What are the most common dental problems for adults?
It's not just kids who have to worry about cavities. Taking good care of your teeth is important at all stages of life, especially as age can increase your risk factor for many oral health problems.
The good news is that you can attempt to reduce your risk of developing dental disease (and sometimes even reverse it) through a combination of good oral hygiene, a healthy diet and regular appointments with your dentist. Here are five of the most common dental problems that affect Australian adults, and what you can do about them.
Gaps in your smile don't only affect your appearance. They can also make it harder to chew and to speak, and increase your risk of tooth decay and other infections when food and plaque get trapped. Without support, the teeth on either side of the gap may also start to shift and become crooked.
According to the latest oral health survey by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), young adults in their early 20s have an average of 1.8 missing teeth, rising to 10.8 missing teeth over the age of 65. Just under one-fifth of seniors (19.1%) have none of their own teeth left.
If you lose a tooth to dental disease or it gets knocked out, your dentist can discuss restorative treatments such as an implant*, bridge or denture to plug the gap and restore your smile.
It's not just plaque that can damage your teeth. Their hard enamel surface can also be worn down over time by acidic drinks (such as soft drinks, sports drinks and wine), sugary snacks, rough teeth brushing and teeth grinding, among other things.
If your dentist notices that your teeth are excessively worn, they'll try to identify the cause and recommend treatments or lifestyle changes that can minimise further damage. They may also discuss treatments to restore the strength and appearance of worn or weakened teeth, including dental crowns, veneers or teeth bonding if suitable for you.
If your tooth feels painful or sensitive to hot and cold food and drink, a deep crack or cavity may have reached the soft centre of the tooth where the nerves are located. As well as being painful, untreated root infections may quickly spread and lead to other problems, such as a tooth abscess.
If a dental x-ray shows that your tooth is infected, your dentist may recommend a root canal treatment. This routine procedure involves removing the infected tissue, replacing it with a synthetic material, and restoring the tooth, with a crown or filling, to its natural shape and appearance.
Periodontal (gum) disease is the leading cause of tooth loss for adults. The risk of developing gum disease increases with age, affecting more than half of those over 65 (53.4%).. Men are at 1.5 times the risk of women, and you're also more likely to have gum disease if you live in a remote area and don't visit your dentist regularly. Other risk factors include smoking, excess alcohol consumption and poor oral hygiene.
Like tooth decay, most gum disease is caused by plaque . When plaque reaches the gums, this can cause them to swell, itch, redden or bleed. In this early stage (gingivitis), gum disease treatment may simply involve improving your oral hygiene, though your dentist may also recommend a scaling treatment to remove plaque from your teeth.
If gingivitis is allowed to develop into periodontitis, plaque may start to damage your jaw bone and the support structures of your teeth, which may cause them to loosen or fall out. Your dentist may perform a deep cleaning treatment to remove the plaque from beneath your gums.
Tooth decay is one of the most common health problems in Australia and considered the most prevalent chronic disease worldwide . While it's especially common in children, whose teeth are more fragile, over a quarter of adults aged 25-44 (28.5%) have untreated tooth decay. This figure decreases in higher age categories, where past decay has resulted in more missing teeth.
The good news is that the rate of tooth decay is slowly decreasing over time, as people become more aware of the importance of brushing, flossing and keeping up with their regular dental appointments. If a tooth is badly decayed or a cavity is forming, your dentist may suggest restoring your tooth with a white filling or a crown if the cavity is large.
We typically recommend six-monthly dental check-ups, but your circumstances may mean you should visit more or less frequently. Be sure to speak to our friendly dentists at Face Value Dental in Brisbane’s CBD about how often you should get a check-up.
Call us today on (07 3221 0677 or get in touch online.
*Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.
 Australian Dental Association (ADA). Australia’s Oral Health Tracker Technical Paper 2018-02 February 2018. [Online] 2018 [Accessed March 2018] Available from www.ada.org.au
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Older Australia at a glance. [Online] 2017 [Accessed March 2018] Available from: www.aihw.gov.au
 Victoria State Government Better Health Channel. Gum disease [Online] 2018 [Accessed March 2018] Available from: www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au
 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW). Oral health and dental care in Australia: key facts and figures 2015 [Online] 2016 [Accessed March 2018] Available from: www.aihw.gov.au