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    We Asked Dentists, And These Are The 5 Issues They'd Never, Ever Ignore

    If your gums bleed when you brush or floss, it's definitely time to call your dentist.

    When it comes to the basics of dental hygiene, most people know to follow the key rules ― like brushing twice a day ― but many quickly discount the seemingly-small dental problems that occur. And that can be dangerous.

    “What a lot of patients don’t understand is your dental health is pertinent to your overall health,” said Dr. Akeadra Bell, a clinical assistant professor at East Carolina University School of Dental Medicine and general dentist at Triangle Family Dentistry in Rolesville, North Carolina.

    “As dentists, we don’t just treat teeth and we don’t just look at teeth. Your oral cavity is the opening to your entire body and everything is connected,” Bell said. Meaning that skipped dentist appointment or ignored tooth pain can lead to bigger issues down the road.

    If you’re wondering what kind of problems should lead you to the dentist’s chair, here’s what the experts say:

    Bleeding when brushing or flossing.

    Close-up of a person's hands holding a strand of dental floss with a small blood spot

    The most prominent issue you should always address is any bleeding when brushing or flossing, according to Dr. W. Craig Noblett, a clinical associate professor and director of the division of endodontics at the University of Minnesota School of Dentistry.

    This can be an early indication of periodontal disease. In its beginning stages, the issue can affect the gum tissue, but it can go on to cause bone damage if left untreated, Noblett said.

    Not all bleeding is a sign of periodontal disease: “You can have localized irritation of the gum tissue if you got something caught in the gum alongside the tooth,” Noblett said. Popcorn hulls are a common culprit of this kind of irritation. But if you frequently notice bleeding while brushing or flossing, it’s a good indication that you have an issue that should be addressed by your dentist.

    Any type of pain in the mouth.

    Man smiling at his reflection, practicing self-care for a Goodful lifestyle piece

    Pain of any type is important to bring up with your dentist, Bell said. It doesn’t matter if it’s tooth or gum pain, or whether it happens when you’re chewing, brushing or doing nothing at all.

    “Pain can mean a cavity, it can mean a cavity so large that it’s a root canal, it can be a tooth that is infected,” Bell offered as examples. It can also signify gum disease or tooth irritation from brushing too hard. “Anytime you have that pain, you definitely want to be seen,” she said.

    Sensitivity to temperature.

    Person with eyes closed touching side of face, appearing to have a toothache or jaw discomfort

    If your teeth are sensitive to temperature, particularly cold temps, you should take note, Noblett said.

    “I think all of us are a little bit sensitive when you first get a bite of ice cream and you have a kind of a sharp jolt, but then you get used to it ... that’s pretty normal,” Noblett said. But if you have pain that lingers after you swallow, or an echo or throbbing, that is concerning.

    “That’s a good indication that the pulp tissue in one or more teeth is inflamed, and that comes either from decay ... or it could also come from a crack in the tooth,” he said.

    Swelling, an abscess or new bumps.

    Woman receiving a facial treatment at a spa, looking relaxed

    “A swelling or abscess needs immediate attention,” Bell said.

    New areas of tissue growth or bumps should be taken seriously, too. “This can be in the cheeks, on the tongue, around the floor of the mouth ... any type of peculiar occurrence,” Bell explained.

    Additionally, sores that won’t heal are another red flag, she said.

    “Areas of tissue growth or bumps could be signs of oral cancer, and what I always go by, I’d rather you come see me for nothing than to not come see me for something,” Bell said. It’s better safe than sorry.

    This shouldn’t make you panic; most bumps or tissue growth aren’t oral cancer, she noted. It could also be a blocked salivary duct or just irritation. Either way, you’ll want to get it treated.

    Teeth grinding or clenching at night.

    A dental mold of upper and lower teeth set against a pink backdrop

    Grinding your teeth or clenching them at night may not be as easy to decipher as some of the other problems mentioned above, but Noblett said it’s an important issue to keep track of. This habit can lead to cracked teeth, and changes in the way your top and bottom teeth come together.

    If you sleep next to a partner, they may be able to tell you if you’re grinding your teeth at night. Or, you can look for signs like headaches or a change in the way your teeth fit together in the mornings, Noblett said.

    Bottom line: If anything feels off with your oral health, don’t ignore it.

    “I tell my patients not to ignore any problem,” Bell said. “And the real reason behind that is perception of problems and perception of pain ... is different for every patient.” What may feel like sensitivity to cold for one person may feel like pain for another.

    Since every person perceives things differently, it’s important to report any new discomfort or concerns to your dentist so they can take a look at what’s going on. If you do notice that a pesky tooth pain is suddenly gone, your body maybe just got used to the pain or the nerve died, Bell added.

    “So always come see us because dental problems do not go away on their own ― they only get worse,” she said.

    This article originally appeared on HuffPost.