When it comes to your oral health, you may find it easy to assume that all is well as long as you maintain good oral hygiene habits and experience no pain or discomfort. While it is definitely true that oral hygiene habits are important to maintaining your oral health and that pain and discomfort are clear indications that something is amiss, the truth is that even good oral hygiene habits cannot prevent all dental infections. Furthermore, these infections can sometimes start with no or very little pain or discomfort. Therefore, maintaining good oral health includes a knowledge of common dental infections and their causes, so that you can prevent them as much as is possible and seek dental help to resolve them when necessary.
How Dental Infections Occur
Your mouth is full of oral bacteria, some beneficial and some harmful. Maintaining good oral hygiene habits is important for preventing an overpopulation of harmful oral bacteria, which can lead to undesirable oral health issues. One of the most common oral health issues is dental infection, which is caused when the harmful oral bacteria in your mouth works through a break in your oral mucous membranes. This break in oral mucous membranes can occur naturally, like when a tooth erupts through the gums and into the mouth, or it can occur as a result of injury. Either way, it is neither the presence of harmful oral bacteria alone nor the presence of a break in oral mucous membranes alone, but rather both of these conditions together that leads to a dental infection.
Some of the more common dental infections include:
- Gum disease. Most gum disease, which is also known as periodontal disease, is caused by harmful oral bacteria. This bacteria can accumulate in the sticky film known as plaque, coating the gum line and the teeth. If plaque is not removed within twenty-four hours of formation (through good oral hygiene habits like brushing and flossing your teeth), it hardens into tartar. It impossible for you to remove tartar at home, and tartar is toxic to the gums–opening the door for microorganisms to move into gingival tissues.
- Tooth abscess. Severe tooth decay exposes the inner pulp layer of the tooth, thereby putting this area at risk for infection. The inner area of the tooth is where the nerve endings and blood vessels that nourish and innervate the tooth are located. When this area is exposed and left unprotected, bacteria can infiltrate and cause irritation that can ultimately destroy the inner area of the tooth.
- Pericoronitis. In order for a tooth to erupt into the mouth, it must break through the gum tissues. Unfortunately, this means that there is an opening that microorganisms can work through, especially if the tooth takes quite some time to erupt after first breaking through the gum tissues. These microorganisms can cause a gum infection in the area directly around the tooth that is trying to erupt into the mouth.
Needless to say, dental infections can be quite painful, especially if they are allowed to progress for some time. However, there are also many instances where dental infections can begin and grow undetected for some time, and are therefore all the more difficult to successfully resolve. The best resolution is prevention, and by following some simple guidelines, one can greatly reduce their risk of developing dental infection. Consider the following tips:
- Brush your teeth at least twice every day.
- Floss your teeth at least once every day.
- Rinse your mouth with a fluoride mouthwash in order to help reduce harmful oral bacteria.
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year for dental examinations and cleanings.
For more information about dental infections and how to prevent and resolve them, contact Dr. Best today.