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Dental/Oral Disorders

Dental disorders or oral disorders are conditions that affect the teeth, gums and other parts of the mouth. The problems caused by these disorders are not limited to toothache alone. Serious dental conditions can affect our ability to smile, chew food or speak properly. They can range from cavities in the teeth, to toothache or even something as serious as oral cancer.

One of the major causes of the occurrence of oral disorders is lack of mouth hygiene. Bacteria are always present in the mouth. These bacteria, together with mucus and other particles in the mouth, produce a sticky colorless substance on the teeth called plaque. It is necessary to brush and floss regularly to get rid of plaque. The plaque that doesn’t get removed hardens and forms tartar, which cannot be cleaned by brushing alone. One has to have the help of a professional dentist to get rid of it.

There are many types of oral disorders, some of which are Dental Caries, Gingivitis, Periodontitis, Mouth Ulcers, Trench Mouth, Oral Cancer, etc. We will discuss these in detail below.

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Dental Caries

This is one of the most common forms of dental disorder. It is characterized by the formation of cavities which eventually leads to tooth decay. It causes demineralization and destruction of the enamel of the teeth. The bacteria present in the mouth, along with food particles, produce acid through fermentation. This in turn causes the breakdown of the hard tissue of the teeth which produces dental caries/cavities.

The first sign of the occurrence of dental caries is the appearance of a chalky white spot on the surface of the tooth. This mark turns brown, and eventually a cavity is formed. This area of the tooth becomes soft and sensitive to the touch. Once the enamel has decayed, the nerves of the tooth become exposed, resulting in pain. The affected tooth becomes sensitive to heat, cold, sweet foods and hot and cold drinks.

Dental caries also cause bad breath. In severe cases, infection can spread to the surrounding soft tissue. Depending on the state of the teeth, various treatments like fillings, crowns and root canals are used to restore the decayed parts of the teeth. However, it is advisable to maintain regular oral hygiene and dietary modification to avoid dental caries.

Gingivitis

Gingivitis is characterized by inflammation of the gums. It occurs due to accumulation of plaque deposits on your teeth. When the plaque formed in the teeth is not removed, it turns into a hard deposit called tartar. Tartar inflames the gums and causes swelling and infection.

The risk of the occurrence of gingivitis increases due to poor dental hygiene, hormonal changes during pregnancy, misaligned teeth, uncontrolled diabetes, etc.

Symptoms of gingivitis include bleeding and tender gums, mouth sores, etc. The aim of the treatment for gingivitis is to reduce inflammation. The treatment involves professional cleaning of the teeth and regular flossing and brushing. Antibacterial mouth washes are also helpful. To prevent gingivitis, one should practice good oral hygiene.

Periodontitis

When gingivitis remains untreated for a long time, it may develop into periodontitis. In periodontitis, the bones and ligaments supporting the teeth become infected and inflamed. The teeth become loose and may eventually fall out. Due to the inflammation, pockets are formed between the gums and teeth which get filled with plaque and tartar.

The main symptoms of periodontitis are foul breath odor, frequent bleeding and tender and swollen gums.

Periodontitis is treated by reducing the inflammation and removing the pockets formed in the gums. Any underlying condition causing gum disease must also be treated. Severe cases where very deep pockets are formed should be treated with surgery.

A person affected by this disease must follow good oral hygiene throughout their life, or the condition may arise again.

Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers are small ulcers that occur in the mouth. They may interfere with a person’s talking and eating.

There are basically two types of mouth ulcers: simple and complex mouth ulcers. The causes of mouth ulcers are not exactly known. But, it is believed that stress and tissue injury are among the causes of mouth ulcers. Acidic fruits and vegetables can also trigger mouth ulcers. Complex mouth ulcers are generally caused due to underlying health conditions such as vitamin B12 deficiency, iron deficiency, an impaired immune system, etc.

Mouth ulcers are generally sore and may cause pain inside your mouth, on your tongue and on the inside of the cheeks, etc. These sores are generally round, white or grey in color and with a red edge or border. In severe cases, the individual may experience physical sluggishness, swollen lymph nodes and fever.

Simple mouth ulcers usually heal in a week or two without treatment. In treating complex mouth ulcers, your doctor may prescribe an antimicrobial mouth rinse or a corticosteroid ointment.

