Dental disease is any abnormality of the teeth, either acquired or congenital. Dental diseases are among the most common pathologies humans face. The foundation of dentistry is the focus on these dental diseases, or pathologies. Dentists, dental hygienists, and dental specialists work toward preventing, diagnosing, and treating dental diseases, as well as addressing other concerns of the mouth, teeth, and maxillofacial region.
Congenital dental diseases are present at birth and may have genetic origins. Anodontia is the failure of the teeth to form, either entirely or in part. Other congenital dental diseases may cause the teeth to be misshapen or discolored and extremely weak; these diseases usually affect other bodily systems in addition to the teeth, and they are usually treated with dental prostheses.
The most common dental disease is an acquired one: dental cavities, also known as dental caries or tooth decay. Dental cavities are caused by acids that form when bacteria digests simple sugars and starches that are found on the surfaces of the teeth. These acids can be neutralized by saliva and by regular brushing and flossing, but if left unaddressed, the acid bath they form will eventually lead to dental cavities. Dental cavities are preventable, though 9 out of 10 adults in the U.S. are affected by tooth decay. The teeth can be strengthened with fluoride treatments, and dietary changes, good oral hygiene habits, and periodic professional cleanings at the dentist’s office can help prevent cavities from forming in the first place. Dental cavities are characterized by pain, discomfort, bad odor or bad taste in the mouth, discoloration of the teeth, and swelling in the gums. They can be treated with dental restorations, including dental fillings and dental crowns.
Periodontal disease is also a common acquired dental disease. This is more commonly known as gum disease, and it is the result of a buildup of bacteria, plaque, and tartar that gets trapped at and under the gumline, weakening the gum tissue and adversely affecting the entire mouth. Symptoms of gum disease include gums that bleed frequently or are tender, painful, and swollen. Gum disease may also cause the teeth to loosen and migrate in the mouth, creating gaps, and it may lead to painful mouth sores. Periodontal disease can be treated with dental deep cleaning treatments over the course of a few dental visits. Once treated, the health of the teeth and gums should be maintained with regular brushing and flossing and routine dental checkups.
Oral cancer can affect many areas of the mouth, including the tongue, cheeks, lips, and throat. It is most often detected at dental checkups and may have few, if any, symptoms in its early stages. Eventually, oral cancer may present as swollen lymph nodes, chronic sores in the mouth, difficulty swallowing, and irregular bleeding from the mouth. Treatment includes chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
Other acquired dental diseases include oral thrush, halitosis, and dental abscess, which arises when a bacterial infection creates a pocket of pus in the gums or the teeth. This is also the result of consuming an excessive amount of simple sugars combined with poor oral hygiene. Treatment includes draining the abscess, treating the infection, and possibly removing the tooth.