Regular dental checkups are vital, not only for routine cleaning but also to detect more serious conditions.
Dr Tanweer Hussain, specialist dentist-endodontist and conservative dentist at Welcare Mirdif, in Dubai, says, “Normal day-to-day maintenance for basic oral hygiene like flossing, using a mouthwash, brushing three times a day, and monitoring your intake of sweets are adequate to a certain extent. However, the more subtle dental conditions that could also be termed as silent enemies can only be diagnosed or detected early by the professional dentist.”
To ensure the best dental health, Dr Leila Hariri, family dentist at Jumeirah Beach Dental Centre in Dubai, recommends regular cleaning and six-monthly checkups for children and adults. She adds, “People at greater risk of oral disease should have dental checkups more than twice a year. This will help detect any problems at an early stage.”
Here are five conditions you could avoid if you book an appointment today.
1. Gum disease
Gum disease or gingivitis causes red, swollen gums that bleed when brushed. It is caused by a build-up of plaque on the teeth, a sticky substance, made up of bacteria, that is removed by brushing. If it builds up, it can irritate the gums and cause inflammation. Periodontis is a more severe form of this as it can also damage the tissue that connects the tooth to the tooth socket and also the bone in the jaw that contains the sockets of the teeth.
Symptoms include bad breath, a horrible taste in your mouth, receding gums, sensitive teeth, pus coming from gums and even loose teeth that can fall out. The condition is linked to heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and pregnancy.
“All these conditions are highly prevalent in the UAE and thus the adverse effects of the disease and consequently the medications taken are very high on the oral tissues,” says Dr Hussain. “The lifestyle in the UAE is one of the major reasons for this strong link.” The best way to prevent the condition is to practise good oral hygiene: Brush your teeth twice a day and floss at least three times a week.
2. Oral cancer
Dubbed the silent disease, more than 300,000 cases are diagnosed every year worldwide. The majority are caused by smoking and the excessive consumption of alcohol, with men over 40 mainly affected.
“Oral cancer affects the mouth, lips or throat, and is often highly curable if diagnosed and treated in the early stages,” says Dr Hussain.
Early symptoms, such as a mouth ulcer or lump are often dismissed as minor problems, hence its high mortality rate. But if a patient has an ulcer or lump in the mouth that doesn’t heal within three weeks, neck swelling, difficulty swallowing, chewing or moving the jaw or tongue, white patches on the lining of the mouth, or numbness of the tongue, then visit a dentist straightaway. Early detection could be a lifesaver. Dr Vaidehi Ranganath, specialist dentist-endodontist and conservative dentist at Welcare Ambulatory Care Centre says, “During a dental visit, the dentist may point out greyish, white patches on the lining of the cheeks and lips. These may be pre-cancerous lesions which need to be monitored.”
3. Sensitive teeth
High consumption of fizzy drinks, fresh fruit juices such as orange and pineapple, restaurant prepared foods and tea are just a few of the causes of tooth erosion and sensitivity.
Erosion is the loss of tooth structure caused by acids attacking the enamel, the hard, protective coating of the tooth that protects the sensitive dentine underneath. When enamel is worn away, the dentine is exposed which can lead to pain and sensitivity to hot and cold drinks, and sweet foods and drinks. Every time you eat or drink something acidic, the enamel becomes softer and loses some of its mineral content. Saliva neutralises this acidity, but if the acid attack happens too often, the mouth doesn’t have time to repair itself.
Other causes of sensitive teeth include brushing your teeth too hard, gum disease, chipped or cracked teeth that have filled with bacteria and teeth grinding.
Treatment includes soft tooth brushing, desensitising gels, topical fluoride applications, fillings, or root canal treatment to devitalise the teeth.
4. Bad breath
Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is one of life’s more embarrassing health problems and is estimated to be a persistent problem for up to 50 per cent of people. The condition nearly always has a dental condition at its root.
Dr Ranganath says periodontis, mouth breathing, inflammation of the gums caused by diabetes, a dry mouth caused by salivary gland problems, acid reflux and indigestion, smoking, taking certain prescription medicines and cavities are some of the reasons patients could suffer from bad breath.
“Stress is also a major component,” he adds. “It can enhance the already existing odour or cause dryness of the mouth, subtly contributing to the pungent breath. This is transient and normal breath returns once the stress is relieved.”
For a more persistent problem, Dr Ranganath recommends using mouthwashes and chewing gum to mask the condition and seeking advice from a doctor or physician to
He explains, “A routine checkup is all that is needed to detect the cause of this problem. Eating low carbohydrate meals to reduce the plaque index and a well balanced diet including raw fruits and vegetables will also help alleviate the problem.”
One of the most widespread problems in the UAE due to a general apathy towards dental care, tooth decay, also known as dental decay or dental caries, is caused by a bacterial infection of the teeth.
Over time, a buildup of plaque breaks down the enamel, which, if left untreated, can cause a cavity. Once the cavity is made, the bacteria and plaque target the dentine and because this is much softer than enamel, the process speeds up. The next victim is the pulp, the centre of the tooth, which is made up of nerves and blood vessels.
The condition does not cause any problems until the damage is very advanced, yet another reason to have a regular checkup, but symptoms include toothache, bad breath, an unpleasant taste in the mouth and either grey, brown or black spots on the teeth.
As well as being one of the most common dental conditions, with risk factors including poor oral hygiene, smoking and a poor diet, it is also one of the most treatable with a number of techniques to repair the damage such as fillings and crowns and in extreme cases, complete removal of the affected tooth.
Dr Hussain says, “The caries that occur between the teeth are not easily seen by the patients themselves until they advance to a stage of pain. However, if detected early by the dentist via X-rays and other professional techniques these advanced stages can be avoided.”