If you’re experiencing oral or dental problems, you’re not alone. According to the World Health Organization, people have diseases associated with their teeth and gums more than any other parts of the body. Oral diseases are one of the most common noncommunicable diseases, and affect people throughout their lifetime, causing pain, discomfort, disfigurement and even death.
The Global Burden of Disease Study 2016 estimated that oral diseases affected half of the world’s population (3.58 billion people) with tooth decay in permanent teeth being the most prevalent condition assessed.
What Are the Most Serious Dental Symptoms?
You should never ignore these seven dental symptoms:
1. Changes in Your Gums
If you notice that your gums are swollen or their colour is changing, it could be a sign of a serious disease. Gum diseases such as gingivitis, periodontitis, or other periodontal diseases, are typically the result of improper or infrequent brushing and flossing. As a result, plaque builds up over time, hardening into tartar, which contains bacteria and settles under your gum line where it causes gum inflammation.
See your dentist if you notice any of the following:
- The colour of your gums changes from pink to red
- Your gums appear swollen
- Your gums are receding
- You notice a foul odour, pus, or new spaces between your teeth
Swollen gums can be early signs of oral cancer. In this situation, the earlier the diagnosis, the better the chances of recovery. Do a self-examination at home once a month with a mirror and good lighting. You can even take pictures to track your history and notice changes more easily.
2. Sensitivity to Hot and Cold Foods
If you begin to feel pain when you eat or drink hot or cold foods and beverages, it could be an early sign of tooth decay (i.e., a cavity). When decay eats through tooth enamel, it reaches nerves and blood vessels inside your tooth. This part of the tooth is highly sensitive, causing pain when exposed to hot or cold foods.
Your dentist might tell you that the pain you’re experiencing is simply the result of grinding your teeth or a filling they need to replace. This, however, is a situation in which it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you have pain in the presence of hot or cold foods, contact your dentist.
3. Your Teeth Hurt
Pain in your teeth—especially if its persistent or protracted—could signal a serious problem, even when the pain subsides for a short period. Tooth pain is often a sign of tooth infection and could be a symptom of several problems from cavities to oral cancer to a sinus infection or, in rare instances, a heart attack.
If there’s been throbbing pain in a single tooth, you might only need a filling, provided the issue is addressed on time because it means the pain is caused by occurring bacteria. But if the nerve is infected, then you might require a crown, root canal, or another treatment to fix the problem. Dentists usually take X-Rays and examine the area to decide on the course of treatment.
Sometimes, they may prescribe antibiotics to prevent the infection, or they may suggest over-the-counter pain relievers. Sometimes dentists may recommend a combination of treatments to resolve the underlying cause of the pain, so you can resume your day-to-day activities with peace of mind.
Remember that you shouldn’t be complacent if the pain briefly disappears—this could simply mean that the infection has temporarily lessened, but it usually returns.
4. You Notice White Spots on Your Teeth
White spots that appear on your teeth are one of the early warning signs of tooth decay. The spots can appear before other more noticeable decay symptoms, like the pain you feel when cavities reach beneath the enamel. That’s why it’s important to check this out with your dentist, who can perform X-rays to detect and fix the problem before it becomes more severe.
To prevent tooth decay, the solution is to regularly clean plaque buildup. Daily brushing and flossing are required to remove plaque. Periodical dentist visits for examination and professional deep cleaning further enables removal of plaque in between teeth and under the gum line.
5. Pain in Your Wisdom Teeth
About 85% of people eventually have their wisdom teeth extracted. If you still have some or all your wisdom teeth and they begin to hurt, see your dentist. Pain in your wisdom teeth often means there’s not enough room in the back of your mouth to accommodate them.
An eruption may further complicate matters by attracting food particles and bacteria. This can lead to the teeth becoming impacted, which means pain, swelling, and the possibility that the teeth will need to be removed.
6. Dry Mouth
Persistent dry mouth—also called xerostomia—affects about 10% of people. It can be the result of stress, dehydration, and some prescription medications. In some cases, dry mouth can be a sign of a more serious disease, like diabetes or an autoimmune disorder.
The best way to combat dry mouth is to avoid certain kinds of foods, caffeine, and chewing sweet gum. Drinking plenty of water will ensure you’re hydrated well. Foods that increase saliva production should be consumed, such as lemon, mint, and cinnamon.
Dry mouth also increases the likelihood of tooth decay and oral infections. If you’re experiencing chronic dry mouth, you need to have your dentist check it out.
7. Growths in Your Mouth
Growths inside your mouth are sometimes innocuous, but they could be symptoms of oral cancer. The Oral Cancer Foundation states that “over 450,000 new cases [are] found each year” worldwide. You’re more likely to develop oral cancer if you smoke, drink heavily, have a poor diet or have HPV. Your genetics are also a factor to consider.
Signs of oral cancer include:
- Lumps or sores in the mouth that won’t heal for days
- Sudden bleeding
- Numbness in the mouth
- Pain or difficulty in swallowing
- Difficulty in moving your mouth or jaw
Dental screenings every six months is the best way to avoid such problems. Keep your dentist updated about any probable growths, swellings, or of any unusual sensations.
King Town Dental Is Here to Help
If you have good oral health, your dentist may recommend a visit every six months or each year. But for severe cases, an immediate diagnosis increases chances of recovery. Some symptoms can be harmless—but, as noted above, they can also be red flags pointing to serious illness.
If you have any of these symptoms, be sure to book your appointment with King Town Dental today!