Some common dental problems related to poor oral hygiene

Tooth decay (caries)

When holes form in parts of the enamel of a tooth, it is known as caries. A main cause of caries is due to a build-up of plaque. The germs (bacteria) in the plaque react with sugars and starches in food to form acids. The acids are kept next to the teeth by the sticky plaque and dissolve the tooth enamel. If you have tooth decay you may need fillings, crowns or inlays.

Gum disease (periodontal disease)

Gingivitis crop wikiGum disease means infection or inflammation of the tissues that surround the teeth. Most cases of gum disease are plaque-related. Plaque contains many different types of bacteria and a build-up of some types of bacteria is associated with developing gum disease.

Depending on the severity, gum disease is generally divided into two types - gingivitis and periodontitis:


• Gingivitis means inflammation of the gums. There are various types. However, most cases of gingivitis are caused by plaque.

• Periodontitis occurs if gingivitis becomes worse and progresses to involve the tissue that joins the teeth to the gums (the periodontal membrane).

Gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss in adults. It is also a main cause of bad breath (halitosis). However, gum disease is often treatable. (See separate leaflet called Dental Plaque and Gum Disease for details.)

Tooth (dental) erosion

Tooth erosion is a common problem. It is the gradual erosion of tooth enamel by the action of acid on the teeth. This is different to damage caused by bacteria resulting in tooth decay and caries. Tooth erosion affects the entire surface of the tooth. In time, tooth erosion can cause thinned enamel, and eventually can expose the softer dentine underneath the enamel. Dentine is sensitive so erosion can lead to your teeth being more sensitive to hot, cold or sweet foods and drinks.