Unexpected dental pain can be alarming, not to mention painful! The level and length of pain varies and there are also ongoing issues (such as bad breath) that may have underlying causes that need to be addressed. Fillings, crowns, dentures, and orthodontic work can come loose or occasional break as well.
The following is a guide of common dental issues to be on the lookout for.
Top Ten Dental Symptoms from www.mouthhealthy.org and the American Dental Association:
1) Symptom: Toothache
If your mouth or jaw hurts, it could be from a toothache. Toothaches usually indicate a cavity but they can also signal gum disease. In some cases, a toothache is a sign of an abscess or impacted tooth. A toothache should be evaluated by a dentist right away to determine the cause of the problem and prevent the tooth from dying.
An abscessed tooth (toothache) is an infection caused by tooth decay, periodontal disease, or a cracked tooth. These problems can let bacteria enter the pulp (the soft tissue of a tooth that contains nerves, blood vessels, and connective tissue) and can lead to pulp death. When pus builds up at the root tip in the jaw bone, it forms a pus-pocket called an abscess. If the abscess is not treated, it can lead to a serious infection in the jawbone, teeth, and surrounding tissues.
Symptoms of an abscess include:
- redness in the gums
- bad taste in the mouth
An abscessed tooth can be treated with various treatments, depending on the severity of the infection.
2) Symptom: Sensitive Teeth
If your teeth hurt when you drink hot or cold beverages, you may have sensitive teeth. This can be the result of tooth decay, fractured teeth, worn fillings, gum disease, worn tooth enamel, or an exposed tooth root due to gum recession. Treatment will depend on the source of sensitivity.
Possible causes include:
- tooth decay (cavities)
- fractured teeth
- worn fillings (or damaged dental work)
- gum disease
- worn tooth enamel
- exposed tooth root
In healthy teeth, a layer of enamel protects the crowns of your teeth—the part above the gum line. Under the gum line a layer called cementum protects the tooth root. Underneath both the enamel and the cementum is dentin.
Dentin is less dense than enamel and cementum and contains microscopic tubules (small hollow tubes or canals). When dentin loses its protective covering of enamel or cementum these tubules allow heat and cold or acidic or sticky foods to reach the nerves and cells inside the tooth. Dentin may also be exposed when gums recede. The result can be hypersensitivity.
Sensitive teeth can be treated. The type of treatment will depend on what is causing the sensitivity.
3) Symptom: Bleeding or Sore Gums
Bleeding or sore gums can be a sign of gingivitis, an early and reversible stage of gum disease, or simply the result of brushing too hard or starting a new flossing routine. If your gums bleed regularly, or enough to worry you, make an appointment with your dentist or physician, it could be a sign that something else is wrong.
There are many reasons your gums could bleed.
In some cases, bleeding gums can be a sign of gingivitis, the early stage of periodontal disease. If your gums bleed easily or bleed when you brush, talk to your dentist about your oral health. Gingivitis is reversible and preventable.
If you’ve just started a new flossing routine, for instance, your gums may bleed at first as they get used to cleaning between the teeth. This usually goes away on its own in about a week. Some pregnant women develop a condition known as “pregnancy gingivitis,” an inflammation of the gums that can cause swelling and tenderness. Gums may also bleed a little when brushing or flossing. If you take blood thinners, these medications may cause your gums to bleed as well. Contact your physician if the bleeding does not stop quickly. Your gums could also be bleeding if you brush too hard. Use an extra-soft or soft-bristled toothbrush when brushing your teeth.
If your gums bleed regularly or enough to worry you, make an appointment with your dentist or physician. It could be a sign something else is wrong.
4) Symptom: Mouth Sores
Types of mouth sores include canker sores, cold sores, leukoplakia, and candidiasis. These vary in their severity and causes. Mouth sores could be the symptom of a disease or disorder; infection from bacteria, viruses or fungus, or result from irritation caused by braces, dentures or the sharp edge of a broken tooth or filling. Your dentist should examine any mouth sore that lasts a week or longer.
5) Symptom: Bad Breath
Bad breath can be caused by what you eat, not cleaning your mouth, dry mouth, smoking, or other medical conditions. Persistent bad breath can also be one of the warning signs of gum disease. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily are essential to reducing bad breath and preventing gum disease. Brushing your tongue can help too. If you’re concerned about what’s causing your bad breath, see your dentist.
Bad breath happens. If you’ve ever gotten that not-so-fresh feeling on a date, at a job interview, or just talking with friends, you’re not alone. Studies show that 50 percent of adults have had bad breath, or halitosis, at some point in their lives.
What Causes Bad Breath?
There are a number of reasons you might have dragon breath. While many causes are harmless, bad breath can sometimes be a sign of something more serious.
Bad breath can happen anytime thanks to the hundreds of types of bad breath-causing bacteria that naturally live in your mouth. Your mouth also acts like a natural hothouse that allows these bacteria to grow. When you eat, bacteria feed on the food left in your mouth and leave a foul smell behind.
Feeling parched? Your mouth might not be making enough saliva. Saliva is important because it works around the clock to wash out your mouth. If you don’t have enough, your mouth isn’t being cleaned as much as it should be. Dry mouth can be caused by certain medications, salivary gland problems, or by simply breathing through your mouth.
Bad breath that just won’t go away or a constant bad taste in your mouth can be a warning sign of advanced gum disease, which is caused by a sticky, cavity-causing bacteria called plaque.
Garlic, onions, coffee… The list of breath-offending foods is long, and what you eat affects the air you exhale.
