How to spot early signs of dental trouble and what to do about them
Your oral health is an essential part of your overall health. Yet, about 100 million Americans don’t visit the dentist for annual check-ups as recommended by the American Dental Association (ADA). Regular dental hygiene like daily brushing, flossing, avoiding foods bad for your teeth, and regular dental check-ups are central to good oral hygiene. An advantage of regular check-ups is that your dentist can spot early symptoms of dental trouble for you, sometimes even before the symptoms appear.
When patients come to our clinic for an emergency dental service in Palo Alto, usually the condition has been unrecognized or ignored for a while. Staying educated about dental problems is also a part of preventive dental care.
We list below the top early signs of dental trouble to watch out for before the problem escalates into a more severe condition.
A toothache is a common symptom caused by many conditions such as a cavity; broken, cracked, impacted, an abscessed tooth; and even gum disease. Before further damage occurs that may cause complete decay of your tooth, it’s best to consult your dentist who can spot the early trouble signs during regular dental checkups.
- Jaw Pain
There are many reasons for jaw pain and the clicking or popping sound in the jaw, including arthritis, sinus, jaw problems such as TMJ. The dental reasons could vary from a toothache, gum disease, tooth injury, gingivitis, and teeth grinding. You will need to visit your dentist for a thorough exam to know the exact source of pain and treatment.
Both children and adults are prone to teeth cavities. It occurs when plaque, sticky bacteria builds around your teeth and destroys its outer shell called enamel, creating small holes in it. Adults can develop cavities around their fillings and gum line. Preventive dental care such as regular brushing, flossing, eating teeth-friendly foods, and regular dental check-ups can prevent cavities. If you spot holes in your teeth or cavities, consult your doctor immediately for treatment.
- Sensitive Teeth
Does your tooth hurt when you have a hot beverage like coffee or hot chocolate? Or perhaps when you have your favorite ice cream? It could be a sign of tooth sensitivity and an indicator of many other dental problems such as an abscess or bacterial infection, cavity or tooth decay, thinning of the enamel, fractured teeth, worn-out filling, gum diseases, or an exposed root because of gum recession. Only your dentist can pinpoint the exact cause for your tooth sensitivity, and the treatment options can range from desensitizing toothpaste, fluoride gels, strips, root canal treatment, gum treatment, or a filling.
- Bleeding or Sore Gums
If you spot blood on your toothbrush or sink while brushing your teeth regularly, it could be merely a sign of aggressive brushing, starting a new flossing habit, or indicate bigger dental issues. Healthy gums should not bleed unless you are brushing your teeth too hard or flossing the wrong way.
According to the ADA, bleeding, sore, or swollen gums can indicate gum disease, which affects half of all adults above 30 years. If you experience bleeding and tenderness in your gums or notice it being pulled away from your teeth, it could be gum disease because of plaque. Gum disease can be a major cause of bone and tooth loss. It can also cause chewing or speech problems.
Consult your doctor right away if your gums bleed or are sore for a prolonged period.
- Mouth Sores
There are many types of mouth sores such as canker sores, leukoplakia (white areas), erythroplakia (red lesions), and candidiasis (fungal infection.) They could be a symptom of several conditions such as diabetes, oral cancer, irritation because of a broken tooth, filling, braces, or dentures. If you have mouth sores, patches, or lumps for more than a week or two, consult your dentist immediately.
- Bad Breath
Bad breath or Halitosis is an embarrassing dental symptom that may or may not be related to poor oral hygiene. If you suffer from constant bad breath despite regular brushing of your teeth, flossing, using a mouthwash, not smoking or drinking alcohol, and not eating smelly foods such as garlic, then it could indicate more serious conditions such as cavities, gum disease, gingivitis, oral cancer, or bacteria on your tongue. It could also mean underlying medical conditions such as sinus, lung infection, diabetes, liver and kidney disease, and gastrointestinal problems. The best way to know the cause of your constant bad breath is to get examined by a professional dentist.
- Dry Mouth
If you experience dry mouth, it could be a side effect of the medications you are currently using, a symptom of an underlying health condition, or tooth-related conditions. Your saliva prevents tooth decay by washing away the food particles in your mouth and helps neutralize the acids released by the harmful bacteria in your mouth. Your dentist can help find the best treatment to bring back the moisture in your mouth.
- Oral Piercing Infection
While oral piercings can be trendy, it can create problems for your dental health as the mouth is home to all kinds of bacteria. If you notice signs of fever, pain, swelling, chills, shivering, or redness around the piercing, consult your dentist immediately to stop or prevent further infection.
- Broken, Cracked, Chipped, Lost, or Impacted Tooth
A broken, cracked, or chipped tooth can occur because of many reasons, from naturally brittle teeth, night grinding, tooth injury while playing sports, breaking open a lid with the mouth, or even munching foods like popcorn. Sometimes, the crack may be invisible to the naked eye. If you experience pain along with the broken tooth, it’s time to visit the dentist to save it. Your dentist can zero in on the right treatment plan, which could include root canal, crown, veneer, or bonding.
Teeth that shift or fall out unexpectedly may be a sign of gum disease or osteoporosis, which is more common in senior adults. Consult your dentist to identify the exact cause and treatment.
Any adult tooth that doesn’t come in the correct position is impacted. Wisdom teeth or third molars are prone to be impacted. Usually, they do not raise a serious cause for concern; but if you are experiencing discomfort, pain, or any other problem because of your impacted tooth, it’s time to consult your dentist.
- Stained Teeth
Your teeth can get stained or discolored for several reasons, such as consumption of certain food and beverages, lifestyle habits like smoking and drinking, certain medications, injuries, aging, and genetics. Your dentist can prescribe the best whitening treatment plan based on the cause and severity of your teeth staining problem.
Most dental problems come with telltale signs and symptoms. Your dentist can identify a specific dental issue early on or refer you to the concerned healthcare professional in case of an underlying medical condition for further examination and treatment.
The sooner you visit your dentist for an evaluation and diagnosis of your symptoms, the better it is for your oral health as waiting too long can lead to more serious health conditions.
If you’re currently looking for a dentist, you can trust Blue Turtle Dental services in Palo Alto, CA, for expert dental care. Call us for any dental queries, concerns, or to schedule an appointment.
(Disclaimer: We routinely draw upon public health resources to inform our write-ups. Information in this article has been gathered from multiple public health sources, including: