7 Signs It's Time to See a Dentist
It may surprise you to learn that one of the safest places to be right now, even with COVID-19 cases increasing nationwide, is the dentist. "A new survey by the American Dental Association (ADA) indicates that less than 1% of dentists nationwide have tested positive for COVID-19," Healthline reports.
Studies like this one confirm that dentists are dramatically less likely to catch or transmit the virus than any other healthcare professional. Why is that?
A day-to-day dental practice requires wearing a mask, protective eyewear, and latex gloves. Dentists and their staff regularly disinfect and sanitize equipment. As such, taking these measures during COVID-19 is nothing new. Dentists are well-accustomed to it.
In fact, dental practices are so sanitary, "At least half the states have considered allowing dentists to administer Covid-19 vaccines once they're available," the American Association of Dental Boards and NBC News report.
States are turning to dentists for three important reasons:
1. Dentists are well-trained in giving injections,
2. They hope the initiative will relieve crowding in hospitals.
3. Many practices already know the drill as they administer the flu shot every season.
If you have any hangups about visiting the dentist during the pandemic, remember: studies show that going to the dentist is one of the safest things you can do. Plus, there are many reasons why going to the dentist is important. Putting off dental visits can lead to much bigger problems, like tooth decay and gum disease.
Here are some telltale signs your next check-up is long overdue.
1. You Haven't Seen Your Dentist In Six Months Or More
Generally speaking, dentists recommend scheduling appointments at least twice per year for biannual dental cleanings. To stay on top of your dental and oral hygiene, preventive dental care, and a minimum of one dental appointment per year is an absolute must. What happens at these routine appointments?
When you walk into your dental office once or twice per year, expect a thorough cleaning. A dental hygienist will remove plaque and tartar from the surface of your teeth, polish your teeth, and apply fluoride treatments and sealants as necessary.
The process of fully removing tartar and plaque, called scaling, requires professional dental tools. Your hygienist will also review how to thoroughly brush and floss your teeth to remove the most buildup at home.
A complete cleaning is not the only reason why going to the dentist is important. During your visit, your dentist will also examine your teeth and gums for any problems. He or she will check your teeth for plaque and tartar as well as any signs of cavities or tooth decay.
Then, your dentist will use a probe to "measure the depth of the spaces between your teeth and gums," according to Dentalcare.com.
These measurements will help determine the overall health of your gums. Healthy gums don't have much space between them. Inflamed or swollen gums have much deeper pockets and may bleed when probed.
These routine examinations prevent cavities, gum disease, and may even help identify telltale signs of serious medical conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
2. You're In Pain
If you are in near-constant pain, you shouldn't need a reminder about why going to the dentist is important.
There are several ways tooth-related pain can manifest, and none of them should be ignored. If you have a toothache or pain in your jaw, neck, or mouth, schedule an appointment with your dentist.
Here are some of the most common types of pain you may be experiencing:
- Toothaches. A persistent toothache may indicate tooth decay, an abscessed tooth, a missing or damaged filling, a tooth fracture, or infection. If the pain is severe and prevents you from going about your day-to-day life or you have a fever, you need to see the dentist. Teeth that are sensitive when you bite down or when you drink especially hot or cold liquids may hint at worn enamel, gum recession, or an exposed root. One of the reasons why going to the dentist is important is that you can often prevent these problems before they happen with regular and quality dental care.
- Sore, bleeding gums. Gingivitis, periodontitis, infection, and malnutrition may all lead to sore gums. Your dentist will be able to identify the root cause of the problem, treat it, and teach you ways to avoid swollen or inflamed gums in the future. For example, daily brushing and flossing, drinking plenty of water, and eating the right foods -- foods rich in vitamin C and calcium -- can all help keep your gums firm, pink, and healthy.
- A painful jaw or a jaw that clicks. "Possible causes [of jaw pain or clicking] include sinus problems, toothache, arthritis, injury, teeth grinding, gingivitis, or problems with your jaw like TMJ," the American Dental Association (ADA) reveals. If you ignore problems like teeth grinding or TMJ, they can ultimately lead to complications that are much worse. Left unchecked, these conditions may cause loss of control of facial muscles, trouble chewing, talking, or swallowing, and even difficulty breathing.
When is pain a dental emergency? Schedule an urgent appointment if you have severe, unrelenting tooth pain, an abscess, a fractured, broken, or chipped tooth, a loose tooth, or excessively sore and swollen gums.
If dental fillings fall out, it is important to schedule an appointment to replace them as soon as possible. Leaving them unfilled will lead to serious dental problems, like tooth decay.
If you are in severe pain, don't wait for any more reasons why going to the dentist is important. Treat pain right away for the best possible outcome.
3. You Sustain An Injury
If you sustain a serious injury, do not sit around mulling over the reasons why going to the dentist is important. Should you chip a tooth, knock out a tooth, or an adult tooth comes loose, time is of the essence. Speedy treatment is essential for effective dental restoration.