Smoking and Tobacco
Smoking stains your teeth, gives you bad breath, and puts you at risk for a host of health problems. Tobacco reduces your ability to taste foods and irritates gum tissues. Tobacco users are more likely to suffer from gum disease than non-tobacco users.
Mouth infections can cause bad breath. However, if your dentist has ruled out other causes and you brush and floss every day, your bad breath could be the result of another problem, such as a sinus condition, gastric reflux, diabetes, or liver or kidney disease. In these cases, see your healthcare provider.
6) Symptom: Jaw Pain or Popping/Clicking in the Jaw
Many things can cause these symptoms, which can make it difficult to diagnose. Possible causes include sinus problems, toothaches, arthritis, injury, teeth grinding, gingivitis, or problems with your jaw like TMJ. Your dentist will conduct a thorough exam, which may include X-rays, to determine the source of the pain.
Many adults suffer from chronic jaw and facial pain. Some common symptoms include pain in or around the ear, tenderness of the jaw, pain when biting, or headaches. Many things can cause facial pain, which can make it difficult to diagnose and treat. Your dentist will conduct a thorough exam, which may include X-rays, to determine the cause of the pain.
Possible causes of jaw pain or facial pain include:
- sinus problems
- tooth grinding
- periodontal disease
- problems with your jaw or the temporomandibular joint
7) Symptom: Dry Mouth
If you have dry mouth it may be the symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect of certain medications. Saliva is the mouth’s primary defense against tooth decay. It washes away food and other debris, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth. Your dentist can recommend ways to restore moisture.
Dry mouth—also called xerostomia—results from an inadequate flow of saliva. It is not a disease, but a symptom of a medical disorder or a side effect of certain medications, such as antihistamines, decongestants, pain killers, diuretics and many others.
Saliva is the mouth’s primary defense against tooth decay and maintains the health of the soft and hard tissues in the mouth. Saliva washes away food and other debris, neutralizes acids produced by bacteria in the mouth, and provides disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth, offering first-line protection against microbial invasion or overgrowth that might lead to disease. Without saliva, extensive tooth decay can also occur.
Some of the common problems associated with dry mouth include a constant sore throat, burning sensation, trouble speaking, difficulty swallowing, hoarseness, or dry nasal passages.
8) Symptom: Oral Piercing Infections
Oral piercings can create a wide range of problems for your health, oral and otherwise. Your mouth is home to huge amounts of bacteria, creating an ideal place for infection to start.
9) Symptom: Cracked or Broken Tooth
A cracked or broken tooth can happen for a variety of reasons—brittle teeth, teeth grinding, injury. The crack may be invisible to the naked eye and even an X-ray, but it can be incredibly painful and create bigger problems if left untreated. If you experience pain when chewing see your dentist.
10) Symptom: Stained or Discolored Teeth
Over time your teeth can become stained and change color. This is often the result of taking in certain liquids, such as coffee or tea, smoking, aging, genetics, injury, or certain medications. Whitening options can include over the counter or in office treatments.
Food and Drink
Coffee, tea, and red wine are some major staining culprits, due to their intense color pigments called chromogens that attach to the white, outer part of your tooth (enamel).
Two chemicals found in tobacco create stubborn stains: tar and nicotine. Tar is naturally dark. Nicotine is colorless until it’s mixed with oxygen.
Below the hard, white outer shell of your teeth (enamel) is a softer area called dentin. Over time, the outer enamel layer gets thinner with brushing and more of the yellowish dentin shows through.
If you’ve been hit in the mouth, your tooth may change color because it reacts to an injury by laying down more dentin, which is a darker layer under the enamel.
Tooth darkening can be a side effect of certain antihistamines, antipsychotics, and high blood pressure medications. Young children exposed to antibiotics when their teeth are forming may have discoloration of their adult teeth later in life. Chemotherapy and head and neck radiation can also darken teeth.
What if you are having a Dental Emergency?
Accidents and sudden toothaches happen and knowing what to do when one occurs can mean the difference between saving and losing a tooth.
Here are some tips for common dental emergencies:
- For a knocked-out permanent or adult tooth, keep it moist at all times. If you can, try placing the tooth back in the socket without touching the root. If that’s not possible, place it in between your cheek and gums, in milk, or use a tooth preservation product that has the ADA Seal of Acceptance. Then, get to your dentist’s office right away.
- For a cracked tooth, immediately rinse the mouth with warm water to clean the area. Put cold compresses on the face to keep any swelling down.
- If you bite your tongue or lip, clean the area gently with water and apply a cold compress.
- For toothaches, rinse the mouth with warm water to clean it out. Gently use dental floss to remove any food caught between the teeth. Do not put aspirin on the aching tooth or gum tissues.
- For objects stuck in the mouth, try to gently remove with floss but do not try to remove it with sharp or pointed instruments.
Until you can get to the dentist:
If you are having issues with loose or broken dental work (like a crown or veneer) or orthodontia, avoid chewing in the area if possible. If a piece of dental work has come unattached entirely, save it for the dentist to inspect. Avoid hard and sticky foods, such as candy or chewing gum, as well as straws or any food that requires sucking (like a lollipop or popsicle). You may have sensitivity to hot or cold during this time as well. Over the counter pain relievers and topical pain relievers may help until you see your dentist.
Here at South Charlotte Dentistry, we know it’s scary when you have a dental issue or emergency and we’re here to help. Call our office for an appointment as soon as possible if you have any of these symptoms or an emergency.