One of the prime aspects of health that adults or older people ignore is their oral hygiene. But oral health and hygiene are one of the crucial elements of adulthood. Some of the common dental conditions prone to adult life include dry mouth, dental caries, gum disease, and periodontal breakdown.
Our mouth reflects some of the early signs of underlying illnesses. Moreover, poor oral hygiene is one of the primary factors that can increase the risk of systemic disease in an individual.
Additionally, immune disorders and bone disorders are all co-related to oral health in one way or the other. However, lack of awareness and patient education has led to an increasing amount of tooth loss and oral infections among the older generation. It is essential to understand the importance of having natural teeth. Proper oral health is mandatory to maintain the health and longevity of the teeth and gums. This will, in turn, improve the quality of life and well-being.
Today’s article will highlight the different types of dental problems faced by adults and the importance of maintaining good oral health.
What is the importance of adult oral health?
Poor oral health is a widespread dental problem that is commonly seen in the adult population. Having an unhealthy mouth not only affects the appearance of the smile, but it also hurts the overall health of a person. (1) The main culprit behind poor oral hygiene is plaque build-up. Dental plaque is a thin, sticky biofilm that consists of food debris and bacteria.
Failure to clean the teeth and gums properly can lead to excessive accumulation of the plaque on the tooth surface.
Dental plaque and bacteria are common causes of tooth decay and gum disease. Moreover, it forms a vicious cycle that potentially damages the teeth and gums. Dental plaque also increases the risk of oral infection and the spread of infection to the vital organs in the body. Bacterial endocarditis is a prime example of the spread of oral disease in the body. (2)
It is essential to understand that adults only have one set of permanent teeth. Natural teeth are any day stronger and healthier than artificial tooth replacement. The key to maintaining the health of your teeth and gums is proper oral health care.
What are the common dental problems faced by adults?
There is a wide range of dental problems faced by the adult population. These dental problems can be typically categorized as follows –
Teeth related to dental issues
One of the most common dental problems caused plaque and bacteria formation is tooth decay. Statistical data has shown that every one in four people in the United States has untreated tooth decay.
In addition to poor oral hygiene, tooth decay by the following factors –
- Dry mouth
- Excessive consumption of sugary food or food rich in carbohydrate
- The habit of drinking acidic or sugary drinks (3)
- Improper oral health maintenance
As the plaque builds up, it increases the bacterial growth on the tooth surface. Bacterial acids attack the tooth enamel and initiate the process of enamel demineralization. As the disease progresses, the tooth structure deteriorates to form the cavity.
Loss of tooth is a common occurrence that happens with progressing age. Not only it affects the appearance of the smile but causes tooth loss that can have a severe impact on the normal functions of the mouth. Some of the problems caused by missing teeth include –
- Difficulty in chewing
- Difficulty in speaking
- Bone loss in the affected area
Multiple reasons can affect the health of the tooth and lead to loss of tooth in adulthood. Some of the major factors include –
- Extensive tooth decay
- Vertical tooth fracture
- Periodontal breakdown and bone loss (5)
- Congenitally missing teeth
- Systemic disease like diabetes
It is essential to understand that natural tooth is much stronger and healthier than artificial tooth replacements. Therefore, it is necessary to take measures that increase the longevity of the tooth in the mouth.
As the world is progressing, the adult is becoming more conscious about the appearance of their smile. One of the common dental problems that adults face with regards to the aesthetics is tooth staining or discoloration. (4) Following are the prime factors that can take a toll on the self-confidence of an adult by causing tooth discoloration –
- Improper oral health care that causes excessive accumulation of plaque and bacteria. Development of plaque on the tooth surface gives a dirty yellowish appearance to the smile.
- Oral habits like smoking or chewing tobacco can cause red or black tooth staining
- Many types of food or beverages like coffee, tea, berries, and red wine can lead to gradual tooth staining.
- Medications have an adverse effect on the color of the teeth. Some of the medicines like antibiotics, tetracycline, doxycycline, and chlorhexidine can cause unnecessary tooth discoloration.
- Many genetic disorders like amelogenesis imperfecta and dentin dysplasia can severely affect the appearance of the smile. Moreover, environmental factors like fluoride can lead to flaky brownish discoloration of the tooth.
- Often toot decay, silver tooth filling, traumatic injury to the tooth, head, and neck radiation therapy can cause extensive tooth staining.
- As age progresses, tooth enamel depletes and exposes the underlying dentin. This gives a uniform yellowish appearance to the teeth. Moreover, dentin is more prone to tooth staining as compared to enamel.
Tooth sensitivity is one of the most common dental problems that is faced by an adult. Several underlying causes can lead to tooth sensitivity. Some of them include –
- Extensive tooth decay or cavity formation
- Enamel erosion
- Tooth fracture that involves the dentin
- Fractured filling
- Advanced gum disease
- Gum recession that exposes the tooth root
Tooth sensitivity initiates as a result of enamel depletion. This leads to dentin exposure to the oral environment. Dentin is a hypersensitive layer of the tooth which is primarily made of tubules that sense changes in the sir, pressure, and temperature. This is the reason why a person feels sensitivity while talking too hot or cold food or beverages.
Gums related dental problems
Gum disease is the second most common dental problem that affects adult oral health. Typically, gum disease affects around 25% of the entire adult population in the United States of America. Poor oral hygiene is the main culprit behind the initiation of gum disease. Some of the common signs and symptoms of gum disease include –
- Bleeding from the gums
- Redness and inflammation around the gums
- Breakdown of periodontal tissue in advanced disease progression
- Eventual bone loss and tooth loss (5)
Initial forms of gum disease like gingivitis are generally reversible. However, as the conditions advance to involve the periodontal tissue, it can cause potential damage to the toot hand surrounding the bone.
