Oral Conditions & Diseases: Overview

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Oral diseases impact the health of teeth, gums, and surrounding tissues. As a result, if these conditions are left untreated, they can negatively impact the health of your entire body. So, understanding the risks of certain conditions ensures the highest quality treatment is sought depending on individual needs.

Common oral diseases and conditions include dental caries, gingivitis, and periodontal disease. Bruxism (teeth grinding), plaque buildup, and cracked tooth syndrome are also prevalent. Further, all of these conditions can affect people of all ages, including babies, children, teens, adults, and the elderly. 


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Dental Caries

Dental caries (cavities) are caused by the interaction between microorganisms (Streptococcus Mutans), tooth enamel, and sugars. At first, the cavities appear as small light brown spots on the enamel. As the cavities progress, they turn black and may lead to more serious conditions if left untreated, such as a root canal. Common treatment options for this condition include direct restorations (fillings) and indirect restorations, such as dental crowns.

class ii cavity

Gingivitis & Periodontal Disease

Gingivitis is the mildest form of gum disease that causes gum inflammation. Although minor, it is also an early sign of periodontal disease (PD), a serious oral condition that permanently damages the gums and jawbone. PD is the result of poor oral hygiene worsened by smoking, neglected dental treatment, or extreme changes in diet.

teeth with plaque and red gums from gingivitis

Symptoms of PD include:

  • Inflamed gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • High levels of dental plaque

Bad Breath & Dry Mouth

Common causes of bad breath include tobacco use, high sugar diets, excessive coffee or alcohol consumption, not brushing teeth regularly, and dry mouth. However, depending on the condition’s severity, there are professional dental treatments available and natural ways to reduce bad breath.

Tooth Sensitivity Treatment

Tooth sensitivity can be caused by many different dental issues. This includes:

  • Bruxism, which refers to teeth grinding and clenching, typically while sleeping
  • Plaque or tartar buildup, which can lead to cavities and gum disease
  • Cracked teeth, usually due to injury or trauma
  • Cavities, which is the process of tooth decay
  • Gum recession, a condition where your gums pull away from your teeth
  • Gingivitis, which is also called mild gum disease
  • Incorrect brushing and flossing, resulting in tooth decay over time
  • Eating acidic foods, which can lead to enamel erosion

Tartar & Dental Plaque

Dental plaque is a sticky, non-mineralized mass of bacteria that forms on a tooth’s surface. Plaque occurs when substances containing refined carbohydrates (starches and sugars) are routinely left on the teeth. Once plaque hardens, it forms into tartar. If left untreated, tooth decay is a common risk factor.

Cracked Tooth Syndrome

Cracked tooth syndrome is a result of bruxism, which occurs when excessive grinding or clenching of the teeth causes an internal crack in the tooth. The crack is usually difficult to see but can cause extreme pain when biting down at the right angle. However, a minor tooth crack typically does not cause pain. Common treatments include indirect restorations, such as an onlay or crown.

Dental Anxiety

Up to 16 percent of adults experience dental anxiety, or dental phobia, while receiving dental treatment. If you have extreme dental anxiety, anesthesia or sedation dentistry is available. More specifically, common pain and anxiety control methods include:

  • Analgesia
  • Anesthesia
  • General anesthesia
  • Local anesthesia
  • Conscious sedation

Oral Thrush

Oral thrush (oral candidiasis) is a yeast infection resulting from an overgrowth of Candida fungus that lives in the mucous membranes lining in the mouth. The most common type of Candida fungus that causes thrush is Candida albicans. Thrush is difficult to notice, at least at first. The condition also does not cause severe pain.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer begins with the development of abnormal carcinoma cells. It results in the growth of mouth sores that do not disappear on their own. These mouth sores, also called oral lesions, can appear in different areas of the oral cavity. Lastly, the disease is life-threatening if it isn’t diagnosed or treated early on. 

TMJ Treatment

Jaw injuries, long-term teeth grinding or clenching, and other medical issues can lead to temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ). This disorder causes pain in the jaw joint when opening and closing the mouth. Common treatments for TMJ include:

Gum Recession

Gum recession, also called receding gums, is when your gums begin to pull away from your teeth. As a result, the roots of your teeth become exposed, which typically causes sensitivity to hot and cold substances. This is because root surfaces do not have hard enamel covering them like the crowns of teeth do, which makes them more sensitive.

Dental Erosion

Dental erosion, also referred to as enamel erosion, erosive wear, or tooth erosion, occurs when acidic substances wear away tooth enamel. In essence, it is a chemical process that results in the loss of dental tissue. However, erosion does not involve bacteria, as many other oral conditions do. 


Bruxism is a common condition caused by voluntary or involuntary movement of the mandibular (bottom) jawbone. This habitual movement results in clenching, grinding, or teeth clicking. Individuals with bruxism often clench or grind their teeth during sleep and are referred to as "bruxers." Treatment may include:

  • A mouthguard
  • Mouth splint
  • Anxiety medication

Mouth Breathing

Mouth breathing is when you inhale and exhale through your mouth rather than your nose. Breathing through the nose is the proper way to breathe because it warms up the nasal passages and moistens the air you take in. On the other hand, mouth breathing dries out the mouth, which can eventually cause cavities and gum disease.


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Emmelin, Nils, and Yngve Zotterman. Oral Physiology Proceedings of the International Symposium Held in Wenner-Gren Center, Stockholm, August 1971. Elsevier Science, 2013.

Moharamzadeh, Keyvan. Diseases and Conditions in Dentistry: an Evidence-Based Reference. Wiley, 2018.



Rogers, Nicola, and Cinzia Pickett. Basic Guide to Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Wiley Blackwell, 2017.

Syrbu, John DDS. The Complete Pre-Dental Guide to Modern Dentistry. 2013.

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Updated on: October 20, 2020
Alyssa Hill
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Medically Reviewed
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Lara Coseo