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12 top reasons to go to a dentist

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Think about the last time you visited your dentist. Has it been a while? You're not alone. While 77% of adults say they plan to visit the dentist within the next year, less than half actually do. Keeping your teeth and gums healthy can go a long way to support your overall health. Some studies even suggest that there may be a link between gum disease and conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

If you're experiencing any of these 12 signs, it's a good idea to make an appointment right away. For many of these issues, the longer you wait, the worse and more expensive they may become. Your dentist can help identify issues and treat them before they become more advanced. And, if you're worried about the cost, CareCredit can help you pay for everything from preventative dental care to restorative and cosmetic dentistry.

  1. Pain or swelling. From a toothache to sensitive teeth, pain or swelling in your mouth, face or neck could be a sign of a serious underlying issue. Seeing your dentist right away can help speed up diagnosis and keep your mouth healthy and pain-free.
  2. Puffy or bleeding gums. This can be a sign of gingivitis, or inflammation of the gums around the teeth. It can progress to periodontitis, which can lead to loss of the tissue and bone that support your teeth.
  3. Hiding your smile. 1 in 4 adults avoid smiling due to the condition of their mouth and teeth.1 Whether you're self-conscious about a missing tooth, or want a brighter, whiter smile, your dentist can help you choose the treatment that will work best for you.
  4. Past dental work. If you have a filling, crown, dental implants or dentures, it's important for your dentist to make sure they're still in good shape. That way, you don't have to have the work redone — and spend less time in the dental chair!
  5. Ongoing medical issues. Our teeth can be affected by chronic medical issues and treatment. Your dentist can help you take care of your teeth by making recommendations specific to your medical condition.
  6. Pregnancy. Some dental problems can get worse with pregnancy. Changes in hormones and eating habits can lead to gingivitis and an increase risk of tooth decay. Don't miss your regular checkups, even while you're pregnant!
  7. Trouble eating. It's not normal to have difficulty chewing or swallowing. Not only does it keep you from enjoying your favorite foods, but it can be a sign of something more serious.
  8. Dry mouth. When your mouth doesn't produce enough saliva, it can lead to tooth decay. Your dentist can recommend ways to restore moisture to your mouth to help keep your teeth and gums healthy.
  9. Tobacco use. If you smoke or chew tobacco, you could experience anything from bad breath to oral cancer. Talk to your dentist or doctor and come up with a plan to stop smoking or chewing and help protect your mouth and body from further damage.
  10. Jaw pain. Hearing pops or feeling pain when opening or closing your mouth, chewing or when you first wake up a sign that something maybe wrong with your jaw. You may also want to see your dentist for an uneven bite, which can affect how you chew
  11. Sores or spots. While they vary in severity and cause, it's important to see your dentist if you have any mouth sore that lasts for one week or longer. Mouth sores could be a sign of disease, infection or irritation.
  12. You need a checkup. Even if you don't have symptoms, regular checkups are important to help prevent, identify and treat problems before they become more advanced.

For links to more information about these dental health issues, check out the full article, 12 Signs You Need to See a Dentist.

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1Oral Health and Well-Being in the United States, Health Policy Institute, American Dental Association, 2015. https://www.ada.org/en/science-research/health-policy-institute/oral-health-and-well-being

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