With regular brushing, flossing and checkups many dental problems can be avoided. Yet the mouth can signal to us that something else is going on. What could our mouths be communicating? Here are six things to watch for and what they could mean:
If your gums are sensitive, sore, red or bleed easily, it may reveal warning signs of gingivitis. Gum disease is so common that the American Academy of Periodontology states almost half of the U.S. population suffers from it. For many, the condition isn’t painful and therefore doesn’t ring alarm bells. But prolonged exposure to gingivitis can be a contributing factor to tooth loss later in life. Not only can gingivitis be halted, your dentist can reverse the condition when detected early. Halitosis—bad breath—can be a red flag for gum disease too. If you brush, floss and use mouthwash routinely, yet your breath still has people offering you a mint, it’s best to see your dentist.
Sensitive teeth can be just as common in dental patients as gum disease. Tooth decay, worn tooth enamel, exposed roots due to recessed gums or a cracked tooth are all signs to consider. When teeth are healthy, sensitivity isn’t something patients regularly experience. When pain occurs, it usually begins at the pulp, the soft area in the center of the tooth. This could mean needing to have a root canal or surgery for recessed gums, so you want to keep on top of any sensitivity issues.
It isn’t normal when your gums bleed while brushing your teeth or at any other time. While many dismiss this condition, thinking it happens to everyone, aggressive brushing and flossing can damage enamel and gums. Always use a soft toothbrush. Also, the bristles of your toothbrush should not be worn down. Be sure to replace your toothbrush every three to four months.
TMJ disorder occurs when the joint connecting your jaw and skull functions improperly. Jaw movement can be limited and accompanied by chronic pain. From physical therapy to orthodontia, treatment is available to relieve symptoms. Persistent pain in the jaw can also signal a tooth infection—ouch!
Noticeable lumps or color changes
Oral cancer has warning signs you should know: white or red patches in the mouth, lumps or bumps you can see or feel with your tongue, and oral pain you can’t link to anything specific. Issues with swallowing, numbness in or near your mouth, and changes in the way food tastes are reasons to schedule an appointment immediately. The sooner, the better. Staying away from tobacco products can limit the risk of mouth cancer.
If little white spots appear on your teeth, it may be a sign of too much fluoride. These dots can also mean your teeth are experiencing mineral loss. Weakened enamel puts one at risk for cavities. Your dentist can suggest ways to protect and strengthen your teeth.