There are things that many of us tend to put off. Going to the dentist probably sits prominently at or near the top of that list. The reasons range from not making it a priority in your busy life to being afraid of what needs to be done. According to the Center for Disease Control, almost 25% of adults between the ages of 20 and 64 have dental decay that needs treatment. Unfortunately, dental decay when left untreated only worsens over time and often requires complicated treatment plans. Below are some signs and symptoms that would indicate a need for some professional help:
Cold or Hot Sensitivity – Mild sensitivity to cold drinks or ice cream is common. Brief and sharp sensitivity to cold or hot may signal an irritated tooth. The irritation could be from dental decay or dentin exposure. Dentin is the softer layer of tooth structure beneath enamel that can feel the elements of cold, hot and fluid movement. Treatment involves sealing the dentin in the form of a filling or other protective seal. Some toothpastes are even designed to help seal sensitive areas that do not require a filling or dental treatment. However, sharp pain which occurs repeatedly or lingers after exposure to cold or hot could be a sign of something happening deeper within the tooth. A larger cavity or injury could have affected the pulp of the tooth which contains the blood supply (vitality) and nerve of the tooth. Once affected in this way, root canal treatment is often required. Root canal treatment involves sterilizing the inner pulp chamber and placing an inert filling material to seal the space from bacterial growth.
Dark Tooth – If a tooth appears dark compared to the teeth next to it, it could be a sign of a nonvital tooth. A nonvital tooth occurs when the blood supply to the tooth is lost due to injury. The tooth then darkens due to the by-products of blood within the tooth. Impact injury from sports is a common reason for this to occur. If an infection is associated with a darkened tooth, root canal treatment is usually necessary. Baby teeth color can change to pink, red, gray, brown, black or yellow after an injury. For a low percentage of these cases, despite the change in color in a baby tooth, the tooth can return to health. This can be properly evaluated by a dentist to determine if infection is present and will require treatment. Dental treatment may involve removal of the tooth, a baby root canal or regular monitoring.
Bleeding Gums – If you notice bleeding every time you brush or floss, this usually indicates inflammation of the gums and, in some cases, jawbone. The extent of the damage to the gums and jawbone dictates the treatment. “Gingivitis” describes inflammation of the gums while “periodontitis” describes inflammation of the surrounding structures of our teeth which includes the jawbone. In fact, periodontitis means that there is loss of jawbone. As for treatment, gingivitis requires good, thorough professional dental cleanings done on a regular basis. Treatment for periodontitis is more involved. Mild cases could require cleanings performed under local anesthesia while more advanced cases may require gum surgery and continuous follow-up care. Unfortunately, periodontal disease is the leading cause of tooth loss. Some statistics estimate that more than half of adults suffer from periodontitis. Often, no symptoms are felt and can progress unnoticed until it reaches advanced stages.
Broken Filling or Chipped Tooth – When a filling falls out or an area on your tooth feels rough to the tongue, it’s likely the dentin on the tooth is exposed. Because dentin is soft it needs the natural enamel layer of the tooth to protect it, otherwise it is more prone to rapidly growing decay. It is best to have the tooth restored to protect the tooth from decay formation. In most every situation, it is essential to take care of a potential dental problem immediately when signs and symptoms arise. But before you even get to that point, preventive care with good home care and regular dental check-ups is always the best policy.
Children 16 years and younger are invited to a complimentary exam and checkup x-rays.