A dental visit isn’t just about your teeth and gums. Your dental health is a good sign of how healthy you really are. If your tooth enamel is worn down, you may be stressed and grind your teeth at night. Swollen and receding gums are an early sign of diabetes. And sores in your mouth that don’t heal can sometimes indicate oral cancer.
Your dentist may be the first to notice these symptoms and may refer you to a doctor for additional tests and treatments. They also may work with your doctor to help manage your follow-up care, depending on your condition. Here are some common problems dentists can see in their patients.
Diabetes: Gum disease is commonly seen in people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. And gum disease can make it more difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar. If your dentist sees these symptoms, they will refer you to your primary care doctor or endocrinologist. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, your dentist will work with your doctor to schedule more frequent exams to check on gum disease.
Oral Cancer: Your dentist or dental hygienist often will see the first signs of oral cancer in a routine exam. They’re often the first to spot a red or white spot or sore in the mouth. These sores also can appear on your lips, gums, tongue, cheek lining, or in other parts of your mouth.
Stress: Your teeth may be worn down or chipped if you’ve been unconsciously grinding or clenching them. This grinding, also known as bruxism, can eventually cause bone loss that your dentist may detect on your X-rays. You may not even know you’re grinding your teeth, but your dentist can spot it.
Premature and Low-Weight Births: Studies suggest that pregnant women with serious gum disease may be more at risk to deliver a premature baby of low birth weight. Experts recommend women who are pregnant or want to be should get a dental exam and treat gum disease early.
Heart Disease: Gum disease is a risk factor for heart attacks and strokes, so you should tell your dentist if you or your family has a history of heart disease. By treating gum disease, you may decrease inflammation in your body that could contribute to heart disease or strokes.
Read more about the connection between dental health and overall health.