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Understanding Common Dental Problems: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & More

Understanding Common Dental Problems: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & More

What are some of the most common dental problems?

1. Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gum tissue around the base of your teeth. This condition is relatively common and is also a mild form of gum disease. However, it is reversible. According to a research done in the United States, more than 50% of adults had gingivitis on an average of 3 to 4 teeth (1).

The symptoms of gingivitis are:
1. Bleeding gum
2. Swollen gum
3. Reddish gum

Gingivitis is caused by the build-up of plaque on the areas of the teeth that are near the gum, and is often the result of poor oral hygiene habits. The more the bacteria, the easier it is for the gums to swell up and bleed.

2. Periodontitis

Periodontitis is an irreversible and severe form of gum disease. It is the loss of the supporting alveolar bone and the formation of deep gum pockets around your teeth, making it more prone to bacterial accumulation. When gingivitis is left untreated, it can develop into periodontitis and eventual tooth loss.

3. Gum Recession

Gum recession is a condition where the gum tissue surrounding teeth wears away, thus exposing the tooth’s root. Gum recession can happen to people of all ages even if you take good care of your teeth. The key is to understand what can cause the gum to recede.

Gum recession can be caused by:

  • 1. Gum disease.
  • 2. Excessive force while brushing your teeth or using a toothbrush with hard bristles can.
  • 3. Trauma to the gum tissue caused by ill-fitting dentures or sports injuries to the tooth and its supporting tissues.
  • 4. Crooked tooth that is out of its ideal position.

I'm not letting these bad guys infect your gums
Gum infection is characterised by the noticeable pain around the gum, accompanied by swelling that will aggravate the pain around the area.There are 3 common types of gum infections:

1. Pericoronitis - Infection of the gum that covers an unerupted tooth, most commonly associated with impacted wisdom teeth.

2. Periodontal abscess - Localised infection resulting from the accumulation of bacteria or a foreign body in the sulcus (the space between the teeth and gums) of a tooth.

3. Periapical abscess - Bacterial infection that occurs as a result of an untreated dental cavity, an injury or prior dental work (3), causing the collection of pus at the root of a tooth.

4 Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, which is also known as dental caries, occurs when the bacteria in plaque turns the sugar that comes into contact with it (found in food and drinks) into acid, demineralising the teeth (2). When this happens repeatedly, acid created by the plaque can make a hole in the tooth. Tooth decay can start at a very young age, and it can affect people of all ages.

Deep dental caries can cause infections and lead to toothache as well. And if they are left untreated, they can lead to tooth loss, which will cost a loss of confidence and a lot of money to remedy.

tooth decay pain

5. Tooth Wear

Tooth wear refers to the loss of tooth structure caused by factors other than dental caries.

There are 3 types of tooth wear:

1. Attrition - The loss of hard dental tissue due to tooth-to-tooth contact. It can be physiological (due to old age) or pathological (due to conditions like teeth grinding).

2. Abrasion - The loss of hard dental tissue through mechanical processes involving foreign objects. It could be caused by brushing too hard or too long, prolonged exposure to abrasive particles and frequently putting foreign objects such as a pen in the mouth.

3. Erosion - The loss of hard dental tissue caused by chemicals which dissolve the enamel (surface of the tooth) and the dentine (the hard, yellow layer under the enamel). The common causes of erosion are acidic foods and beverages, gastroesophageal reflux disease or occupational hazards that often expose one to acidic air.

6. Sensitive Tooth

Sensitive tooth is also termed as dentine hypersensitivity (4). It’s a condition where one experiences pain because of an exposed dentine that comes into contact with external stimuli such as cold beverages.

Some factors that may contribute to sensitive tooth:

1. Tooth wear, causing the dentine to become exposed.
2. Gum recession, exposing the dentine.
3. Excessive consumption of acidic foods or beverages.
4. Post-operative symptoms experienced after various dental procedures.

Dental problems can affect your daily routine and quality of life. Preventive dentistry (visiting the dentist regularly and picking up healthy oral habits) is the key to good oral health as it can save you both money and time. This is because the remedy to dental problems is often costly. With that being said, it is critical to prevent dental problems from arising.

What are the ways to prevent dental problems?

1. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with a fluoridated toothpaste.

Practice effective brushing techniques and make sure you brush the surface of every tooth. Good oral hygiene is important in preventing oral diseases. Choosing a toothpaste that’s right for you is also important. For instance, if you want to care for your gums, choose a toothpaste that strengthens the gums.

2. Choose an appropriate toothbrush and change it once every 3 months.

Whenever it starts wearing out, change to a new one to prevent bacteria from building up in the bristles, affecting your oral health and general well-being. It is also important to choose a bristle type that suits you. A soft-bristled toothbrush will be the most comfortable and safest choice. Slim tip bristles will also be able to clean tough-to-reach areas between your teeth.

3. Floss your teeth at least once a day before you go to sleep.

You may consider substituting normal dental floss with an electric water flosser. Some people consider it as an easier alternative to flossing.

4. Avoid tobacco products and alcoholic drinks.

It has been recognised as an important risk factor for oral diseases, especially oral cancer

5. Avoid frequent snacking and sipping sweet drinks in between meals.

Whenever you drink sugary beverages, the bacteria in your mouth will react with it and create acids that can destroy the tooth enamel.

6. Eat healthy foods and drink boiled tap water frequently.

Foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables increase saliva flow and help wash away food particles. Tap water comes with added fluoride, which can help prevent tooth decay significantly.

7. Visit your dentist bi-annually for dental check-ups and assessments.

Early detection is the key to effectively treating oral health issues. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. When it comes to oral health, preventing problems is easier, less expensive, and less traumatic than curing them. Now that you have a clearer understanding on common dental issues, make sure to take the necessary steps to prevent them.


  1. Oliver, R. C., Brown, L. J., & Löe, H. (1998). Periodontal diseases in the United States population. Journal of periodontology, 69(2), 269–278.
  2. Department of Health Western Australia (n.d.). Tooth decay and gum disease.
  3. Tooth abscess. Beacon Health System. (2019).
  4. Davari, A., Ataei, E., & Assarzadeh, H. (2013, September). Dentin hypersensitivity: etiology, diagnosis and treatment; a literature review. Journal of dentistry (Shiraz, Iran).
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Understanding Common Dental Problems: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments & More