A bad taste in your mouth might not seem like a serious symptom, but it can actually be a sign that there’s a major problem with your oral health. A bad taste, or bad breath is often connected with a bacterial infection, which can be found either in your gums or in your teeth.

Checking for Gum Disease

Gum disease is a very common and very serious health condition, afflicting most American adults. If you experience a bad taste in your mouth, start by examining your gums carefully. They should be light in color, and should not be sensitive to touch, and shouldn’t be bleeding. Your teeth should look the same length and should definitely not be getting longer–that’s not your teeth growing, it’s your gums receding. Your teeth shouldn’t feel loose at all.

Pretty young businesswoman reacting to a bad taste in her mouth. What is causing yours?

Cavities or Tooth Decay

Another common cause of a bad taste in your mouth is a buildup of bacteria inside one of your teeth, what we call a tooth infection. As the bacteria reproduce in this anaerobic--airless--environment, they produce a lot of sulfurous compounds that then get released into your mouth, causing the bad taste.

Other symptoms you might notice include food getting stuck in a tooth where they didn’t get stuck before, sensitivity to heat or cold, and an enduring toothache.

It Can’t Be a Cavity–My Tooth Doesn’t Hurt

Toothaches are caused when something irritates the tooth nerve, which is located in the center of the tooth. Tooth decay often causes pain because it exposes your tooth root to unaccustomed pressure. That pressure may be because of your biting down on a tooth that no longer has the protective layers it used to. Or it may be because pressure is building up inside the tooth as bacteria reproduce inside the tooth.

But you might not feel any pain if the tooth decay isn’t in a place that exposes your tooth nerve to pressure–such as the side of the tooth. And if the decay is configured in a way that allows the expanding bacterial population to escape, there won’t be any pressure, just a bad taste as the waste and bacteria regularly seep out of the tooth and onto your tongue.

Other times, tooth pain occurs when bacteria begin to directly attack the tooth nerve. This is when the tooth is truly infected, and usually results in excruciating pain. But sometimes it doesn’t hurt much, and other times people mistake tooth pain for a headache (it might even feel like a headache because of referred pain), and then the tooth nerve dies so pain stops.

Other times, the infection may spread from your tooth to your sinuses or elsewhere in the body, resulting in a potentially life-threatening condition. It’s best to get your teeth checked regularly to detect cavities and infections before they turn into emergencies.

Treating an Infected Tooth

The proper treatment for an infected tooth depends on the extent of decay. For relatively small pockets of decay, we might use a tooth-colored filling–CEREC lets us create large white fillings that actually strengthen your teeth. For more serious decay, we will use a dental crown that will cover and protect the tooth.

If tooth decay is threatening your tooth nerve or has already compromised the tooth nerve, a root canal can usually restore the tooth to full function. But if the tooth is too damaged to be preserved with a root canal, it can be removed and replaced with a dental implant.

Don’t ignore a bad taste in your mouth. It can threaten not just your teeth, but your life. To find out what’s behind that bad taste and get rid of it once and for all, please call (702) 873-0324 for an appointment with a Las Vegas reconstructive dentist at the office of Dr. James B. Polley.