Signs vs. Symptoms: Detecting Tooth and Gum Problems

When any of us at Daxon Dentistry describe a damaged tooth to a patient, the typical response tends to be, “Well, nothing is bothering me.”  Many dental problems will go symptom-free for quite a while, so we aren’t offended when we hear those words.  Instead, we want our patients to fully understand that our job is to identify signs of current and future problems. As dentists, we are thrilled when we hear patients say “nothing hurts” or “it isn’t bothering me.” This can mean that we may still have less invasive and less expensive options to treat.  Treating dental disease when signs are identified before symptoms develop can be the most conservative option.

Here’s a little cheat sheet to help you see the difference between the signs and symptoms of common dental problems.

Worn Teeth

Signs – “Cupping” of sharp points on premolars and molars, shiny wear facets, flattening of front teeth, abrasion at the gumline and erosion throughout the mouth.

Symptoms – Short teeth that don’t work well together, visible changes in facial features, dark areas that show up in photos, lack of ability to find a comfortable bite, and sensitivity to temperatures and pressure changes.

Cracked Teeth

Signs – Small craze lines and subtle changes in space and color around existing dental work, resorption of roots on dental x-rays, and pocketing found during a periodontal screening.

Symptoms – Sharp edges, bad tastes, unsightly fracture lines, and pain when chewing or during changes of temperature.

Loose Teeth

Signs – Changes in bone density and level on x-rays, subtle movements found during examinations, depressible teeth, shifting, tilting, and fremitus, which are vibrations felt when tapping teeth together.

Symptoms – Obvious movement of teeth when chewing, spaces developing between teeth that were not there before,  infection, and pain.

Infected Gums

Signs – Bleeding during periodontal screening, rolled gum margins, and recession.

Symptoms –  Pain upon chewing, visible bleeding while brushing and flossing, bad tastes, throbbing, sharp pains and swollen glands.

Not all patients see the correlation between signs and symptoms and what each means, but thankfully most concerning tooth and gum issues start with a sign that can be detected by your dental team.  Generally, patients report symptoms whereas a trained eye finds signs.  Of course, some signs are also symptoms.  Just like many other medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and even cancer, by the time a patient notices the symptoms, the treatment can change dramatically.

The best strategy to fight these conditions is early detection and treatment. Come see us at Daxon Dentistry so you can live  your life with peace of mind.