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When to See Your Dentist: Signs and Symptoms

The vast majority of patients know that visiting the dentist for regular checkups is a good idea. It helps detect oral issues and prevents more serious oral health issues from developing. But occasionally, something will go wrong in your mouth between visits to the clinic. And that may leave you wondering if you should visit your dentist or not? 

While your body can correct some issues, many require medical assistance. Here are the signs and symptoms that make an extra trip to the dentist a good idea. 

Loose Teeth

Adult teeth should last a lifetime (or many decades at the very least). So if you have a loose tooth, it’s usually a sign that you need urgent medical attention from your dentist. 

There are several causes of loose teeth. The most common in young adults is trauma or injury. If you’ve received a blow to the jaw, you may find that one or more of your teeth are loose and moving around more than usual. In many cases, the extra play is the result of a stretched periodontal ligament. 

tooth and periodontium anatomical structure. Sectional human central incisor showing the structures that form the dental tissue and the periodontal tissues.

In older adults, gingivitis – or gum disease – is the most common cause of loose teeth. It first develops at the interface between the gum and crown. If left untreated, it can slip below the gumline, infect the root, causing damage to the root bed, leading to looseness. 

Other common causes include changes in hormones during pregnancy and osteoporosis. 

Persistent Bad Breath

When your mouth is healthy, it shouldn’t smell awful.

In some cases, though, foul smells can develop. And if it doesn’t go away after brushing or flossing, it could indicate a more serious issue. 

There are many causes of bad breath. Food is the obvious one but usually subsides after a few hours. However, poor dental hygiene, tobacco smoking, dry mouth, and infections can all lead to persistent halitosis. 

If you have bad breath that won’t go away, schedule an appointment with us. Lexington Family Smiles provides treatments that resolve the root of the problem of bad breath. 

Jaw Pain

If you have jaw pain, it could be a sign that you have an abscess under a tooth. When the infection becomes established in your mouth, it damages not only your teeth but the surrounding bone, creating a kind of dull ache. If you have an abscess, you require medical attention from a dentist. 

Jaw pain can also result from TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder where the joint stops working the way it should, or from the grinding of teeth, called bruxism. Our dentist, Dr. Michael Moulton, can provide treatment for this condition as well. 


It can be tempting to do nothing about a toothache in the hope that it will go away. But, unfortunately, that rarely happens. In most cases, the throbbing continues to worsen to the point where over-the-counter painkillers are no longer sufficient. Don’t suffer the pain and don’t wait for the issue to become worse. Visit your dentist for toothaches.

A few forms of toothaches are purely nerve-related and don’t involve infection. For instance, you might have a toothache because a new tooth is coming through (not an issue for adults), or your teeth are shifting for some reason, perhaps because you’re wearing braces. Usually, these types of toothaches are not an issue, so long as the teeth are not loose. 

Most toothaches, however, are the result of infection. Bacteria get under the gumline or inside teeth, leading to swelling, inflammation, and intense pain. 

Toothaches at the back of the mouth tend to be the most severe because of the complexity and density of tissues in this region and the fact that the swelling doesn’t have many directions in which to expand.

A toothache may be treated by first eliminating the infection with antibiotics and then assessing whether extraction is necessary. If a gum pocket facilitates repeated infections, gum contouring may be needed to seal the gap and save the tooth.

Dry Mouth

In healthy patients, glands produce enough saliva to keep your mouth moist. The purpose of the moisture is to help remove food debris from the oral cavity and foster the growth of beneficial bacteria. When the mouth dries out, it can lead to yeast infections like thrush, mouth sores, increased plaque production, and sores in the corner of your mouth. 

If you notice that you have a dry mouth, dealing with it is a matter of priority and something you should speak with Dr. Moulton about as soon as you can. If we can address the issue early, it will prevent oral health problems in the future. 

There are several causes of dry mouth. Top of the list are medications, including pain meds, muscle relaxants, decongestants, and antihistamines. Other causes of dry mouth include tobacco and alcohol use, cancer therapy, and damage to nerves in your head. Aging is also a significant contributor, so you may notice that your mouth becomes less wet as you get older. 

White Spots On Your Teeth Or Gums

If you notice white spots on either your teeth or gums, visit Lexington Family Smiles for a dental evaluation. 

White spots on the teeth are usually the first sign of decay. These lesions indicate a softening of the enamel and usually means the start of a cavity. They are particularly common in patients who wear braces, so proper oral hygiene is so important.

White spots can also appear on soft tissue in the mouth, such as the gums, tongue, and bottom of the mouth. Dentists call these spots “leukoplakia.” Usually, they are benign and easy to scrape off, but sometimes they are precancerous. It’s always worth having a dentist evaluate it. 

Canker Sores

Cankers sores are small ulcers that appear on the lips, cheeks, roof of the mouth, and tongue. Some patients only get a couple of these in their lifetime, while it is a regular occurrence for others. 

The majority of sores we see heal within a week or two. However, you may find that sores never heal or recur more frequently. This may indicate abrasion issues in the mouth, hormone problems, or issues with your immune system. As your dentist, we can provide long-term solutions for dealing with these issues. 

Schedule a Dental Appointment

If you feel you need a dental checkup, schedule an appointment with Lexington Family Smiles today.