Common Oral Health Problems and Their Causes

Your mouth is complex. Like your body, it is susceptible to injury and infection.

Just like exercise, a healthy diet, adequate rest and regular check-ups at the doctor’s office are important in maintaining optimal overall health, proper care for your teeth in the form of daily brushing and flossing, a healthy diet and regular dental check-ups with the dentist, are necessary for great oral health that lowers your risk of injury, infection, disease and decay.

With the disturbing increase of the fear of the dentist, more and more patients are reluctant to visit the dentist. By passing up on these important, recommended, twice-yearly cleanings, patients are putting their oral health at risk. They can also be delaying treatment of oral health issues, which can prolong the patient’s discomfort and allow the dental health issue to progress.

Below is a list of common oral health issues to watch out for:

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay, more commonly called cavities are one of the most common health ailments. It is suggested that every American will get at least one cavity in his or her lifetime. Cavities can occur at any age and are the result of poor oral hygiene and a poor diet high in sugars, carbohydrates and refined, processed foods.

A dentist can quickly identify a cavity and easily fill it.

Cavities that aren’t treated may, over time progress and infect the tooth roots and gums. Untreated cavities can ultimately result in lost teeth.

Tooth Infection

Infections of the teeth often cause persistent throbbing, pain and discomfort. They can greatly impact one’s life.

A tooth abscess is usually the cause of tooth infections. With a tooth abscess, an infection develops inside the tooth (called the pulp). The infection spreads down into the roots of teeth and ultimately into the jawbone.

If not treated promptly with a root canal, the tooth infection can result in the tooth being lost.

Toothaches and Tooth Sensitivity

There are many causes to toothaches and tooth sensitivity. The most common causes include trauma to the tooth or tooth decay. As toothaches and tooth sensitivity can illicit severe, daily discomfort, and it could be a sign of tooth decay or a tooth infection, it is strongly suggested you make an appointment with your dentist as soon as possible.

Gum Disease

Just like tooth decay, gum disease is another common oral health condition that will likely affect most patients sometime in life.

The most common form of gum disease is easy to diagnose, treat and reverse. If, however, the gum disease isn’t treated, it can progress into the more serious version: periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is harder to treat and the damage may not be reversible. Periodontal disease, if left unchecked can result in damage to the jawbone and lost teeth.

Daily flossing and brushing can help patients prevent gum disease as well as professional flossing, and root planing and scaling.

Dry Mouth

A dry mouth may seem like an annoying, but harmless oral condition. While the constant thirst and accompanying sore throat may be unpleasant, a dry mouth can greatly increase one’s risk of getting tooth decay and gum disease.

Dry mouth has many causes ranging from stress and anxiety to medication side-effects to improperly functioning saliva glands. The best treatment of dry mouth is to treat the source of the dry mouth.

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMJ)

Temporomandibular Joint Disorder, or TMJ for short is a condition where the joint near the hinge of the jaw, the temporomandibular joint, gets out of alignment and doesn’t work as smoothly as it ought to.

The most common symptoms of TMJ include earaches, pain when chewing, muscle soreness and stiffness in the jaw, and pain in the neck or face.

According to WebMD, up to 15% of patients have TMJ and the condition tends to affect women more than men.

The causes of TMJ include: a dislocated jaw, an injury to the jaw, excessive teeth grinding, misaligned teeth and jaws and arthritis.

The treatment for temporomandibular joint disorder can vary greatly from simple relaxation and pain relievers to plastic mouth guards to oral surgery. The severity, cause and duration of a patient’s TMJ will determine the best treatment option.


Do you wake up in the morning with a sore jaw? You may have an oral condition called Bruxism. With Bruxism, one unconsciously grinds his or her teeth or clenches their jaw. Most Bruxism episodes occur at night when the patient is asleep.

Plastic or rubber nightguards from the dentist office are the best treatment for Bruxism.

If you experience pain or discomfort or the oral health issue is either not going away or is worsening, it is important to have your teeth and gums looked by a dental professional as soon as possible.

Only your dentist will be able to properly diagnose and offer the best course of treatment.