Caries, or tooth decay, is a preventable disease. When teeth and gums are consistently exposed to large amounts of starches and sugars, acids may form that begin to eat away at tooth enamel. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as candy, cookies, soft drinks and even fruit juices leave deposits on the teeth. Those deposits bond with the bacteria that normally survive in the mouth and form plaque. The combination of deposits and plaque forms acids that can damage the mineral structure of teeth, with tooth decay resulting.
Teeth expand and contract in reaction to changes in temperature. Hot and cold food and beverages can cause patients with sensitive teeth to experience pain or irritation. Over time, tooth enamel can wear down, gums may recede or teeth may develop microscopic cracks, exposing the interior of the tooth and irritating nerve endings. Just breathing cold air can be painful for those with extremely sensitive teeth.
Gum, or periodontal, disease can cause inflammation, tooth loss and bone damage. Gum disease begins with a sticky film of bacteria called plaque. Gums in the early stage of disease, or gingivitis, can bleed easily and become red and swollen. As the disease progresses to periodontitis, teeth may fall out or need to be removed. Gum disease is highly preventable and can usually be avoided by daily brushing and flossing. One indicator of gum disease is consistent bad breath or a bad taste in the mouth.
A bite that does not meet properly (a malocclusion) can be inherited, or some types may be acquired. Some causes of malocclusion include missing or extra teeth, crowded teeth or misaligned jaws. Accidents or developmental issues, such as finger or thumb sucking over an extended period of time, may cause malocclusions.