June 13, 2019
When you visit the dentist, you expect them to coach you on oral hygiene and to look for problems like cavities and gum disease. But did you know that those issues are only the beginning of what your dentist might discover? Dentists are trained to be experts, not just on the teeth and gums, but also on how the state of your mouth can point to other medical issues. Let’s talk about how your biannual cleaning and checkup could make you more aware of what is going on throughout your body.
Diabetes and oral health are strongly connected. Heightened blood sugar can contribute to a dry mouth. Diabetes also slows down the body’s ability to fight off infections, which means it can contribute to gum disease. If your dentist points out such issues within your mouth, it may be time for you to visit your primary care physician for a blood glucose check.
Most dentists include an oral cancer screening as part of a routine exam. Using their eyes and hands, they look for things like discolored tissue and odd lumps or swelling in or around the mouth. These brief screenings are often able to catch signs of oral cancer before it spreads to other areas of the body and becomes life-threatening.
Stress can manifest itself in countless ways throughout the body. It often affects the mouth via bruxism (teeth grinding). Because bruxism primarily occurs at night, you might not even realize you are doing it. If your dentist notices that your teeth are showing premature wear and tear due to habitual grinding, they can provide you with a mouthguard to protect your smile at night.
A lack of proper nutrition can weaken the teeth and make them more susceptible to damage. If your dentist notices that you are eating too much sugar or that your teeth indicate a lack of essential minerals, you can adjust your diet accordingly.
Digestive issues can manifest themselves in the mouth. For example, acid reflux may erode the tooth enamel. Identifying and treating such issues can save your teeth from further damage and make it easier for you to enjoy a wider variety of foods.
Osteoporosis, a condition wherein the bones lose density, is most common in postmenopausal women. However, it can affect anyone. It may cause the jawbone to weaken, which can affect how the gums function and even cause the teeth to become loose. If your dentist notices such signs, they may encourage you to visit your primary care doctor for a bone density test.
Your dentist is interested in more than protecting your teeth and gums. They want you to enjoy total body wellness. If they express concerns about your overall health, try to address such issues as soon as you can. Doing so could improve your quality of life — and perhaps save your life altogether!
About the Author
Dr. Alex Martin is a Scottsdale dentist who helps his patients maintain oral and overall wellness via thorough checkups and gentle, compassionate care. If you would like to learn more about how Dr. Martin and our team may be able to help you improve your smile and your health, contact us today at 480-860-1993.
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