Regular dental checkups and cleanings can help individuals minimize or prevent many dental and oral issues. Even with this preventative routine in place, however, occasional problems can develop. These problems can snowball into painful or dangerous conditions unless you schedule care sooner rather than later.
Once you know how to recognize certain characteristic symptoms of common dental problems, you can take action and get the professional evaluation you need before those problems worsen. Keep an eye out for these four trouble signs.
1. Tooth Pain or Sensitivity
You may need little prompting to recognize and respond to a sharp pain or dull ache in a tooth. Most commonly, toothache pain stems from decaying enamel. Bacteria and acid erosion may eat holes in the enamel. These cavities can eventually expose the sensitive pulp tissue within the tooth to heat, cold, and pressure.
If you feel pain in a dental crown when you bite on hard foods or consume hot or cold substances, the problem may lie with the crown itself. You may need to have a temporary crown replaced with a permanent crown, or a permanent crown may need adjustment or replacement. You might even have an infection beneath the crown.
Toothaches don’t always indicate a problem with the affected teeth themselves. Conditions such as sinusitis, TMJ, heart or lung disease, trigeminal neuralgia, and occipital neuralgia can refer pain signals to the teeth. A dental evaluation can confirm or eliminate tooth damage or disease as the culprit.
Teeth can also naturally grow more sensitive as you age due to a progressive thinning of the enamel. Your dentist may suggest that you combat this increasing sensitivity with a toothpaste or other dental hygiene product designed to reduce it.
2. Red or Bleeding Gums
Red, puffy, bleeding gums typically point to an inflammatory problem called gingivitis. This condition occurs when bacteria attached to dental plaque and tartar trigger responses from the immune system, resulting in inflammation that does more harm than good for the gum tissue.
Gingivitis can lead to more serious periodontal disease, or periodontitis. At this stage, toxins begin to break down the connective tissues that hold the teeth firmly in place, potentially leading to tooth loss. If you have periodontitis, you’ll need regular deep cleanings and other treatments to control the condition.
You may find that a more careful, thorough approach to brushing and flossing can reverse a mild case of gingivitis and prevent the problem from recurring. If these corrective measures don’t help, schedule a dental appointment so that your dentist can examine your gums and administer any necessary treatment.
3. A White Spot Near the Gum Line
If you have a toothache accompanied by the appearance of a white spot near the gum line, you may have an abscess. In an abscess, an infection in the root or jaw produces small, pus-filled pockets around the infection site. These pockets may remain invisible to the naked eye, or they may make their way to the gum surfaces.
In addition to oral pain and damage, the bacteria in a dental abscess can travel to other parts of the body, creating additional problems there. You should always request immediate treatment for a suspected dental abscess. Your dentist can drain the abscess and administer antibiotics to rid the gums and jaw of bacteria.
4. Cracked or Broken Tooth Enamel
A cracked or broken tooth usually causes acute pain, but it can also serve as a gateway to infection. The gaps in the enamel allow bacteria to invade the pulp chamber all the way down to the tips of the roots, potentially causing a jaw abscess or systemic infection as well as a toothache.
Your dentist can usually solve this problem by fitting the damaged tooth with a permanent crown. However, if a tooth fracture extends all the way down the side of a tooth root, a crown cannot protect the tooth adequately. In this situation, your dentist may extract the tooth and recommend replacement with an implant.
A minor chip or crack on a front tooth may need nothing more than a dental veneer. This thin shell of porcelain adheres to the damaged enamel surface to hide the damage while also protecting the tooth against further damage. If you need to mitigate more extensive damage on teeth that experience stronger forces, you should go with a crown.
If your tongue feels a neatly excavated hole in your tooth that seems to have come from out of nowhere, you may have lost a filling while biting into a particularly chewy or hard food. The loss of a filling doesn’t typically cause pain, but the remaining hole may trap food and start to decay. Be sure to get the filling replaced.
Valley Oak Dental Group can take a look at those trouble signs in your mouth, perform treatments, and make dental hygiene or lifestyle recommendations to help you keep your teeth and gums in optimal condition. Contact our clinic today for an appointment.