Bad breath, tooth decay, gum disease and such problems are the most common dental diseases. Dental problems are never any fun, but the good news is that most of them can be easily prevented. Brushing twice a day, flossing daily, eating properly and regular dental check ups are essential in preventing dental problems.
The problem with bad breath of course is that you are often the last one to know you have a problem. Everyone gets ‘garlic breath’ from time to time but if you notice that people tend to keep their distance when you are talking to them, you may need to think about dental hygiene although teeth are not the only cause. Bad breath can be caused by a number of gastric problems too, so it is important to visit your doctor as well as your dentist if your breath isn’t fresh. Cleaning your teeth very thoroughly can often be all that is needed to sweeten your breath. Give particular attention to the teeth at the back where food can linger for days and cause a nasty smell. Flossing is essential as well – this not only removes old food and plaque but is good for the gums. Using a mouthwash is also a good way of loosening plaque and food fragments – it is sometimes a wake-up call to see how much comes away after a swirl with a mouthwash.
Check out your tongue – if it is coated on a regular basis, this is another flag to tell you that you should visit your GP. Even if your tongue looks clean, it probably wouldn’t do any harm to clean it every morning when you do your teeth. Many toothbrushes nowadays come with tongue cleaners on the reverse of the bristle end – be careful not to be too rough, but a gentle ‘scrape’ will stop bacteria breeding in the grooves between your taste buds and minimise the risk of bad breath.
With careful hygiene practices, you can minimise tooth decay, but most people experience some degree of this in their life. Cleaning carefully with a good quality brush and toothpaste as well as flossing regularly can certainly keep tooth decay at bay. Regular check-ups will also make sure that a small area of decay does not become a major problem – the tooth enamel is very strong and if the decay is recent it will rarely have broken through to the pulp so there will be no pain. Your dentist will be able to spot the early signs and can either abrade the area if it is small or give you a filling to prevent further damage to the tooth. Dentists choose fillings to be invisible so there is no need to put off a visit because you don’t want to make your teeth unsightly – a missing tooth will look a whole lot worse.
Many people find to their cost that gum disease can cause more misery than dental decay. Teeth can be lost through gum disease even if the tooth itself is ‘healthy’ – good tight gums are essential to keep teeth strong and properly aligned and if the gums are spongy and soft, a tooth gets loose and can fall out. Bleeding gums are a sign of gum disease and so if you find that your gums bleed when you clean your teeth, you should book a check-up with your dentist. Because bleeding is also sometimes a symptom of a more systemic disease, you should also visit your doctor, especially if the bleeding is of sudden onset and is heavy and difficult to stop. Most toothpastes nowadays address the issue of gum health but it is also important to make sure that your toothbrush is not old and frayed with rough ends to the bristles. Again, it is easy to source a brush with a special edge to massage the gums gently as you brush. Flossing also helps remove plaque from the gum line and regular use of a mouthwash is also beneficial. Look out for ones which specify gum care.
If you are lucky, the worst problem you will have with your teeth is that they are not very attractive when you smile. Depending on what you perceive the problem to be, there are many remedies you can discuss with your dentist. If your teeth are discoloured there are many safe and quick whitening procedures which will improve your smile quickly and with relatively little cost. Veneers can also improve the look of discoloured teeth or those with an uneven enamel. Some veneers these days are ultra-thin and give a good result with little invasion and can last for a long time. Because the tooth itself is not changed, they can easily be replaced if they come loose or fall off. Crowns and bridges are rather more long-term and costly, but they give a good result if a tooth is missing or broken. The newest technology is implants, but they are permanent and very effective as they are as strong as a real tooth, being anchored in the gum.
The main thing to remember if you are having problems with your teeth is that you must always consult your dentist for advice. Good mouth hygiene is something that should be the first priority of everyone, as this will prevent a huge proportion of the problems that occur. Even problems of long-standing such as bad jaw alignment, tooth grinding or poorly spaced teeth can be corrected, so you don’t have to put up with problems in your mouth any more.
Educating yourself about common dental problems and their causes can also go a long way in prevention.