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Palo Alto, CA
2290 Birch St, Ste A, Palo Alto, CA 94306.
(650) 503-6777
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Redwood City, CA
81 Birch Street, Redwood City, CA 94062.
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Santa Clara, CA
1394 Franklin St, Santa Clara, CA 95050.
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How to spot early signs of dental trouble and what to do about them

How to Spot Early Signs of Dental Trouble and What To Do About Them_Redwood City Dentists

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. 

  1. Toothache

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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. Cavities

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.  

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

Final Thoughts 

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:



Root Canal OR Dental Implant – Which choice is right for me?

Root Canal OR Dental Implant – Which choice is right for me?

Do you have an infected tooth that’s causing a lot of pain? Or do you have extensive tooth decay? 

I’m Dr. Alex Yen, dentist in Palo Alto CA. When a patient’s tooth becomes infected, we must decide whether to save the tooth by performing a root canal or to extract the tooth and then go for dental implants. 

At Blue Turtle Dental, our primary effort is always to save your natural tooth.  This is our first choice for both health and cosmetic results. Ethically if the tooth is salvageable, we believe we should always save it and do the root canal treatment. Saving your natural tooth helps:

  • Maintain efficient chewing
  • Maintain normal biting force and avoid collapse of the bite
  • Maintain natural structure of your jaw
  • Limit the need for more costly, ongoing dental work

However, sometimes the decay is so bad, the tooth cannot be saved. We have no choice but to extract it. The best choice to replace an extracted tooth is implant, which provides permanence and the beauty of natural looking teeth. 

We think about the prognosis of tooth decay, cause of the problem, longevity of the treatment, and other factors, such as the dentin strength and age when deciding on the two treatment options. 

Let us understand the two treatment procedures, the benefits, and risks in detail. 

Root Canal Treatment (RCT) in Palo Alto

When your tooth becomes infected, a root canal treatment lets you keep the tooth rather than extracting it. Keeping your tooth helps prevent the rest of your teeth from shifting out of line and causing jaw problems. 

How does it work? 

Root canal treatment or endodontic therapy is the most traditionally used treatment when a root is infected, or a tooth has severe decay or damage. Root canal procedures eliminate bacteria from the infected root canal. The cavity is cleaned, disinfected, and finally filled and sealed, thereby preserving your tooth.

The RCT is a safe and effective process of removing the infected, injured, or dead nerve and tissue (pulp) from the tooth. This procedure protects what’s left of the tooth and allows normal function.

The space inside the hard layers of each tooth is called the root canal system. The system is made up of soft dental pulp consisting of nerves, tissues, and blood vessels. 

The infected pulp tissue is manually removed with files of various sizes to clean out the canal. With the help of very fine dental instruments, the dentist removes the pulp by cleaning and enlarging the root canal system.

The root canal is the first step in the whole tooth restoration. After the root canal, the tooth is prone to becoming dry and brittle. The goal is to restore or fix the tooth to look, feel, and function just like your natural tooth. 

The final steps are the core build-up and crown. The canal is shaped, filled, and sealed most commonly with a natural replacement material called gutta percha. The opening of the tooth is sealed with a temporary filling first, and then a permanent filling and a crown to restore the tooth. The choice of restoration, such as a crown or posts to support the crown, will depend on the strength of the part of the tooth that’s left. 

What you should know about root canal treatment in Palo Alto

Considerable advancements in technology allow dentists to complete root canal treatment, even for teeth with complex anatomies, to the highest level of precision.

Most root canal treatments are successful and done in 1 or 2 appointments. After the treatment, your tooth may be tender for the first one or two weeks. If you suffer from severe pain or swelling, you should immediately call your dentist.

A second root canal treatment would be needed in a few rare cases and is called retreatment. During the retreating of a tooth, the root canal filling material is taken out, and the canal system is recleaned, reshaped, and refilled.

Sometimes root canal surgery is needed when a regular root canal treatment cannot be done or has not worked. A root canal surgery is done to check for fractures or cracks in the root, remove parts of the root that could not be cleaned during the root canal treatment, and clear up an infection that did heal after regular treatment.

