Keep your mouth healthy by knowing how to handle dental problems.

Although teeth seem simple on the surface, they’re perfectly designed to perform a wide range of jobs. They help us speak, eat, and express emotion; the way our teeth look even impacts our self-confidence. Taking care of your teeth with good oral hygiene helps ensure they’ll stay healthy throughout your lifetime while improving your overall health. Even if you take great care of your teeth, you may find yourself struggling with dental problems, like sensitive teeth, a toothache, or a dental injury, at some point in your life.

It can be difficult to know how — or if — you should handle these dental problems at home and when you should contact Dr. Allred about them. If you’re struggling to decide what you should do about your dental symptoms, here are 10 common dental problems and how to handle them.

1. Toothaches

Toothaches have a wide range of causes. Paying attention to the severity of your pain, the type of pain, and how constant it is will help you narrow down its cause. There are five major types of tooth pain: throbbing, aching, stabbing, sensitivity, and pressure. Cavities are usually painless, but when they reach the nerve of your tooth, they can cause a constant, dull ache or intermittent, stabbing pains. A cracked tooth or an abscess, which is an infection at your tooth’s root that needs to be treated immediately, can both cause sharp pains or sensitivity in the affected tooth.

In some cases, a dull, aching pain can simply be caused by debris stuck in your gums, which may cause them to swell slightly. If flossing doesn’t dislodge debris or provide relief, however, it will require treatment by a dentist. If your pain is severe, you should call and schedule an emergency appointment. While you wait for your appointment, you can manage your discomfort at home. You could try cold compresses and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medications. Home remedies like clove oil, which has been used to treat toothaches for hundreds of years, may also help.

2. Bleeding Gums

Bleeding gums can be caused by brushing them too vigorously. They may also be a sign of health issues, like diabetes, severe periodontal disease (known as periodontitis), vitamin deficiencies, and some cancers, like leukemia. In some cases, medications, like blood thinners, can also cause your gums to bleed when you brush your teeth.

You can try a few things to resolve your bleeding gums before you schedule an appointment with your dentist. First, make sure you’re brushing your teeth with gentle, circular motions using a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss your teeth at least once a day. Flossing is the best way to prevent gum disease and can resolve minor gum disease at home. If you have gingivitis, your gums will bleed for a week or two when you first begin to floss , but then the bleeding should stop. If it doesn’t, you likely have more severe gum disease or a different underlying cause and should schedule a dental appointment right away.

At your appointment, Dr. Allred can determine the cause of your bleeding gums. If you have periodontitis, he can treat it using antibiotics and a wide range of nonsurgical and surgical periodontal treatments. The exact treatment you’ll need will depend upon your individual case, so it’s best to get a consultation before you worry about which treatment you’ll need.

3. Chipped, Cracked, or Broken Tooth

Any time you injure a tooth, you should schedule an appointment with Dr. Allred right away. These injuries aren’t always dental emergencies, so you might need to wait a few days for an appointment opening, but any injury where your pain is severe is a dental emergency, and you should get an immediate appointment. If you can find it, make sure you collect the broken or chipped-off part of your tooth because Dr. Allred may be able to reattach it using dental bonding.

While you’re waiting for your appointment, use dental wax to cover any sharp edges; this will protect the sensitive tissues of your mouth from getting cut by the tooth. You can also manage any discomfort using ice packs and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pain medications or home remedies like clove oil.

4. Knocked-Out Tooth

There are few dental problems that are as urgent as a knocked-out tooth. Call our office immediately to schedule an emergency appointment; ideally, you should see Dr. Allred within 30 minutes of losing a tooth. While you’re calling our office, pick the tooth up by its crown — never touch the root — and rinse it with water. Only rinse it to remove dirt from its surface; don’t scrub the tooth clean, use soap, or pull loose tissue off of it. If you can, you should put the tooth right back into the empty socket and hold it gently in place. This makes it more likely for Dr. Allred to be able to save the tooth.

If you can’t reposition the tooth in its socket, place it in a small container of your saliva or milk. Losing a tooth can be incredibly painful, so you can manage your pain while you get to our office by using over-the-counter pain medications or clove oil; just be sure to tell us what you’ve taken for pain when you arrive at our office for your emergency appointment.

