Dental and oral health is an essential part of your overall health and well-being. Poor oral hygiene can lead to dental cavities and gum disease, and has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Maintaining healthy teeth and gums is a lifelong commitment.
The first generation that will keep their natural teeth over their entire lifetime are the baby boomers. This is largely because of the benefits of water fluoridation and fluoride toothpaste that appeared in the late 60'.
However, threats to oral health, including tooth loss, continue throughout life as you age and as you forget to keep good habits.
Oral health problems in adults include mainly the following:
Untreated tooth decay. More than 1 in 4 (26%) adults have untreated tooth decay,
Gum disease. Nearly half (46%) of all adults aged 30 years or older show signs of gum disease; severe gum disease affects about 9% of adults.
Tooth loss. Complete tooth loss among adults aged 65-74 years has steadily declined over time, but disparities exist among some population groups. If left untreated, cavities (tooth decay) and periodontal (gum) disease lead to tooth loss.
Oral cancer. Oral cancers are most common in older adults, particularly in people older than 55 years who smoke and are heavy drinkers. People treated for cancer who have chemotherapy may suffer from oral problems such as painful mouth ulcers, impaired taste, and dry mouth.
Chronic diseases can increase problems in the mouth:
Having a chronic disease, such as arthritis, heart disease or stroke, diabetes, emphysema, hepatitis C, a liver condition, or being obese may increase an individual’s risk of having missing teeth and poor oral health.
Patients with weakened immune systems, such as those infected with HIV and other medical conditions (organ transplants) and who use some medications (e.g., steroids) are at higher risk for some oral problems.
Chronic disabling diseases such as jaw joint diseases (TMD), autoimmune conditions such as Sjögren’s Syndrome, and osteoporosis affect millions of Americans and compromise oral health and functioning, more often among women.
What are the common causes of oral health problems? Factors contributing to oral diseases are an unhealthy diet high in sugar, use of tobacco and harmful use of alcohol. Most oral health conditions are largely preventable and can be treated in their early stages.
Different oral infections can have different symptoms, but the most common ones are:
Recurring bad breath.
Bleeding or sore gums.
Tooth, gum, or jaw pain.
Tooth sensitivity to hot or cold foods.
Swelling of the gums, jaw, or lymph nodes.
Sores in the mouth, gums, or lips.