With proper care and regular dental visits, the restored tooth lasts as long as your other teeth. Often, the tooth that has had a root canal treatment can be saved. However, when nothing can be done further, a tooth must be extracted.

Benefits of a Root Canal

Some top benefits of getting a root canal treatment are: 

  • You don’t lose your original tooth.
  • Minimal pain
  • Less expensive than a dental implant procedure 
  • Takes less time than a dental implant 
  • Less recovery time than dental implant 
  • High success rate

Risks of a Root Canal

While the root canal treatment offers many benefits and has a very high success rate, complications like abscesses can arise if the entire infected pulp is not removed, which underscores the importance of visiting an experienced dentist trained in endodontics.

Call the best root canal dentists in Palo Alto, CA if you’d like to discuss treatment options.

Dental Implants

If the dental examination reveals that saving the tooth is not the best long-term solution for you, only then will we consider a dental implant. Dental implants are used to replace missing teeth and support artificial replacement teeth. 

What are dental implants?

A dental implant involves removing the original tooth, installing a metal post in the jaw, and finally, inserting a porcelain dental crown to the post. 

A dental implant is an artificial root made of titanium metal. It is inserted into the jawbone to replace the root of the natural tooth. An artificial replacement tooth is attached to the implant. The implant acts as an anchor to hold the replacement tooth in place.

  • First, the original tooth is removed. A dental implant, which is an artificial root made of titanium metal, is inserted into the jawbone under the gum tissue. The gum tissue is stitched back into place and takes some time to heal. During the healing process, which can take up to several months, the dental implant will bond with the bone and attach to the gum. 
  • After the healing process is complete, the dentist will attach an abutment to the implant. An abutment is a post that connects the replacement tooth to the dental implant. 
  • An artificial replacement tooth is made and attached to the abutment. It can take several appointments to fit the replacement tooth to the abutment correctly.
  • If the dentist is replacing several teeth or all of your teeth, a fixed bridge is anchored to the dental implants on each side of the missing tooth or teeth.

What you should know about dental implants 

You may need several appointments with your dentist during the procedure. Checkups will be scheduled in the following year as well to check if the implants are functioning properly. 

Dental implants look and function like natural teeth. So, they need the same amount of care as natural teeth. Your dentist will demonstrate the proper cleaning technique for implants. Regular cleaning using a toothbrush and floss and dental checkups are essential. 

Dental implants can cost more than other replacement procedures. But they are a one-time cost, unlike other tooth replacement procedures.

Very rarely, there could be possible complications arising from dental implants such as infection, bleeding, numbness, and injury. 

Benefits of a Dental Implant

Here are some benefits of a dental implant: 

  • They are aesthetic, comfortable, look, and function like natural teeth
  • Long-lasting and can last decades with proper care
  • Low failure rate 

Risks of a Dental Implant

Below are some of the cons of getting a dental implant: 

  • Lengthy process
  • Time intensive
  • Costly without insurance 
  • Longer recovery period

Root Canal vs. Implant: Which is the best option?

Making comparisons between the two treatments is like comparing apples with oranges.

The American Dental Association reports that both root canal therapy and dental implants have high success rates. A similar study published by the Journal of Endodontics found no notable difference in the success rates of a standard RCT versus dental implant. 

Root canals and dental implants are equally successful, but implants may need more follow-up procedures. 

The decision to pursue a particular treatment procedure should be based on the complexity of the patients’ individual cases, health, and preferences.

If your tooth is salvageable, we would always work to save it and recommend root canal to preserve your natural tooth.  However, if you have extensive tooth decay, the tooth has a poor prognosis, and you have healthy gums and enough bone in the jaw to hold an implant, then we would recommend extraction followed by an implant.. 

Need more information about the root canal treatment or a dental implant? Call Blue Turtle Dental services in Palo Alto CA, to make an informed decision and find the best root canal treatment in Palo Alto.