5. Tooth Sensitivity

If just one or two of your teeth are sensitive to cold, you may have a cavity or a periodontal abscess. A more generalized sensitivity can be due to issues like enamel erosion, gum recession, or grinding your teeth at night. You can try to reduce or eliminate sensitivity at home by brushing your teeth with a soft-bristled toothbrush and specialized toothpaste. If the sensitivity persists after a few weeks, schedule an appointment with Dr. Allred to determine what’s causing your tooth sensitivity. If you’re grinding your teeth at night, you can protect your teeth from injury and reduce sensitivity by wearing a night guard. Enamel erosion and gum recession can be treated with veneers and gum grafts, respectively.

6. Bruxism (Teeth Clenching/Grinding)

Clenching or grinding your teeth when you sleep is a difficult habit to break since you’re asleep when you do it, but it poses a risk of injury to your teeth; not only can you chip, crack, or break your teeth this way, but the habit often wears teeth down over time. You can try to manage this by practicing meditation or mindfulness techniques before bed and attempting to manage your stress better, but you may need to schedule an appointment with Dr. Allred to get fitted for a night guard. This appliance is designed specifically for you for maximum comfort while holding your jaw in a naturally relaxed position during the night to prevent you from grinding your teeth.

7. Dry Mouth

Dry mouth is a common problem characterized by a lack of saliva in your mouth, which is uncomfortable, as well as dangerous for your oral health. Saliva clears your mouth of debris and fights cavity-causing bacteria, so your teeth and gums are vulnerable to decay without it. Many people experience dry mouth as a side effect of prescription medications. It can also be caused by health issues, such as diabetes and autoimmune diseases like Sjogren’s syndrome or HIV/AIDS.

Regardless of the root cause, you can fight dry mouth at home by drinking plenty of water, chewing sugarless gum, and using a specialized mouthwash. If you’re not sure which mouthwash is right for you, you can look for the ADA seal of approval or ask Dr. Allred for his opinion.

8. Bad Breath

If your bad breath returns a few minutes after you brush your teeth, there are several potential culprits. The simplest answer is your diet; foods like onions, garlic, and cumin create byproducts that are absorbed into your bloodstream and end up in your lungs. This gives your breath a bad odor for hours or days after your well-seasoned meal. If you eat a lot of these foods, you can cut back on the amount to try to improve your breath. Persistently bad breath can also be caused by larger issues, like dry mouth, tooth decay, periodontal disease, and even oral cancer.

You can combat bad breath by brushing your teeth for two minutes twice a day, as well as using mouthwash and flossing at least once a day. Flossing regularly may cause your gums to bleed at first, but it will help resolve more minor cases of gum disease. If the problem persists or your gums continue bleeding even after you’ve been flossing every day for two weeks, you should call Dr. Alhadef. He can perform an evaluation to discover the cause of your bad breath. Once he’s treated the root cause by filling a cavity or cleaning your gums, your breath should stay fresher longer.

9. Jaw Pain

Problems with your temporomandibular joint, or TMJ, can cause severe jaw pain and stiffness that makes it difficult to eat, speak, and swallow. It can also cause headaches, dizziness, and pain in your shoulders, neck, back, and ears. TMJ pain can be caused by a wide range of issues, from an injury to the jaw itself to arthritis or a misalignment of your teeth or jaws. To reduce your pain, stick to soft foods during flare-ups and avoid opening your jaws too wide. You can also look up jaw exercises and stretches online and practice them at home. If these methods don’t relieve your pain, schedule an appointment with your dentist to look into treatments like mouth guards or oral splints.

10. Lack of Confidence in Your Smile

If there’s a feature of your smile you’re self-conscious of or are not in love with, such as crooked or stained teeth, there are steps you can take — both at home and with Dr. Allred — to get the smile you’ve always wanted. For example, you can improve the whiteness of your smile at home by sticking to a great oral hygiene routine, using a whitening toothpaste, and applying over-the-counter whitening strips, but these methods have their limits. While over-the-counter products can whiten your teeth slightly, getting a professional whitening treatment from Dr. Allred is the only way to whiten your teeth by multiple shades. You can then use a whitening toothpaste alongside yearly touch-up treatments to keep your smile white for years to come. If you have crooked teeth, veneers or crowns can cover one or two crooked teeth, while clear aligners can discreetly straighten your entire smile.

While great oral hygiene can help prevent many dental problems, knowing how to spot issues with your teeth or gums and how to handle those issues is also essential. This way, you’ll be able to treat dental problems early, which will keep your mouth healthier and ensure your teeth and gums are able to do their jobs for your entire lifetime.