What are Early Signs of Dental Trouble?

We understand that many people are still uncertain about the safety of dental visits.  While we are certain that your visiting us is safe, we do want to communicate important information to those of you making the choice to postpone dental appointments during the pandemic.  It is important for you to understand the warning signs of dental problems so that you can seek care sooner rather than later.

Dental diseases, like cavities and gum disease, are bacterial infections, and they are progressive in nature.  Without intervention by a dentist, they will worsen over time.  By catching these problems early, you not only save yourself from having a dangerous infection.  You also save yourself time and money on expensive dental treatments.  Treating dental problems in their earliest stages is always less expensive and less invasive.

Here, we will outline the early warning signs of dental trouble that you should know.

Bad Breath

When large numbers of bacteria collect, they are capable of producing smelly gases.  In the mouth, these gases are detectable when you exhale, speak, laugh, etc….  Both cavities and gum disease consist of large deposits of bacteria in the mouth.

Specifically, cavities are holes that develop when bacteria penetrate through tooth enamel.  They multiply as they work into the tooth and causing decay in their wake.  Gum disease occurs when bacteria, in the form of dental plaque, is left on the teeth.  The bacteria emit toxins, which lead to destruction of the tissue surrounding the tooth, which in turn causes deep pockets between the gums and teeth.  These pockets are breeding grounds for large numbers of bacteria, and . . . you guessed it . . . bad breath!

If you are suffering from persistent bad breath that does not improve with improved oral hygiene and diet changes, you should see your dentist to rule out active dental disease.

Bleeding Gums

Many people mistakenly assume that bleeding gums is not a big deal.  Bleeding gums are never normal.  If they did not result from a known injury, you can assume that the bleeding gums are the result of inflammation.  Acute inflammation, including redness, swelling, tenderness, and bleeding, is the result of those bacterial toxins we mentioned in the previous section.

The first stage of gum disease is gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums.  The bleeding is a sign that something is wrong!

If your bleeding gums do not improve after developing a consistent oral hygiene routine with great brushing and flossing techniques, you need to see your dentist or dental hygienist for a professional teeth cleaning.  We can remove the bacterial buildup that you can’t reach.

Sensitivity to Sweets

Most people understand that sugar is one of the risk factors for cavities.  A high sugar diet feeds the bacteria that cause cavities.  In medium or large cavities, the nerve within the tooth often responds to sweets with a sensitive or painful sensation.  If you notice that a particular tooth gives you a little twinge when you have something sugary, we need to rule out a cavity on that tooth!

White, Chalky Spots on Teeth

We know that anyone would be concerned by a large brown or black “hole” in his teeth.  Cavities that are large enough for you to spot with the naked eye are quite large.  However, there is often an early warning sign, which dentists call an incipient lesion, that is the precursor to a cavity.

As bacteria digest sugars, they produce acid, which softens and weakens tooth enamel and allows them to penetrate the tooth.  This initial softening is called demineralization because it removes the hard mineral content of the enamel.  The great news is that this process is reversible when you catch it early!

It typically appears as a bright white, chalky spot on the tooth.  Some people see this in a white halo or circle after having braces removed from the teeth.  Others notice a half-moon shape near the gums.  If you notice these chalky spots on the teeth, you should seek your dentist’s help in remineralizing (or hardening and strengthening) the enamel and stopping the cavity before it breaks through the enamel.

An Area that “Catches” when Flossing

Cavities between the teeth are very common.  When people floss inconsistently or not at all, dental plaque and all of the cavity-causing bacteria it contains lead to a breakdown in the enamel on the side of the teeth.  Ideally, we would love to catch these cavities when they are in the “white spot” stage that we described in the previous section.  However, you cannot get a good look at the side of a tooth where it touches its neighbor.  Without seeing your dentist for dental x-rays (which do show the sides of teeth), you will not know you have a cavity developing between the teeth until it is large enough to either cause symptoms or have an actual hole develop.

In the case of a hole in the side of the tooth, when you floss, you may notice that the floss catches or gets hung on a rough area.  A healthy tooth will be glossy smooth, and the floss should easily slide over its surface.  Anything that is not perfectly smooth needs to be evaluated by the dentist.

More Questions about Early Signs of Dental Trouble?

Call Timberlake Dental at 940-382-1750 to schedule a visit with Dr. Chowning.  We can ensure your safety during the pandemic and provide the vital dental care everyone needs to stay completely healthy!

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