What are the most common oral health problems Americans are facing today? The Health Policy Institute, a research division of the American Dental Association, recently released the results of a wide-ranging survey of nearly 15,000 adults across every state. Here's what they found:
For the population as a whole, the top issue — experienced occasionally or very often by 33% of respondents — was dry mouth. Also called xerostomia, dry mouth generally results from insufficient saliva production. This is a side effect of many medications, and it can also be caused by certain diseases. When it happens occasionally, dry mouth is an inconvenience. But if it becomes a constant problem, it can lead to tooth decay.
Next on the list, difficulty biting or chewing was an issue for 31% of people who responded to the survey — but younger people and people with lower incomes reported it at much higher rates than the population as a whole. A number of things can cause this problem, including teeth that are cracked, loose, or deeply decayed, or poorly fitted dentures. If your teeth are sensitive to pressure, it may indicate that you need a root canal to save a tooth with diseased or dying pulp tissue. Problems when biting or chewing may also keep you from enjoying healthy, nutritious food, because this is often more challenging to eat than processed foods.
Pain is the third item on the list, experienced by about 29% of all respondents. But pain was the number one oral health problem for both lower-income households and people aged 18-34: It was reported by over 40% of both groups. There are many possible causes of this issue, but in general tooth pain is your body's way of telling you something's wrong; if you ignore it, the pain may go away… but the underlying problem won't. The longer you let it go, the more difficult it may be to treat.
If you are experiencing any of the problems mentioned above, don't disregard it — make a dental appointment as soon as possible. Your dentist can diagnose the problem and recommend a treatment plan to relieve your symptoms, restore any damaged teeth, and return you to good health.