Tooth decay is the most common disease among youth ages 6 to 19 and affects 90 percent of adults at some time in their lives. Decay is caused by bacteria that create an acid that eats away at enamel — the hard protective surface of teeth.
Even if you brush your teeth every day, dental problems can still occur. If the gums and areas between teeth are not cleaned properly, gum disease can begin.
Here are some examples of how tooth problems such as decaying, cracked or missing teeth and gum problems can affect your health and make you sick.
Did you know you can be completely unaware that a tooth is decaying? And once started, decay will not resolve without treatment.
If a cavity is not drilled and filled in an early stage, bacteria can enter the pulp of the tooth, leading to infection and pain. This abscess, or collection of pus, can spread into the bone, making your whole body ill.
Symptoms of decay include tooth sensitivity, pain when you bite or chew and dark spots on teeth.
Some foods are more likely to cause tooth decay than others. A few of the worst offenders include honey, soda, milk, ice cream, hard candy, mints, dry cereal and dried fruit. Additionally, people with acid reflux or eating disorders (vomiting) may notice enamel erosion due to stomach acid.
Complications of decay include pain, infection, cracked or broken teeth, chewing problems and tooth loss. In rare cases, infections can spread to the sinuses and even into the brain, which can lead to death.
Decay is preventable with good dental hygiene. A checkup and X-ray will help detect decay when it is easiest to drill and fill, protecting you from infection, sensitivity and pain.
A cracked tooth is a welcome mat to tooth and gum problems and it can affect more than just your mouth.
Whether from chewing ice or hard candy, sport injuries, accidents or teeth grinding, or because the tooth was weak to begin with, cracks can happen at any age. When a crack occurs, you may notice pain when chewing or when eating something very hot or very cold. Pain may be sporadic, or you may not feel any at all.
Cracks in teeth can irritate the gums. Depending on the severity of the crack, there are different courses of treatment. If the crack is shallow, topping it with a protective crown might save the tooth. If the crack extends to the root, then a root canal is needed before the crown. This might save the tooth. However, if the crack goes below the gum line, then it’s likely untreatable and the tooth must be extracted. Should this happen, you will have options for replacing the tooth — either partial denture, bridge or implant.
Complications of a crack include easier entry of bacteria to the pulp of the tooth and under the gum, causing decay and even infection. Additionally, a cracked tooth that is left alone may eventually break, leading to the need for an extraction. Damaged teeth become missing teeth.
If you can avoid having a sunken or drooping face, wouldn’t you try?
Though it may be tempting to leave a gap due to time and cost, especially if it is a back tooth, consider these ways a missing tooth can affect you.
If you choose not to treat, one complication is that a missing tooth can affect your face. Not only might your smile be affected, but also your bite and jaw might not be supported properly, which can cause your face to sag or sink. Additionally, missing teeth can affect your ability to speak clearly, make chewing difficult and affect your self-confidence.
Treatment for a missing tooth includes removable temporary denture, partial denture, bridge or implant. Your dentist will recommend the best options for your situation. If the tooth has been missing for a while, there may be bone loss that could affect your ability to get an implant or a bone grafting procedure may be needed before receiving an implant. A partial denture or a permanent bridge might be a better and cheaper option.
Do you have red gums that are slightly swollen and bleed sometimes when you brush?
This might be gingivitis, the early stage of gum disease, which is reversible if caught in time. However, untreated gingivitis can lead to more serious gum disease. When plaque forms under the gums, irritating them, a chronic inflammatory response occurs and gingivitis progresses to periodontitis. As the disease progresses, the gums separate from the teeth, creating pockets that become infected, destroying tissue and bone. Without treatment, teeth can become loose and have to be extracted.
Certain medical conditions may increase the likelihood of gum disease, such as pregnancy or diabetes, as well as your lifestyle, such as smoking, stress or poor diet.
Periodontitis can cause complications in other parts of the body as well. Research indicates there is a link between gum disease and heart disease and stroke. Scientists believe inflammation is responsible. At the very least, gum disease can irritate existing heart conditions.
So what can you do?
Make a promise to yourself today that you’ll make dental health a priority, which can save you money and toothache … and contribute to your overall health.
- Floss before you brush, every night.
- Brush with a soft bristle toothbrush for a full two minutes.
- Call the dentist if your gums bleed when you brush.
- Rinse with mouthwash after brushing to remove more bacteria than brushing alone.
- Schedule regular dental checkups (ask the dentist how often).
- If you crack a tooth, call the dentist to try to save the tooth.
- If you have a missing tooth, ask your dentist whether a partial denture or implant might be right for you.
- Eat a healthy diet, low in refined carbohydrates and sugar.
A healthy smile leads to a healthier you.
The renowned dentists at Herald Square Dental and The Denture Center help thousands of people each year prevent tooth loss as well as replace their missing teeth. If you are missing one or more teeth, Herald Square Dental’s mission is to provide you with treatment options to restore your healthy smile. Well-known for their warmth and caring in addition to the quality, precision care that is their hallmark, patients have relied on Herald Square Dental and The Denture Center for more than 40 years. When it comes to your smile, an experienced dental team counts.
This material was initially published as Native Advertising Content in a Tribune Publishing Company publication and was produced by Studio 1847 / Tribune Brand Publishing. The newsrooms or editorial departments of Tribune Publishing Company were not involved in the production of this content.