A major reason dentists strongly recommend making appointments every 6 months is because many symptoms of oral health problems are hard to spot on your own. It’s not always as simple as, say, ongoing toothaches or teeth shifting out of place. There are other symptoms that do not involve severe pain or a blatant change in appearance that can be seen in the mirror.
Making these symptoms even easier to ignore is the fact that they seem normal, especially for people of a certain age. But as your dentist will tell you, even the slightest problem can be a sign of a potentially serious condition.
Here are the 4 most commonly overlooked oral health problems:
Some people are naturally plagued with particularly bad breath, which becomes increasingly noticeable as you get older, like body odor. Maybe you have a taste for pungent cuisine or tend to drink alcohol a little more than you should, giving your bad breath an excuse. But bad breath can be an early sign of conditions like liver disease, kidney disease, advanced gum disease, halitosis, or diabetes. It’s difficult, however, to know that your breath is worse than the average person of your age and lifestyle if you don’t brush and floss at least twice a day. If your breath remains just as bad despite this routine, your dentist might recommend a tongue scraper. Only after brushing, flossing and tongue scraping have failed might you know that you are at risk for one of the aforementioned conditions.
Like bad breath, this is something that is often mistaken as a natural part of getting older or a certain lifestyle. You might have become used to having a dry mouth because you don’t drink that much water throughout the day or are taking a medication that may cause it. This is why the best way to truly ascertain whether or not your mouth is producing too little saliva is to ask your dentist or go for a check-up. Your dentist will quickly be able to tell if you should increase your consumption of liquids or try a saliva substitute. A lack of saliva prevents bacteria from being washed away, which could lead to cavities or gum disease. Dry mouth is also a common sign of diabetes, scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis.
Sensitivity To Hot And Cold Food Or Beverages
So you’re eating ice cream and it stings a little. No big deal, right? But then you start to feel pain while eating hot food as well. Increased sensitivity to either type of food or beverage is a sign of cavities or bruxism (teeth grinding), both of which are fairly easy to alleviate. The combination of a night guard and regular exercise will trim your teeth grinding habit, since it is usually triggered by stress. But if the pain from hot or cold foods or liquids is almost too painful to bear, it could be a symptom of enamel decay. The nerves at the center of tooth become decayed and therefore more sensitive, making it very painful to eat. So even if you think it’s just a cavity, call your dentist in the event that you develop sensitivity to hot and cold foods.
Everybody snores, right? And even if you do, how are you supposed to know unless someone else is sleeping in the same room? Besides, everyone else seems just as tired as I am during the day. Much like the three previous symptoms, snoring is only considered completely harmless if it doesn’t reach a level of extremity. Excessive snoring could be an indication of sleep apnea, which causes the airway to close as you sleep deeply. Your dentist could have a mandibular advancement device made for you, allowing your airway to stay open so the snoring stops.
Think You Have One Of These Symptoms?
If you are affected by one of these problems but aren’t sure about the severity, you’ll get all the answers you need with just a single trip to the dentist. In addition to identifying oral health problems, your dentist can tell if you are at risk of more serious conditions simply by examining your mouth. It’s important to remember that just because you are experiencing these problems doesn’t mean you are inevitably going to face their worst potential outcomes. Chances are, if you bring them to your dentist’s attention as early as possible, you won’t have to worry about facing any of their consequences again!
A Reason to Smile: Sensitive Teeth are Often Easy to Treat
If you’re experiencing recurring or sudden sharp pain when drinking hot beverages or eating frozen treats, or while brushing and flossing, then sensitive teeth may be to blame. Tooth pain can occur for many different reasons, and some are easier to pinpoint than others. You may be brushing your teeth too vigorously, thus damaging the enamel, or you could have a more serious oral health issue, such as gum disease. Your dental hygienist can diagnose the reason for tooth sensitivity and help treat the root cause, but identification and prevention also begin at home.
Symptoms and Causes of Sensitive Teeth
The symptoms of tooth sensitivity can manifest in different ways depending on the individual. Generally, pain in the teeth and gums, especially while eating and after dental treatment, including routine cleaning, is the prime indicator of tooth and gum sensitivity. Causes of oral pain also vary widely but include the following:
• A cracked or chipped tooth
• Tooth decay
• Worn tooth enamel
• Periodontal disease
• Receding gums
• Exposed tooth roots
Correctly identifying the cause of tooth pain is essential to proper treatment and improved oral health.
At-Home Treatment of Sensitive Teeth
Proper oral hygiene is the key to both a great smile and a healthy mouth, and you may be surprised to find that you haven’t been caring for your teeth properly, leading to sensitivity. Make sure to continue your twice-daily brushing routine, but reduce pressure when you brush and consider using a brush with soft bristles. You should also avoid brushing directly after eating foods with high acidity, like tomatoes and citrus fruit, because acidic foods weaken tooth enamel.
Desensitizing toothpaste is often the first line of defense when you’re dealing with tooth sensitivity. Available over the counter, many people find relief after using this type of toothpaste as part of their oral hygiene regimen. While brands vary, active ingredients in desensitizing paste typically include nerve-blocking agents, such as strontium chloride and/or potassium nitrate. Some patients report better results when the active ingredient is stannous fluoride, but desensitizing toothpaste containing it is available only by prescription.
In-Office Treatments for Tooth Sensitivity
If you can’t find relief from tooth pain by utilizing at-home methods, then a visit to your dentist may be in order. Your dental hygienist may use a fluoride gel treatment to help reduce sensitivity and improve your smile. Dependence on the reason for your tooth pain and its severity, your dentist might recommend a more invasive treatment option. Many in-office treatments, including those that combat sensitivity, are covered by your dental insurance. These treatments may include:
• Fillings or crowns
• A root canal
• Inlay or bonding
After treating your tooth sensitivity issue, your dentist will likely schedule a follow-up visit within a month to make sure the treatment is working and to check for additional issues that may be negatively impacting your smile. Make sure to follow instructions from your hygienist regarding proper oral health care after treatment to avoid a recurrence of tooth pain.