Why do so many Indians have these dental and oral diseases?

Never been to a dental clinic

There are numerous commercials of toothpastes and mouthwashes on air crying out loud the benefits of healthy teeth and gums; each with their unique and magic concoction that makes teeth white and breath smell like cloves or mint.

However, one decisive fact that has come out in numerous studies is that there are many people in India who have never ever set foot in a dental clinic and do not even have an idea that they have dental problems!

Anxious parents would take their children to a dental hospital for a checkup at least once after teeth start erupting, and once when the baby teeth fall off paving way to permanent teeth. This is because they know the stigma attached with crooked teeth or any misalignment of permanent teeth.

This seems to be a very sensible thing to do, but when it comes to India only a small percentage get their annual dental checkups. One can understand the predicament of the rural populations as there can be accessibility issues; however, the urban populations too seem to have apathy to dental care.

Why oral health is neglected in India?

Oral health perceptions are mired with myths and misconceptions among people. More than 50% of the population has some kind of dental problem. Among them dental caries, tooth decay, and gum disease are major problems. However, only a few of them realize that they have a problem and go ahead to visit a dental clinic for treatment.

This is because of the numerous myths and misconceptions on oral health. While some of them are outright naïve, others are absurd. Here are 11 oral health misconceptions held by Indians.

  1. If general health is good then there is no need to worry about oral health – Dental care and oral hygiene is not given its due importance.
  2. A visit to a dental clinic is always painful – People think that all dental procedures cause immense pain.
  3. Dental doctors invariably prescribe tooth extraction. So, wait till the tooth actually needs extraction. Saving the tooth is not needed – A baseless assumption among many rural as well as urban Indians
  4. Dental treatments lead to loss of eyesight – Who gives them these ideas?
  5. Use of herbs or alum mouth rinses can cure dental problems – This never treats infections and one inevitably comes to a dental clinic but by this time the infection would have spread and damage already done
  6. Not flossing – Indians do not floss but they get creative with toothpicks, matchsticks, pins, and other dangerous objects that lead to gum disease and infection
  7. Dental decay occurs as my teeth are soft – This is baseless
  8. Gum inflammation can be treated with hot water fomentation – It does not treat the infection
  9. It is normal for gums to bleed while brushing – This is untrue. Gum bleeding should immediately be attended to
  10. Hard work pays. Brush vigorously and get whiter teeth – Brushing cannot remove plaque deposits
  11. Milk teeth do not require treatment – In that case, it leads to crooked or misaligned permanent teeth

Added to all these things, use of tobacco and improper oral hygiene is high in India. This often leads to many dental problems.

Common dental problems in India

Indifference to oral health in India has led to wide spread prevalence of many dental problems like:

  • Dental cavities
  • Receding gums
  • Bleeding gums
  • Gum disease
  • Bad breath
  • Decayed teeth
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Cracked or broken teeth
  • Periodontitis

Let us see what causes these diseases and how they can be managed.

Dental cavities

Cavities or caries are a common dental disease even among toddlers. Known as nursing bottle caries, dental cavities occur even in children who are still breastfeeding. This condition occurs when children are constantly exposed to sugary foods, milk, breast milk, formula and other fluids. That is why dental specialists advise mothers to wipe the gums of children with a clean cloth after feeding.

What are cavities?

Known as dental caries, dental cavities or tooth decay is a condition that occurs when acids produced by bacteria erodes the outermost layer of the tooth, enamel. Bacteria in the mouth thrive on sugary foods and sugar broken down from carbohydrate intake. These bacteria interact with sugar and form a sticky layer called plaque.

Plaque bacteria produces acid, which over a period of time erodes the enamel, then spreads to the dentin, and then to the pulp of the tooth. This leads to tooth decay.

What are the symptoms of dental cavities?

In the early stages, cavities do not show up any symptoms. However, as the erosion spreads from the enamel to the dentin, people experience symptoms like:

  • Toothache
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Pain while biting
  • Teeth discoloration (turning yellow, brown, or black)
  • Presence of holes or pits in the tooth

If you experience any of these symptoms visit a dental clinic near you. Dental cavities are diagnosed in dental clinics via examination or by x-ray. Once the extent of damage or infection is assessed, treatment is prescribed. Treatment options include:

Gum disease

Gums are prone to many diseases and gum disease is a blanket term used to define many conditions. Poor nutrition, obesity, use of tobacco, poor oral hygiene, use of certain medications, stress, and age lead to certain conditions of the gums. Most often, gum disease starts with inflammation, and then slowly proceeds to periodontitis and then to chronic periodontitis.


The initial stage of gum disease is known as gingivitis. In this condition, there is inflammation of the gums with redness and tenderness. Symptoms include:

  • Inflamed gums
  • Redness of the gums
  • Pain in gums
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Bad breath
  • Loose teeth

If you experience any of these symptoms visit the nearest dental clinic. Gingivitis is a preventable and treatable condition. A dental hygienist would often prescribe:

  • Better oral hygiene with antibacterial toothpaste
  • Usage of antibacterial mouthwash
  • Flossing daily
  • Teeth cleaning
  • Restoration with crowns or fillings

It is important to get treatment for gum disease in the gingivitis stage as it can progress to a severe condition called periodontitis.


The presence of dental plaque is a major reason for gum disease. When this plaque grows into the gumline and gets deposited, it irritates the gums. This leads to chronic inflammation and decay of the supporting structure of the teeth. Periodontitis occurs in different types including:

  • Aggressive Periodontitis
  • Chronic Periodontitis
  • Necrotizing periodontal disease

Aggressive periodontitis


This gum disease occurs in two forms – localized aggressive periodontitis and generalized aggressive periodontitis. Both types of aggressive periodontitis occur due to bacteria, plaque, and genetic factors. Aggressive periodontitis often involves multiple teeth with a significant amount of periodontal tissue loss that happens rapidly. This condition occurs suddenly without the appearance of any early symptoms. It is diagnosed by examination by a dental specialist, and radiographic diagnostic tests. Treatment options include:

  • Dental scaling and root planing
  • Local antibiotic therapy
  • Improvement of oral hygiene as recommended by a periodontists

 Chronic Periodontitis

This is a common gum disease that causes chronic inflammation of the periodontal tissues. Bacterial plaque biofilms, smoking, poor dental hygiene and certain disease conditions are known to cause chronic periodontitis. If left untreated, it leads to tooth loss.

Symptoms of chronic periodontitis

  • Bleeding gums while brushing, flossing or biting
  • Receding gums
  • Bad breath
  • Swelling and redness of gums
  • Presence of deep pockets between gums and teeth
  • Loose teeth

If you notice any of these symptoms, please visit the nearest dental clinic.

Chronic periodontitis is diagnosed by examination, radiographic tests, extent of plaque (plaque index), and the pocket depth. Treatment for chronic periodontitis includes:

  • Scaling and root planing
  • Antibiotic therapy
  • Open flap debridement (flap surgery)
  • Guided tissue regeneration
  • Bone or soft tissue grafts

Necrotizing periodontal disease

This condition occurs in people with other conditions like HIV, immune system disorders, and people undergoing immunosuppressive therapies. It is a less common condition that needs to be treated in conjunction with other medical practioners.

Apart from gum disease and dental cavities, people in India are also prone to have sensitive teeth and cracked or broken teeth. While having sensitive teeth is more of a symptom of a deeper dental problem, cracked or broken teeth can lead to infections and ultimately tooth loss.

Dental hygiene and frequent dental checkups at dental hospitals are very important not only for dental health but for overall health, quality of life, and longevity. For preventive care and the latest in dental treatments, visit your nearest Apollo Dental Clinic.