Common Oral Health Problems

Updated at: Feb 05, 2013
Common Oral Health Problems

Oral health problems are common for the people who pay no heed to their oral hygiene. In order to understand what happens when your teeth decay you must know what's present in your mouth.

Editorial Team
Oral Health ConditionsWritten by: Editorial TeamPublished at: Feb 05, 2013


If you want to understand what happens when your teeth decay, you need to know what's present in your mouth. Some naturally present element in your mouth are;


Saliva: It constantly bathes your mouth and teeth. Saliva helps protect your overall oral health. It keeps your teeth and other oral tissues moist, lubricated and healthy, helps to take out some of the food particles left after eating, lowers acid levels in the mouth, and protects against some viruses and bacteria.


Plaque: It is a sticky substance that is formed when bacteria present in the mouth get deposited along with saliva, food particles and other natural substances on the surface of the teeth. Plaque contains bacteria that naturally occur in the mouth (bacteria, protozoa, mycoplasmas, yeasts). Plaque grows as the bacteria in it multiply. Plaque begins to form soon after a tooth is cleaned. It takes just about an hour for it to increase to measurable levels.


Calculus: If the plaque is not removed it mineralizes and hardens into calculus or tartar as it absorbs calcium, phosphorus and other minerals from saliva. More plaque forms on top the calculus and this also become calcified.


Bacteria: Several different strains of bacteria are present in the mouth. Some bacteria are good and some can be bad. The good bacteria help to control destructive bacteria. Streptococcus mutans is the bacteria that causes most of the damage in a tooth with caries.


How does a Teeth Decay

Foods which stick to teeth or contain excessive amounts of sugar (carbohydrate) lead to formation of acid in your mouth by the bacteria naturally present in the mouth. The mouth remains acidic for quite some time after eating. The acid causes erosion of tooth enamel that leads to cavity.


Foods that can cause caries do not include just candy and ice cream. Any foods that is rich in carbohydrate (such as cookies, cakes, soft drinks, crackers, bananas, potato chips and breakfast cereals) leads to formation of simple sugars, such as glucose and fructose. The bacteria in the mouth combine with these sugars to form acids. The acids cause the mineral crystals in the outer protective layer the enamel and the teeth to dissolve. Every time you eat, the bacteria in your mouth form acid. Hence avoid snacking in between-meals.


A cavity is formed when the tooth decay erodes the enamel to the underlying layers of the tooth. Caries can be prevented and early caries can even be reversed (before it becomes a cavity) by using fluoride containing dental products (fluoride rinses, fluoridated toothpaste).


Types and Stages of Decay

In young children, the new teeth are highly prone to acid decay as the enamel is weak. Adults at times can develop chronic caries. In this case the cavities remain the same for a long time and worsen at a very slow rate. Teeth with chronic caries are usually darker in color as the edges of the cavities get stained with the food and drink. Root caries (decay in the roots of the teeth) is often seen in older adults as the gums tend to recede with years of hard brushing or periodontal disease. The risk of tooth decay is higher in older adults as they are more likely to have dry mouth (xerostomia). Tooth can decay even from below the fillings or other restorations, such as crowns.


  • Dental decay or dental caries starts inside the tooth. It appears as a white spot on the enamel. At this stage, if the acid damage to the tooth is controlled and the tooth is given a chance to repair the damage, caries may not develop. Caries at this stage can be reversed (before it becomes a cavity) by using fluoride containing dental products (fluoride rinses, fluoridated toothpaste).
  • But once the enamel is damaged, caries cannot be reversed. In this case the decay must be cleaned out and the cavity filled by a dentist. If it is not treated in most people caries will continue to worsen and deepen with time, and can extend from the outer enamel layer, through dentin layer to the pulp or nerve of the tooth.


The time needed to progress from early stages to involve the root varies from person to person.

How to Prevent Cavities

Do you get cavities frequently? There are certain factors that increase your risk of tooth decay. You should consult your dentist regarding factors that place you at risk of tooth decay.


Tips to prevent dental caries include

  • Strengthen your teeth's defenses with use of dental products that contain fluoride (such as fluoride containing tooth paste and mouth rinses). Fluoride strengthens your tooth by helping to replace lost minerals by acid damage.
  • Sealants and other measures to reduce bacteria in your mouth. Sealants are protective coatings. These are used to cover the tops of chewing teeth — molars and premolars. It prevents bacteria and acids from attaching to the small grooves present on the chewing surfaces of these teeth. In children sealant should be applied to the teeth a soon as they erupt into the mouth.


It is not possible to eliminate all the bacteria in your mouth, but you can control them by

  • Brushing twice a day and flossing daily,
  • Regular visit to dentist and dental hygienist for cleaning and check-up, and
  • Reducing snacking in between meals specially foods rich in fermentable carbohydrates.



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