of Candida fungus that lives in the mouth's mucous membranes.
The most common type of Candida fungus that causes thrush is Candida albicans. Thrush is difficult to notice, at least initially, because it doesn’t cause severe pain. Over time, it becomes evident as a white spot on your tongue that can be wiped off to reveal a red base.
Oral thrush is common in people with dry mouths, weakened immune systems, and uncontrolled diabetes. Pregnant people and individuals with other infections may also be prone to it.
Oral cancer begins with the development of abnormal carcinoma cells. It results in the growth of mouth sores that do not disappear independently. These mouth sores, also called oral lesions, can appear in different areas of the oral cavity. The disease is life-threatening if it isn’t diagnosed or treated early on.
Jaw injuries, long-term teeth grinding or clenching, and other medical issues can lead to temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ). This group of disorders causes pain in the jaw joint when opening and closing the mouth. It can interfere with chewing, talking, and eating.
Around 10 million people in the US suffer from at least one TMJ disorder.7 Common treatments for TMJ include:
Gum recession, also called receding gums, is when your gums begin to pull away from your teeth. The roots of your teeth become exposed, leading to sensitivity and a higher risk of decay.
More than 50 percent of the population experiences gum recession.8 It has many causes, including the use of dentures, genetic factors, and tobacco use.
Surgical treatment is usually needed to reverse gum recession.
Dental erosion, or enamel or tooth erosion, occurs when acidic substances wear away tooth enamel.
Erosion is a chemical process that results in the loss of dental tissue. However, erosion does not involve bacteria like many other oral conditions.
Enamel erosion is the second most common oral condition among adolescents in the US, after cavities. Young people frequently consume soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juices with low pH levels, contributing to erosion.8
Bruxism is a common condition that refers to the voluntary or involuntary movement of the mandibular (bottom) jaw. This habitual movement results in clenching, grinding, or teeth clicking.
People with bruxism often clench or grind their teeth during sleep. Left untreated, bruxism can lead to jaw pain and headaches, TMJ disorders, and tooth damage.
Treatment may include:
Mouth breathing is inhaling and exhaling through your mouth rather than your nose.
Breathing through the nose is proper because it warms the nasal passages and moistens the air. Though it may seem harmless, mouth breathing dries out the mouth, which can cause cavities and gum disease.
Oral health conditions and dental diseases are widespread in people of all ages. The most common include cavities, gum disease, bad breath, dental anxiety, and more.
Many dental diseases start in a mild form that’s easy to treat if you catch it early. However, if you let an oral health condition go untreated, it can impact your overall health severely.
Always speak to a dentist as soon as possible if you have symptoms of a common oral health condition or dental disease.
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