How can you tell whether you’re overdue for a visit to the dentist? You can look at the calendar, sure, and see if it’s been too long since your last visit, but there are some signs that will tell you that you need to visit the dentist sooner rather than later. Whether you’ve been making your regular dental visits faithfully or if you’re lapsed for a long time, if you see any of these signs, it’s time to make a dental appointment ASAP to help protect your oral health.
Your Smile Makes You Self-Conscious
An unattractive smile can impact your self-confidence and your quality of life. If you hide your smile, it can make you want to avoid the very situations that make you happy. You might end up suppressing your smiles or skipping social occasions where there will be food. Plus, hiding your teeth can make it hard for others to understand you. This can impact your ability to be heard by coworkers, which leads to them passing over your ideas, making you stop sharing, or both.
Make an appointment to ask your dentist how cosmetic dentistry can improve your smile.
Surprising Hard Pieces or Grit in Your Mouth
If you spend time on the beach, it’s not surprising to have a little sand in your mouth. Some foods, too, might have small bones or other hard parts in them.
However, if you consistently notice small, hard, white fragments in your mouth–either as single pieces or as a finer grit–it could signify tooth problems. These fragments could be parts of your teeth or parts of your fillings, crowns, and other restorations. If you notice these on several occasions, it might be time to see the dentist.
Your Tooth Is Sharper
Sometimes you don’t notice the parts of your teeth that broke off, but you see where they broke off from. A portion of your tooth that’s suddenly sharper than it used to be is a good sign that you’ve broken a chip or flake off your tooth.
Your dentist can smooth off the sharp part of the tooth, so you don’t cut your tongue or cheeks. He can also evaluate your teeth to see if this is a one-time incident or if your teeth are wearing down due to serious bite problems.
Toothache or Sensitivity
Of course, if you are experiencing dental pain, you need to make a dental appointment. If your pain is slight and only in response to hot or cold foods, it may not be urgent, and you can just take the next available spot. But if your teeth hurt spontaneously, or if the discomfort lasts a long time, keeps you up at night, or interferes with daily activities, you need to make an emergency appointment.
Hard Deposits Growing on Teeth
If you notice hard scaly deposits growing on your teeth, it’s time to make a dentist appointment. This is dental calculus, also called tartar, and it’s basically fossilized dental plaque. It serves as a shelter for oral bacteria, allowing them to spread more easily into your gums, causing damage to your tooth roots and bones, which can lead to tooth loss.
Sores in Your Mouth
Sores in your mouth can be many things. Canker sores and cold sores will clear up on their own, but other sores might be more serious. They could be a sign of dangerous infection or even oral cancer.
When you have new sores in your mouth, it’s a good idea to see a dentist to check them out. Even if these sores are harmless, your dentist can give you peace of mind, plus help you identify these harmless sores, so you don’t have to schedule an appointment next time.
Blood in the Sink after Brushing or Flossing
It’s not normal for your gums to bleed after brushing or flossing. If you notice blood in the sink after you brush or floss, or if you taste blood after eating, it’s a sign that you have gum disease. Bleeding gums make it easier for bacteria to travel through your blood to your heart and kidneys. Gum disease is also the leading cause of tooth loss among adults.
Bad Breath or Taste
Everybody gets garlic breath once in a while. However, bad breath that lasts all day and doesn’t respond to brushing your teeth or using mouthwash can be a sign you have an infection in your mouth. Most likely it’s gum disease or an infected tooth. Sometimes you might not notice the smell but have bad taste in your mouth all the time.
It’s also worth noting that awful morning breath could be a sign of sleep apnea.
Swollen Gums or Lengthening Teeth
If you notice that your gums are red and inflamed, you’ve likely got gum disease, an infection around your teeth. It may be relatively minor at this point, but it can worsen quickly, threatening not just your teeth but your heart, lungs, kidneys, and more.
If you notice your teeth seem to be getting longer, it’s not that your teeth are growing; it’s that your gums are receding. Receding gums will expose your tooth roots and put your teeth at risk.
Loose or Shifting Teeth
You might not have noticed the early signs of gum disease, but hopefully, you will see when your teeth become loose or start shifting. If your teeth move perceptibly when your tongue, cheeks, or other teeth contact them, it’s a warning sign that gum disease is beginning to threaten your teeth–you are at increased risk of losing teeth once they start getting loose.
You might also notice that your teeth are shifting in relation to one another, with some starting to rotate, crowd, tilt, or drift. Shifting teeth is either a sign that you’ve got more teeth coming in (such as wisdom teeth), that you have bite problems, or that gum disease allows your teeth to move more easily. In any case, it’s good to see a dentist now before the problem worsens.
What Are You Waiting for?
Dental conditions are progressive. That means they tend to worsen with time. The longer you put off your dental visit, the more involved (and more expensive) treatment is likely to be.