If you knock out a tooth, the ADA strongly advises you to keep the tooth moist. You can do that by carefully placing it back in its socket if at all possible or putting it in milk. This is a temporary measure only.
Once you have done that, schedule an appointment with a cosmetic dentist immediately. The dentist may be able to reattach your tooth. If not, he or she can talk to you about your options for replacement.
4. You Have Bad Breath Or A Bad Taste In Your Mouth
Another reason why going to the dentist is important is that it can help you resolve embarrassing problems and possibly even diagnose serious medical conditions in their earliest stages.
The causes of bad breath and/or a bad taste in your mouth run the gamut. All of them generally require dental treatment. Bad breath may be caused by excess bacteria in your mouth, gingivitis, or even diabetes, liver disease, or kidney disease.
Similarly, a bad taste in your mouth may indicate dry mouth, respiratory infections, or liver infections, like Hepatitis B.
Regular dental services, like seeing your dentist for a check-up, will help you determine the cause and severity of the problem.
5. Your Gums Are Red, Swollen, Or Inflamed
If your gums are inflamed, painful, or bleeding intermittently, you need to see your dentist right away.
Hormonal changes, infections, gingivitis, medications, and braces and dentures can all cause your gums to turn red and swell. Do not ignore these symptoms.
Treating gum problems in their early stages is simple. Your dentist may recommend taking medication, rinsing with salt water or medicated mouthwash, improving your diet, avoiding irritants like tobacco, alcohol, and certain kinds of toothpaste, and brushing and flossing regularly.
These relatively simple steps can go a long way to restore your gums to full health.
Plus, not only are gum problems more difficult to treat in later stages, but they may also cause serious complications if left unchecked. For example, severe gum disease is called periodontitis. "The bacteria responsible for periodontitis can enter your bloodstream through the gum tissue, possibly affecting other parts of your body," The Mayo Clinic writes.
So what? Bacteria that enter your bloodstream may lead to or aggravate the symptoms of diabetes, coronary artery disease, respiratory disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Treat problems early to prevent complications.
Do you really need to ask yourself why going to the dentist is important? Prioritize your dental health and oral hygiene and know that they can contribute to your overall health and physical well-being.
6. You're Afraid To Smile
If you are continually covering up your mouth when you laugh or smile or avoiding pictures, it is time to see the dentist. The reasons why going to the dentist is important are personal.
For some, these reasons include improving their self-confidence.
If you are afraid to smile due to yellow teeth, a missing, cracked, or chipped tooth, an overbite, underbite, or crooked teeth, talk to your dentist.
They can help! Whether they recommend tooth whitening, veneers, crowns, or braces, chances are they have solutions to get you smiling again.
7. You Have Serious Medical Conditions
If you have particular medical conditions, that is yet another reason why going to the dentist is important.
Certain medical conditions require you to be extra proactive about your dental health as well as your gums.
See your dentist regularly if you have any of the following:
- Heart disease. Heart disease can lead to swollen, red, or infected gums. Likewise, neglecting your gums can make ultimately make your heart disease worse. Work with your dentist to closely monitor the health of your gums, and take action right away if need be.
- Diabetes. The prognosis is very similar for diabetes. As with heart disease, those with diabetes are at greater risk of developing periodontal disease and periodontal disease worsens diabetes symptoms. Routine appointments and close monitoring are recommended.
- Cancer. Certain types of cancer treatments may affect your teeth. For example, chemotherapy may cause vomiting, and vomiting can erode the essential enamel on your teeth. Similarly, radiation causes severe dry mouth, and this can lead to significantly increased tooth decay. Talk to your dentist about what you can do to combat or counteract these symptoms.
Plus, What To Do If You Don't Have Insurance
While all of these reasons make it clear why going to the dentist is important, dental care is not always affordable for the average person. The costs of cleanings, fillings, and other dental procedures can be prohibitive without dental insurance. If you do not have dental insurance, rest assured that there are steps you can take to keep your dental health and oral hygiene in check.
To get dental care without insurance and on a budget:
- Visit a public dental clinic or free dental clinics. These may be run and operated by nonprofits, charities, or faith-based programs or funded by state taxes. Charities, nonprofits, and churches will offer services at a significantly discounted price. Some tax-funded dental clinics are entirely free but may require some patience as they often have a long waitlist.
- Head over to the local dental school. "Most schools run clinics where students treat the public at reduced prices. You might pay half or even less for root canals, fillings, and other services, compared with what established dentists charge," WebMD writes. While your treatment may take a little longer than usual -- a student will be learning and their supervisor will be overseeing procedures and pointing things out to them -- they will also be done carefully and meticulously by the book.
Only a little over half of Americans (52.3%) go to the dentist twice per year. Roughly 15% go at least once per year, and 11% of Americans go to the dentists every two or three years.
Stop putting off necessary dental care -- now, in the midst of the pandemic, and in more typical circumstances.
There are many reasons why going to the dentist is important. Schedule an appointment to treat pain, treat an injury, grow more confident in your smile, or more effectively treat serious health conditions.