Trench Mouth

This is a severe form of gingivitis, which is characterized by painful, swollen and bleeding gums. Also known by the name of necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis (NUG), it got its name from the condition suffered by soldiers in the trenches during World War I, and who were without any means of taking care of their oral hygiene.

Symptoms of trench mouth can include severe gum pain, bleeding and swollen gums, foul breath, large ulcers between the teeth and gums, swollen lymph nodes around the head, neck or jaw and fever or fatigue.

Causes of trench mouth are numerous. It can happen due to poor oral hygiene, compromised immunity, poor nutrition, smoking, chewing tobacco, emotional stress, etc.

If treated in time, trench mouth can be completely cured within a few weeks. However, in individuals suffering from HIV/AIDS, it may take considerably longer.

Generally, antibiotics and antiseptic mouthwash are prescribed to treat trench mouth. Pain relievers can also be prescribed for pain relief. A gentle but thorough cleaning of the teeth is required. If the damage is extensive, surgery may be required.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer occurs when malignant tissues develop in any part of the mouth: on the surface of the tongue, on the lips, inside the cheek, on the gums, on the roof and floor of the mouth, etc. In the United States, 34,000 cases of oral cancer are diagnosed every year, of which 8,000 patients die.

In the early stages of oral cancer, symptoms are not detectable. But they eventually surface. Symptoms of oral cancer include:

  • Persistent mouth ulcers
  • White or red patches on the mouth and tongue
  • Jaw pain and stiffness
  • Sore throat
  • A lump in the lining of the mouth
  • Hoarse voice
  • Swelling in the mouth that doesn't go down

Chewing tobacco, snorting tobacco, heavy and regular intake of alcohol, chewing betel nuts, HPV infection, GERD, etc. increases the risk of the occurrence of this disease.

Cancer starts when there is a mutation in the DNA. If left untreated, it gradually spreads to other parts of the body through the lymphatic system.

To confirm the diagnosis of oral cancer, a person may undergo a number of tests which include biopsy, endoscopy, X-rays, CT scans, MRI, PET scans, etc. And depending on the diagnosis, the state of the cancer is determined via the staging methods.

The treatment will depend on factors like the stage and location of the cancer and the patient’s general health and preferences. A combination of treatments might be required for some. Surgery to remove the ulcer, mouth reconstruction in case of extensive damage to the mouth, radiotherapy and internal therapy are some of the common methods of treating oral cancers.

The following are the preventive measures that can reduce the risk developing oral cancer.

Tobacco – Smoking, chewing and snorting tobacco are among the leading causes of oral cancer. Quitting these helps lower the risk.

Alcohol – Limiting the intake of alcohol will reduce the risk of developing oral cancer significantly.

Diet – A diet high in fruit, vegetables, unsaturated fats, plant-based proteins and whole grains lowers your risk of developing oral cancer. Avoid junk food, saturated fats and processed meats.

Sun exposure - Avoid excessive sun exposure to your lips. Use sunscreen lip balms when in the sun.

How to prevent oral diseases/disorders?

Regular brushing, flossing and rinsing are the basics of maintaining good oral hygiene. Here are few ways to help you to avoid oral diseases or disorders.

Regular Dental Check: A stitch in time saves nine. Get a dental checkup every year. If oral disease diagnosed early, it can be treated effectively.

Cut down on the soda: Fizzy drinks contain phosphoric acid and citric acid which slowly erode the enamel of the teeth, making them susceptible to oral diseases.

Avoid Sugar: Sugar is one of the main causes of tooth decay. It induces the formation of plaque, erodes the enamel of the teeth and harms the gums. Cutting down on sugary treats may go a long way in keeping tooth decay at bay. Remember to brush and floss every time you indulge in such treats.

Ditch Cigarettes: Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do for your oral health.  Smoking promotes the growth of bacteria and plaque and eats away at your gums. It harms the tissues and loosens the teeth, increasing the chances of tooth loss. On top of all these, tobacco is a cause of oral cancer. So it's time you said goodbye to it.

Brush and Floss regularly: Brushing twice a day and flossing once a day is necessary to keep your mouth clean. Make sure that your brush has soft bristles. Replace the brush when the bristles become bent. Brush in a gentle, circular motion. Aggressive brushing can damage your gum line.

In a nutshell, to keep oral/dental disorders at bay, a person should maintain good oral hygiene and abstain from tobacco and foods that cause it.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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