May 22, 2017

Turns Out Your Dentist Can Detect More Than Just Oral Health Problems

The observations your dentist makes during a dental exam aren’t just limited to oral hygiene. Certain oral health problems can actually be early signs of increasingly dire conditions. These may effect your entire body, even conditions you didn’t know you had.

Good oral health is an indicator of good overall health. It significantly decreases your risk for a wide variety of diseases and disorders. These range from highly-preventable to life-threatening. The following conditions are just a few that your dentist can detect simply by looking inside your mouth.

Excessive Stress

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. This is the medical term for teeth grinding. Dentists see bruxism more frequently 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 duller 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,  exercise or even psychological counseling can help. Stress management is reportedly the most effective method for eliminating the habit for good.

Acid Reflux

Like severe stress, acid reflux is so widespread that many don’t even know they have it. Your dentist, however, might confirm your suspicions of the disorder. The warning sign: erosion of tooth enamel and dentine, the soft layer beneath the enamel. Acid reflux causes gastric acid, or stomach bile, to move up your esophagus. This can erode tooth enamel, particularly in the upper back molars.

In addition, an excessive amount of saliva could clue your dentist in to acid reflux. This symptom involves the same nerves and reflexes as vomiting, since the body is trying to flush out something that is irritating your esophagus.

Excessive Drinking

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. However, the most common is the decline of previously good oral hygiene habits. Alcohol inhibits the production of saliva. This causes the mouth to dry out. Saliva helps wash oral bacteria away to help prevent many conditions and oral problems.

When a patient who used to have good oral health shows high levels of plaque or gum disease, alcoholism might be the reason. Both of these symptoms evolve at a faster pace than usual in people who increase their alcohol consumption.

Diabetes

A string of oral health problems, such as gum disease, bleeding gums, enamel erosion, or loose teeth, may point to 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. In addition, they may increase the risk of heart disease and stroke. You can help prevent these outcomes with regular dental visits. That’s because cleanings help 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 may be surprised to learn that the dentist can bestow more advice than just brushing or flossing.

If dentist suspects the presence any of the conditions above, you should take it as a warning that your overall health is at risk. For those who don’t want to develop the conditions in the first place, begin by visiting the dentists every six months. That alone is a major step towards living a longer and healthier life.

Read next: Dental Inequality in America

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