1) You don’t have a dentist you see regularly
This one seems dumb but when you start to understand that the key to optimal dental health is prevention and maintenance, this starts to make sense. It is not wise to wait until there is pain, discomfort or a lack of function to see a dentist. Just like a car, your mouth needs regular care and maintenance and the best way to do this is to have regular appointments. Having a dental team who you know and trust is the best way to take care of your mouth, you cannot do this alone. No matter how hard we try, sometimes we get cavities. This may be due to your genetics (you may have ͞soft͟teeth due to your genetics, thank your parents), your tooth anatomy (that pesky deep groove that always traps that one chia seed or gets clogged up with sticky sugar whenever you eat a raisin), or obstacles in your mouth (that bridge that is hard to clean under or that wire the orthodontist put in your mouth to keep your teeth straight). When you come in for a regular check up the dentist can catch cavities when they are small, painless and easy to treat. If you go years between seeing a dentist, a cavity may develop unchecked and will not start to cause pain until it is so large that it involves the tooth’s nerve. At this point it is no longer a simple filling that is necessary, you now need a root canal and a crown. These treatments are lengthy and expensive. If the cavity is found when it is really small and only in enamel, we can try to remineralize it (reverse the softening of the tooth) with fluoride and good oral hygiene before it needs to be filled, how great is that?
2) There is a bad smell coming from your mouth
There is always a reason for a bad smell that never goes away, and the reason is usually not good. Bad smells in the mouth are usually caused by bacteria.True, our bodies are covered with helpful or normal bacteria but when there is a bad smell coming from our mouths usually it is caused by bacteria we don’t want. Sometimes the smell comes from an accumulation of plaque that sticks to our teeth. Plaque is made of bacteria and it stinks. It is that white gunk you can scrape off your teeth with your finger nail and it causes gingivitis, cavities and can lead to periodontal disease. Perhaps you need to re-evaluate your oral hygiene routine and go in for a much needed dental cleaning if this is the cause of your bad breath. If you have let this go on for a very long time, you may have periodontal disease in which case you have had some bone loss around your teeth which can lead to pain, infection, tooth mobility and tooth loss. Sometimes bad breath is caused by a leaky filling or crown that is trapping saliva and bacteria. Just like a constantly wet dishrag, it is home to much bacteria, stinks and needs to be changed. Otherwise the leakage can cause a cavity which can lead to pain and expensive procedures. A rotten tooth will also produce a foul odor. The goal of regular check-ups and maintenance described above is to prevent ever getting to this stage.
3) Your tooth aches, the gums ache, your jaw aches, something in the mouth area aches…
If pain is of the aching nature (throbby, dull, bruise-like) and is ongoing, likely there is a reason for this and it needs to be addressed or the problem will worsen. Perhaps the jaw and several teeth are achy because you have been grinding your teeth at night and you need a nightguard to support your jaw and protect your teeth. Maybe your tooth has a large cavity or you had some recent work done which was extensive and the nerve is now inflamed and angry. Maybe you had popcorn a few days ago and one of those husks got wedged under your gums and can’t come out and now your gums are red, swollen, tender and achy.In all these cases you need to see a dentist because the situation will worsen if you don’t address it.
4) When you do a certain something you notice a sharp pain in your mouth
If a certain action consistently causes a sharp pain in your mouth there is likely a reason for it and it needs to be addressed. If you have consistent biting pain on a tooth there may be a small fracture line in part of the tooth or perhaps your filling is broken. If this is the case then you may need a new filling or a crown. If you notice sharp pain when you have something sweet or cold you may have some gum recession. If this is the case your dentist will advise you of your options whether it be something as conservative as using toothpaste for sensitive teeth or something more involved like gum grafting. Only your dentist can provide you with options and recommend the best course of action for your specific situation. Do not delay because it is always easier to fix a problem sooner when it is small rather than later (when it has had time to worsen and get larger).
5) When you are going through a major health change.
Dental health and overall health are strongly intertwined. When you are going through something big like pregnancy, radiation therapy, you have diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Sjogren’s Syndrome or have just been put on a bunch of new medications, speak to your dentist on how this affects your dental health. Individuals with uncontrolled diabetes often experience disease of the bone and gums that support the teeth and more careful monitoring and meticulous hygiene are required. Pregnant women often experience hypersensitivity to plaque and calculus and also need to take meticulous care of their teeth and gums with good homecare and frequent dental cleanings. This is to prevent inflammation and flare up of the gums.Individuals with Sjogren’s Syndrome have reduced salivary flow which significantly increases their cavity risk. People on certain medications may also notice decreased salivary flow as a side effect and will experience an increased cavity risk as well. Please speak to your dentist about how your health condition will affect your dental health.