Your oral health is more important than you may think. Not only does your mouth affect how you eat and talk, but poor oral health has been linked to a number of other health problems, including heart disease, dementia, diabetes, and even eating disorders1. Being able to identify the signs of dental problems could prevent the progression of oral diseases, including gingivitis and even oral cancer.

Tooth or Gum Sensitivity

If hot or cold foods or drinks create discomfort in your teeth or gums, this may be a symptom of several oral health problems. Dental abscesses and cavities can both cause your teeth and gums to become more sensitive. Sensitivity could also be a sign of other oral health problems, like enamel erosion, which exposes dentin and dental nerves, or gum disease.

Dry Mouth

Dry mouth, a condition in which your mouth doesn’t produce enough saliva, can be both a cause and a symptom of oral health problems. Dry mouth can be caused by medications, medical treatments, or even a blocked salivary gland, and it may lead to cavities and bad breath.

Mouth Sores

Sores in the mouth are often associated with canker sores and cold sores. These are usually painful and uncomfortable, but they often go away within a few weeks of appearing. Canker sores may simply be a sign of stress or fatigue, or they may be linked to Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease. Cold sores are a result of the Herpes simplex virus type 1 being triggered by hormonal changes, having an infection, or too much sun or stress. However, mouth sores can be a sign of serious oral health problems. They can even be an oral cancer symptom or a sign of trench mouth (ulcerative gingivitis) or diabetes. If these sores bleed easily or do not heal, it may be time to visit your dentist and/or doctor.

Bad Breath (Halitosis)/Taste

Bad breath (halitosis) and/or a foul taste in your mouth may be a sign of oral health problems like gum disease, dental cavities, or even oral or throat infections. Dentures that are not well-cared for or that do not fit properly may also cause bad breath or a bad taste in your mouth. This can even be a symptom of other health problems, like respiratory or digestive infections.

Red, Tender, Swollen, Receding, and/or Bleeding Gums

If your gums are red, tender, swollen, receding, or bleeding after brushing or flossing, it’s time to see your dentist. These are all symptoms of oral health problems, specifically periodontal (gum) disease. Red, tender, swollen, and receding gums are all early signs of gum disease. If gums bleed at the slightest pressure, then it is possible that you may have trench mouth (ulcerative gingivitis), a very severe form of periodontal disease.

Burning Sensation

A burning sensation in your mouth may be linked to hormone changes or medication use, but it can also be a sign of oral health problems. This sensation can be caused by oral infections, including fungal infections, and it also can be a sign that your dentures are not properly fitted to your mouth. Dry mouth can also cause a burning sensation, which, as previously mentioned, can be a symptom of other oral health problems.

Changes in the Way Your Teeth Fit Together

When your teeth don’t fit together like they used to, this may be a sign of serious oral health problems. This can be a symptom of periodontal disease as your gums recede and your teeth can become loose or shift apart. Furthermore, this can be an oral cancer symptom as the growths and shifts caused by cancer may maneuver your teeth. Either way, you should see your dentist right away if you are experiencing changes in the way your teeth fit together.

Talking to Your Dentist about Identified Signs of Oral Health Problems

If you notice any of these oral symptoms, it is important to schedule an appointment with your dentist. Make sure to note how long the problem has been occurring and inform your dentist of any family history of oral cancer or similar diseases. At the Covington Center for Family Dentistry, we want to keep you healthy and smiling, so if you are concerned about signs of oral health problems, schedule an appointment or contact our office with any questions.

1 “7 Health Problems Your Dentist Can Spot.” Everyday Health. Retrieved from http://www.everydayhealth.com/dental-health-pictures/health-problems-your-dentist-can-spot.aspx#01 on May 26, 2016.

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