Dental problems related to soft oral tissues
Dry mouth also referred to as xerostomia is an oral condition which is caused due to a decrease in saliva production and flows in the mouth. Some of the common causes that lead to dry mouth in an individual include –
- Head and neck radiotherapy, immune disorders like Sjogren’s syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis
- Medications like antidepressants, antihistamines, and decongestants (6)
- Neurological problems
- Salivary gland disorders for example formation of Salivary duct calculi
Dry mouth can be a temporary or chronic condition depending on the type of cause. Typical signs and symptoms of dry mouth include –
- Dryness of the mouth
- Difficulty in chewing and swallowing
- Difficulty in speaking
- Tingling feeling or burning sensation in the mouth
- Pain and Discomfort
It is essential to take preventative measures to hydrate your mouth. Drink plenty of water and maintain good oral hygiene. Moreover, a dentist can help to identify the underlying cause of dry mouth and treat it appropriately.
Studies have shown that oral cancer is one of the potential dental problems that affect adults between the age of 45 and 55 in the United States. Moreover, people with a chronic habit of smoking and alcohol intake are more prone to oral cancer formation.
Usually, oral cancer is characterized as an abnormal growth of tissue cells in the mouth. Typical sites that are involved in oral cancer include the tongue, gums, lips, inner cheeks, jaw bone, the floor of the mouth, and the throat. Oral cancer involves a collection of pre-malignant and malignant lesions that can have several signs and symptoms. Some of the typical warning signs of oral cancer include –
- Presence of red or white ulcers or lumps in the mouth
- Associated bleeding from the lesions
- Non-healing oral ulcers
- Constant soreness in the mouth
- Throat lesions can cause hoarseness of the voice
- Pain, tenderness or even numbness around the affected area
- The shift in the positioning of the teeth
- Difficulty in chewing, swallowing and speaking
Usually, a series of dental x-rays and biopsy results are used to confirm the type of oral cancer. Oral cancer identified at an early stage has a better prognosis as compared to advanced stages of oral cancer.
Oral problems linked to overall health and well-being
As mentioned earlier, our mouth is a direct portal to the systemic health of the body. Poor oral hygiene can have severe effects on overall well-being. Additionally, an underlying systemic illness can deteriorate the health of the oral tissues. It is essential to identify the signs an symptoms to identify the potential cause and treat it appropriately.
Some of the universal health diseases associated with oral health problems include –
Diabetes is one of the top health illnesses that affect the adult population worldwide. Additionally, it is one of the most potential health disorders that can have a detrimental effect on the oral health of an adult. Some of the typical oral health risks associated with diabetes include –
- Reduced salivary flow in the mouth
- Increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease
- Increased incidence of oral infections
- Reduced healing of oral lesions such as ulcers or sores in the mouth (7)
Typically, two hormone-related conditions bring significant changes in the oral health of a woman. These include pregnancy and menopause. Menopause is a health condition which is mainly caused by a decreased level of estrogen in the body. Such reduced levels of estrogen can pose a threat to periodontal health. Moreover, it causes dryness in the mouth associated with a burning sensation, increased risk of bone disorder, tooth decay, and cavity formation.
Pregnancy is another hormone-related condition that can potentially increase the risk of gum disease and bone disorder. Pregnancy gingivitis is a common condition that affects the majority of pregnant woman in the world. It is characterized by red swollen gums that bleed easily during brushing. Often gum inflammation may be associated with pain and tooth sensitivity.
Such conditions require extra care and professional attention to monitor further changes that can be potentially damaging to the oral health and overall well-being of the patient.
Retroviral infections like HIV/AIDS are well known for their oral manifestations. It is usually caused due to reduced immune defense of the body. Some of the common oral health problems associated with retroviral infections include –
- Opportunistic fungal infections in the mouth for example oral thrush or candida infections
- Dryness of the mouth
- Viral infections like HPV and herpes
- Formation of hairy tongue
- Painful mouth sores (8)
Chronic autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis can have several adverse effects on the oral hygiene of an adult. Typical signs and symptoms of autoimmune disorder on oral health include –
- Increased risk of gum disease
- Periodontal breakdown leading to tooth loss and bone loss
- Poor oral hygiene due to improper oral health care practice (9)
- Bone and joint disorders
- Taste alteration
Usually, people with autoimmune diseases have reduced manual ability to follow proper oral health and hygiene routine. Specialized dental care products like an electric toothbrush and oral health aids can help to maintain good oral hygiene for a long time.
One of the potential bone disorder that can affect oral health includes osteoporosis. It is a condition that usually weakens the teeth and bones, leading to loss of bone and tooth loss. Moreover, the medications prescribed to treat osteoporosis can have additional adverse effects on the jawbones.
Some of the potential oral problems associated with osteoporosis include-
- Tooth mobility and eventual tooth loss
- A significant bone loss in the jaw
- Numbness around the affected site (10)
- Periodontal issues that can cause bone exposure in the mouth
- Pain and swelling in the jaw bone
Take away message
It is a known fact that adults are more prone to oral health problems as compared to any other generation. The potentially damaging oral health problems mainly include the teeth and the gums. However, progressive stages can affect the underlying bone, as well.
Adults also have an added risk of systemic health diseases that can potentially affect oral health. Some of the health conditions like diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and bone disorders can lead to increased risk of oral infections.
It is essential to understand the importance of oral health care, especially at this advancing stage of life. Proper health care measures can help to maintain harmony between oral health and overall well-being. This article will hopefully increase your awareness about the potential oral health conditions that mostly affect the adult population worldwide.