What Your Mouth May be Telling You
Your teeth are among the parts of the body that are most easily taken for granted. That’s because when the tissues and structures of your mouth are in good health, it’s hard to imagine the pain and discomfort that can arise when something goes wrong. The teeth in the human mouth are generally strong and resistant to the forces that they encounter, however, when the teeth or soft tissues are compromised, we are quickly reminded of how vascular and sensitized they can become.
When pain arises, seeing your dentist is the best way to ensure that you’ve covered all your bases as far as investigating the cause. In the meantime, knowing the signs and symptoms of common dental ailments may help you take steps to mitigate potential health risks until you are able to see the dentist.
Sore Sensitive Gums
If your gums are feeling sore and irritated, it is a good idea to do a visual assessment of the gums to gauge whether they are showing signs of inflammation or redness. When gums are swollen and red, they are increasingly likely to bleed when cleaned with a toothbrush or with floss. If this is the case, ask yourself how well you’ve been managing your oral hygiene of late. Have you been brushing your teeth a minimum of twice daily and for a minimum of 2 minutes? How about flossing? Have you been flossing daily, and does it typically produce blood?
If you are wearing braces, it is not uncommon to see some bleeding and inflammation around the gums as your teeth are in the process of realigning. This realignment process can cause irritation in the tissues of the mouth, even if your oral care has been excellent. If this is the case, we suggest sipping on ice water to manage the swelling or taking an over the counter painkiller such as Tylenol or Advil.
If you are not wearing any orthodontic appliances and your oral hygiene habits leave a bit to be desired, you could be experiencing symptoms of gingivitis. Gingivitis is the early form of gum disease which presents when plaque bacteria accumulates around the teeth and gums and is not brushed or flossed away regularly. This bacterium becomes active when food is broken down in the mouth, and the byproduct is acidity. Over time, plaque forms tartar and cannot be removed at home, so it will continue to disturb and inflame the soft tissue of the mouth and eat away at the enamel of the teeth until a trained dental hygienist is able to clean this debris away from the teeth so that the gums can heal.
We suggest seeing our clinic as soon as possible if you are experiencing potential signs of gingivitis. Once your appointment is booked, we suggest beginning a rigorous dental hygiene program of brushing and flossing after meals, upon waking and before bed. This oral care program will serve to minimize the number of harmful bacteria in the mouth, and the program should be sustained indefinitely to keep gingivitis symptoms at bay.
If you feel a sudden and sharp pain in a tooth while chewing, we suggest investigating the cause by visually examining the crown and sides of the tooth. Deep cavities in the tooth can make their way down into the pulp of the tooth where the root is located. If you see a deep cavity in the tooth causing the pain, it is likely that you have delayed putting off a necessary filling. We suggest calling our office for an appointment as soon as possible. Until you are able to see a dentist, a small amount of dental wax or sugar-free gum can be placed over the cavity to prevent air and food from entering the cavity and causing pain.
More than likely, however, this sharp pain is caused by an event such as a crack or fracture in the tooth. Cracks or fractures are commonly seen in teeth that have undergone extensive restorative work, such as large fillings. In these cases, forces placed on the structure of the tooth throughout the day can be too much for a tooth that lacks the natural surface area to support it, and the result is a crack in the natural tooth (with or without the loss of the filling). Cracks can be limited to the exposed portion of the tooth, or they can run down into the root of the tooth.
Cracks are less likely to occur in teeth without restorations, however, biting down on hard food items or night time grinding can also cause fractures of the teeth. Cracks do need to be seen by a dentist to determine the depth of the crack and treat the tooth effectively. Depending upon the severity of the crack or fracture, your dentist will determine whether or not the tooth can be salvaged. If the tooth does not require extraction to prevent further problems, your dentist may discuss other options such as bonding, a crown or root canal therapy. Root canal therapy is useful where fractures extend into the pulp of the teeth and can save a tooth from the necessity of extraction.