Word of mouth: most prevalent dental problems and how to avoid them

Dental care calls for watching what you eat, brushing and flossing regularly and giving up habits that contribute to oral diseases. We get to the root of common concerns.

Sugary food, in particular, causes dental caries, or tooth decay, which according to the World Health Organization is a major oral-health problem in most countries. Getty Images
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Everyone wants a killer smile, with pink gums, fresh breath and perfectly formed, shiny white teeth.

And while many enjoy optimum oral health, others are less fortunate, suffering from a variety of dental problems that leave teeth rotting, gums bleeding and a smile that is not so dazzling.

According to Dr Khalid F Al Ameri, specialist orthodontist at Abu Dhabi’s Healthpoint Hospital, the five most common oral problems in the UAE are dental caries or decay, periodontal (gum) disease, tartar build-up, loose teeth and stains.

“These are mostly caused by lack of dental education,” says Al Ameri. “Stopping bad habits such as smoking and consuming a lot of sugary foods and drinks will help prevent these conditions.”

Sugary food in particular causes dental caries, or tooth decay, which according to the World Health Organization is a major oral-health problem in most countries, with 60 to 90 per cent of schoolchildren and nearly 100 per cent of adults worldwide experiencing dental cavities.

Tooth decay occurs when sucrose reacts with bacteria in the dental biofilm, producing acid, which leads to a loss of calcium and phosphate from the enamel.

“The process is called demineralisation,” says Al Ameri, who recommends brushing and flossing at least twice a day to minimise the production of acid.

He also urges people to visit a dentist at least once every six months to reduce the risk of periodontal diseases, caused by tartar and plaque accumulation.

“These range from simple gum inflammation to serious disease that results in major damage to the soft tissue and the bone that supports the teeth. In the worst cases, teeth are lost,” he adds.

Whether your gum disease stops, slows or worsens depends on how well you care for your teeth, both in terms of cleaning and what you put into your mouth.

Certain foods not only cause gum disease and tooth decay but also lead to unsightly stains. You may want to think twice the next time you reach for soy sauce, berries, black tea and coffee, as they have all been proven to discolour teeth. So, too, have curry, cola and red fruit juices.

“Acidic foods and beverages or extreme changes of hot and cold can cause teeth pores to expand, which can allow food to penetrate and stains to appear,” says Al Ameri. “Avoiding or limiting these foods is one way to protect against staining.”

Smoking increases the chances of gum disease and causes teeth discolouration. Al Ameri says children with a diet high in sugar face increased risks, too.

Despite efforts to fight dental disease, it remains a global issue, with disadvantaged population groups experiencing higher rates of problems, according to the WHO. The organisation also states that approximately 30 per cent of people between the ages of 65 and 74 have no natural teeth.

In the UAE, dental education has increased dramatically in the past 20 years. Oral health programmes, international dental conferences and a higher number of public healthcare centres are helping to inform residents about dental problems.

“The UAE is one of the leading countries in the Middle East for dental education,” says Al Ameri. “I think we have an excellent level of dental care as we constantly strive to standardise dental services.”