6 Signs You Need to See a Dentist

When it comes to visiting the dentist a lot of us would rather go, well, just about anywhere else. The drill, the pain, the awkward feeling of having someone’s hands in your mouth - it can all be unnerving to say the least.

That’s no excuse for poor oral hygiene, however, and that’s especially true if you’ve got a noticeable dental problem. Ignoring bleeding gums or a sore tooth won’t make it go away - in fact, ignoring such problems may only make them worse.

Dental injuries or illness can lead to other health problems, and some of these are very serious. In 2011, an Ohio man died from an untreated abscessed tooth, according to WLWT in Cincinnati, and the infection eventually spread to his brain, causing his death. You owe it to yourself to get your mouth checked out regularly and whenever you experience any of the six signs below.{relatedarticles}

Tooth Pain

This one seems obvious, but too many people don’t pay attention when their bite starts to bite back.

With toothaches, you know it is time to get medical attention based on the:

  • frequency;
  • intensity; and
  • constancy.

Dinging your incisors on a coffee cup might sting a bit, but that discomfort should go away quickly. If it doesn’t, you may have a cracked or chipped tooth, which should be treated by a dentist.

Ongoing tooth pain or sensitivity can be caused by cavities and cracks, or eroded tooth enamel. Pain around the mouth or jaw can also be a sign of something more serious, like heart attack or angina. If you’re having significant or ongoing mouth pain, it’s time to see a dentist.

Changing Gums

When you smile, you’re showing more than teeth. Give yourself a big grin the next time you’re standing in front of the mirror, and look at your gums.{relatedarticles}

Your gums should be pink, and should fill the space between your teeth. Everyone’s gums are different, so it’s important that you know what yours look like, and it’s important to take notice whenever they look different.

What you’re looking for is blood and recession. Sometimes we floss a little too hard and there may be a little bit of bleeding which is normal. It’s not normal to bleed every time you floss, and it’s not normal for gums to bleed for no reason.

Your gums shouldn’t look like they’re straining to get away from your teeth. If more and more tooth is visible from smile to smile, see a dentist about your receding or swollen, reddish gums since this may be a sign of gingivitis or gum disease.


Unusually frequent sores can be a sign of serious oral problems like oral cancer, or even the digestive condition Crohn's disease,

A canker sore usually doesn’t merit worry. Neither does a blister on the roof of your mouth that came from eating hot pizza too fast. However, you should be concerned if any sores or blisters seem unusually or conspicuously frequent.

Blisters on your cheek and painful spots on your tongue may also be a sign of Temperomandibular Jaw disorder, or TMJ, described below.{relatedarticles}

Neck or Jaw Pain and Numbness

Pain or numbness in your neck, especially at the base of the skull, and around the jaw can also be TMJ symptoms.

TMJ can be caused by arthritis, injury, or other misalignment of the jaw bone. Usual symptoms include pain or discomfort around the neck and jaw area, while some experience discomfort in the shoulders and even the back.

Other TMJ symptoms include grinding of the teeth and a clicking in the jaw (especially when you open your mouth too wide). If you suspect TMJ, but are not noticing these exact symptoms, look at your tongue: if the sides look scalloped or serrated, it’s possible that you’re grinding your teeth at night, but not noticing, and your tongue is getting in the way.

You should definitely see your dentist if you suspect TMJ because TMJ can lead to serious tooth damage, and even tooth loss.

Excessively Dry Mouth

Dry mouth can be a side effect of some medications. It might indicate dehydration, or it may signal another health issue.{relatedarticles}

Dry mouth may be caused by some pretty serious conditions and diseases like:

  • diabetes;
  • Alzheimer’s disease; and
  • HIV.

An unusually dry mouth can have a serious effect on your dental health in addition to serving as a possible warning of a bigger health problem. Saliva is part of your body’s natural tooth protection and plays a role in protecting them from decay. If you have frequent bouts of dry mouth, talk to your dentist about making sure your teeth are well protected, and to make sure that there isn’t a more dangerous underlying cause to the symptom.

Bad Breath

Nobody likes bad breath, but if you find that you’re spending an unusual amount of money on Listerine, it may be time to get help!

Forget about garlic - truly bad breath may not be caused by food. More specifically, bad breath resulting from spicy or strongly seasoned foods only lasts for a little while, and usually isn’t all that bad.

Ongoing and chronic bad breath can indicate a number of oral health problems like:

  • an abscessed or rotting tooth;
  • gum disease; or
  • a throat infection.

Rather than continuing to cover up halitosis with mints and mouthwash, see your dentist for a professional opinion.{relatedarticles}

Preventative Care is Important

Don't wait until symptoms develop to visit your dentist. Preventative care is very important, so be sure to practice good oral hygiene:  floss your teeth every day, and brush your teeth at least twice a day as well. If you’re going to use mouthwash, talk to your dentist or doctor first to determine whether or not your bad breath is being caused by a more serious health problem.

Taking care of your teeth is an important part of taking care of your overall health. In addition to the signs you’ve read here, there’s one more indicator that will let you know when you need to visit a dentist: your calendar. Most dentists recommend that you schedule a visit every six months for a cleaning and checkup.