It’s a good idea to see a dentist at least twice a year, even if you have no dental problems. Regular cleanings and checkups give your dentist a chance to detect and treat early signs of tooth decay and gum disease, preventing issues from worsening. However, if you’re experiencing any concerning symptoms like pain or swelling, be sure to see a dentist as soon as possible. 

The Importance of Maintaining Dental Health

Your oral health is more important than you might think. Most people don’t realize that their mouth is full of bacteria. If you skip brushing and flossing too often, the bacteria produces acid that eats away at your teeth and gums, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Both conditions can cause discomfort and infection and potentially lead to tooth loss.

Poor dental health can also affect your physical health. If your dental health deteriorates, you are at a greater risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Maintaining your oral health will protect your overall health and well-being.

When to See a Dentist

Most people know they should see their dentist at least once a year for a checkup and professional cleaning. However, if you’re experiencing certain symptoms, you should schedule an appointment sooner. Symptoms that indicate you need to visit the dentist include:

  • Pain or Sensitivity

There are many reasons why you may be experiencing pain or sensitivity in your teeth. Tooth decay or damage to a tooth is the most common reason for tooth pain because it can expose the nerves in your teeth, leading to temperature sensitivity or frequent discomfort. Other potential causes of pain include gum disease, a severe under or overbite, impacted wisdom teeth, and temporomandibular joint disorders.

The only way to know what’s causing your pain is to visit a dentist. They can examine your teeth and perform diagnostic imaging tests and X-rays to determine what’s causing the problem.

  • Bleeding When You’re Brushing or Flossing

While an occasional spot of blood while brushing and flossing your teeth is nothing to worry about, chronically bleeding gums can signify a more serious problem. It may be a sign of gingivitis, which causes inflammation of the gums and can progress to a more severe condition, periodontitis, without treatment. 

In other cases, it can be a sign of vitamin deficiencies, over-brushing teeth, or a side effect of certain medications.

Brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily and using an antibacterial mouth rinse can often reverse early gingivitis. However, if the bleeding continues, you should schedule an appointment with your dentist. 

  • Red or Swollen Gums

Your gums are naturally pink. You may have gum disease or an infection if they appear red, puffy, or bloody. Without treatment, your gums may recede, exposing the roots of your teeth and putting you at a high risk of decay and tooth loss.

  • Persistent Headaches

Persistent tension headaches may indicate that you have a temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder, sleep apnea, or bruxism (teeth grinding). Visiting your dentist allows them to assess your jaw function and any damage to the teeth’s chewing surface that signifies that a TMJ disorder or bruxism is responsible for your headaches. 

They can develop a treatment plan, including creating a custom oral appliance to wear at night. These night guards prevent friction between the dental arches, reduce pressure on the jaw muscles and tendons, and correctly position the tongue and jaw while you sleep. 

  • Chipped, Cracked, or Broken Teeth

Tooth enamel protects the inner layers of your teeth, which contain the nerves and blood vessels. A chipped or broken tooth can damage or expose the nerve, leading to tooth pain and possible infection. In addition, the sharp edges of a damaged tooth can lacerate your tongue or the inside of your cheeks.

Treatment for a damaged tooth depends on how badly damaged the tooth is. If the chip or crack doesn’t extend below the gum, your dentist may be able to repair it with a filling, dental bonding, or a dental crown. If the tooth is infected or cracked below the gum, it will need to be extracted and replaced with a bridge or dental implant.

  • Dry Mouth

Dehydration and certain medications can give you a dry mouth or cottonmouth. It may not seem like a significant concern, but if there is not enough saliva, bacteria in your mouth multiply, and you’re at an increased risk of cavities and gum disease. In addition, dry mouth can cause bad breath and make it difficult to speak or swallow. 

Several treatment options are available for a dry mouth. These include saliva substitutes, medications, and mouth rinses that stimulate saliva production.

  • Constant Bad Breath

It’s not unusual to have bad breath if you forget to brush and floss or eat strong-smelling foods. However, if regular brushing and flossing aren’t fixing your bad breath, it’s time to see a dentist. Bad breath can signify gum disease, tooth decay, or a dental abscess.

  • Sores or Open Wounds in Your Mouth

Sores or open wounds in your mouth can have various causes. Some types of sores, like cold sores or canker sores, can result from physical health conditions unrelated to your teeth or vitamin deficiencies. However, open wounds can be caused by physical injury or damage, like accidentally biting the inside of your cheek or having a chipped tooth.

Sores or open wounds in your mouth can be painful and make it difficult to eat or speak. Open wounds are also at risk of infection, as your mouth harbors over 700 different species of bacteria, including potentially harmful strains like Porphyromonas gingivalis and Streptococcus mutans. 

Mouth sores can also indicate oral cancer. It is crucial to visit your dentist for oral cancer screening and an exam so they can determine the best course of treatment. You may need to follow a treatment plan, including taking medication to heal your sores and wounds.

  • Loose Teeth

If you’ve noticed one or more of your teeth are loose or you’re starting to have trouble eating, it’s vital to seek professional help as soon as possible. A loose tooth in adults can be a sign of tooth damage, tooth decay, or gum recession, and it isn’t likely to go away on its own.

Never wait until you lose your tooth. Losing a permanent tooth can cause gum recession and jaw bone resorption, and may cause your remaining teeth to shift, which can cause more teeth to fall out. Once you’ve lost your tooth, you will need a dental implant, a costly treatment option to replace your natural tooth.

If you haven’t lost your tooth, you have more treatment options. Sometimes, a filling is all you need to fix the problem. More serious cases may require a dental crown or root canal. The sooner you get help, the better your chances of saving your tooth.

Schedule an Appointment with Your Dentist Today

Scheduling regular dental visits every six months is one of the best ways to maintain good oral health. During an appointment, your dentist can clean your teeth of plaque and tartar buildup, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. They may also apply a fluoride treatment to keep your teeth and gums healthy and give tips on improving your at-home oral care routine. 

If you haven’t seen a dentist in six months or more, make an appointment today. Explore our lifestyle and health topics to learn more about dental treatments and protecting your oral health.