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Oral Health Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore


In 2014, only 62% of adults under age 65 had visited the dentist in the past year. While preventative dental appointments every six months are important for keeping your mouth healthy, as well as for detecting the onset of issues, if you do feel or see an oral health issue it is important to visit your dentist immediately to seek treatment. Some such signs you shouldn’t ignore are swollen or bleeding gums (even light), tooth pain, plaque buildup, growths inside your mouth, or changes on the surface of your tongue. If you find that you experience these symptoms prepare to make an emergency dental appointment as soon as possible.

1. Swollen or bleeding gums

Any changes in color, swelling, bleeding or sensation in your gums is indicative of issues with your gum health. Even mild swelling that persists for several days or longer is a sign of an irritant trapped under the gums, or even more likely is the sign of early gum disease. Moreover, bleeding when you brush or floss, even a small bit, is a sign of early gum disease. Gum disease is dangerous for your oral health and your overall health, as many chronic illnesses have been linked to bacteria in the gums. Uncontrolled gum disease can develop into periodontitis that comes with oral health repercussions like gum recession, where the gum tissue pulls back away from the teeth and even eventual tooth loss. If you notice tenderness, swelling, bleeding or pain in your gums it is important to schedule an appointment for an exam with your dentist to talk about treatment.

2. Tooth pain

Feeling pain in one or more teeth isn’t something to ignore, and certainly won’t go away on its own. You may feel different degrees of pain; mild or moderate pain, throbbing pain, or pain with chewing or biting. There are several reasons for tooth pain, one of the most common being severe tooth decay that has reached the innermost nerve of the tooth. A tooth fracture, broken tooth or chipped tooth can also cause pain. Moreover, ill-fitting reconstructions like crowns, abscess tooth, infections and tooth grinding can all cause pain in teeth. No tooth pain is good pain; if your tooth hurts the first step is to call your dentist to make an appointment.  The dentist will take x-rays and examine the area to determine the course of treatment. The dentist may prescribe antibiotics to treat any infection in the teeth or gums, and may recommend an over the counter pain reliever to lessen the pain and swelling that you feel. Depending on the cause of tooth pain, your dentist may recommend a number of treatments to resolve the underlying cause as well as ease pain so that you can go back to normal activities.

3. Plaque buildup

There are millions of bacteria in our mouths at all times, even with daily brushing and flossing. Plaque, simply put, is a sticky film on the surface of the teeth that is made up of bacteria. The waste byproduct produced by these bacteria is acidic and eats away at tooth enamel over time. If not removed with daily brushing and flossing, plaque begins to overgrow and cause enamel erosion, tooth decay and hardens into tartar that is attached to the enamel of the teeth and along the gum line. Excessive plaque can irritate the gums and cause gum disease, characterized by gums that are sore or bleed. If you notice white or colored buildup along your gum line that doesn’t disappear with normal brushing or flossing, it is time for a professional deep cleaning.

4. Growths inside your mouth

Oral cancer is one of the biggest and most silent killers, responsible for more than 10,000 deaths annually.While anyone can develop oral cancer, certain activities leave people more predisposed to develop this illness. Activities like tobacco use, smoking, frequent alcohol consumption, HPV, poor diet and genetics can all dictate a person’s likelihood of developing oral cancer. Some tale-tale signs of oral cancer include lesions, lumps or sores in the mouth that don’t heal after several days. Other signs also include unexplained bleeding, numbness in the mouth, pain or difficulty swallowing, pain in the mouth that persists and difficulty moving the mouth or jaw. Men are more likely than women to develop oral cancer, but both genders are at risk particularly if they engage in one or more high-risk factors. The best way to protect yourself from oral cancer is to have dental screenings every six months, as well as talk to your dentist about any high-risk activities that you partake in. Also, don’t ignore any changes in your oral health. Be aware of any growths, sensations or changes that alter your day-to-day functions like chewing, swallowing or eating.

5. Changes on your tongue

Your tongue is just as big of a part of your oral health and wellness as your teeth and gums. Be aware of any changes in color or texture of your tongue, which can be a signal of oral health abnormalities. One of the most common tongue illnesses is thrush, which is a yeast infection in the mouth and on the tongue, also known as oropharyngeal candidiasis. Thrush appears as white lesions on the tongue, sides of the mouth and back of the throat. Thrush happens when candida fungus grows uncontrolled; caused by stress, diabetes, HIV, cancer, dry mouth, hormonal changes, antibiotics and certain medications, or a weak immune system. Treating chronic health issues like HIV or diabetes can lessen the risk. Good oral health is important for maintaining the balance of bacteria in the mouth. Furthermore, your dentist can help treat thrush infections with antifungal medications. Good oral health is the number one way to keep oral bacteria under control. Brush and floss daily and visit the dentist twice a year for a professional exam and cleaning.

Delaying on dental care is not a wise way to save neither time nor money. Your oral health is one of the largest components of your full-body healthcare. In short, make time to address any changes in your oral health pain, sensitivity bad breath, changes in bite, or visual changes are all clues that something is off inside your mouth. Jefferson Dental offers convenient dental appointments in the evenings and even Saturdays, as well as walk-in emergency appointments to meet dental emergency needs!