Your overall health can affect your oral health, and your dentist may be the first to spot signs of trouble. More than 120 diseases present symptoms in the mouth, and your dentist is specially trained to identify potential health issues.
Here are some common problems dentists can identify at your bi-annual cleaning.
Diabetes: Gum disease is common in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, and it can make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar. If your dentist observes these symptoms, you may be referred to your primary care doctor or endocrinologist. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your dentist will work with your doctor to schedule more frequent exams to monitor gum disease.
Oral Cancer: Your dentist or dental hygienist can be the first to spot signs of oral cancer in a routine exam. They’re often the first to identify a red or white spot or sore in the mouth, the most common symptoms. These sores can appear on your lips, gums, tongue, cheek lining, or in other parts of your mouth. Early diagnosis is crucial to survival. Requesting an annual oral cancer screening is recommended, especially if you partake in risky behaviors like smoking and drinking heavily.
Stress: Stress is hard on the body, but can be even harder on your mouth. Your teeth may wear down or chip if you’ve been unconsciously grinding or clenching them. This grinding — also known as bruxism — has the potential to cause bone loss that your dentist can detect on X-rays. You may not even know you’re grinding your teeth, but your dentist can sure spot it.
Premature and Low-weight Births: Studies suggest that pregnant women with serious gum disease may be more at risk to deliver a premature or low-birth-weight baby. Experts recommend that women who are pregnant or those that are trying to become pregnant should get a dental exam and treat gum disease early.
Heart Disease: Gum disease is a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, so you should tell your dentist if you have a family history of heart disease. By treating gum disease, you may decrease inflammation in your body that could contribute to heart disease or strokes.