The observations your dentist makes while examining your teeth aren’t just limited to oral hygiene. Certain oral health problems can actually be early signs of increasingly dire conditions that effect your entire body, even conditions you didn’t know you had.
Good oral health is an indicator of good overall health, significantly decreasing your risk for a wide variety of diseases and disorders, ranging from highly-preventable to life-threatening. The following conditions are just a few that your dentist can detect simply by looking inside your mouth:
It is extremely common for people to experience high levels of stress, therefore it’s difficult to determine when that level becomes unsafe. One way to tell that stress is on the verge of impacting your overall health is bruxism, the medical term for teeth grinding. Bruxism is more frequently observed in patients who have trouble sleeping due to stress, anxiety, or sleep disorders like sleep apnea.
Dentists can detect bruxism when they see a healthy tooth that is smaller and more dull than it should be. “The surfaces of the teeth become flat and the teeth get worn down,” Charles Rankin, DDS and professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, told the Huffington Post.
Your dentist might suggest a night guard to prevent bruxism in addition to exercise or even psychological counseling. Stress management is reportedly the most effective method for eliminating the habit for good.
Much like severe stress, acid reflux is so widespread that many sufferers don’t even know they have it. Your dentist, however, might confirm your suspicions of the disorder after noticing erosion of tooth enamel and dentine, which is the soft layer beneath the enamel. Acid reflux causes gastric acid, or stomach bile, to move up your esophagus and erode enamel, particularly in the upper back molars.
An excessive amount of saliva could clue your dentist in to acid reflux as well. This symptom involves the same nerves and reflexes as vomiting, since the body is trying to flush out something that is irritating your esophagus.
Your dentist will be one of the first people to notice you are drinking too much. A number of observations could lead to this conclusion, but the most common is the decline of previously good oral hygiene habits. Alcohol inhibits the production of saliva, causing the mouth to dry out. Without saliva, oral bacteria does not get washed away and can therefore result in myriad conditions and oral problems, beginning with cavities.
When a patient who used to possess good oral health suddenly begins to develop high levels of plaque or gum disease, the early stages of alcoholism might be the culprit. Both of these symptoms evolve at a faster pace than usual in patients who increase their alcohol consumption.
A string of oral health problems, such as gum disease, bleeding gums, enamel erosion, or loose teeth, is an indicator of diabetes. “Among people that are unaware of whether they have diabetes or not, poor gum status has been shown to be associated with diabetes,” Panos Papapanou, DDS and professor of dental medicine at Columbia University told the Huffington Post. “This is a pretty critical situation in which a dentist can help to identify undiagnosed diabetes.”
Diabetics are reportedly three times more likely to experience the most severe type of gum disease. Bacterial infections can also worsen other diabetic symptoms and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. These outcomes can be prevented through regular dental visits, since cleanings stop bacteria from getting under the gums.
Wouldn’t You Rather Not Deal With These Problems At All?
It’s very important to tell your dentist about any oral problems you are having, even those that seem relatively negligible. You’d be surprised to learn that the dentist can bestow more advice than just brushing or flossing.
Should your dentist have reason to suspect the presence of one of the aforementioned conditions, it should be taken as a warning that your overall health is at risk unless you seek further treatment. For those who don’t want to develop the conditions in the first place, you can begin by visiting the dentists every six months, a major step towards living a longer and healthier life.