Don't Ignore These Early Signs Of Oral Conditions
By paying attention to any changes in your mouth and teeth, you can spot potential warning signs of more serious health issues.
Bad breath can be a sign of gum disease or gingivitis
Have you been losing sleep over shooting tooth pain? A dental cavity could be the reason behind it. Cavities are commonly the result of inadequate oral hygiene practices, such as infrequent brushing or flossing. They typically begin as small openings in the tooth and grow bigger and deep over time. Sugary foods or acidic drinks gradually erode the tooth leading to cavities. If they go untreated, they can infect the tooth and eventually lead to tooth loss or can be the reason for cancer.
A regular visit to a dentist, at least twice a year, helps detect any problem early. It can plug a cavity and resolve a slew of other unwanted oral health conditions. Several disorders, such as tooth decay, gum diseases, tooth loss, and oral cancers, are largely preventable and can be treated if detected early.
In India, dental cavities are prevalent among about 90% of adults and 60% to 80% of children. More than half of Indians with dental health issues, seek advice from sources other than dentists, such as chemists. Toothbrush and toothpaste are used by only a little over 50% of Indians. According to the WHO Global Oral Health Status Report of 2022, approximately 3.5 billion people worldwide suffer from oral diseases, with 3 out of 4 affected individuals residing in middle-income countries. Permanent tooth decay affects around 2 billion individuals globally, while primary tooth decay affects 514 million children.
We must bear in mind that your dentist isn't just there to clean your teeth and fill cavities. They can also play a critical role in identifying potential health problems that may be silently creeping into your body. In fact, nearly 9 in 10 diseases can cause symptoms in your mouth, making your dentist a front-line defender against serious health conditions.
The reason why we tend to ignore our oral health is mainly our lifestyle. Major oral diseases continue to rise globally due to increasing urbanization, changes in living conditions, and inadequate exposure to fluoride (in water supply and oral hygiene products such as toothpaste). Poor access to oral healthcare services in the community, combined with the marketing of high-sugar food and beverages, tobacco, and alcohol, contributes to the growing consumption of products that lead to oral health issues and other non-communicable diseases.
During regular dental check-ups and cleanings, your dentist examines your mouth for any signs of trouble. But you don't have to wait until your next dental appointment to act. By paying attention to any changes in your mouth and teeth, you can spot potential warning signs of more serious health issues.
Don't ignore these symptoms:
Gum, tooth, or jaw pain: This could be a sign of mental stress, tooth decay, gum disease, or even sinus problems. Your dentist can help you identify the source and offer a focused treatment.
Bleeding gums: If your gums bleed when you brush or floss your teeth, it could be a sign of gum disease, which is more common in people with diabetes that often reduces the body's resistance to infection. This puts your gums at risk for inflammation due to the bacteria found in plaque.
Loose or lost teeth: This could be a sign of advanced gum disease or osteoporosis, which weakens bones.
Changes in tooth surfaces and enamel: Erosion or translucent enamel could be a sign of an eating disorder or acid reflux.
Bad breath: Bad breath can be caused by certain foods or dry mouth; it can also be a sign of gum disease or gingivitis.
If you notice any of these symptoms, don't ignore them.
(Dr. V. Gopikrishna is MDS, Phd, FDSRCSEd (UK), Specialist in Endodontics and conservative dentistry and Founder Director, Root Canal Foundation based at Chennai)
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