The plan for healthy adults is simply to get healthy and to stay there. If all went according to plan in the teen years and you have had your orthodontic needs addressed, your wisdom teeth are where they belong, and have not damaged your teeth by some preventable problem, then you should be ready to coast pretty well trouble free for the next half century or so.
However, while we accept wellness as the new normal, we are still vigilantly watching for the first signs of any movement away from good dental health. Dental disease in previously healthy adults generally does not occur alone it is most often associated with other issues.
THE MAIN DENTAL DISEASES ARE PREVENTABLE
The two main dental diseases of adults are well understood and are, for the most part, preventable.
tooth decay is mainly due to a high sugar diet and/or poor oral hygiene. When tooth decay does appear in adults we have an aggressive protocol that should bring the problem under control in just a few shorts months.
Periodontal Disease is also a disease that should not be found in normal healthy adults. It is mainly due to bacteria and if the bacteria are kept in check the patient should be stable for decades. Provided they keep up good home care and regular professional cleaning by a dental hygienist once or twice a year. However this is not always the case and sometimes other risk factors can come into play. When a young adult suddenly starts to demonstrate deterioration in their periodontal health we will implement an aggressive protocol to bring the problem back in check. At the same time we look at a whole list of other risk factors that might be part of the problem.
THE RISK FACTORS
When adults with good home care and good dental care still show signs of periodontal disease we will then look at other risk factors. Or, if we find that a healthy patient has these risk factors, we warn them that this might cause problems in the future. Some of the risk factors are listed below.
- Smoking - the chemicals and tars produced from the burning of tobacco products sticks to the teeth and cause damage and interfere with the healing of the gums ( almost all of our patients who are in a state of declining periodontal health are smokers).
- Diabetes - Diabetes causes a weakened immune system which makes periodontal disease worse. Also, if left untreated, gum disease makes it harder for diabetics to keep their blood sugars under control. Diabetes is a terrible disease and it is important to be very vigilant on all fronts including diet, dental hygiene, and blood sugar monitoring.
- Immunosuppressive Diseases - periodontal disease is harder to manage if the immune system is weakened by the presence of diseases like Hepatitis, Leukemia, Alcoholism, Epstein-Barr Virus, and HIV. On the other hand if an apparently healthy patient suddenly starts to deteriorate it could be the first sign of one of these immune suppressive diseases.
- Immunosuppressive drugs - Steroids, Anti-inflammatories, Chemotherapeutic drugs can all make managing periodontal health much more difficult.
- Stress - is also an anti-inflammatory in nature due to the steroidal compounds produced as part of the stress response.
- Contagious - because certain bad bacteria show up later in periodontal disease it is possible to catch these bacteria from someone who has a more advanced case of the disease.
OTHER PROBLEMS WE FIND IN ADULTS
We expect our adults patients to be healthy and happy for the most part but we are always looking for the early signs of periodontal problems that are generally easier to fix if they are caught early.
- TMJ - there is a whole collection of different problems that cause pain and discomfort in the muscles and joints of the head and neck. Most of these problems are are easy fixes but they do have to be caught early and the right diagnoses found. There are many symptoms associated with TMJ but he four most common are stiff neck in the morning, headache upon waking, sensitive teeth, and pain in the joint in front of the ear.
- Mental Heath - if a young adult shows a sudden change or loss of interest in their dental heath regiment and their health ind wellbeing in general in can be an early sign of some sort of change in mental health. This could be depression, drug or alcohol addictions, or possible onset of dementia( in aging patients).
- Cancers - while oral cancers are rare they do exist and the earlier they are detected and treated the better the outcome hopefully. Any new growth or sore that doesn't heal should be investigated immediately.
- Extreme Wear and Acid Erosion - these two problems can occur separately or in combination. Acid erosion is not well understood but is sometimes associated with acid reflux disease. Other times it is a result of a low pH diet. Excessive wear is often the result of untreated Bruxism which is often due to stress but the outcome can be much more severe if combined with crooked teeth, missing teeth, and/or acid erosion. Having sensitive teeth is often the first sign of these problems and we do everything possible to stop these problems as early as possible. However by the time you dentist sees signs of these issues a fair amount of irreversible damage has already been done. It is very important to be aware of and avoid the causes such as GERD, Bulimia, low pH diet, and stress.