It can be easy to put off your regular dental exams, even when you notice a nagging symptom in your mouth. But ignoring warning signs can easily allow seemingly minor issues to become more serious and require further treatment down the road. Catching and treating oral health issues early on saves you precious time and money, so be sure to visit the dentist if you notice any of these signs!
Pain in Your Jaw or Teeth
Probably the most obvious sign to see the dentist, pain in your jaw or teeth is a clear sign that you should visit your dentist immediately! Though commonly caused by tooth decay or gum disease, there are numerous possible underlying causes of jaw or tooth pain that your dentist can help diagnose and treat.
Bumps, Sores or Other Changes in Your Mouth
Mouth sores, discoloration, and bumps or lumps on your cheeks, gums, or tongue that do not go away after one to two weeks should be examined as soon as possible. White spots on your teeth can be an early indicator of tooth decay, and can sometimes be reversed if addressed early enough.
Bleeding or Inflamed Gums
If your gums are often bleeding or inflamed, you could have gingivitis (earliest stage of gum disease), periodontitis (gum disease), or plaque buildup. 1 in 2 American adults have some stage of gum disease. If left untreated, it can progress to a very serious gum infection that has dire effects throughout the mouth and body, including loose and lost teeth, loss of jaw bone, higher risk of stroke, heart and lung diseases, complications during pregnancy, and more.
Persistent Bad Breath
Halitosis (bad breath that persists despite regular flossing and brushing) can be an indication of a more serious issue, like gingivitis or bacterial plaque build up. It can also be a result of chronic dry mouth, which is another symptom that should be looked at and treated.
Though dry mouth is often a result of aging or medication, a sudden onset of persistent dry mouth with seemingly no cause can be an indicator of tooth decay. Our saliva helps protect our mouths against tooth decay, gum disease and other oral infections, so dry mouth is not just uncomfortable but also a serious oral health concern.
Sensitivity to Hot and/or Cold
Extreme sensitivity to hot and cold is typically an indicator of worn tooth enamel or receding gums, but can also be caused by other factors like tooth decay (cavities), cracked or chipped tooth, worn filling, or gum disease. All of these are oral health issues that will only worsen over time if left untreated.
Ongoing Medical Issues or Pregnancy
Ongoing health issues (like diabetes or cancer) and pregnancy have definite effects on oral health, and people with these conditions must be especially vigilant to prevent or catch any problems early on. Add a dentist to your health care team if you are pregnant or undergoing any chronic or prolonged medical issues.
With a good regular oral care routine as well as regular dental checkups, nearly all oral health issues can be prevented or caught and treated early before they become more serious ─ and more costly ─ issues. We use our mouths to eat, drink, speak, sing, and laugh, so be sure to treat your mouth with the care it deserves!