Guide to Common Dental Health Problems: Symptoms & Causes

by | Oct 31, 2019 | Dental Advice

“What’s that pain in my mouth?”

“Why do my gums bleed after I brush?”

“Why is my mouth so dry?”

“Is this tooth infected?”

These are some of the most frequently asked dental health questions we hear at Union Dental Center. Our dentists are here to share the sometimes surprising causes of dental health problems, the science behind the symptoms you’re feeling, and much more.

If you have questions about your dental health, call our office at (410) 939-3950 to schedule your appointment.

Bad breath

Many people worry about their breath — especially before a big date or important business meeting. But bad breath can be a sign of a more serious underlying issue. If you’re experiencing bad breath occasionally, like after mealtimes or when you wake up, try rinsing your mouth with water or using an alcohol-free mouthwash. 

Mouthwashes with alcohol may cause dry mouth, an issue we’ll talk about more in a bit. You can also try a sugar-free mint for a quick breath freshener. Some people have their own homemade bad breath remedy, too! 

One thing to avoid is brushing immediately after every meal. Wait 30 minutes before brushing to allow your mouth’s pH level to rebalance. Otherwise, you could actually be increasing your risk of tooth decay.

Chronic bad breath that just won’t go away might be a sign of gum disease or cavities.

Be on the lookout for:

  • Chronic bad breath
  • Frequent use of mouthwash

May be related to:

  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay

Tooth sensitivity and toothaches

Here at Union Dental Center, toothaches and sensitive teeth are among the most common issues we hear about from patients. Unfortunately in most cases, this is often a sign of cavities. But the good news is if we catch cavities early, we can use a small filling as a quick and easy fix. 

If a toothache is sudden, it’s a good idea to get it checked out ASAP. Sometimes you might feel a sharp edge on a tooth or notice a crack. In these cases, it’s possible for decay to spread quickly and invade the inner layer of the tooth, something that might require a root canal to fix.

Sometimes, tooth sensitivity is caused by gum recession. As infected gums recede, they expose more of the otherwise-hidden and very sensitive root. 

Your dentist can talk to you more about the cause of your tooth sensitivity. You might benefit from using a specially-formulated toothpaste to reduce tooth sensitivity.

Be on the lookout for:

  • Sensitivity to pressure or extreme temperature
  • Favoring one side of your mouth
  • Sudden changes in how a tooth feels

May be related to:

  • Cavities and tooth decay
  • Gum recession
  • Broken or chipped teeth

Gum pain

Gum disease is the #1 preventable cause of tooth loss in adults. Your gum health is absolutely essential to maintaining lifelong dental health. When caught early on, there are a variety of minimally-invasive treatments for gum disease. But when gum disease isn’t treated, tooth loss is very possible.

Gum disease has also been linked to other health problems throughout the body, including some cancers, increased risk of heart disease, and even diabetes. While not fully understood, it’s believed the bacteria that cause gum disease enter the bloodstream through the mouth and travel throughout the body. Your body’s inflammatory response reduces immune system function and may lead to these and other diseases and health problems.

Be on the lookout for:

  • Bleeding gums, especially after brushing and flossing
  • Swollen or tender gums

May be related to:

  • Gum disease
  • Gum recession

Dry mouth

Ever wake up and just feel like your mouth is full of sand? Do you experience dry mouth throughout the day? In most cases, dry mouth is minor and may be attributed to not drinking enough water or some of the medications you take.

But dry mouth may be a warning sign for a more serious problem like sleep apnea or even diabetes. Sleep apnea is very serious and can affect every aspect of your life, causing tiredness throughout the day and even an increased risk of car accidents!

Dry mouth can also be caused and made worse by the overuse of alcohol-based mouthwashes. Dry mouth may also be a sign you’re at an increased risk of gum disease. Only your dentist can help you understand the root cause of your dry mouth and how it might affect your health.

Be on the lookout for:

  • An uncomfortably dry mouth
  • Feeling like you always need to take a drink of water
  • Chronic bad breath

May be related to:

  • Gum disease
  • Over-reliance on alcohol-based mouthwashes
  • Snoring/sleep apnea
  • Side effects of some prescription medications
  • Extreme thirst is often an early warning sign for diabetes

Sore jaws

Sore jaws are very common. If you have pain in your jaw joint or hear noises when you chew, the likely culprit is TMJ disorder. The good news is that TMJ pain is usually triggered by stress and often resolves itself as your stress level goes down.

However, tooth grinding (also known as bruxism) may go hand-in-hand with a sore jaw. Clenching your teeth at night leads to a sore jaw and tooth grinding. By getting to the root of the problem, we can eliminate all of the symptoms. For example, we may treat jaw clenching with the use of a custom mouthguard worn while asleep. This will then eliminate jaw pain and worn teeth.

Be on the lookout for:

  • Acute jaw pain that comes and goes
  • Clicking or popping sounds in your jaw
  • Rough or chipped teeth
  • Headaches

May be related to:

  • TMJ/TMD pain
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Misaligned teeth
  • Tooth grinding

Swelling or redness

Infections in the mouth are very serious. In some cases, they might even constitute a dental emergency! If you have pain in your mouth that’s not going away and it’s accompanied by a fever, skin that’s warm to the touch, or redness and swelling, talk to a dentist right away. Untreated infections can lead to lost teeth and serious health problems. Listen to your body and if something is worrying you, get help!

Be on the lookout for:

  • Tender or swollen areas in your mouth
  • Areas that feel “warm”
  • Fever

May be related to:

  • Gum disease
  • Tooth decay
  • Infection
 Dr. H. Brett Friedman

Dr. H. Brett Friedman

Dr. Friedman earned his Doctorate of Dental Surgery from the University of Maryland, Baltimore College of Dental Surgery in 1996. For over 20 years, Dr. Friedman has been creating the smiles of his patients’ dreams. He believes that nothing should stand between you and a healthier smile.