What are the signs of dental problems?

Dental symptoms affect the teeth and gums. They may include toothache, pain with chewing, sensitivity of the teeth, tooth discoloration, redness or swelling of the gums, receding or bleeding gums, worn-down teeth, broken or chipped teeth, and loose or lost teeth. Dental symptoms are commonly caused by tooth decay, infection, inflammation or injury; however, malnutrition, certain types of cancer, and inherited disorders can also cause these symptoms.

Tooth decay is an ongoing process. Bacteria that are naturally present in the mouth combine with saliva and food particles to form plaque. The bacteria produce acid when they break down foods, especially those containing sugars and starches. The acid erodes the enamel, the hard protective surface of teeth. Sensitivity and pain can result from tooth decay. Tooth decay can lead to cavity formation. Left untreated, cavities can lead to painful tooth abscesses and tooth loss.

Plaque can also contribute to gingivitis (reversible inflammation of the gums) and periodontitis (gum disease). At first the damage is reversible, but as the gums begin to recede, plaque and tartar (hardened plaque) can enter the spaces between the teeth and gums, spreading infection to the ligaments and bone that support the teeth. This is a common cause of tooth loss in older adults.

Injuries, such as cracks or breaks in the tooth, are other potential causes of tooth infection and abscess. Tooth grinding (bruxism) can wear down teeth, chip teeth, and cause sensitivity. Sensitivity can also be caused by erosion of the enamel. This can be associated with brushing too vigorously, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), and bulimia. Pain felt in the mouth and teeth can also come from other sources, such as sinus or ear infections. Pain from a heart attack can include the jaw.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if you had an injury that knocked out a tooth. Try to keep the dislodged tooth in your mouth. If you are not able to do that, be sure to keep it moist. Also seek immediate care for severe headache, high fever, confusion, lethargy, seizure, chest pain, loss of consciousness, or change in level of consciousness.

Seek prompt medical care if your symptoms do not resolve in a day or two; if you have severe tooth pain; if you have redness or swelling around one or more teeth, of the gums, or of the face; if you have fever, earache, or pain when opening your mouth wide; or if your symptoms cause you concern. Also seek prompt medical care if you have broken, chipped or lost a tooth. Be sure to save any pieces in a cool, moist cloth.


What other symptoms might occur with dental symptoms?

Dental symptoms may accompany other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Symptoms that frequently affect the teeth may also involve other body systems.

Oral symptoms that may occur along with dental symptoms

Dental symptoms may accompany other symptoms affecting the mouth including:

  • Bad breath (halitosis) Read more about dental symptomssymptoms


What causes dental symptoms?

Dental symptoms are often caused by tooth decay, infection or injury. Tooth decay can progress to an infection of the core, or pulp, of the tooth, causing pain. Infections can also progress to abscesses and can cause the gums around the teeth to become red and swollen. Injury to a tooth can cause pain and lead to infection. Plaque can also contribute to gingivitis (reversible inflammation of th... Read more about dental symptomscauses

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 9, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Mouth, Teeth and Oral Health