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    What could be causing pain or discomfort in my mouth?

    By Dr Jeffrey Kestenberg

    Patients who attend the doctor or the dentist with symptoms that they have persisted with for several weeks, months and even years, are seen in our clinic on almost a daily basis. Your body is telling you something when you experience pain, discomfort, itchiness, sensitivity to temperature change, a burning sensation, dry mouth or swelling.  These symptoms should not be ignored.

    If you see swelling, redness or bleeding of the gums, it is likely to be an issue.  If there are brown or black spots on your teeth, a sharp area when your tongue runs over your tooth or food is packing between your teeth, you are likely to have an issue that should be attended to by a dentist such as Brunswick Family Dental or Coburg Dental Group. Just call 9386 1805 to make an appointment.


    People experience pain because of some sort of injury or stimulus to your nervous system.  It is most commonly an obvious trauma or an infection, which is viral or bacterial.

    Tooth decay and gum infections are the most common causes of pain in the mouth but every year we see cases of pain caused by oral cancer, trigeminal neuralgia, and jaw joint disorders such as arthritis.  Because there can be so many different causes of mouth pain, it is best to have this checked out by a dentist.


    Sometimes people experience a mild discomfort in the mouth which is difficult to describe.  It can be non-specific and not located to one specific tooth or area. The causes of this type of discomfort can be complex to diagnose and often require special tests or investigations such as x-rays, nerve function tests or blood tests. These mild types of symptoms which often disappear after a few days, can be related to early onset tooth decay, or gingivitis. They should not be ignored because early intervention is usually easier, quicker and more economical to resolve.


    Itchiness in the mouth is usually a symptom related to the soft tissue.  Hayfever and gingivitis are the most common reasons that this occurs. If an anti-histamine medication doesn’t resolve the itchiness, it’s unlikely to be hayfever.

    Sensitivity to cold or hot

    If a tooth is sensitive to cold and hot foods and/or drinks, it is usually an indication that the nerve of the tooth is inflamed. Often the pain disappears quickly but this should not be an indication of the severity of the issue. This could be caused by tooth decay, trauma, a crack in the tooth or enamel erosion caused by increased acidity in the mouth. If the inflammation is reversible, a simple tooth coloured filling or other simple treatment will allow the nerve to heal. If the inflammation is irreversible and the nerve of the tooth has become infected the tooth will require a root canal treatment or an extraction, followed by tooth replacement.

    Dry Mouth

    Xerostomia (dry mouth) is often the result of dehydration.  Many people simply do not drink enough water everyday, particularly in warmer weather or environments. Dry mouth can also be a side effect of many prescribed drugs such as anti-depressants and natural therapies which affect salivary gland function.  Xerostomia is also found commonly in elderly patients where the ageing process has simply taken its toll on the salivary glands in the mouth. Pathology of a major salivary gland such as a tumour, can be a symptom but it is much more rare.

    Burning Sensation

    A burning sensation in the mouth is a common symptom which is usually related to a lack of saliva, dry mouth or dehydration.  It can also be found in people with nutritional deficiencies, some soft tissue pathologies, or people who suffer with clinical depression.

    Swelling in the mouth

    A swelling in the mouth should never be ignored and actually should be checked by a dentist as soon as possible. It is often a sign of infection which may come from an infected tooth, infected gum, salivary gland, bone or mucosa (skin of the mouth). Malignant and non-malignant tumours can also be seen as swellings in the mouth.

    The treatment of a swelling will depend on the diagnosis of the cause of the swelling.

    An x-ray and other tests, in addition to a clinical examination, will help the dentist with determining a diagnosis.

    The swelling may require drainage, biopsy, surgery, tooth removal, root canal treatment or a course of gum treatment.

    A Regular Dental Check-up

    Unfortunately, many people don’t attend the dentist for a regular 6 monthly check-up.  They wait for symptoms to develop and then have treatment.  It is certainly more economical, easier to tolerate and much healthier to see the dentist and the dental hygienist to have regular preventative care. If you’re looking for a dentist at Brunswick Family Dental or Coburg Dental Group it’s simple to book an appointment 03 9386 1805.