Your oral health issues are hinting at what’s really going on in your mouth.

If you’re experiencing out of the ordinary with your teeth or gums, chances are your body is trying to tell you that something is wrong.

Thankfully, many common oral health problems are characterized by specific symptoms that you can recognize at home. By evaluating your symptoms you’ll not only find out what might be going on, but you can also take swift action to get help from your dentist.

Here’s what you need to know about the symptoms you’re experiencing and what steps you should take next.

1. Temperature-sensitive teeth may have weakened enamel.

Do you feel a sharp pain or sensitivity in your teeth when you sip hot coffee or bite into an ice-cream cone?

If you only experience discomfort while eating or drinking hot or cold food items, your teeth may have weakened or thin enamel. When enamel is thin it doesn’t offer as much insulative protection for the tooth pulp, resulting in a temporary pain or tenderness when very hot or cold temperatures hit the tooth.

Your dentist will be able to help determine what’s causing the sensitivity and, if it’s thin enamel, how the issue may be remedied. In mild cases, you can find relief by switching to a toothpaste designed for sensitive teeth. For more serious cases dental crowns can permanently fix the problem.

2. Tender, bleeding or swollen gums are signs of gum disease.

Gum or periodontal disease is exceptionally common, with roughly half of adults in the United States believed to have some level of it. If your gums feel tender, look puffy, or they bleed after brushing and flossing, you probably have gum disease.

Mild gum disease is best known as gingivitis and is very treatable by improving oral hygiene habits, eating a nutritious diet, and special deep cleaning sessions with a dental hygienist (periotherapy). Without treatment, gingivitis will worsen to the point it becomes the most severe form—periodontitis.

The sooner your dentist evaluates your gum health and starts you on a treatment program, the better!

3. Unusually worn-down teeth suggest undiagnosed bruxism.

Teeth naturally experience some wear and tear with age, but uneven wear or sudden wearing or chipping isn’t normal. You may also feel soreness around the worn teeth.

Bruxism is usually the culprit for worn-down teeth. It’s believed that as many as 1 in 3 people experience bruxism, and most likely aren’t aware it’s happening. Bruxism is often in itself a symptom of another disorder, such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), or the result of chronic stress. It can happen subconsciously when you react to stress by grinding or clenching your teeth while you’re asleep.

Untreated bruxism can leave teeth permanently damaged, causing chipping, cracking, or even a broken tooth. The good news is your dentist can often easily tell if you have bruxism and can help you get relief by supplying you with a mouth guard to wear at night.

4. Morning headaches and jaw pain often point to TMJ disorders.

Waking up with a headache, sore jaw, and stiff neck is very unpleasant, to say the least. When this happens repeatedly, you might have an undiagnosed TMJ disorder.

Temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ affects the hinge joint in your jaw, causing inflammation. This inflammation shows itself as jaw pain, stiffness, popping or clicking sounds in the jaw, and headaches or migraines. As mentioned, bruxism or grinding is also a common symptom of TMJ. We don’t know exactly how many people have TMJ, but studies suggest as many as 10 million adults in the United States are diagnosed or undiagnosed.

Similar to bruxism, untreated TMJ disorder can cause permanent damage to the teeth. The chronic pain, soreness, and headaches that often come with TMJ are also detrimental to your health and well-being. Your dentist will evaluate your symptoms and determine if you have a TMJ disorder, and if you do, offer treatment options like a mouth guard. In severe cases, surgery may also be needed.

5. Toothaches mean permanent damage to your tooth has occurred.

Toothaches happen and we’ve probably all experienced one at some point. However, every toothache should be taken seriously, even if it doesn’t feel that bad or it goes away after a few days. Why? The simple answer is toothaches mean damage has already been done.

The most common cause of a toothache is untreated tooth decay. Even very small cavities can turn into a big—and painful—problem without treatment. As bacteria eat away at your tooth enamel the pulp layer becomes exposed, resulting in pain. Your pain may start fairly mild and only happen when it’s triggered by eating something sweet or when you bite down on it. Over time this pain can wind up being crippling and result in a dangerous infection.

Remember, tooth enamel can’t heal or regrow when it’s injured like a scraped knee. Enamel loss from tooth decay will need to be fixed with a filling, root canal therapy and a crown, and in some cases, your tooth may even need to be pulled. The faster you seek help from your dentist, the less damage will occur, and the higher the chances of saving your tooth.

Find the answer to what’s going on with your teeth and gums with a visit to Brocks Gap Dental Group.

Self-diagnosis can help you get temporary relief from your symptoms and give you some peace of mind, but it’s never a replacement for professional diagnosis and treatment. We encourage our patients to share their symptoms with us, no matter how minor they may seem. From there we can determine if you need a dental appointment and how urgently the appointment needs to be booked.

If you’re experiencing anything unusual with your teeth, gums, or mouth, please don’t hesitate to call Brocks Gap Dental Group to schedule an appointment.