4 Common Oral Health Challenges 

Whether it’s general discomfort or an unplanned visit to the dentist, oral health challenges can quickly and unexpectedly disrupt your daily life. Some oral health problems are caused by poor health practices. But others happen due to no fault of yours. If you’ve ever chipped or cracked a tooth then you know how painful and frustrating an dental emergency can be.

It’s good to know how to identify signs of these issues and how to prevent them, if possible. This article will review 4 common oral health challenges. And we’ll offer a few proactive tips for keeping you out of the dentist’s chair (unless it’s for a routine cleaning or checkup).  


What it is: Gingivitis is the medical term for gum inflammation. It can be mild to severe, but severe cases can often lead to worse issues, including periodontal disease. Like many oral health challenges, gingivitis typically starts with plaque buildup that encourages bacterial growth. Bacteria (and the toxins they produce) infect the gums, causing them to harden, swell, and turn red. 

Primary symptoms:

  • Swollen or bleeding gums.
  • Pain around the gum line.
  • Gum discoloration (bright red, or darkened).

Proper brushing and flossing are a great start for preventing gingivitis. But gingivitis can also be caused by infections from improperly cleaned orthodontic appliances, alcohol and tobacco use, or some medications. 


When you ask someone if they have healthy teeth, they’ll usually respond by telling you how many cavities they have (or have had filled). It’s a popular way of tracking how well you care for your teeth. It’s also a point of pride for many to keep their cavity count low. Cavities are one of the most frequent dental issues, and they are the result of tooth decay. Decay is typically caused by inconsistent (or poor) cleaning habits like brushing and flossing. 

Cavities occur when decay progresses beyond a small fissure or pit on the tooth’s surface to permanent damage. They can only be fixed through a filling.

Primary symptoms:

  • Light to severe pain.
  • Increased sensitivity.
  • Observable holes in teeth, or tooth discoloration.
  • Chronic bad breath.  

Decay happens through the course of normal wear and tear, which degrades naturally occurring tooth enamel. The high consumption of sugary drinks or frequent snacking only speeds up decay, along with bad cleaning habits. Healthy eating habits, regular dental checkups, and good cleaning practices will keep your cavity count low.

Periodontal disease

Periodontitis (periodontal disease) is an advanced stage of gingivitis. A buildup of plaque causes most cases of periodontitis. Left untreated, this buildup can advance through gingivitis and eventually cause permanent gum damage. Severe cases can be life-threatening as the infection spreads to other bodily systems. Without intervention, periodontitis can result in gum line erosion and tooth loss. 

Primary symptoms:

  • Gum pain, or pain while eating.
  • Gum discoloration (deep red or darkening)
  • Gapping between your gums and teeth.
  • Other visible signs of decay.
  • Chronic, severe bad breath.
  • Loose adult teeth. 

Catching gingivitis early is the best way to prevent cases of periodontal disease from developing. Reducing or eliminating alcohol and tobacco consumption can also significantly reduce your risk of periodontitis. Keeping your teeth clean isn’t always easy; especially when your teeth are misaligned or difficult to reach. Learn more about the orthodontic complications that can cause periodontal disease, or make it worse. 

Mouth sores

Mouth sores are one of the more irritating oral health issues because they can occur with no warning. They can also turn an otherwise enjoyable meal or conversation into an uncomfortable experience. Canker sores are the most common type of mouth sore. Other causes of sores can include oral thrush and the herpes simplex virus. These issues are caused and exacerbated by many factors, from hormonal changes to dietary triggers.

Primary symptoms:

  • Visible sores (often yellowish, white, or gray).
  • Painful areas along your gums and inner cheeks.
  • Discoloration of your tongue, including the visible buildup of white or gray substances. 

Reducing your intake of acidic drinks and food can help soothe painful mouth sores. Oral rinses can also help. Mouth sores can indicate more serious problems, too – including oral cancer. If your sores continue to get worse, or if they won’t go away, seek treatment from a dentist. Your dentist may recommend further tests or medical interventions. 

Orthodontic care is the foundation for good oral health

The shape and position of your teeth and the alignment of your jaw can all affect the cleanliness of your mouth. Unfortunately, you might suffer from one or more of these issues even if you practice regular cleaning and dental visits. Areas that are difficult to reach or properly clean are much more prone to infection, plaque build-up, and bacteria. 

Schedule an orthodontic visit today to learn more about how even minimal orthodontic treatments can help you enjoy a healthy smile for life.