What Does Your Mouth Pain Really Mean? Time to Crack the Case
Been feeling a little different lately? Waking up with a sore jaw, or finding flossing painful? When it comes to mouth pain, you can probably predict what we’re going to recommend (as dental professionals): a trip to the office. But you may be underestimating just how important that trip could be. Depending on the cause of the pain, immediate treatment could preserve your smile and your overall health.
If something seems different and you’re not sure what’s up, take the plunge and make the call. Although it’s definitely stressful facing a potential dental problem, it’s always better to know what’s really going on in your mouth. Chances are, the truth will be a lot less scary than what you’ve imagined.
Common Causes of Oral Discomfort
It’s tough to pinpoint the cause of pain at home. For one thing, you can’t see into your own mouth well. For another, many problems don’t manifest visual signs. But the intensity and location of your pain can point to the culprit. Some of the most common painful dental problems are detailed below.
- Cavities – These holes in enamel form when acids eat through the outer layer of the tooth. The acids and bacteria in the area are then able to cause tooth decay. Cavities (aka caries) destroy the hard tissues that make up the tooth’s structure. When managed early on, cavities don’t have to be a big deal. But if they progress, they may enter inner layers of the tooth. At this point, the tooth is prone to infection, requiring treatment with a root canal or extraction. When a tooth is crying out for help, don’t ignore it. If that pain is accompanied by dark spots on the enamel or bad breath, a cavity is the likely cause.
- Gingivitis/periodontal disease – When plaque builds up on the teeth, it causes more than just cavities. Your gums will respond to the heightened presence of bacteria by growing inflamed. Aggravated gums are prone to infection. Bacteria invade the pockets that form between swollen gums and your teeth. This jeopardizes tooth stability, as well as tooth and gum health. If your gums are feeling sore, and looking swollen, darkened, or bloody, get in touch ASAP!
- Malocclusion / TMJ disorder– Your occlusion is the alignment of your bite. When your jaws are properly aligned, your teeth fit together neatly and you can bite/chew comfortably. But if the jaws don’t meet well (as in an overbite or underbite), you won’t always feel good. Long-term malocclusion can lead to problems with the TMJ, or the jaw joint. You may lose some of the range of motion you normally enjoy, or experience jaw fatigue. Your TMJ is located on both sides of the face, in front of and slightly below your ears. Feeling pain in that area? The problem could be related to your bite.
- Bruxism – Chronic teeth grinding is a rampant problem among patients of all ages. Most clenching and grinding take place at night, so it’s rare to realize that you’re bruxing. A dental professional will be able to recognize the signs (which include worn enamel and receding gums). If your teeth and jaws feel sore in the morning, or you often wake with headaches, you’re likely bruxing.
- Aphthous ulcers – Aphthous ulcers aren’t as frightening as that term sounds. They’re canker sores. And while canker sores cause general discomfort, they rarely lead to serious problems. It’s usually possible to relieve the pain with over-the-counter canker sore relief products.
Your Elkhart General Dentist
A general dentist is equipped to deal with every kind of mouth pain. Whether the problem can be solved with quick treatment, or you’re facing long-term measures, we’ll guide you through the process. If there’s an underlying problem that demands more complex attention, Dr. Lee will recommend a local specialist to get you back in fighting shape. Get in touch to get relief!