The Importance of Oral Health
According to the American Dental Association (ADA), an estimated 100 million Americans don’t go to
the dentist on a yearly basis. This is concerning. Regular oral care, like brushing
and flossing frequently and going to the dentist at least two times per year, can
prevent most severe dental conditions.
Lingering tooth pain or gum swelling can
contribute to larger issues if left untreated. Beyond losing your teeth, poor
dental health is associated with increased risk for conditions such as heart
disease. Remember that you don’t need to have symptoms to go to your dentist. You
can keep your mouth as healthy and pain-free as possible if you go before
A Spot or Sore That Doesn’t Heal
Ulcers, sores, or tender areas in
the mouth can indicate a number of health conditions. Not all of them just
affect your teeth and gums.
For example, nonhealing wounds in
the mouth can sometimes indicate diabetes. People with diabetes have a more
difficult time healing wounds than those who don’t have diabetes. If you have a
wound in your mouth that doesn’t become smaller or less painful in a week or
two, make an appointment to see your dentist and your primary care doctor. You
may need to have your blood sugar levels checked to ensure they are not too
Spots or sores in the mouth can
also indicate oral cancer. These lesions can appear as white areas (known as
leukoplakia) or as red lesions (erythroplakia).
Additional symptoms include:
- ear pain
- jaw swelling
- numbness in the tongue or throat area
- trouble moving the jaw or tongue
- trouble swallowing
Call and make an appointment with
your dentist if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
Bleeding or Swollen Gums
Seeing blood in the sink or on
your toothbrush after you brush your teeth can be cause for concern. Healthy
gum tissue should not bleed unless you are brushing too aggressively.
Your gums (gingiva) hold your
teeth in place. They’re responsible for creating a barrier between your tooth
roots, nerves, and blood vessels and the foods and drinks you consume. You
could lose a tooth or teeth without healthy gum tissue.
Bleeding or swollen gums can
indicate periodontal or gum disease. This suggests you have a significant
amount of bacteria in your mouth that are causing inflammation in your gums. According
ADA, half of all adults older than age 30 have gum disease. See your
dentist, who can examine your gum tissue and teeth.
Sure, sometimes bad breath is the
result of the garlic-filled dinner you just ate or a sign that you need to drink
more water. But chronic bad breath can be a symptom of dental cavities and gum
disease. Your dentist can provide tips to keep bad breath at bay even if you
don’t have signs of dental decay.
Sensitivity to Hot and Cold
You can expect some increased
sensitivity following dental procedures like cavity fillings or crown
placements. But sudden, unexplained changes to sensitivity mean you should call
your dentist. Increased temperature sensitivity is a symptom of a dental
abscess, which is a bacterial infection of a tooth or the gum area next to a
tooth root. Additional dental abscess symptoms include a severe toothache,
fever, or tender lymph nodes under your jawline or in your neck. If you have
facial swelling too, seek emergency care. If left untreated, the infection may
spread throughout your body and can become life threatening.
Increased temperature sensitivity
could also mean you have a cavity or thinning of the dental enamel. A dentist
can provide treatment for both of these concerns.
Pain can be an unfortunate
indicator that your mouth is not as healthy as it could be. While the pain may
temporarily subside, it’s likely to return. Make an appointment to see your
dentist for a check-up.