Thursday, March 6, 2014

TOOTH OR CONSEQUENCE: Most common dental problems

As the main gateway to the body, the oral cavity (mouth) is challenged by a constant barrage of invadersbacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi.  This article will discuss the most common among the many dental problems that majority of the populace experiences.

DENTAL CARIES. The word caries is derived from the Latin for “rotten.” The bacteria that colonizes the oral cavity are called the oral flora, which forms a complex substance that sticks to tooth surfaces in a gelatinous mat. This is technically known as Biofilm or commonly known as dental plaque.

TOOTH DECAY, also known as cavities, occurs when dental plaque combines with the sugar and carbohydrates of the food that we eat. This combination  attacks the outermost covering of the tooth called the enamel. Brushing our teeth at least thrice a day, using adjuncts like dental floss and mouthwashes plus regular visits to a licensed dentist will prevent the onset of dental caries.

TOOTHACHE. This usually refers to any pain around the teeth or  the jaw. TOOTH PAIN  may be sharp, throbbing or constant. It is considered as one of the worst forms of pain that affects people. See your licensed dentist as soon as possible if your toothache lasts longer than 1 to 2 days. Treatment of a tootachache depends on the cause.  If a  cavity is causing the toothache, your dentist will fill the cavity with appropriate dental filling, or possibly extract the tooth if it is badly carious and broken.  An antibitiotic may be prescribed if there is fever and inflammation  of the gums or the jaw. Pain relievers such as mefenamic acid would be adviseable if the pain is severe and intolerable. Gargling of warm water with salt may also be taken to alleviate the  pain. Since most toothaches are the result of tooth decay, practicing hood oral hygiene such  can prevent toothaches. Some such hygienic practices are the brushing of teeth after every meal, flossing of teeth once a day and seeing your dentist  every six months for professional oral prophylaxis (cleaning).

BAD BREATH , technically known as HALITOSIS, results from poor oral hygiene and may be a sign of other health problems. Having biofilm (dental plaque), badly carious teeth or gum diseases  will result in foul breath. Halitosis can also be made worse by the types of food intake and other unhealthy lifestyle habits like drinking alcohol and smoking. If you are suffering from chronic bad breath, it would be best to visit your dentist outright  to address the real cause of the foul odor. Using mouthwashes  may help take the bad breath away for awhile but professional oral care is a  must.

TOOTH  SENSITIVITY is usually the result of worn-out outer covering of the tooth ENAMEL or exposed root portions of the tooth. Sensitive teeth may cause sharp or temporary pain in your teeth during brushing, flossing, eating and drinking hot and cold drinks. If you are bothered by sensitive teeth,   visit your dentist so that he or she can identify the underlying cause of the hypersensitivity.  Depending on the circumstances, the dentist may recommend using desensitizing toothpastes, applying fluoride, covering exposed root surfaces or root canal treatment.

PERIODONTAL (Gum) DISEASES.Our  oral cavity is full of bacteria. These bacteria along with other particles and mucus, constantly form a sticky plaque on teeth. Hardened plaque cannot be removed by brushing anymore, so it is imperative that professional cleaning by a dentist be sought by a patient.  The longer the dental plaque and tartar stay on the tooth surfaces, the more harmful they become. The bacteria will cause the inflammation of the gums that is called GINGIVITIS. In gingivitis, the gums are red, swollen and can bleed easily. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease that can be treated by professional cleaning,  daily toothbrushing and flossing.  The more severe form of gum disease is called PERIODONTITIS, which is the inflammation around the tooth where the gum pulls away from the teeth and form spaces called “pockets”  that become infected. In this form of gum disease, there is loss of bone and tissue that hold the teeth in place. If dental intervention is not sought right away, the complication would be tooth mobility and tooth loss, eventually.

An imperative reminder to everyone, to avoid these common dental problems: BRUSH YOUR TEETH THREE TIMES A DAY and REGULARLY VISIT YOUR DENTIST AT LEAST EVERY SIX MONTHS. (by Dr. Jessie R. Albeus)

DR. JESSIE R. ALBEUS is the two-term President of the Philippine Dental Association in Camarines Sur (January 2012 to May 2014). He is also the President of the Ateneo de Naga University Alumni Association. 

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