When you experience tooth or gum pain, it’s natural to worry that there might be something seriously wrong. But in many cases, these discomforting symptoms are nothing more than mild annoyances that can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers and some basic self-care measures. 

However, there are also a number of dental and oral problems that can cause pain and other troubling symptoms, so it’s important to know what to look for. 

This post will take a closer look at some of the most common symptoms of dental and oral problems. Armed with this information, you’ll be better equipped to spot potential issues early on and seek treatment if necessary. So read on for insights into the tell-tale signs of trouble in your teeth and gums.

But first, here are some facts about dental and oral problems.

Facts about dental and oral problems

Did you know that …

  • According to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, over 91% of adults aged 20 to 64 have had cavities in their permanent teeth.
  • Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease in children aged 6 to 19 years.
  • Gum disease affects 47.2% of adults aged 30 years and older in the United States.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around 1 in 4 adults aged 65 years and older have lost all of their teeth.

These are just some of the known facts about dental health problems. And unfortunately, these dental problems don’t just stop at the mouth but rather have an adverse effect on your overall health.

How does dental health affect overall health?

There is a growing body of evidence linking oral health to overall health. For example, research has shown that gum disease may be a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other chronic conditions such as diabetes. 

What’s more, the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease can enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, where they may contribute to the development of inflammation-related diseases.

Furthermore, several studies have also suggested that poor oral health may adversely affect cognitive function in older adults. So, if you’re experiencing any symptoms of dental or oral problems, it’s important to see an experienced dentist right away. 

7 Symptoms of dental and oral problems

1. Gum disease

Gum disease, also called periodontal disease, is an infection of the gums and bones that support the teeth. Plaque is usually to blame for gum disease, but other factors such as smoking and diabetes can increase the risk. 

Gum disease often starts with gingivitis, which is a mild form of gum disease. Gingivitis is usually painless, but it can lead to more serious forms of gum disease if left untreated.

Some of the symptoms of gum disease include:

  • red, swollen, or tender gums that may bleed when brushed
  • bleeding gums
  • receding gums
  • loose teeth
  • persistent bad breath

Furthermore, according to the CDC, half of the American adults aged 30 years and older have some form of gum disease. Dentists can often spot early signs of gum disease during a routine dental exam. However, conventional treatment for gum disease usually involves a combination of professional dental cleanings and at-home oral care. In more severe cases, surgery may be necessary.

2. Dry mouth

Dry mouth, also called xerostomia, is a condition that occurs when the salivary glands in the mouth don’t produce enough saliva. This can lead to various problems, such as an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Dry mouth can be caused by a variety of factors, including medications, medical conditions, certain habits (such as mouth breathing), or the natural aging process. 

Some of the symptoms of dry mouth include:

  • a feeling of thirst
  • sticky or dry feeling in the mouth
  • sore throat
  • cracked lips
  • a burning sensation in the mouth
  • trouble chewing, swallowing or tasting food

Treatment for dry mouth usually involves the use of artificial saliva substitutes or mouthwashes.

3. White spots on teeth

White spots on teeth are usually the first signs of dental decay. They occur when the enamel is damaged, and minerals are lost from the tooth’s surface.

White spots can also be caused by other factors, such as:

  • poor oral hygiene
  • excessive fluoride exposure
  • eating disorders 
  • bulimia nervosa specifically can cause white spots due to the repeated exposure of stomach acid to teeth

You can use disclosing tablets to identify white spots on the teeth. These are usually available over the counter at pharmacies. Additionally, a reputable dentist can also check for white spots during a routine dental exam.

Treatment for white spots often involves remineralization, which helps repair damage to the enamel. In some cases, a dentist may recommend placing a crown or veneer on the tooth.

4. Mouth sores

Mouth sores can be painful and uncomfortable. They can also make eating and talking difficult. There are several different types of mouth sores, including:

Canker sores: These are small, round ulcers that occur on the soft tissues in the mouth, such as the tongue or inside of the cheek. They’re usually red with a white or yellow center and can be painful.

Cold sores: These are fluid-filled blisters that occur on the lips, chin, or nostrils. They’re caused by the herpes simplex virus and can be contagious.

Aphthous ulcers: These are small, shallow ulcers that occur on the mucous membranes in the mouth. They can be white, red, or yellow and are usually painful.

Treatment for mouth sores depends on the type and severity. For example, canker sores and cold sores often go away on their own within a few days to weeks. However, Aphthous ulcers may require treatment with oral medications or topical creams from a dentist near you.

5. Tooth decay

Tooth decay is a common dental problem that occurs when plaque and tartar build-up on the teeth and gums. This can lead to the formation of cavities, which can eventually lead to tooth loss.

Tooth decay is usually caused by poor oral hygiene. However, other factors such as diet, smoking, and certain medical conditions can also increase the risk.

Symptoms of tooth decay include:

  • toothache
  • sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures
  • visible holes or pits in the teeth
  • black, brown, or white spots on the teeth

Treatment for tooth decay depends on the severity. In some cases, a dentist may recommend fluoride treatments or sealants to prevent further damage. In more severe cases, a root canal or tooth extraction may be necessary.

6. Bad breath

Bad breath, also called halitosis, can be caused by several factors, such as food, tobacco use, poor oral hygiene, and certain medical conditions. 

However, the most common cause of bad breath is plaque, which is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth. When plaque isn’t removed through regular brushing and flossing, it can harden into tartar, which can lead to bad breath.

In addition to plaque and tartar build-up, other causes of bad breath include:

  • Dry mouth: saliva naturally cleanses the mouth and washes away food particles. However, some medications can cause dry mouth, as can certain medical conditions such as diabetes.
  • Food: certain foods, such as garlic and onions, can cause bad breath.
  • Tobacco products: tobacco use can contribute to bad breath.
  • Medical conditions: certain medical conditions, such as kidney failure and liver disease, can cause bad breath. 

If you’re concerned about bad breath, see your dentist for an evaluation. In many cases, bad breath can be helped with a simple tooth cleaning or other at-home oral care measures.

7. Cracked teeth

Cracked teeth are a common dental problem. They can be caused by biting into hard objects, grinding your teeth, or having a sudden change in temperature (such as when you eat ice cream).

Cracked teeth can range from tiny cracks that don’t cause any symptoms to large cracks that extend down to the root of the tooth. They can also cause pain, sensitivity to hot and cold, and difficulty chewing.

Treatment for cracked teeth depends on the extent of the damage. A small crack may not require any treatment. However, a large crack will likely need to be repaired with a filling, crown, or root canal.

Causes of dental problems

There are many different causes of dental problems. Of the numerous causes, poor oral hygiene is the most common cause of dental problems. However, other causes include:

  • Diet: Eating foods high in sugar or acid can contribute to tooth decay and gum disease.
  • Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of gum disease and tooth decay. It can also lead to staining and bad breath.
  • Age: As you age, your teeth and gums can become weaker and more susceptible to damage.
  • Certain medical conditions: Some medical conditions, such as diabetes and HIV/AIDS, can increase the risk of dental problems.

The best way to prevent dental and oral problems

The best way to prevent dental problems is to practice good oral hygiene. This includes brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing daily, and using mouthwash. You should also avoid sugary foods and other activities that can cause trauma to your teeth.

In addition to good oral hygiene, avoiding tobacco use and eating a healthy diet can also help reduce the risk of dental problems. Above all, ensure you schedule regular dental checkups with your dentist.

Nonetheless, if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed in this post or your last visit to your dentist has been more than 6 months, it’s strongly advisable that you make an appointment with an experienced dentist today!

By Manali