We all like to think we take care of our teeth and gums. Most brush their teeth morning and night and go for annual check-ups at the dentist. Some of us even floss. Everyone wants that healthy smile, but it’s not always easy to tell when your teeth are struggling. Dental decay, gum disease, and cavities can announce themselves in some pretty sneaky ways.
Between the yearly visits to the dentist do we really know how healthy (or not) our mouths are? A toothache might prompt an emergency visit to the dental surgery, but a bit of redness in our gums or a spot of bad breath may go unnoticed.
So to help you keep your mouth in tip-top condition, here are some of the warning signs to take heed of;
1. BAD BREATH. Though it’s normal to experience bouts of bad breath once in a while. Bad breath can be caused by what you eat, not cleaning your mouth, dry mouth, smoking or other medical conditions. Persistent bad breath can also be one of the warning signs of gum disease. Brushing twice a day and flossing daily are essential to reducing bad breath and preventing gum disease. Brushing your tongue can help too. If you’re concerned about what’s causing your bad breath, see your dentist. They can determine the cause and treatment plan.
2. TOOTHACHE. If your mouth or jaw hurt, it could be from a toothache. Toothaches usually indicate a cavity but they can also signal gum disease. In some cases, a toothache is a sign of an abscess or impacted tooth. A toothache should be evaluated by a dentist right away to determine the cause of the problem and prevent the tooth from dying.
3. RED OR SWOLLEN GUMS. Healthy gums should be pink and firm to the touch, but in the early stages of gum disease (known as gingivitis), they can become red or swollen, even painful. A build-up of plaque at the base of the tooth along the gum line is often to blame as the bacteria contained in the sticky residue sets up home, leading to irritation and infection.
4. BLEEDING GUMS. Bleeding gums after brushing or flossing is a tell-tale sign of gum disease. The build-up of plaque at the base of the tooth that causes them to become red or swollen can also lead to bleeding. An improved brushing routine and a more dedicated floss can often sort this out, but it may be best to visit the dentist to check whether the disease has developed and is on its way to more serious complications.
5. TOOTH SENSITIVITY. If your teeth hurt when you drink hot or cold beverages, you may have sensitive teeth. This can be the result of tooth decay, fractured teeth, worn fillings, gum disease, worn tooth enamel or an exposed tooth root due to gum recession. Treatment will depend on the source of sensitivity. If you’re concerned about the sensitivity of your teeth see your dentist for diagnosis and treatment options.
6. WHITE TONGUE. Your tongue can turn many different colours depending on what you’ve recently eaten but if you notice that your tongue usually looks white and coated, your mouth might not be as healthy as you think.
7. A METALLIC TASTE IN YOUR MOUTH. You know the bleeding gums we talked about earlier? Well, not all the blood made it to the sink after you finished brushing your teeth, and it is that blood that could be causing the metallic taste in your mouth.
8. JAW PAIN. Many things can cause these symptoms, which can make it difficult to diagnose. Possible causes include sinus problems, toothache, arthritis, injury, teeth grinding, gingivitis or problems with your jaw like TMJ. Your dentist will conduct a thorough exam, which may include X-rays, to determine the source of the pain.
9. LOOSE TEETH. Left untreated, gum disease can easily develop into a more severe state, known as periodontitis or periodontal disease. Not only can this cause a worsening of the symptoms listed above, but it can also affect the bones in your mouth and jaw, leading to loose teeth that could eventually fall out.
10. YOUR TEETH SEEM TO BE GETTING LONGER OR BIGGER. Teeth can sometimes appear to grow longer or wider and this is often a sign of gum disease or damage. Your gums may be gradually receding due to gum disease, but as this is a progressive disease, you might not notice at first. As your tooth roots become more exposed, you not only get that ‘long in the tooth’ look but start to feel sensitivity and pain
11. STAINED OR DISCOLOURED TEETH. Over time your teeth can become stained and change colour. This is often the result of eating certain foods, such as coffee or tea, smoking, ageing, genetics, injury, or certain medications. Whitening options can include over the counter or in-office treatments. Check with your dentist about your options for stain removal.