Dental Problems, Treatment, and Prevention

Symptoms Likely Cause Treatment Prevention
Bad Breath
Odor from mouth; bad, metallic taste; coated tongue Food caught around and between teeth; infection in gums; improper brushing; sinusitis; digestive problems, such as pre-ulcerative conditions; diabetes Practice good oral hygiene, including rinsing with mouthwash; brush tongue often; see dentist to evaluate throat, sinuses, tongue, and possible gum infection, and professionally clean teeth and gums; review diet Regular dental visits; flossing, brushing and rinsing; good nutrition
Broken Tooth or Filling
Tooth feels sharp; tooth sensitivity to temperature and pressure Accidental trauma; decay; weak tooth from grinding or improper bite Do not irritate; place piece of soft dental wax from drugstore over cracked or fractured tooth; see a dentist for sealant, bonding, and restoration of tooth as soon as possible Regular dental checkups to discover possible weak teeth, decay, or large, unstable fillings
Canker Sores
Painful red circular area that develops on the tongue, gums, lips, or cheeks; in certain phases, sores have a yellow or white center area; sore to touch; sensitivity to spicy, salty foods Bacterial or viral infection; trauma from denture in mouth; stress Use over-the-counter remedies recommended by your dentist; coat lesions after meals; see dentist to make sure there is no infection or for additional medication if pain persists more than 48 hours; if you have dentures, the dentist will evaluate weight-bearing points to be certain the problem does not exist there Avoid irritating the area; avoid spicy, acidic foods
Dental Abscess(swelling around tooth or cheek)
Pain, throbbing in gum or tooth; swelling; sensitive bite; loose teeth; sensitivity to heat Tooth decay; initial eruption of tooth through the gums or fractured tooth; tooth nerve damage Rinse with salt water solution; use mouthwash; avoid eating on or near tooth; see dentist immediately; may require antibiotics or root canal treatment to prevent spread of infection Regular dental checkups; good oral hygiene; brushing, flossing, and rinsing
Discolored teeth
Teeth have unsightly and discolored appearance; single tooth begins to turn yellow or gray Surface stain from certain foods, such as tea and coffee; internal staining from tooth nerve damage or from rheumatic fever; stains from tetracycline Improve oral hygiene; brush frequently; diminish coffee or tea intake; rinse with peroxide; consult dentist to check nerve in darkened tooth; consider supervised tooth bleaching/whitening Good oral hygiene; avoid foods and liquids that can stain teeth, such as tea and coffee
Gum Disease
Gum pain; non-throbbing ache; swelling; gum bleeding; blood in saliva when brushing; metallic taste Food debris between teeth; tartar beneath gums; infection; poor bite may worsen this condition Improve oral hygiene by brushing often and flossing; rinse with mouthwash; consult dentist to evaluate extent of condition; treatment by removing plaque and tartar may require surgery and/or bite adjustment Good oral hygiene; regular dental checkups and cleanings
Red Inflamed Gums
Color of gums around teeth progresses from pink to red with swelling or puffiness; dry mouth; snoring Mouth breathing; some medications, such as antihistamines, blood pressure medications, and antidepressants, decrease salivary flow Use oral salivary rinses and toothpastes for dry mouth; improve oral hygiene; consult dentist because this condition can lead to tooth decay, advanced gum disease, or other mouth infections Ask physician if medications can be changed; consult dentist about obtaining oral rinses and a snoreguard
Loose Teeth
Teeth move; spongy feel to bite; teeth sensitive or even painful when chewing Gum disease; tooth grinding; orthodontic appliances too tight; cyst, tumor, abscess, or trauma to teeth See dentist as soon as possible to determine cause; practice good oral hygiene; be aware of tooth grinding or clenching and use appliance to prevent grinding Regular dental visits; good oral hygiene; have your dentist evaluate your bite; use a bite appliance if your dentist advises
Lumps Under Jaw or Neck Muscle
Neck sore to touch or movement; swelling in neck; sore throat; difficulty swallowing Cold/flu; tooth abscess or infection; tumor Treat cold/flu symptoms; limit neck movement; check temperature; take pain relievers such as aspirin; see a dentist if symptoms persist to evaluate the extent of swelling and infection Regular dental checkups; patients should pay special attention to any growth or changes in the head or neck
Toothache (tooth pain on biting or chewing)
Tooth pain related to temperature change or touch or from chewing or biting; dark brown spots on teeth may indicate new decay Bacterial acids; large filling broken out of tooth; tooth grinding Rinse mouth often with vanilla extract to soothe discomfort; avoid chewing on tooth; see a dentist as soon as possible to determine cause and further treatment Regular dental visits for prevention; the sooner you are examined, the better the chance of success
Tooth Sensitivity to Temperature Change
Breathing outside in cold air causes pain; waking up with toothache; pain when eating/drinking cold things Inflamed gums; gum recession that exposes root surfaces; tooth decay; teeth clenching or grinding that has worn away tooth enamel Use desensitizing toothpaste on a daily basis; use a soft bristle brush; avoid temperature differences; consult dentist for appropriate treatment Good oral hygiene; apply fluoride gel; use desensitizing toothpaste; avoid food temperature differences; avoid hard bristle toothbrushes; become aware of and avoid tooth grinding or squeezing teeth together; have fillings bonded to seal areas of sensitivity; the dentist may recommend a biteguard if you grind your teeth
Tooth Knocked Out
Bleeding; torn gum tissue in tooth space Trauma to jaw or face Soak tooth in saltwater solution, milk, or ice; if possible, replace tooth in socket, and hold firmly in place until you get to the dentist; see a dentist as soon as possible to stabilize/immobilize tooth with wire or appliance and receive additional advice, treatment Wear mouthguard when participating in sports

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Rhode Island Dental Association
875 Centerville Commons, Bldg. 4, Suite 12 | Warwick, RI 02886
(401) 825-7700
(401) 825-7722, fax