What are the most common oral health problems?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner
The most common oral health problems are cavities and gum disease.

Dental cavities
We are all at risk of tooth decay, or cavities. Bacteria (germs) that naturally live in our mouths use sugar in food to make acids. Over time, the acids destroy the outside layer of your teeth. Then holes and other tooth damage occur.

Gum diseases
Gum diseases are infections caused by bacteria, along with mucus and other particles that form a sticky plaque on your teeth. Plaque that is left on teeth hardens and forms tartar. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease. It causes red, swollen gums. It can also make the gums bleed easily. Gingivitis can be caused by plaque buildup. And the longer plaque and tartar stay on teeth, the more harm they do. Most gingivitis can be treated with daily brushing and flossing and regular cleanings at the dentist's office. This form of gum disease does not lead to loss of bone or tissue around the teeth. But if it is not treated, it can advance to periodontitis. Then the gums pull away from the teeth and form infected "pockets."You may also lose supporting bone. If you have periodontitis, see your dentist for treatment. Otherwise your teeth may loosen over time and need to be removed.

Your risk of gum disease is higher if you:
  • Smoke
  • Have a disease such as diabetes or HIV/aids
This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.
Tooth decay and gum disease are the most common oral health problems. Because bacteria live in the mouth, everyone is at risk of cavities and tooth decay. Mouth germs use sugar from the food you eat to make acids that destroy the enamel or outer layer of the teeth. Stagnant saliva, food debris, bacteria, mucus, and plaque (a sticky film) can cause infections like gum disease that can result in red, swollen gums that bleed easily. If gum disease goes untreated, a more serious condition called periodontitis can develop that may result in bone and tooth loss.
The most common oral health problems are cavities and gum disease.

Our mouths are constantly at risk for tooth decay (cavities.) That’s because plaque, a sticky film of bacteria, constantly forms on your teeth. When you eat or drink foods containing sugars or starches, the bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel. The stickiness of the plaque keeps these acids in contact with your teeth and after many such attacks, the enamel can break down and a cavity forms.

The other common oral health problem is gum (periodontal) disease, an infection of the tissues that support your teeth. Periodontal diseases are classified according to the severity of the disease. The two major stages are gingivitis and periodontitis. Gingivitis is a milder and reversible form of periodontal disease that only affects the gums. However, it can lead to more serious, destructive forms of periodontal disease called periodontitis.

It is possible to have gum disease and have no warning signs. That is one reason why regular dental checkups and periodontal exams are very important. 

You can keep your teeth and gums healthy by brushing your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste, flossing once a day and scheduling regular dental checkups. You can also decrease your risk for cavities and other oral health problems by eating a balanced diet and limiting between-meal snacks.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.