As we age, certain dental diseases become more common, whether we’ve established hygienic habits or not. Youth can grant some resilience in overall health, but it can’t prevent dental diseases dependent on hygienic habits. A trusted dentist can always outline a personalized set of practices that work for you, and it’s best to start early in life.
Some diseases can affect a patient at any age, so we can think of them as “the usual suspects.” They’re common diseases that can strike young and old alike. However, these dental problems can sometimes affect different age groups more than others.
Common Dental Diseases Affecting All Ages
We see patients of all ages and different backgrounds over the years, and we’re happy to have them enjoy dental health as often as possible. Sometimes we see some uncommon diseases, but most problems can be avoided by following your dentist’s recommended habits.
As the saying goes, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” especially with common diseases. Fortunately, twice-daily brushing and daily flossing do a lot to prevent common types of disease, so you’ll repeatedly see that advice in the sections below.
Also known as caries, or more generally, tooth decay, cavities are small holes forming in the tooth. They begin on the enamel and burrow deeper. Cavities form when bacteria in our mouths consume residual sugar, producing an acid that can melt through teeth slowly. Plaque and tartar, if unremoved by daily brushing and flossing, can cause cavities.
Cavities tend to affect children more than adults, perhaps because of differences in the bacterial composition of our saliva. Some ethnicities can suffer cavities at slightly different rates, due to differences in genes present — resulting in bacterial differences.
Inflammation of the gums, meaning redness, bleeding, and puffiness all indicate gingivitis. Usually, gingivitis isn’t accompanied by much pain, though. Plaque, if unremoved by daily brushing and flossing near the gum line, is a known cause.
Gum disease tends to affect adults more, but it can flare up at any age. It begins with plaque, which leads to tartar at the gums’ point of attachment. Sensitive teeth, gums bleeding, bad breath that doesn’t go away, or a metallic taste in your mouth are signs of gum disease.
Plaque, a clear and sticky film of bacteria, tends to form on your teeth — especially after eating. If it’s not removed by daily brushing and flossing, it hardens into tartar. Tartar leads to gingivitis, and gingivitis leads to gum disease.
You might notice redness or discolouration, but It doesn’t necessarily come with symptoms of sensitivity and swelling like gingivitis. Your best bet is to have your dentist check for it during a dental exam, as they have a trained eye looking for the signs. If you catch it early, it can even be reversed!
Like all cancer, oral cancer can have multiple or unknown causes. Still, many cases of oral cancer can be traced to smoking or chewing tobacco habitually. Heat, pressure, or other factors can affect changes in your oral tissues. Your dentist will be able to spot parts of the mouth at risk.
As we age, our body’s cells break down and may not regenerate properly, so keep a vigilant eye out for oral cancer past age 40. Since tobacco use is the most significant factor, and kids are to be kept away from tobacco, you don’t have to worry about it for kids as much.
As a rule, keep an eye on your child’s oral health; listen if your child reports something wrong with their mouth. The earlier detected, the better chance at treatment — and after spotting it in the dentist’s chair, talking to an oncologist might give you precious time.
Best Line of Defence Against Common Dental Diseases
You might have noticed the importance of solid oral hygiene habits. They can put a dent in the plaque and tartar aiding the usual suspects (gum disease, gingivitis, cavities, and oral cancer). Great habits include brushing your twice a day, eating healthy, and quitting bad habits like smoking.
Good Habits Can Prevent Disease at Every Age
Brushing and flossing can’t take care of cancer, but quitting oral habits like smoking or chewing tobacco can dramatically reduce risk. A diet minimizing sugars, especially refined sugars, and maximizing whole foods is another good habit to form since plaque doesn’t have the fuel it needs to grow.
You can’t go wrong brushing and flossing daily, because it takes care of plaque. If you don’t remove plaque, it hardens into tartar.
Regular Professional Cleanings Complement Good Habits
Tartar can only be removed by a dentist, which is where regular cleanings come in. If you missed some plaque in your dedicated brushing and flossing regimen, professional scaling from a dentist tackles tartar you just can’t at home.
Your child should begin visiting the dentist as soon as the first tooth comes in. You can get a professional assessment of your child’s dental health and practical advice about how to brush baby teeth as they grow during infancy. After that, for children and adults alike, a visit once every six months for life is golden.
Great dental health is in your hands, and as long as you do your homework and visit your dentist regularly, a bright smile can last a lifetime.