12 Common Teeth Problems

Reasons for Pain or Discomfort and How to Manage Symptoms

Common teeth problems can often be prevented. It takes brushing twice a day, flossing daily, eating a healthy diet, and regular dental check-ups to maintain good oral health and avoid issues such as:

  • Tooth decay
  • Infections of the gum, tooth, or root
  • Erosion
  • Sensitivity
  • Crooked teeth

Educating yourself about common dental problems and their causes can also go a long way in preventing problems.

This article looks at eleven common dental problems plus how they're prevented and treated.

Most Common Dental Problems

Verywell / Emily Roberts


Bad Breath

Bad breath, or halitosis, can be embarrassing. Studies say a dental condition is to blame in about 85% of people with persistent bad breath. They may include:

  • Gum disease
  • Cavities
  • Oral cancer
  • Dry mouth
  • Bacteria on the tongue

Mouthwash only masks the odor caused by these problems. If you have chronic bad breath, visit your dentist to see what's behind it.


Tooth Decay

Tooth decay (cavities) is the most common health ailment in the United States. It is especially common among people who lack regular access to health care.

Tooth decay occurs when plaque combines with sugars and/or starches of the food you eat. The combination produces acids that attack tooth enamel.

You can get cavities at any age; they aren't just for children. Aging and normal enamel erosion can cause them. So can dry mouth due to age, illness, or medications.

The best way to prevent tooth decay is by brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and getting regular dental check-ups. Also, eat healthy foods and avoid high-sugar snacks and drinks.

Ask your dentist about more ways to keep your teeth healthy.


Gum (Periodontal) Disease

Gum disease is an infection in the gums around your teeth. It's also a major cause of adult tooth loss. Some studies show a link between gum disease and heart problems.

Everyone's at risk for gum disease. But it's most common after age 30. Smoking is a significant risk factor along with health conditions such as diabetes and dry mouth.

The symptoms include:

  • Bad breath
  • Red, swollen, tender, or bleeding gums
  • Sensitive teeth
  • Pain when chewing

Gingivitis is the technical name of gum disease. Periodontitis is advanced gum disease. Regular dental check-ups, brushing, and flossing can prevent them.

See your dentist if you have any signs of gum disease. Treatment can prevent problems such as tooth loss.


Oral Cancer

Oral cancer is a serious and deadly disease. It affects millions of people and is more common after age 40.

Someone in the United States dies of oral cancer every hour. But this disease is often curable if it's diagnosed and treated in the early stages.

Risk factors for oral cancer include:

  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Alcohol use
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Poor nutrition
  • Genetic syndromes

The symptoms of mouth or throat cancer include:

  • Sores
  • Lumps
  • Rough areas in the mouth
  • Change in your bite
  • Difficulty chewing or moving your tongue or jaw

Regular dental visits can help catch oral cancer early. Ask your dentist whether an oral cancer exam is part of their usual checkup.

See Your Dentist if You:

  • Notice any symptoms of oral cancer
  • Have problems chewing or swallowing
  • Have trouble moving your tongue or jaw

Mouth Sores

Several types of mouth sores can be bothersome. They're usually nothing to worry about unless they last more than two weeks.

Common mouth sores include:

  • Canker sores (aphthous ulcers): These occur inside the mouth and not on the lips. They aren't contagious and can be triggered by many different causes.
  • Fever blisters/cold sores: Caused by the Herpes simplex virus, they occur on the edge of the outer lips. They're contagious. They come and go but can't be cured.
  • Thrush (oral candidiasis): Yeast infection sores in the mouth can occur in infants, denture wearers, people with diabetes, and people treated for cancer.

Tooth Erosion

Tooth erosion is the loss of tooth structure. It's caused by acid attacking the enamel.

Symptoms can range from sensitivity to more severe problems such as cracking. Tooth erosion is common but easily preventable with proper oral care.


Tooth Sensitivity

Tooth sensitivity is a common problem. It affects millions of people. Sensitivity involves pain or discomfort from:

  • Sweets
  • Cold air
  • Hot drinks
  • Cold drinks
  • Ice cream

Sensitive teeth can make it painful to brush and floss. But sensitive teeth can be treated. So talk to your dentist about it.

