Seven signs you need to see a dentist

Is your last dental appointment a distant pre-pandemic memory? Like many aspects of routine healthcare, millions of appointments were cancelled or delayed due to restrictions.

If you haven’t been to see a dentist for a while, here are seven signs a check-up is probably a good idea.

1. Your gums bleed when you brush

“Gum bleeding when you brush is most likely to be an indication of gum disease, often caused by food and plaque, which can accumulate in the gum over a prolonged period of time. It’s important to brush well and use floss or interdental brushes every day to reduce the risk of gum disease and keep your gums healthy,” says Stephen Barter, head of clinical operations at Bupa Dental Care. “Gum disease can affect both teeth and dental implants, and some people are much more susceptible than others and need a lot more support from the dentist or hygienist.”

2. You’ve got a hole or a chip

Whether this happens quickly after an injury or you notice it gradually, it’s best to get holes or chips checked. “If it’s not associated with a trauma then it could be because the structure of the tooth and enamel has been affected by bacteria. This causes the structure to become undermined, a lot weaker, and break. That’s why you get a cavity,” explains dentist Dr Azad Eyrumlu.

“If you have a hole or chip then the nerve of the tooth is more exposed to decay and any other bacteria in the mouth. The risk of ignoring it is irreversible nerve damage that requires root canal treatment.”

Read: Natural dental remedies: Do they work?

3. You notice lumps or swellings

“If you have any lumps or swelling in the mouth or tongue, it’s important to contact your dentist and get this checked urgently,” says Mr Barter. “Most are completely harmless, but some can be more sinister, and the early signs of oral cancer are usually not painful. Early treatment can make a tremendous difference to a successful outcome.” And even if anything sinister is ruled out, it might still be something that needs treatment or that your dentist can help you with.

4. You have a toothache

Severe toothache is hard to ignore, but even niggling pain that comes and goes can benefit from being checked. “Tooth pain is usually a sign the nerve inside the tooth is reacting to something, such as decay. If you ignore this pain, it could lead to nerve damage and eventually loss of that tooth,” says Dr Eyrumlu.

5. You’ve got sore patches

“Sore patches around the gums, inside the lips or tongue could either be something that’s reversible, such as ulcers that we might get from time to time, or it could be associated with poor diet, smoking, or other medical conditions,” says Dr Eyrumlu. “It could also be something more serious, such as oral cancer, which is why people need to get it checked out, the sooner the better.”

Any ulcers in your mouth that don’t heal after 10 days should always be checked.

Read: What your dentist wants you to know

6. Your teeth have become more sensitive

Noticed your teeth are reacting more to hot and cold temperatures, or feeling painful after sugary foods and drinks? Tooth sensitivity often occurs when the protective enamel erodes. Specialist toothpastes can help, but if it’s an increasing problem it’s wise to get it checked. Your dentist can check for any issues that need to be treated and give you advice for managing it.

7. You just haven’t been for a while

“It’s a common misconception that if you don’t have any tooth pain, you don’t need to see a dentist,” says Mr Barter. “Unfortunately, many issues that need dental treatment don’t cause pain in the early stages – and by the time they do, the problem may be much worse to treat. Gum disease is a big example of this – causing bone loss around your teeth, without you feeling any pain until it is too late.”

General advice is to have a check-up every six months, although some people may need them more often than others. Your dentist can advise what’s best for you. At a stretch, don’t leave it longer than two years – and remember it’s not just your teeth that your dentist will be looking at.

Read: How your dentist can tell a lot more about your health than you think

“Your dentist can spot a whole lot during a regular check-up beyond the state of your teeth and gums, such as anaemia, Crohn’s disease, gastric reflux, leukaemia, and more. That’s one of the reasons dentists recommend you have a regular check-up, even if you think your teeth are fine,” says Mr Barter.

When was the last time you went to the dentist? Do you go for regular check-ups or only book an appointment when you think something is wrong? Let us know in the comments section below.

– With PA

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Written by Abi Jackson

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