7 Most Common Oral Hygiene Problems

Our mouth is a breeding ground for bacteria (both good and bad). These bacteria are active all the time and present in every situation. Good dental or oral care is important when it comes to maintaining healthy teeth, gums, lips, and tongue. Healthy practice of regular brushing and flossing of one’s teeth is important to keep one’s mouth clean and free of disease.

Nevertheless, problems do occur sometimes even for patients with excellent dental care routines. So, it is important to be able to spot the signs of underlying dental conditions and understand how to solve them. The most common symptoms of poor oral hygiene are:

  • Sensitivity 

If you have sensitive teeth, you may wince when consuming hot or cold food and beverages. Sensitivity in teeth can happen for several reasons including cavities, exposure of the tooth’s root, gum disease, and fractured teeth. Sensitive teeth can be treated by using desensitising toothpaste, or alternative recommended treatment dependent on the cause of the sensitivity.

  • Tooth Decay

It is also referred to as dental caries or dental cavities. It occurs when bacteria settle on teeth and produce acids. This then slowly eats away the tooth enamel and forms cavities. These bacteria is particularly prevalent when exposed to sugary food, so limit the sugar intake and start a healthy diet. Once you have cavities, there is no way to reverse it unless you fill and repair them. Brushing and flossing regularly, routine dental examinations, and avoiding sugary food may help prevent tooth decay.

  • Gingivitis or Periodontitis

Gingivitis or Periodontitis, also known as gum disease, is a bacterial infection brought about by an accumulation of plaque in the mouth. They eat away at the gum tissue and the ligaments that hold the teeth in place. Those with poor dental hygiene i.e. lapsed brushing and poor flossing technique, cavities, diabetes, and smokers are more prone to developing gum disease. If your gums bleed on more than one occasion, you are likely to develop gingivitis and may need an antibiotic to stop the infection.

  • Halitosis

About one in four people are thought to have bad breath or halitosis on a regular basis. It is usually the result of poor oral hygiene and bacteria build-up in the mouth. The bacteria will produce toxins which will cause a bad smell. Persistent bad breath can sometimes be a sign of gum disease or periodontitis. Besides that, eating strongly flavoured food such as onion and garlic, smoking, and drinking alcohol can also lead to bad breath.

Many other disease and illnesses may cause bad breath such as pneumonia, sinus infection, postnasal drip, chronic acid reflux, and liver or kidney problems. To reduce bad breath, we should brush and floss our teeth regularly and clean the tongue using a tongue cleaner. Gargling with antibacterial or mint flavoured mouthwash regularly also may help reduce bad breath.

  • Dry Mouth


Saliva is necessary to moisten the mouth, neutralise acids produced by plaque, and wash away dead cells that accumulate on the tongue, gums, and cheek. Decreased in salivary flow may result in dry mouth and bad breath problems. If you experience dry mouth often, it may be time to seek a treatment. Medications, fasting, and certain health condition may lead to dry mouth. Without the cleansing effect of saliva, tooth decay and other oral health problems become more common. Saliva has mild antibacterial properties and it is used to wash away residual plaque from teeth. So, without it, bacteria can remain on the enamel and starts to eat away creating cavities.

  • Mouth ulcers

Also known as canker sores, it is a painful sore that appear inside the mouth on the cheeks, lips, and tongue. Although they are painful and uncomfortable, they are harmless and most clear up by themselves within a few days or a week. They can be red or white in colour and swollen.

It is usually safe to treat mouth ulcers at home. If the condition worsens i.e. lasting for over three weeks, frequently recurring, and becomes more painful or red (this could be a sign of bacterial infection), then you should see a doctor to get proper treatment.

There are no definite causes which lead to mouth ulcers. However, certain factors and triggers have been identified:

  • Minor dental injury (hard brushing, accidental bite, sports injury)
  • Lack of essential vitamins (B12, zinc, folate, and iron)
  • Dental braces
  • Fever or dehydration
  • Emotional stress
  • Infection (bacterial, viral, fungal)

If you get mouth ulcers often and they are extremely painful, a few treatment options can be considered to reduce the pain such as:

  • Rinse with salt water and baking soda
  • Use over-the-counter (OTC) oral based product to give an anaesthetic effect
  • Apply ice or tea bags on mouth ulcer
  • Use topical paste or mouth gargle containing antiseptic or steroid
  • Natural remedies such as chamomile tea, Echinacea and liquorice.
  • Take nutritional supplement like folic acid, Vitamin B’s and zinc


  • Cold Sores

Cold sores are a small blister that develops on the lips or around the mouth caused by herpes simplex virus (HSV) and usually clears up without treatment within 7 to 10 days. There may not be any symptoms when you first become infected with the virus. The outbreak may happen sometime later. Cold sores often start with a tingling, itching, and burning sensation around the mouth. Shortly, small fluid-filled blisters will appear usually on the edges of upper or lower lip.

In contrast with canker sore (mouth ulcer), cold sores are highly contagious and can be easily transferred from one person to another by direct contact. Besides that, excessive sunlight, fatigue, low immunity, injuries, and the weather could also be triggered, resulting in an outbreak of cold sores.

The virus can spread from an affected person to another via kissing and oral sex. These are the main channels because the virus often lives in saliva and can spread even if we share dining utensils or drinking glasses. There’s no cure for cold sores, but application of OTC or antiviral cream might help at the very first sign of an outbreak. The best thing is to learn the triggers and try to avoid them by staying away from excessive sunlight, apply sunscreen and UV-blocking lip balm, live an active lifestyle and maintain healthy oral hygiene.