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Neglecting your oral health is all too easy. With all of life’s various demands, it can be hard to even find the time to remember to brush and floss your teeth. Even with good dental hygiene, you can still develop problems like cavities, toothaches, and gum disease. These dental problems might not seem all that serious, but they can be signs of a bigger problem, or escalate in the future if you don’t deal with them soon. There are many dental plans available that can help make treatment more affordable, allowing you to get the preventive care you need.
Halitosis is the clinical term for bad breath, and it’s something that almost everyone deals with. Bad breath can be embarrassing, but it’s also a common sign of dental problems. 90% of the time, the source of the problem is in the mouth itself. There are several possible causes of chronic halitosis. It’s often caused by a biofilm of bacteria underneath your tongue or in your gums — the smell comes from the bacteria breaking down sulfur-containing amino acid compounds, generating foul gases like hydrogen sulfide and methyl mercaptan.
Bad breath is often a sign of early stage gum disease. Gingival crevices or periodontic pockets can form in your gums, creating a haven for smelly bacteria. This is often accompanied by gingivitis and bleeding when you brush. If you have bad breath that just won’t go away, you may want to talk to your dentist about the possibility that you’re developing gum disease.
Are your gums bleeding when you brush? Even if they’re not painful, bleeding gums are one of the first signs of gum disease. You probably have gingivitis, a swelling of the gums that occurs in response to too much plaque on your teeth. The bacteria in the plaque trigger an immune response that can damage gum tissues. Gingivitis is very common, and it can be a precursor to more serious forms of gum disease. People without dental plans often forego preventive care that treats gingivitis early, making them more susceptible to advanced gum disease.
Bleeding gums can also be a sign of periodontitis, a set of related inflammatory diseases of the gums. If left untreated, periodontitis can lead to the loss of bone tissue around the teeth, creating gingival “pockets” several millimeters deep. This loosens your teeth, and can eventually cause them to eventually fall out completely.
If you have periodontitis, your dentist may need to refer you to a periodontist. They can perform nonsurgical scaling and root planing, a deep cleaning procedure that removes calculus, plaque, and other materials that are causing your gum problems. If you have progressive bone loss from the gum disease, you may need surgery.
Acids secreted by oral bacteria can eat away at your enamel, making you susceptible to cavities and other problems. Acids from things you consume, like citrus fruit and cola, can also damage your enamel. This demineralization process could destroy your teeth if it’s left untreated, so it’s important to get cavities filled, as well as brushing and flossing to prevent them. Using toothpaste with fluoride, and getting fluoride treatments from your dentist, can help repair the damage by remineralizing your enamel.
Dental pain is usually a sign of pathology, often advanced tooth decay that affects the innervated roots of your teeth. It could also be gum disease, or dentin hypersensitivity in areas where enamel has eroded away. It could also be non-dental pain that’s being referred to the nerves in your teeth, with migraines, myofascial pain, or even angina as the actual cause.
Do you have a persistent, vaguely sour taste in your mouth? It might not be halitosis from normal bacterial causes. Persistent sour tastes can be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), a condition that causes stomach acid to travel up your esophagus. This acid erodes tooth enamel and can damage your esophagus. If you have a sour taste in your mouth, frequent heartburn, and more enamel erosion than usual, it could be GERD. This disease can be treated with proton pump inhibitors, which block enzymes in gastric parietal cells that secrete acid for digestion.
As you get older, your body begins to produce less saliva than it used to. This can cause xerostomia, commonly known as dry mouth. Dry mouth is also a side effect of over 40 different medications. Dry mouth can cause tooth decay to progress more rapidly than it normally would, making it a problem for your dental health. If your mouth is always feeling dry, you may want to ask your dentist or family doctor about the possible causes. It could be a medication side effect, Sjogren’s syndrome, or simply a sign of aging.
Long-term untreated gum disease can cost you your teeth. As the gums recede, bone is lost, and gingival pockets form, your teeth loosen in their sockets. Eventually, enough tissue is lost than they fall out on their own, or need to be surgically removed. Loose teeth could also signify an oral infection or schleroderma, an autoimmune disease.
Sores or ulcers in your mouth can be a sign of several different diseases. They can also occur on their own from mechanical causes, like orthodontic appliances scratching the inside of your mouth. Thermal burns from food can also cause ulcers in your mouth. But in some cases, it might be a sign of an infection like herpes simplex. Oral cancer can also cause mouth sores, although it’s rare.
There is a condition called “burning mouth syndrome” that causes a burning and tingling sensation in the mouth, with no known or identifiable cause. It’s actually surprisingly common, affecting an estimated 5 out of every 100,000 people. While it isn’t particularly dangerous, the chronic pain has a negative effect on people’s quality of life, and burning mouth syndrome can lead to anxiety and depression.
If you’re experiencing any of these problems, you should talk to your dentist as soon as possible. A diagnosis and the right early treatment could make a big difference in your prognosis. If you haven’t been to the dentist in years, you may want to consider looking into dental plans that fit your needs and budget. The right insurance can make dentistry very affordable, helping you preserve and maintain the health of your teeth and gums.
Brought to you by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America (Guardian), New York, NY. Material discussed is meant for general illustration and/or informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, investment or medical advice. #2016-31780 (exp. 11/18)
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