There are many reasons that people see the dentist, but some are so common that you will probably experience at least one in your lifetime. We will explore common dental problems and what to do if you are suffering.

Cavities

Also known as tooth decay, cavities are one of the most prevalent diseases in the United States! Cavities occur when plaque forms on the teeth and combines with sugars and starches to break down tooth enamel. When a cavity is little, you might not even notice it is there (a great reason for regular dental checkups), but if it is left to grow you could be facing major dental work down the road. Cavities between teeth can erode both tooth surfaces, and a cavity that comes too close to the nerve can cause extreme pain and sensitivity to heat and cold. Although many people think of cavities as something that children get, you can get a cavity at any age, and a cavity in your adult tooth is more serious than one in a baby tooth that is going to fall out. If your cavity is too deep you may need a root canal and a crown. If the cavity has gone past your tooth and into the jaw and bone, you could lose the tooth and need a dental implant. Don’t let cavities progress! Stop them in their tracks by regularly getting dental exams and brushing and flossing well. If you don’t let plaque sit on your teeth you are less likely to develop cavities. If you do have a cavity—don’t despair! When they are caught early, usually a small filling, easily done by your dentist, can halt the decay and keep your teeth healthy!

Tooth Sensitivity

While tooth sensitivity can be caused by cavities, it can also happen independently. Tooth sensitivity can really impact your life, and cause discomfort when eating sweets, hot drinks, ice cream, cold drinks, or even when cold air touches your teeth. Brushing and flossing can also cause pain for people with sensitive teeth, which can lead to a decline in good oral hygiene. If you have sensitive teeth, don’t despair! Your dentist can help, and you can eat ice cream again! Sensitive teeth can sometimes be caused by a cracked tooth or a tooth abscess, so it is important to get it checked out!

Mouth Sores

Mouth sores can be unattractive and painful. They can occur both inside and outside the mouth, and can hurt while eating or talking. There are a variety of infections that can cause mouth sores, many of which can be treated with antibiotics. If you have sores on any of the soft tissues of your mouth, including the gums, lips, tongue, cheeks, or roof, you should get them checked by your dentist. Occasionally, sores in the mouth can indicate a larger issue such as oral cancer. More benign causes of mouth sores can result from sensitivity to toothpastes or mouthwashes, dentures or braces not fitting properly, or some medications. Don’t worry about your mouth sores, get them checked out by your dentist!

Gum Disease

Issues with your gums should be treated as seriously as your teeth, and the health of your gums is important for your overall wellbeing. Everyone is at risk for gum disease, but diabetes and smoking can increase your risk. Also known as periodontal disease, gum disease is an infection that is one of the main causes of tooth loss in adults. Symptoms can include swollen gums, tender gums, bleeding gums, bad breath, and sensitive teeth. Gingivitis is a mild form of gum disease, and it can be reversed with good dental hygiene. But if gingivitis is not treated it can lead to periodontal disease which is when the gums pull away from the teeth and the spaces that are left behind become infected. If this infection if not treated, the teeth, gums, and even bone can be destroyed. Your dentist is a powerful ally in the prevention and treatment of gum disease, so be sure to keep your regular dental appointments.

Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is often curable, but someone in the U.S. dies every hour from this disease. Because it is serious, and affects millions of people, catching the early warning signs of oral cancer is extremely important. The symptoms of oral cancer can include mouth sores, lumps, changes in your bite, difficulty chewing, or rough patches in the mouth. You are at a higher risk for oral cancer if you smoke, use chewing tobacco, or have HPV. When your dentist performs routine dental checkups they look for any of the early warning signs of oral cancer. You should see your dentist if you have any issues in your mouth that are concerning.

Tooth Infection

If you develop an infection in your teeth, you will probably know right away. Pain, a swollen, chipmunk-like cheek, and even a fever are all warning signs of a dangerous tooth infection. An infection could be the result of a cavity that has gone untreated, a cracked tooth that has let in bacteria, or an injured tooth. A tooth infection can spread if it is not treated, so see your dentist right away if you suspect an infection. Usually the infection is treated with antibiotics and then the tooth is assessed to see what the next steps are. Root canals, crowns, fillings, and dental implants are all options.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a result of decreased saliva flow to the mouth, and can be extremely uncomfortable and even painful. It can increase your chance of developing tooth decay, because saliva aids in washing away bacteria in the mouth. Common causes of dry mouth include taking various medications, age, and some diseases. Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can help with dry mouth, as can chewing sugarless gum. Because dry mouth can interfere with speaking, and even with eating dry foods, you should see your dentist right away to help develop a treatment plan.

Jaw Pain

Jaw pain, also known as temporomandibular joint pain (TMJ) occurs below the ears and above the jaw. TMJ can cause soreness, headaches, neck pain, and earaches. TMJ can be caused by clenching or grinding your teeth (especially at night), stress, or an injury to the jaw. If you are having pain while chewing, have limited mobility in your jaw, or pain that radiates from your jaw to your face, neck, or shoulders, you could have TMJ. Talk to your dentist, because treatment could be as simple as learning relaxation techniques, using cold compresses, or ibuprofen. You also may need a mouthguard to help with any clenching or tooth grinding, and your dentist can fit you with a guard.

All of these issues can be the final thing that gets someone into the dentist’s chair. If you are experiencing any of these, or if you haven’t been to the dentist in awhile, it is time to make an appointment! If you are looking for a dentist in Overland Park or Peculiar, Love to Smile is here for all of your emergency, general, and cosmetic dentistry needs!