Tooth decay (dental caries)
Dental caries is an infection caused by plaque, a sticky film on teeth formed from accumulated food debris. Bacteria found in plaque changes sugars into acids, which erodes the tooth enamel to form cavities. It is the most common problem affecting teeth.
Proper oral hygiene - regular brushing, flossing and dental checkups - is the best prevention. The use of dental sealants is another means. Sealants are applied on newly erupted molars to stop food from collecting on the chewing surfaces. Regular follow-ups and checkups are necessary, because sealants can wear out and need to be replaced.
Gum or periodontal diseases
Gum disease is serious infection of the gums caused by invisible plaque, and if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss as the plague destroys the muscles and bones that hold teeth in place.
At the mild stage (gingivitis), the gums become red, swollen, and bleed easily. There is usually little or no discomfort at this stage.
With time, periodontitis sets in, when plaque hardens into tartar. Once tartar forms, it starts to destroy gum tissue and the gum weakens and form pockets around the base of the teeth. Eventually, the tissues and bone are broken down, and teeth will fall out. Often, this destructive process has very mild symptoms.
Proper brushing and flossing daily can remove food debris that cause the start of the disease, and minimize the formation of plaque. Uneven teeth increase the chances of dental problems, and orthodontic treatment will correct that. Systemic conditions such as heart disease, respiratory disease, and diabetes are associated with gum disease.
Regular visits to a dentist are necessary as even brushing and flossing cannot prevent plaque totally, and professional scaling may be needed.
What you eat and how often you eat are important factors to dental health. Nuts, milk, crunchy fruits and vegetables, water are all good, while products with a large amount of sugar, such as candy and cookies, are poor choices. Carbonated drinks should also be avoided.
If your gums bleed freely, are discolored or pulling away from your teeth, it is best to see a dentist at once. Other symptoms of bad dental health are bad breath or loose teeth.