You Can’t Handle the Tooth: 9 Signs It’s Time to Call the Dentist


Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that around a quarter of Americans have untreated tooth decay and even more have gum disease?

Perhaps you don’t call the dentist out of fear or due to a lack of money. In any case, ignoring preventative care and small dental problems puts you at risk for more pain and expense. After all, a small cavity that just needs a filling can turn into the need for an extraction if you let it go too long.

If you’re wondering when to go to the dentist, read on to learn about nine signs you must call the dentist right away.

1. You’ve Got a Bad Toothache

When you have a tooth hurting, it could be a temporary, minor issue like eating very cold food. But when the pain is bad or doesn’t stop, you need a dentist.

In some cases, your pain may be due to a cavity that hasn’t gotten too severe. Your dentist can often do a filling in this situation.

On the other hand, you may have a cavity that has progressed to the nerves of your teeth. This can mean you need a root canal and crown or even an extraction.

2. Your Gums Bleed

Bleeding gums might simply mean you’re brushing or flossing too hard. But on the other hand, they can signal gingivitis, periodontitis, or some other infection in the mouth.

Your dentist can check your gums and recommend better cleaning techniques if the issue is due to your habits. Otherwise, you may need a deep cleaning or special mouthwash.

3. You Have Cuts in Your Mouth

When you have a cut in your mouth, it may be due to simply biting yourself or eating something rough or sharp. In that case, eating soft foods and cleaning your teeth gently can help you heal.

But in severe cases, you may need emergency help if you’re losing a lot of blood. When the cut looks deep or hurts severely, this warrants a trip to the dentist.

4. Your Tooth Has Chipped

Whether you bit into a hard food or got hit in the mouth, a chipped tooth or otherwise broken tooth is a sign to call the dentist. Otherwise, you may get an infection or end up losing your tooth.

Your dentist may fix the issue with dental bonding if it’s minor. A crown can fix more severe chips.

5. Your Tooth Feels Loose

When your permanent tooth seems to wiggle or moves at all, consider this a dental emergency that needs attention immediately. This could happen due to an injury, gum disease, infection, or damage to your jaw.

Prompt care may prevent your tooth from falling out. In severe cases, your dentist can recommend a bridge or implant.

6. You Have a Strange Taste in Your Mouth

If you taste something foul or metallic, this can mean a serious dental issue. For example, it could mean your metal filling is coming off, or you might have a dental infection.

Your dentist can check the issue and make sure that you don’t have bacteria in your mouth that put your teeth at risk. They might replace your bad filling, treat the infection, or recommend oral hygiene techniques.

7. Your Tooth Feels Numb

While pain is a sign to call the dentist, so is having a tooth suddenly feel numb. This means that blood can’t flow to the tooth anymore, so the sensation has disappeared.

Often, the problem is a dental abscess that warrants antibiotics and a root canal. Your dentist might also look for signs of physical trauma to the tooth to find a solution. In some cases, your tooth may need removed.

8. You Suspect a Dental Abscess

Out of all these dental problems discussed, a dental abscess can be one of the most dangerous. This condition usually happens when you don’t treat a cavity and the infection reaches your tooth’s pulp.

If you don’t visit the dentist when you suspect an abscess, you can lose more than just your tooth. In fact, this infection can even spread to your bloodstream and lead to death.

A dental abscess usually involves bad tooth pain, a strange taste in your mouth, and pus from your gums. You might also run a fever or just have a general feeling of being unwell. Run to the dentist if you have these symptoms.

9. You Have Problems With Your Jaw

If your jaw feels sore, is hard to open or close, or has pressure, it’s time to head to the dentist for an examination.

Issues like tooth grinding or a temporomandibular disorder can cause your jaw and mouth to hurt and make it hard to eat properly. Your dentist may suggest an oral appliance, jaw exercises, or even surgery to fix such conditions.

Jaw issues can also mean that you have an infected or impacted tooth. For example, if your wisdom teeth haven’t come through, your jaw pain may happen due to the pressure or the wisdom teeth trying to push the roots of other teeth. A dental abscess can also make it hard to open your mouth, so see your dentist immediately.

Call the Dentist When You Notice These Signs

When you notice these signs, call the dentist for an examination so that you can hopefully save your teeth and avoid serious complications with your mouth.

If you feel reluctant due to dental fears, find a dentist that specializes in anxious patients. Such offices have trained staff who can make you feel comfortable and take your mind off the procedure. If you need more help, they can often also give you sedation to feel relaxed.

When Should I See a Dentist? (And What Should I Expect?)

When money troubles keep you away from the dentist, explore options for free or cheap dental care at local health clinics and dental schools. You can also find dentists that offer affordable payment plans or discount programs.

Check out our other health posts to get more advice on dental care.