Many people tend to live with minor pains and aches without feeling the need to see a health specialist. But in most instances, that pain is actually our body’s signal, calling out for medical attention.
The case is no different when it comes to our teeth and oral health. Of course, fear of the dentist, and dread of dental bills, convince most to simply pass up a visit to the dentist.
Then, there are times where you may not be in immediate physical pain, but your health condition still requires that you get a dental check-up, and focus on oral care.
The fact is that the health of your mouth has a lot to do with your overall health. Add to this another fact – dental problems worsen quickly, and the longer you delay them, the worse it will be for you. Round it off with one more truth: just because you brush and floss regularly, doesn’t mean there couldn’t be some hidden problem with your teeth!
Now, it isn’t always obvious that you need immediate dental care. But there are some signs that you should definitely never overlook.
If you can relate to any one of the following 10 signs, then call up your dentist and book an appointment right away.
Let’s start with the most obvious sign. If you’ve ever experienced a toothache, then you know that this pain is incredibly hard to ignore. Something is bound to be wrong if one or more of your teeth are causing you pain.
But, the key is not to put this pain off as temporary, manageable, or unimportant. The problem behind the pain may be worse than you think. Even if your toothache only lasts for a few minutes, the wise thing to do is to get it checked right away and determine the root cause.
Even though pain is the most evident signal that you need medical attention, the reason that it’s first on the list is because people ignore it anyway.
The cause of the pain is likely to be a dental cavity, but other reasons could be an abscess, an injury, an infection, an impacted tooth, a tooth fracture, gum disease, or damaged previous dental work. Really, the list goes on and on.
2. Red Gums
Healthy gum tissue is typically pink in colour, so you will definitely notice something is off if your gums suddenly start looking red. Just like in any other part of the body, reddened tissue in the mouth indicates inflammation – it means that the area is infected, or injured.
This redness could be accompanied by pain, swelling, sensitivity, soreness, or even bleeding. Red gums could mean anything, from minor irritation, to serious infections. It could also mean that you have severe gum disease or periodontal disease, in which the tissues surrounding your teeth are destroyed.
In worst case scenario, gum disease can even lead to a serious and life-threatening heart infection called infective endocarditis.
Whether there is pain involved or not, reddened gums indicate that something is not normal in your mouth. Other symptoms may not be obvious, or they may not have arisen yet. This is why, a change in colour should be taken as the first sign to take preventative action.
3. Bad Breath
Most of the time, bad breath is a signal that you should head to the bathroom, not the dentist. Brushing twice a day and flossing at least once a week should be enough to keep bad breath at bay for the majority of us.
But if your bad breath problem prevails despite maintained oral hygiene, something is amiss. Bad breath or halitosis, could imply an infection in your mouth, or even in your nose or throat region. It could mean tonsil stones, or sinus inflammation.
Bad breath could even be signalling an unidentified metabolic disorder, or, in worst case scenario, it could be a sign of cancerous growth.
If you are dealing with persistent bad breath, then it’s definitely time to see your dentist and find out why it won’t go away.
4. Dry Mouth
If your mouth always feels parched, despite the fact that you drink enough water, something could be seriously wrong.
Dry mouth or xerostomia, is a condition where you do not produce enough saliva to keep your mouth hydrated and wet. Dry mouth could be a side effect of a medication you are currently taking, or it could be as a result of aging issues. Dry mouth could also mean that your salivary glands are affected by some health condition.
Saliva is extremely important for your oral health. It does everything from preventing tooth decay, to preventing bacterial growth, to keeping the mouth clean. Dry mouth is more than just a nuisance – it can seriously impact your dental health as well as your gentle health, not to mention your enjoyment of food.
5. Metallic Taste
Sometimes a funny taste appears, that almost tastes like you have been keeping an iron chain in your mouth or you’ve been sucking on copper coins. This finding may or may not be coupled with bleeding when you brush your teeth.
A metallic taste could mean that there is something wrong with the nerves that control taste sensation. It could be a side effect of a medication, but it could also indicate a respiratory infection, damage to the central nervous system, or even an undiscovered pregnancy.
Regardless of what the cause may be, take this sign seriously! If anything, you should do what you can to get rid of this unpleasant taste in your mouth.
6. Lumps and Bumps
Usually, painful lumps appear in the cheek if you bite the inside lining accidentally. This is just a small swelling that heals by itself. If the lump keeps getting bitten repeatedly, traumatic fibroma can occur, which does not heal.
However, this is still a harmless lump. Other lumps and bumps may be quite dangerous. If a suspicious bump appears on your tongue, cheeks, gums or lips, and it doesn’t heal by itself in a few days, the best course of action is to show it to a dentist straight away.
7. Teeth Grinding
Teeth grinding or bruxism, is typically something that happens during the night, due to stress or disturbed sleep. People tend to clench their teeth together tightly and move the jaw in a chewing action.
Teeth grinding can cause serious damage to the surface of your teeth, and even lead to cracks or fractures. During the day, the sore jaw muscles will cause you pain and headaches. Your jaw may even click when you open and close your mouth.
If you are a habitual teeth grinder, you should discuss this matter with a dental expert as soon as possible to correct the issue and tend to any damage.
8. White Spots on the Teeth
White spots on the teeth are not a harmless, and shouldn’t be considered so. They are in fact the first sign that dental decay is about to take place. When most people see dark spots on their teeth, they understand they have a cavity and get it checked. But white spots are almost always overlooked.
If you get your white spots checked by a dentist immediately, you can prevent dental decay right there and then and preserve your beautiful teeth in their healthy condition.
9. Ongoing Medical Issues
Have you been diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, liver disease, or any metabolic disorder? Are you HIV positive, or currently undergoing chemotherapy, hormone replacement therapy, or radiation therapy?
All these diseases and health conditions are bound to affect your teeth sooner or later. You have to take extra care of your oral health during such times because you are more vulnerable to dental problems than others.
Make sure to go to the dentist every few months for a dental check-up and maintain strict oral hygiene.
10. Hiding Your Smile
A smile is the most beautiful thing you can wear. If you feel ashamed of your smile, or deliberately try to hide it, you are most probably trying to conceal some fault in your teeth.
Perhaps your teeth are misshapen, or they are crooked in arrangement. You may be missing a tooth in front of your mouth, or maybe one of your teeth is chipped or cracked. The problem could also be discoloured or stained teeth.
Don’t deny yourself the simple pleasure of smiling! Consult a dentist about the situation immediately and the problem will be resolved in a matter of time. We all deserve to smile and to be proud of our smile.
About the Author
Jennifer Silver is a Doctor of Dental Surgery and known as one of the best dentists in Calgary. She and her team of dentists provide a comprehensive range of dental treatments and dental care at Southcentre Dental, a renowned dental clinic in Calgary. She has a special interest in helping patients with TMJ pain and sleep apnea.