Surprising diseases your dentist can spot
It’s no secret that regular dental checkups can help you catch or prevent tooth and gum problems. But they’re also a good way to stay on top of your overall health.
Many diseases—including some you might not expect—can show signs in your mouth or jaw. In fact, over 90 percent of health issues that affect your whole body have oral symptoms, according to the Academy of General Dentistry.
Your dentist can be a good ally in uncovering these problems early—especially since you might see your dentist more often than your primary doctor.
Say ‘ah’! Your dental detective is on the case
Just what kind of health issues can your dentist detect? Here’s a look at a few key ones:
Anemia. In addition to fatigue, an iron deficiency can lead to symptoms like pale tissue and white patches in the mouth or swelling of the tongue.
Celiac disease. Although it’s a digestive disorder, celiac disease can affect the teeth too—especially in kids. Teeth may have bright white or brown spots, or appear pitted or translucent. Canker sores and dry mouth are also common.
Chronic stress. You might feel like your stress is under control. But cold sores or pain around your mouth, jaw or face could signal that tension is getting the better of you.
Diabetes. Poor blood sugar control makes it harder for your body to fight off bacteria—including germs in your mouth. That can lead to bad breath and inflamed or bleeding gums. Other oral signs of diabetes include dry mouth and an increase in cavities—which are caused by lower saliva production.
Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD). It might come as no surprise that heartburn can cause bad breath. But it can wear away at the enamel of your teeth too.
Heart disease. Bleeding, puffy or receding gums, bad breath, and mouth sores can all be signs of gum disease—which some studies suggest may increase the risk for heart attack. Jaw pain is another common warning sign of a heart attack.
Oral cancer. Mouth cancer can be tough to notice on your own. Your dentist will check for signs during your visit—including bleeding sores, lumps, thick or hard spots or changes in the way that your teeth fit together.
Osteoporosis. Most people aren’t diagnosed with osteoporosis until they have a fracture. However, loose teeth, tooth loss and poorly fitting dentures can be early signs of bone loss.
If your dentist suspects that any of your symptoms are signs of something more serious, be sure to follow up with your primary doctor.
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