Prevention is the key to lasting health, not just for your heart and lungs and muscles, but for your mouth as well!
When you take the time and effort to prevent serious dental issues, you help yourself avoid years of oral health pain, discomfort, and expensive procedures. The following three problems prove exactly why prevention matters in oral care.
Gum disease is an awful condition that threatens the entire structure and appearance of your mouth. And it all begins with one little word that you can easily prevent: plaque.
It’s not just your imagination: the word plaque does look nearly identical to the word plague. If something plagues you, it causes continual distress and trouble… and that’s exactly what plaque does to your oral health. If you don’t take preventative steps to keep plaque at bay, it builds up on your teeth and triggers tooth decay and gum disease.
Plaque and Prevention
Plaque is a sticky film that covers every nook and cranny of your teeth, including areas below the gum line. Technically speaking, it’s a microbial biofilm that contains a range of bacteria strong enough continue thriving in the dark crevices of the mouth.
Any foods or drinks containing carbohydrates can trigger the formation of plaque, especially those with high sugar content like soda and candy. As you chew, carbohydrates combine with the natural bacteria in your mouth to create plaque.
Plaque’s acidic base slowly but surely eats away at your tooth enamel and destroys the healthy structure of your teeth. This is why cavities are considered the first warning sign of plaque damage. One isolated cavity might seem innocent enough, but uncontrolled plaque causes more serious problems like gum disease.
Gum disease begins in a mild form called gingivitis. The CDC estimates that nearly 50% of all American adults have some form of gum disease. That’s 65 million people! However, just because it’s common doesn’t mean gingivitis is acceptable. If you fail to improve your brushing, flossing, and dental care habits to reverse gingivitis, it will develop into the more aggressive phase of gum disease known as periodontitis.
Common- but unpleasant- symptoms of gingivitis include:
- Bad breath that doesn’t fade even after brushing or drinking water
- Red, tender, bleeding gums
- Pain when chewing food
- Loose or wiggling teeth
- Increased tooth sensitivity
However, without treatment, gingivitis morphs into periodontitis. The plaque that only caused inflamed gums during the gingivitis stage will start to grow below the gum line and produce toxins that stimulate a chronic inflammatory response within your body. This chronic inflammatory response essentially tells the body to attack itself and break down the tissues and bones that support the structure of your mouth.
As a result, untreated periodontitis causes the gums to separate from the teeth and form pockets that quickly become dangerously infected. Gum tissue and bone breakdown further as the teeth surrender to rapid decay. Over time, your teeth become loose and fall out.
If that’s not a compelling reason to prevent dental problems with regular brushing and flossing, then what is?
Oral Cancer Prevention
Receiving an oral cancer screening is the fastest and easiest method of prevention against oral cancer. It requires no effort on your part, but it can make the difference between life and death- literally!
More than 10,000 people die every year in the U.S from oral cancer. It’s an aggressive disease that’s difficult to treat in late stages. This makes early detection vital.
Oral cancer can develop anywhere along your lips, cheek lining, gums, tongue, floor of mouth, roof of mouth, or throat. It is caused by dangerous changes to cells in the mouth tissue. Certain risk factors increase your risk of oral cancer, including the heavy use of tobacco and alcohol, excessive sun exposure to the lips, and the disease HPV.
An oral cancer screening only takes a few minutes to check your mouth for signs of oral cancer. It’s not painful, invasive, or difficult. Every screening includes a systematic visual examination of all soft tissue in the mouth, as well as a physical examination of the neck and lymph nodes. Your dentist will also ask important questions during every oral cancer screening to gain a comprehensive understanding of your unique oral cancer risk factors.
Be sure to stay alert for the following symptoms of oral cancer and let your dentist know immediately if you’re experiencing any of these problems:
- A mouth sore or lump that doesn’t heal after a few weeks
- Red or white patches
- Pain and tenderness in the mouth or along the lips
- Unusual difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking
- A change in your bite
- Sensation of something being caught in the throat
Since early detection catches oral cancer before it has the opportunity to fully develop and spread through and beyond your mouth, this simple examination makes it more likely that your dentist and doctor can treat your cancer into remission.
Every tooth in your mouth is protected by a strong white substance called enamel. Prevention keeps enamel strong and durable. Sensitive teeth develop when enamel is worn down to reveal the layers underneath: dentin and cementum.
The dentin layer of each tooth contains microscopic tubes and canals filled with nerve endings. In a healthy mouth, enamel shields the dentin and protects it from being exposed.
However, when the enamel wears down or gum tissue recedes, the dentin and cementum become exposed. This makes it easy for hot and cold foods to aggravate nerves and cells inside the dentin. When the layer of a tooth called the dentin, which sits under the enamel, becomes exposed.
Exposed nerves respond to these “invaders” with sharp, painful sensations known as sensitivity. This is why it’s more painful to eat ice cream or hot soup than crackers.
Sensitive teeth most commonly develop as the result of these factors:
- Harsh or forceful brushing
- Tooth grinding (bruxism)
- Gum disease
- Tooth decay
- Enamel erosion from sugary and acidic foods
- Cracked teeth
You can prevent painful and sensitive teeth by making smart decisions to protect your enamel. Drink water instead of harsh soda and juice, visit your dentist regularly, and brush and floss twice a day. Preventative action isn’t hard, and it pays off in spades!
When in doubt, ask your dentist for help achieving oral health prevention. Dr. Lozano and his team at RB Dental Excellence in San Diego, CA are here to make our smile their top priority.
Whether you need dental crowns, tooth whitening, laser gum disease treatment, or just a friendly six-month checkup, you can count on Dr. Lozano to provide the care you need.
Schedule your appointment today to learn more and take the important preventative action your smile deserves.