Halitosis, xerostomia, periodontal disease… The list of possible oral health issues you could develop at some point in your lifetime is quite long. We know it can be overwhelming to fully understand these issues so you can determine whether or not you should be worried about them and how to treat them. Here’s the first part of your quick guide to some of the most common oral health issues and how to address them.
Bad Breath (Halitosis)
The Mayo Clinic reports that chronic bad breath, or halitosis, can be caused by a number of variables. Possible long-term contributing factors include the use of tobacco products, poor overall dental hygiene, chronic dry mouth, and active oral infections.
Halitosis can certainly be embarrassing and inconvenient, but it can also be a strong indicator of an underlying oral health problem that needs to be addressed. Are you experiencing strong bad breath that persists after making simple lifestyle changes like using breath refreshers, improving your oral hygiene routine, or quitting tobacco products? If so, it’s a good idea to visit your dentist so they can evaluate your oral health situation and get to the root of the problem.
Cavities and Tooth Decay
Cavities are pockets of decay that form when bacteria in the mouth eat away at the debris left behind on the teeth, which produces damaging acid and plaque. They’re extremely common– we treat patients’ cavities in our office on a regular basis.
Even though they’re not uncommon, untreated cavities can lead to serious toothaches and infections, as well as bad breath and generally poor oral health. Prevention is typically more convenient than treatment, so we suggest brushing and flossing your teeth on a regular basis to prevent the development of cavities. We also strongly encourage you to visit your dentist for a routine cleaning every six months. If you do notice a cavity developing between cleanings, schedule a dental appointment as soon as possible.
Dry Mouth (Xerostomia)
Dry mouth, or xerostomia, is almost always caused by a drop in saliva production. It is most commonly the result of taking certain medications like antidepressants or antihistamines. It can also be caused by more concerning medical problems like salivary gland disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalance, and more. Even if you don’t have any of these underlying health problems, failure to address your chronic dry mouth might lead to you developing mouth sores, bad breath, and even periodontal disease.
It’s important to have your dentist investigate your case of dry mouth so they can rule out other serious health problems. If it’s not being caused by an underlying issue, simple steps you can take on your own to treat the discomfort of dry mouth on your own include chewing sugar-free gum, limiting your caffeine intake, and sipping water throughout the day. There are also over-the-counter saliva substitutes available.
Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease)
Gum disease, or periodontitis, is a serious oral infection that is normally caused by poor dental hygiene that leads to a buildup of plaque around the gumline. The primary symptom of gum disease is bright red gums that are swollen and tender. Chronic bad breath, receding gumlines, and gums that bleed easily after brushing or flossing can also be signs of periodontitis.
Unfortunately, gum disease can result in bone damage and ultimately tooth loss if left untreated (Mayo Clinic). The best course of action is to let your dentist evaluate your periodontitis and come up with an appropriate treatment plan. Other things you can do at home to lessen gum pain and sensitivity include gently brushing your teeth on a regular basis to get rid of excess plaque, as well as using over-the-counter oral numbing treatments.