Sensitivity can be a sign of a cracked or abscessed tooth. Those need to be treated by a dentist. Otherwise, you risk losing a tooth or getting an infection in your jawbone.

If you suddenly develop tooth sensitivity, make a dentist appointment. They can see if you have a problem that needs to be treated.


Toothaches and Dental Emergencies

Dental emergencies can be painful and scary. They require urgent treatment just like any emergency.

Common problems that require an urgent trip to the dentist include:

Call your dentist right away about any of these issues. Even on weekends and evenings, they should have someone on call to handle emergencies.

Get Urgent Medical Attention For:

  • A broken or dislocated jaw
  • Severe cuts to your tongue, lips, or mouth
  • A tooth abscess that causes difficulty swallowing
  • Facial swelling

Unattractive Smile

An unattractive smile isn't technically a "dental problem." But it is a major reason some people go to the dentist.

Not liking your smile can be hard on your self-esteem. Luckily, with today's tools and techniques, it's often fixable.

Cosmetic changes may include:


Root Infection

Long-lasting, throbbing tooth pain is a sign that you have an infection in the tooth's root. This type of infection develops if tooth decay or damage to a tooth is not properly treated. Bacteria invade and weaken the root of a tooth, which is the part of the tooth under the crown. It forms an anchor for the tooth and extends towards the jaw bone.

If you develop a root infection, you need to have root canal treatment. During this type of medical treatment, the bacteria is removed from the canal; the tooth is then sealed with a crown or filling.

Root canals can result in partial healing of the tissue around the tooth or a complete healing. Research shows an average of 76.7% of cases are completely healed. A successful root canal will alleviate pain and sensitivity, allowing you to eat better, complete regular oral hygiene routines, and avoid further infections.


Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding, also known as bruxism, occurs when you grind your teeth together, especially at night, and don't realize it. This exerts up to hundreds of pounds of force on your teeth and jaw, which can lead to dental and other health problems over time such as.

  • Cracked teeth
  • Flattening of the jaw
  • Jaw and neck pain
  • Headaches

Treatments for teeth grinding include night guard mouthpieces and dental splints. These will not stop grinding, but they will prevent damage to the teeth. Sleep aid medication may also be prescribed because they reduce muscle activity which can slow down or stop nighttime grinding.

Stress is sometimes a trigger for teeth grinding. Cognitive behavioral therapy or other stress-reducing treatments may help you to stop grinding your teeth.


TMD Disorders

TMDs (temporomandibular disorders) are a group of more than 30 conditions that affect the temporomandibular joints (TMJs) of the jaw. Along with their connected muscles, the TMJs control most jaw movements.

TMDs develop when the mandible (the lower jaw) and the TMJs are misaligned or not synchronized in movement. Most TMDs involve some form of jaw discomfort, pain, and dysfunction. As a result, a person with a TMD may have problems with chewing and swallowing, yawning, talking, or another jaw function.


Most common dental problems can be avoided if you:

  • Brush your teeth twice a day
  • Floss everyday
  • See your dentist regularly
  • Don't smoke
  • Get help for any problems you notice, such as mouth sores or rough spots

Make appointments with your dentist when problems arise. Be sure to let them know about any pain or sensitivity you're having. And get urgent help for dental emergencies.

13 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  7. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care: InformedHealth.org. Canker sores (mouth ulcers): Overview.

  8. Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care, InformedHealth.org. Cold sores: Overview.

  9. Kanzow P, Wegehaupt FJ, Attin T, Wiegand A. Etiology and pathogenesis of dental erosion. Quintessence Int. 2016;47(4):275-8. doi:10.3290/j.qi.a35625

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  11. Ng YL, Mann V, Gulabivala K. Outcome of secondary root canal treatment: a systematic review of the literatureInt Endod J. 2008;41(12):1026-1046. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2591.2008.01484.x

  12. Sleep Foundation. Bruxism: teeth grinding at night.

  13. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Temporomandibular disorder (TMD).

Additional Reading

By Tammy Davenport
Tammy Davenport is a dental assistant with experience on the clinical and administrative side.