Oral health includes the teeth and gums, and it has been linked to overall health. It can be impacted by lifestyle habits, social and environmental determinants of health, and medical conditions like heart disease.

Bad oral health is a global burden, with diseases like tooth decay and gum disease affecting about 3.5 billion people. This can lead to pain, malnutrition, and other problems in life.

1. Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is not something to ignore, especially when it is caused by a loss of tooth enamel. When a person loses this protective layer, it allows cold, hot, sugary or acidic foods to enter the roots and nerves of a tooth. This can result in pain and discomfort, which is known as dentin hypersensitivity.

While teeth sensitivity isn’t the same as a cavity, it can still be painful and can even lead to long-term damage to your oral health. In fact, tooth sensitivity may be a warning sign of more serious dental issues like a cracked tooth, gum disease or worn fillings.

Another common cause of tooth sensitivity is clenching and grinding your teeth while you sleep. This can also thin the enamel and expose the more porous second layer, causing a heightened sense of discomfort. If you think this might be your issue, ask your Bismarck dentist for help. They can make you a custom night guard that will protect your teeth from excessive force during your sleep and help you stop the pain. They can also recommend a prescription toothpaste or gel that will provide relief from the sensitivity.

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2. Bad Breath

Keeping your mouth clean is one of the best ways to avoid bad breath. Having regular brushing, flossing and using mouthwash are all good ways to prevent halitosis.

Your mouth is a natural hothouse for bacteria that grow and produce foul-smelling waste products called volatile sulfur compounds (VSCs). The VSCs interact with proteins in your food and cause bad breath. Moreover, your gums, tongue, and tonsils can also trap food particles that contribute to bad breath.

Certain foods, health conditions and habits can increase or decrease your breath odor. For example, eating garlic, onions and spices can cause your mouth to smell bad until those foods are absorbed into the bloodstream, carried to the lungs, and exhaled out of the body. Certain medications like nitrates used to treat angina, antihistamines and some chemotherapy drugs can also create a temporary bad breath odor.

Constant or chronic bad breath can be a warning sign that underlying health problems are present. For instance, postnasal drip, respiratory infections and tonsillitis, sinus and throat problems and diabetes can lead to bad breath. If you are suffering from these conditions and your bad breath does not go away after making oral hygiene changes, see your dentist and your doctor to be sure there isn’t a more serious health issue at play.

3. Tooth Pain

Whether you have a sharp pain that throbs, or one that is constant or comes and goes, it’s important to never ignore tooth pain. If a toothache is left untreated, bacteria can enter the inner portion of the tooth, called the pulp, and cause an infection. Over time, the infection can lead to a pus-filled abscess that may damage tissue and bone.

If the toothache is constant, it could be a sign that you have a dental problem, such as gum disease, tooth decay or a cracked or chipped tooth. You might also have a jaw problem, such as TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome) or bruxism, which is the grinding of your teeth while you sleep.

If you have a fever, chills or a rash that appears around the area of the pain, it could be a sign of an infection in other areas of your body and you should visit a doctor or emergency room as soon as possible. Extreme stress, recent trauma or heart conditions can also present as pain that seems to be coming from your mouth or teeth. In these cases, it’s important to seek treatment from your physician. They can give you advice on how to treat the pain or a recommendation for a dentist.

4. Dry Mouth

Saliva is the first line of defense against bacteria, food debris, and acid that can lead to gum disease, tooth decay, and other oral health issues. It also helps us chew and digest our food, and provides essential nutrients like calcium, phosphate, and magnesium. When we have dry mouth, it can cause a host of problems from bad breath to mouth sores, and increase our risk of tooth decay, gum disease, and even thrush.

Also known as xerostomia, dry mouth can be caused by a range of conditions including aging, chronic dehydration, and certain medications (like antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers, and diuretics). It can also be an early symptom of many diseases and can make dentures more difficult to wear.

To help treat dry mouth, suck on sugar-free gum or candy to stimulate saliva flow and hydrate the mouth. Humidify the air in your home with a humidifier, especially at night, and drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated. Consider over-the-counter mouth rinses, sprays, and gels that are made specifically for people with dry mouth. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and sour foods that can irritate the mouth.

5. Sores in the Mouth

Sores, ulcers, or unusual patches in the mouth can be signs of a variety of diseases and disorders. These can range from minor irritations, such as a loose orthodontic wire or a sharp edge of a broken tooth or filling, to severe infections that may require medical attention.

Viruses are the most common causes of mouth sores. These include cold sores of the lips caused by the herpes simplex virus and ulcers of the mouth (palatinous leukoplakia) or palate caused by the varicella-zoster virus that causes shingles. Infections caused by bacteria that live in the mouth are also a frequent cause of mouth sores. These infections can occur as a result of poor oral hygiene or from the use of antibiotics.

Mouth sores can make it painful or difficult to eat and drink. They can also interfere with the way you speak and smile. If a mouth sore does not heal within a week, it is recommended that you consult your dentist for an examination and treatment.

6. Mouth Ulcers

Mouth ulcers are painful sore spots on the lining of the mouth that can vary in size and appearance. They may look like red, white or yellow-colored lesions that bleed when touched. They are often accompanied by a burning sensation, pain when eating spicy, salty or acidic foods and sometimes a metallic taste in the mouth.

A mouth ulcer may be a sign of an infection such as gingivitis, but it can also be a symptom of other health conditions like peptic ulcers or some gastrointestinal medications that affect the soft tissue of the intestine and dry out the mouth. If a person has recurring mouth ulcers, it’s important that they see a dental or medical professional.

The health care professional will examine the lining of the mouth, ask about the patient’s diet and other symptoms and take a sample of the ulcer for further testing. This can include a swab test, blood test or tissue biopsy. Some health professionals may also prescribe a topical anesthetic gel, available over the counter from pharmacies. They can also recommend a healthier diet that avoids spicy, salty and acidic foods and encourages a regular brushing regime. They may also advise a relaxation technique for stress-related problems that can cause mouth ulcers to appear.

7. Oral Cancer

A cancer diagnosis is frightening, especially if it involves the mouth. Sadly, many people don’t heed warning signs that could save their lives if they were spotted early. These include sores, lumps and other symptoms in the mouth. Among these symptoms, the most serious is oral cancer.

Like other cancers, mouth and throat cancers are the result of mutated cells. Most of the time, these mutations occur in squamous cells that line the lips and inside of the mouth. These cancers are called oral squamous cell carcinomas. Other types of cancer that can happen in the mouth and throat include adenocarcinomas (affecting glandular tissue), sarcomas (affecting soft tissues) and lymphomas.

There are several risk factors that can increase your chance of developing mouth or throat cancer. These include:

Smoking tobacco and drinking alcohol are common causes of oral cancer. They can also affect your immune system. This makes it harder for your body to fight off infections and diseases. It can also slow down the healing process of your mouth and throat. It can even cause side effects like dry mouth and sores in the throat and mouth. Additionally, radiation therapy can damage salivary glands and teeth.