Most people know that visiting the dentist is important for a healthy mouth and a good smile, but do you also know that dentists can recognize health problems that affect the rest of your body? In fact, more than 90% of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations, and your dentist might be the first person to recognize what’s going on with your overall health.
The following health concerns will often reveal themselves through symptoms that appear in your mouth.
If you’ve lived most of your life without many cavities, haven’t changed your eating habits, and then had a dentist appointment that revealed several brand new cavities, it might be because of diabetes. Gum disease, gum abscesses, oral thrush, and dry mouth can also be side effects or symptoms of diabetes.
Diabetes makes it difficult to process glucose, which affects your blood sugar. When that happens, your saliva can have a higher sugar content, which of course promotes tooth decay. People with diabetes have less ability to fight bacterial infections, which increases your risk of gum disease.
If we think there is a chance you have diabetes or prediabetes, we’ll refer you to a doctor for testing.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
Most people will occasionally experience heartburn, but regular acid reflux can be a sign that you have GERD. This occurs when stomach acid moves up into the esophagus and into the mouth.
GERD symptoms are different for everyone– some will experience heartburn, others will experience frequent burping. Some people may not recognize any symptoms at all, but your dentist will.
The stomach acid will wear away at the enamel of your teeth, typically on the inside. A dentist can recognize this and refer you to a doctor to test for GERD. Antacids, changing your eating habits, or prescription drugs can help. It’s important to treat GERD because extended exposure to the stomach acid can damage your teeth and throat.
Fortunately, a dentist can recognize GERD before it becomes too detrimental to your health.
Routine dental exams include screenings for oral cancer. Small red or white spots that appear in your mouth are the first signs of oral cancer. Patients typically don’t recognize these spots because they can be so small and can appear in hidden places like under the tongue.
If you’re suspicious of anything you think might be a sign of oral cancer, schedule a checkup as soon as possible. Signs include: mouth sores that won’t heal, lumps, or pain in your mouth.
Catching oral cancer early increases the chances of successful treatment, so please don’t hesitate to contact us for an appointment.
Stress often causes people to grind or clench their teeth. This can be an unconscious action, but teeth grinding can cause your teeth to chip or become worn down over time. Excessive grinding can even cause bone loss.
Grinding, also known as bruxism, can also occur when your bite is not aligned properly. There are options for treating bruxism…your dentist can help.
Gingivitis occurs when plaque builds up along the gum line. This plaque causes inflammation in the gums, which in turn leads to blood in the sink when you floss. It’s important not to brush your teeth too hard or floss too rough…that will only hurt.
Your dentist can recognize gingivitis, which is important because if it’s left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontitis. This causes gum recession, forming pockets that can get infected. Gum disease can also link to more serious problems like heart disease.
An American Heart Journal study discovered that people with gum disease are more likely to have heart disease. It’s unclear exactly what the link is, but one theory states that the inflammation of the mouth can increase inflammation in other areas of the body, which might play a part in causing strokes or heart attacks.
Reducing inflammation by treating gum disease might lower the chances of heart attack. If you have a family history of heart disease, then make sure you spend extra time caring for your gums. Brush and floss regularly and maintain regular checkups at the dentist to ensure you keep gum disease at bay.
Schedule an appointment today
Whether or not you have health concerns, it’s important to visit your dentist regularly. Regular checkups can reveal life-altering or life-threatening health problems.
If you are in the Johns Creek area, contact us at Lifetime Smiles to make an appointment.
Dr. Forester has extensive experience with integrative dentistry and can help ensure that you and your smile remain healthy.