Thinking about skipping your next dental check-up? You should reconsider! Tooth pain or inflamed gums aren’t the only reasons to go see your dentist. Your dentist can be a surprising source of information about your overall health. Even diseases that aren’t commonly associated with your mouth can cause symptoms there. Early detection for many conditions can make the difference in saving your life!
Here are some surprising diseases that your dentist may be able to detect at a regular visit:
Diabetes can cause red, swollen gums and periodontal disease. Diabetes lowers your body’s ability to fight off infection and slows healing. Since your mouth is a hotbed of bacteria, a weakened immune system can quickly affect your gums. Diabetics also struggle with recurrent bad breath and an increase in cavities. Dentists often recommend that diabetics keep a more consistent schedule for cleanings to help control overgrowth of bacteria which could threaten your health.
There are many different autoimmune diseases, and each may affect your dental health slightly differently, but many show up in the mouth. For example, Hashimoto’s is a condition that affects your thyroid and can cause your throat to feel tight or restricted. Your dentist can help you determine if your thyroid is healthy in part through an examination of your soft tissues. Additionally, Crohn’s disease, which is generally associated with the lower GI tract, can also cause swollen lips and ulcers in your mouth. Your dentist can help you know if your mouth ulcers are something more common or a cause for concern. Many other autoimmune disorders also cause sores and ulcers, some of which are not painful but could help your dentist recommend further testing for diagnosis.
Sleep Apnea is a condition where you may stop breathing in your sleep. For many people it just disrupts their sleep, but for some it can have very serious consequences. Patients who experience sleep apnea may not even be aware it is happening. Sometimes you may notice you’ve been sleeping poorly or waking often, but you also may not. Sleep Apnea often causes people to breath through their mouth, which causes many symptoms your dentist will notice; dry mouth, bad breath, large tonsils, falling asleep in the chair, enlarged throat or neck, or damage from teeth grinding. Some dentists even specialize in sleep conditions and can offer you a sleep study to pinpoint the issue.
Obviously, oral cancer is obvious in the mouth. Oral cancer is linked with smoking and alcohol. At every visit, you may have noticed that your dentist does an oral cancer screening. They will look for ulcers or sores in your mouth, and use their finger to check for abnormal lumps in your cheek or gums. They may also feel your neck and face for abnormalities. Detecting oral cancer early can save your life; early detection survival rate is 84%. If not detected until later stages survival rates drop to 64% or as low as 39% for late detection.
Kidney disease causes the release of by-products from incomplete protein breakdown. These by-products can travel through your system can cause a host of effects. In your mouth, they cause bad breath, a bad taste in your mouth, and also cause dry mouth. Saliva is an essential tool to digest food, break down and wash away harmful bacteria, and keep your mouth healthy. As bacteria sit on your teeth and gums more it increases your risk of cavities and gingivitis.
These are just a few of the diseases that your dentist may be able to detect at a regular check-up. osteoporosis, anemia, heart disease, and many others show symptoms early in your mouth.
The American Dental Association recommends that you visit your dentist as often as they think is necessary for your personal health condition. For many people, once every 6 months is sufficient if they are healthy. However, your dentist may suggest you come more often if you have easily inflamed gums or other health concerns. Regular visits to your dentist can help them be aware of what is and isn’t normal for your mouth. Your dentist is a partner in your oral health and can help you uncover the underlying causes for unexpected changes. They can also help you know if changes in your mouth are concerning or not.