I don’t know about y’all, but personally, I can name about three trillion things I would rather do than go to the dentist. I mean, my dentist and his team are nice enough, but between laying on my back, looking at those tools, and holding my breath to hear if there’s any news that I’d prefer to avoid—it can all be overwhelming, a tad bit uncomfortable…oh, and not exactly the cheapest, either. Apparently, I am not alone because it’s been reported that only 58 percent of folks see their own dentist on an annual basis. That’s not good either because, aside from the fact that we need our teeth to eat (and look presentable), there are all sorts of health issues that are tied to poor oral hygiene including cardiovascular disease, respiratory infections, diabetes, infertility, and even dementia.
And while I’m not trying to scare you into seeing your dentist, what I will say is the last time I waited and then went, I had to get the root canal from hell. And you know what? It could’ve been avoided if I had simply not skipped out on my annual visit. It also wouldn’t have become as “big” as it did if I had paid attention to a couple of these you-really-need-to-get-to-the-dentist-ASAP warning signs, too. Don’t say a sis didn’t warn you.
1. Incessant Bad Breath
There is someone I went to high school with who, no joke, had some of the worst-smelling breath on the planet. On many days, I was around her after gym and lunch, so I know she brushed her teeth, but damn—when she talked, it still always smelled like something died up in there. I hope she’s OK because bad breath isn’t always automatically a hygiene issue.
Sometimes it’s a red flag that someone has an underlying disease like diabetes, acid reflux, or, in some cases, even cancer.
All of the mint toothpaste and Altoids in the world won’t fix those things, so aside from not sucking the life out of everyone around you, for the sake of your health and well-being, incessant bad breath is something that should not be ignored.
2. Gum Pimples
If you’re not exactly sure what a gum pimple is, I’m not referring to canker sores. (Another name for those is aphthous ulcers and they are basically surface-layer sores in your mouth.) No, what I’m talking about are bumps that have pus in them. Sometimes, what that means is an abscess has developed and you have a dental infection of some sort. If you choose to ignore it or even pop it yourself, the infection could ultimately spread and lead to far more serious issues like sepsis. It could even go to your brain and lead to fatality. So yeah, you should make an appointment with your dentist if you happen to notice any of these along your gum line.
3. Dry Mouth
Our mouths were designed to be wet with saliva at all times. This means that if, no matter how much fluid you take in, you just can’t seem to shake having dry mouth, that is something else that could potentially be cause for concern. Not only does saliva keep bacteria at bay while helping to fight decay that leads to cavities, a lack of saliva production could be an indication of things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. Dry mouth is one of the most slept-on reasons to go to the dentist, but a valid one nonetheless.
4. Cracking Teeth
Do you have a cracked (or crumbling) tooth that seems to have come out of nowhere? You know that you haven’t eaten anything hard and you also know that you haven’t neglected your teeth in any way, so what in the world could it be? One guess is you are producing an excessive amount of stomach acid that is damaging your enamel. There’s only one way to find out for sure, though. You already know what I’m gonna say.
5. Receding Gums
Here’s something to take pretty seriously. Did you know that, not only do half of all Americans have gum disease, but gum disease in an advanced stage? Aside from bleeding and swollen gums, another pretty telling sign that gum disease is starting to get the best of your oral health and well-being is if you notice that your gums are receding anywhere. Since there is a direct correlation between gum disease and other health-related issues like diabetes and heart challenges, don’t let this one slip either. The state of your overall health could very well depend on it.
6. Teeth Sensitivity
While there are plenty of commercialized oral products out on the market that profess to treat teeth and gum sensitivity, if this is something that has just recently started to happen, make an appointment to see your dentist.
When you react, excessively, to hot or cold foods, what that could mean is that you’ve got some tooth decay, a loose filling, or an exposed tooth root somewhere. The only real way to treat any of this is professionally.
Your tongue is a breeding place for bacteria. That’s why it’s important to make the time to brush it every time you brush and floss your teeth. Not only will it remove a considerable amount of bacteria and germs, it will also reduce your risk of getting periodontal (gum) disease while helping to keep your breath smelling fresh throughout the day.
But what if you do take pretty good care of your tongue but happen to notice that it’s been feeling pretty weird as of late? Should you chalk it up to not being that big of a deal? If by “weird” it has suddenly changed texture, color, or has lumps or bumps that you know aren’t canker sores or “lie bumps”, don’t casually overlook that. Medical professionals often check for oral cancer via our tongue. It’s another reason to see your dentist as soon you possibly can.
8. Swollen Jaw
Swollen jaw tissue could mean that you’ve gotten an infected tooth or even a cyst or tumor that is developing somewhere beneath your gum line. There’s no way that you’ll know for sure without a thorough examination and quite possibly a few X-rays, so if you feel or see any swelling, don’t just “ibuprofen it away”. Chances are, things will only get worse over time if you do.
One more. Each tooth contains nerves and blood vessels that help to keep it healthy. Another thing that the nerves do is help us to know when something that we put into our mouth is either hot or cold. When the pulp chamber of a tooth either gets exposed or becomes damaged in some way, that can first cause an extreme amount of pain. However, that’s a good thing because it’s a heads up that something is very wrong. The bigger problem is if we try and “Google our way through that” and then the nerve eventually dies, resulting in numbness. While on one hand that means the pain has subsided, what that doesn’t mean is that the underlying problem has gone away or that it won’t get worse over time. So, if you happen to notice any type of numbness anywhere, most definitely see your dentist. For the sake of your teeth—and your overall health.
Yeah, I know this wasn’t the most pleasant read on the planet, but you know what? It’s better to know what to look out for and book an appointment than to wait too late and have a world of oral issues that you didn’t even know about. You need your teeth. Be proactive in taking care of them or you could live to regret it. Literally.
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