Regular dental appointments are not only necessary to clean and protect your mouth from cavities and gum disease, but they can also help to diagnose more serious health conditions. During a consultation, your dentist will not only be examining your teeth and gums, but also looking for a range of other symptoms which might indicate that your have a secondary, serious medical condition. The next time you are tempted to delay your dental appointment, remember that a trip to the dentist could save your life!
Your mouth is a window to your overall health. Here are three of the more serious health conditions that a dentist can spot:
- Oral cancer: Although more common in smokers and those dependent on alcohol, oral cancers can affect anyone. If your dentist notices any white and red lesions, primarily on the tongue, the floor of the mouth or the soft tissue at the back of the mouth, this could be symptomatic of oral cancer. If oral cancer is caught early, there is a very high survival rate; another reason why you should schedule regular dental visits!
- Crohn’s Disease: This inflammatory gastro-intestinal disorder can cause serious pain, nutritional deficiencies and rapid weight loss. Dentists can see signs of Crohn’s Disease in the mouth, since some people develop lesions in there or exhibit swollen lips or ulcers on the inside of cheeks. This can occur even before abdominal symptoms appear.
- Diabetes: Gum disease is far more likely to present itself in people who suffer from diabetes than those that do not. Dentists can spot early symptoms of diabetes from examining the mouth, which include a dry mouth, receding or bleeding gums and wobbly teeth. Chronic bad breath and slow healing might also be warning signs.
- Heart disease: Similar to diabetes, gum disease can signal that a patient has heart disease, particularly in people that wouldn’t normally fit the profile of someone who suffers from gum disease, like someone who brushes and flosses regularly for example. If gum disease is also combined with high risk factors such as excess weight or family history, this can alert the dentist that this might not just be an oral hygiene concern.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: This autoimmune condition can sometimes strike young people, unlike osteoarthritis, which occurs in older people. Your dentist might notice jaw swelling or jaw dysfunction. If concerned, he or she might refer you to your family doctor for follow up.