Written by Dr Jeffrey Kestenberg
Patients who attend the dental clinic with symptoms that they have persisted with for several weeks, months and even years, repeatedly surprise me. Your body is telling you something when you experience pain, discomfort, itchiness, sensitivity to temperature change, a burning sensation, dry mouth or swelling.
If you see redness or bleeding of the gums, it is likely to be an issue. If there are brown or black spots on your teeth, a sharp area when your tongue runs over your tooth or food is packing between your teeth, you are likely to have an issue that should be seen to by a dentist.
There are many reasons why people ignore their mouths and don’t attend the dentist and we’ve discussed this in previous issues of E-Bubble Life.
So when your mouth tells you that there’s an issue, you need to listen. Here are some of the issues that you need to consider.
Pain - Listening to your body
You will experience pain because of some sort of injury which stimulates your nervous system. It could be an obvious trauma or an infection. Most commonly in the mouth, the infection is viral or bacterial.
Tooth decay and gum infections are the most common causes of pain in the mouth but we have also seen cases of pain caused by oral cancer, trigeminal neuralgia, and jaw joint disorders such as arthritis. Because there can be so many different causes of mouth pain , it is best to have this checked out by a dentist.
Sometimes people experience a mild discomfort in the mouth. It can be non-specific and not located to one specific tooth or area. The causes of this type of discomfort can be difficult to diagnose and often require special tests or investigations such as x-rays or blood tests. These mild types of symptoms which often disappear after a few days, can be related to early onset tooth decay, or gingivitis. They should not be ignored because early intervention is usually easier, quicker and more economical to resolve.
Itchiness - Listening to your body
Itchiness in the mouth is usually a symptom related to the soft tissue. Hayfever and gingivitis are the most common reasons that this occurs.
Sensitivity to cold or hot
If a tooth is sensitive to cold and hot foods and drinks , it is usually an indication that the nerve of the tooth is inflamed. This could be caused by tooth decay, trauma, a crack in the tooth or enamel erosion. If the inflammation is reversible, a simple filling or other simple treatment will allow the nerve to heal. If the inflammation is irreversible and the nerve of the tooth has become infected the tooth will require a root canal treatment or an extraction.
Dry Mouth - Listening to your body
Dry mouth or xerostomia is often the result of dehydration. Many people simply do not drink enough water everyday, particularly in warmer environments. Dry mouth can also be a side effect of many prescribed drugs such as anti-depressants and natural therapies. Xerostomia is also found commonly in elderly patients where the ageing process has simply taken its toll on the salivary glands in the mouth. Pathology of a major salivary gland such as a tumour, can be a symptom but it is much more rare.
A burning sensation in the mouth is a common symptom which is usually related to a lack of saliva, dry mouth or dehydration. It can also be found in people with nutritional deficiencies, some soft tissue pathologies, or people who suffer with clinical depression.
Swelling in the mouth - Listening to your body
A swelling in the mouth should never be ignored and actually should be checked by a dentist as soon as possible. It is often a sign of infection which may come from an infected tooth, infected gum, salivary gland, bone or mucosa (skin of the mouth). Malignant and non-malignant tumours can also be seen as swellings in the mouth.
The treatment of a swelling will depend on the diagnosis of the cause of the swelling.
A x-ray and other tests, in addition to a clinical examination, will help the dentist with determining a diagnosis.
The swelling may require drainage, biopsy, tooth removal, root canal treatment or a course of gum treatment.
A Regular Dental Check-up
Unfortunately, most people don’t attend the dentist for a regular 6 monthly check-up. They wait for symptoms to develop and then have treatment. It is certainly more economical, easier to tolerate and much healthier to see the dentist and the dental hygienist to have regular preventative care.