When you have your regular dental check-ups, your dentist can actually uncover some very important clues about your over-all health.
For example, if your tooth enamel has been worn down, it’s a sign that you may be suffering from stress and you are unknowingly grinding your teeth of a night time while you sleep. Receding or swollen gums can also be a sign of diabetes, and if you have sores in your mouth that don’t seem to be healing – that could be a sign of oral cancer.
In many cases, it’s your dentist who is the first to notice these signs and can suggest you see your doctor to have additional tests carried out. In some cases, they will even work WITH your doctor to help you manage with any follow-up care.
Your regular dentist is concerned about more than just saving your teeth, he or she is also looking at how your teeth affect your over-all wellbeing. Here are some of the common conditions dentist look out for.
Diabetes – Those with type 1 or type 2 diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease because they have a decreased ability to fight any bacterial infections, which includes infections that can occur in the mouth. In addition, those with serious gum disease and who have diabetes can struggle to control their blood sugar. For patients with symptoms such as swelling, bone loss or frequent gum abscesses or gum disease that isn’t responding well to treatment it can be a sign they have diabetes.
If your dentist suspects that you may be suffering from undiagnosed diabetes they will suggest you follow the issue up with your GP. Once you have been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes your dentist will send your doctor reports letting him know – for example – if they are finding your gum disease has been hard to treat, it could be because your blood sugar levels are not being well controlled.
Your dentist may also suggest more frequent dental exams if you have a history of diabetes and gum disease.
Oral Cancer – The first sign of oral cancer is a small white or red spot or sore in your mouth, this can appear on your tongue, cheek lining, gums, your lips or any other part in your mouth. You may not even notice it as it may just be a small spot under the tongue or at the back of the mouth.
Your dentist will look for any sign of cancer as part of their routine exam. When you schedule regular check-ups, you are increasing the chances of any pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions being caught early and successfully treated. If you have noticed any symptoms such as a sore in your mouth that isn’t healing, pain or numbness in your lips or in your mouth or a lump of any kind, be sure to mention it to your dentist.
Stress – if you have been unconsciously clenching or grinding your teeth during the night, your teeth may be chipped or worn down. This grinding – also known as bruxism can eventually cause bone loss which your dentist will see on an x-ray. Bruxism is usually caused by stress, but it can also happen because the top and bottom teeth aren’t’ correctly aligned. While you may not be aware that you are grinding your teeth, your dentist will be able to spot the signs.
Your dentist will fit you with a custom-made mouth guard to wear while sleeping. This is to prevent further damage by keeping your teeth apart allowing your jaw muscles to relax.
Premature and low weight births – Studies have shown that pregnant women suffering from serious gum disease are more likely to deliver a premature or a low birth weight baby. The bacteria in the mouth of a pregnant woman who has gum disease can trigger an increase in a chemical compound called prostaglandin and other harmful inflammatory molecules. These chemicals can induce premature labour and impair foetal growth.
Women who are pregnant or who are thinking of becoming pregnant should have a dental exam and if necessary start treatment for gum disease as early as they can.
Heart disease – gum disease may increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks, you should tell your dentist if you have, or if there is a family history of any cardiovascular diseases. Research is being undertaken into the links between cardiovascular disease and gum disease. One thought is that inflammation in the mouth increases inflammation in other parts of the body – including the arteries. It is this inflammation that may play a role in strokes or heart attacks.
By treating gum disease and reducing the inflammation you may be able to lower your risks of heart attack or stroke.