Contributor: Todd Coy, DMD, Section Head of Cleveland Clinic’s Dentistry Program
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Problems in your mouth are often temporary, like bad breath from spicy food or mouth sores and blisters from eating pizza topped with scalding hot cheese.
While these are nothing to fret about, there are changes in your mouth that should cause concern. You might wonder when you need to see a dentist, and when you really don’t.
Here are 6 symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore. Call your dentist if you experience:
At the first sign of a toothache, see your dentist. Prolonged waiting for the ache to go away naturally will not end well – your tooth could actually die, and the pain will only get worse.
2. Jaw pain
While jaw pain can be caused by a serious toothache, pain can also come from sinus problems, teeth grinding, or TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint), which happens when jaw joints and the muscles controlling them don’t work together correctly. Your dentist will be able to help you or, depending on your diagnosis, he or she will refer you to an ear, nose, and throat specialist.
3. Bad breath
Temporary bad breath, caused by what you eat or drink, is not cause for alarm. But you should see a dentist for prolonged bad breath. It can be a warning sign for gum disease or something more serious. Most often though, persistent bad breath can be reduced by brushing twice daily and flossing frequently.
4. Bleeding gums
Bleeding gums can be caused by brushing too hard or they could be an early sign of gingivitis or gum disease. If you’ve just taken up a new flossing regimen, then some blood here and there should not concern you. But if you experience sore and bleeding gums on a regular basis, that is not normal and you should see a dentist.
5. Mouth sores
Some mouth sores go away by themselves, such as canker sores and cold sores, but others could be a symptom of infection, virus or fungus. If you find any that are whitish in color or in patches on the inside of your cheeks, gums, or tongue, this could be a sore called leukoplakia — commonly seen in chewing tobacco users.
6. Cracked teeth
Hairline cracks in your teeth may not be visible to the naked eye, but they’re often painful if not treated immediately.
Often the result of brittle teeth, injury, or teeth grinding, cracked teeth could create larger problems for you in the future. If you notice pain when you chew, that’s when you need to see your dentist.
The old adage is true: take care of your teeth and they will take care of you. Make your dentist a partner in keeping your teeth and gums healthy.