In last week’s blog, we outlined the important steps for identifying and managing a true dental emergency. The current restrictions, aimed at protecting all of us and stopping the global health crisis, make it tough for us to reach our goal of providing the most conservative dentistry possible. While we can’t wait to get back to our normal operating procedures and look forward to seeing all of our patients for preventive care, we know that there are some issues that will require a little more urgency. We know everyone has a long to-do list to face once the restrictions are finally lifted. We want you to know which signs and symptoms of dental problems to look for so that you know when to move “Dental Appointment” to the top of that list.
You’ll notice that some of these will include a description of “worsening ______ despite ________”. It is important to recognize that worsening symptoms typically indicates a progressive problem. This is contrasted with a symptom that remains relatively consistent. Problems that are worsening need intervention as soon as possible. If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, you will likely need dental treatment when we are able to begin performing non-essential procedures.
Signs of Cavities
Early cavities are not visible to the naked eye and require either dental x-rays or other imaging to detect. As they grow, cavities become easier to identify. Some cavities are obvious and visible as dark brown or black holes in the teeth. Others occur between the teeth or under the gums, making them impossible to see with a simple visual inspection. Here are the signs that you might have a significant cavity:
- Worsening sensitivity to cold or sweets despite using anti-sensitivity products
- Small pieces of tooth structure chipping away
- Food easily stuck between teeth
Signs of Gum Disease
Periodontal disease is often harder to spot because it can be a “silent” disease. Unfortunately, once symptoms show up, it may already be severe. The following may indicate the presence of moderate to severe gum disease.
- Worsening bad breath despite great, consistent oral hygiene care at home
- New spaces developing between the teeth
- New “black triangles” or gaps between the teeth and gums
- Bleeding when brushing or flossing that does not improve despite great, consistent oral hygiene at home
Signs of Cracked Teeth
Unlike cavities and gum disease, cracked teeth have no relation to dental plaque or bacterial infections. They occur as the result of heavy forces to the teeth, either as a single traumatic event (biting down on a foreign object) or as continual “microtrauma” from bad habits over time (like clenching or grinding your teeth). If you suspect that you may have a cracked tooth, it is important that you avoid chewing on the tooth and protect it from nighttime forces if possible. The following signs are indications of early tooth fracture. Once the crack spreads to the area of the nerve, the symptoms will be consistent with those of a toothache/infection.
- A sharp twinge on a specific tooth when chewing
- Sharp sensitivity to cold on a specific tooth that resolves quickly
Signs of TMJ Problems
Many people are under extremely high levels of stress during this unprecedented time. Some have an increased workload and longer hours. Others have no work and no income. Regardless of your situation, this isn’t easy for anyone. In times of stress, many people suffer from heavy clenching and/or grinding of the teeth and TMJ problems. Problems in the jaw joints can cause the following symptoms:
- Popping sounds in the joint that become increasingly annoying or uncomfortable
- Pain in the jaw joints or ears
- Facial muscle pain and headaches in the temples
- Ringing in the ears
- A shift in the way the teeth bite together
It will take dental intervention to address serious TMJ problems. It is possible to alleviate some of your symptoms by undertaking stress relief tactics, like meditation, stretches, physical therapy exercises, etc . . .
More Information about Dental Care during COVID-19
Follow our social media pages on Instagram and Facebook to find important information about when we will be able to provide non-essential dental care. Call the office at 972-347-1145 to reach our on-call dentists if you have an urgent dental concern.