When should I call the dentist?

Some simple things you can look out for when you support someone to care for their mouth.


Use the table below as a guide to what a healthy/unhealthy mouth can look like. Always make a dental appointment if you or the person you support are unsure or have any concerns.


No action required


If there is no improvement in 1-2 weeks, see an oral health professional


Make a dental appointment
Lips Smooth, pink, moist Dry, chapped or red at corners Lump/s OR white or red patches OR bleeding ulcers
Tongue Normal roughness, pink, moist Coated, smooth, patchy, deep cracks or some redness Red, smooth, white or red patches OR ulcers, swelling
Saliva The inside of the mouth is wet A little bit of saliva is present OR person reports a dry mouth The inside of the mouth is dry and red OR thick ropey saliva OR person reports a dry mouth
Natural teeth No decayed or broken teeth   1 or more decayed or broken teeth OR chalky white patches indicating early decay
Dentures No broken areas, worn most of the time, no/little yellow/brown build up Worn for eating or cosmetic reasons only 1 or more broken areasOR missing tooth OR missing or never worn
Overall mouth Clean with no food pieces or build up in the mouth Food pieces OR white/yellow/brown buildup on 1-2 places in the mouth Food particles OR white/yellow/brown buildup in most areas in the mouth
Pain No signs of pain Changed behaviour that could be due to pain Person reports pain OR physical signs (eg swollen cheek or gum) OR behavioural signs (hitting/pulling at face, not eating)

Download this table as a pdf file via the Resources page Template adapted from the Oral Health Network EMR (May 2016) Content based on the Kayser-Jones Brief Oral Health Status Examination (2007)

Don’t wait for a problem! Everyone should see an oral health professional regularly for check-ups.