Dental emergencies are nothing to mess around with
If you have pain, bleeding, swelling or other unusual symptoms in your mouth, it’s best to seek urgent dental care before the underlying problem becomes worse, says American Dental Association (ADA) spokesperson Ana Paula Ferraz-Dougherty. Ideally, though, “prevention is key,” she says. “Instead of waiting until you’re in pain, brushing, flossing, eating a balanced diet, and getting regular check-ups at the dentist are things that are going to help prevent dental issues.” Even so, dental problems that require an urgent visit to the dentist do happen. Here’s what to look for.
Your gums are red, inflamed, or bleeding
Don’t ignore the early signs of gum disease: get in to see the dentist as soon as possible. “The most common cause of bleeding gums is gum disease,” Dr Ferraz-Dougherty says. “If you have any signs of swollen gums or bleeding when you brush or eat, it’s important to see the dentist to get that gum disease treated before it progresses.” The early stages of gum disease, called gingivitis, can often be treated in the dental surgery with cleaning, whereas more advanced stages may require surgery, she says.
In addition, other diseases in the body may reveal themselves through gum problems, so it’s important to get them checked out right away. “Underlying systemic disease can manifest initially as bleeding gums; this includes diabetes, leukaemia and [other] cancers,” says John L. Pfail, chairman of the Department of Dentistry for The Mount Sinai Health System in New York. Because of high glucose in saliva, people with diabetes are also at higher risk of gum disease.
If your gums are receding and exposing more of your teeth, “that’s a sign of a more advanced stage of gum disease,” Dr Ferraz-Dougherty says. “If uncontrolled, gum disease puts you at higher risk for other health issues as well. There are links between gum diseases and cardiovascular disease and diabetes so it’s important to see your dentist so that the gum disease can be treated before it progresses or affects your health in another way.”
Your teeth feel loose or fall out
Losing teeth is only normal for children – not adults. If you feel like your teeth are shifting, moving around in your mouth, or any actually fall out, see a dentist pronto. Besides a blow to the mouth, what can cause teeth to come loose? “If left untreated, gingivitis can progress to disease which involves the bone surrounding the teeth, which in turn leads to loose teeth, pain, and the eventual loss of teeth,” Dr Pfail says. “Teeth are secured into the mouth by bone and a thin muscle attachment called a periodontal ligament to the bone. Any damage to these structures surrounding your teeth can cause mobility of the teeth.”
In addition, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that osteoporosis, bone loss that is common in older people, may also cause teeth to become loose through a weakening of the jaw bone. Women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to have tooth loss than those who don’t have it, says the NIH.