A sore that isn’t healing
If you notice a mouth sore, a lump or a red or pale patch of skin on your tongue, cheek or gum, keep an eye on it for a couple of weeks. If it doesn’t go away, see your dentist ASAP. An earlier diagnosis of oral cancer means a much better chance of recovery. That’s why dental professionals should do a cancer screening at your regular visits, even if you haven’t noticed any symptoms. And you can check yourself at home once a month. Ask your dental care providers how to do a self-exam. “It’s not difficult to do,” says Mandy Hayre, Chair of Vancouver Island University’s Dental Hygiene Diploma Program. “It just takes a mirror and good lighting.”
Pain and swelling
If you have unexplained pain or puffiness in your mouth that persists for a couple of days, bite the bullet and call your dentist. It could be a sign of infection, decay, gum disease or a cracked tooth. Left untreated, these problems can worsen and even lead to tooth loss. Don’t delay, especially if the symptoms are disturbing your sleep. “You absolutely have to go to your dentist,” says Hayre.
A bad smell or taste in your mouth
Foul-smelling breath could be a consequence of that sliced onion you had on your lunch salad. Or it could mean you’re not looking after your teeth and gums properly, and there’s a build-up of bacteria. But sometimes bad breath signals other health problems like gum disease, sinusitis, throat or lung infections, tooth decay or an abscess. A bad taste in the mouth can also be a sign of an oral infection.
You may not realize your mouth smells rank. So if your spouse or partner comments on your bad breath, consider it a courtesy – and call your dentist’s office.