Non-Dental Medical Issues That Could be Uncovered in a Dental Checkup
While having your teeth examined by a dentist is essential for picking up on all kinds of dental problems, from cavities to gum disease, there are many other medical conditions which have nothing to do with the teeth which can be spotted by a dental professional. Getting regular tooth checkups is not only critical to the health of your teeth and gums, it is also critical to your overall well-being too. While you may not have noticed any signs or symptoms which have indicated that there is something wrong with your health, your dentist may well be able to see telltale signs that indicate that you should seek further medical treatment or testing. Here are just some of the non-dental medical issues which may be uncovered during your checkup.
People who suffer from diabetes may exhibit a number of symptoms inside their mouth, including dryness, receding, bleeding and dry gums or loosening teeth. The diminished immunity and difficulty in combating disease which people who suffer from this problem tend to have makes it more likely that diabetic patients will have difficulty in healing gum line infections and wounds. While bleeding gums do not always indicate that the patient is suffering from diabetes, since the same symptoms can be caused by gum diseases and gingivitis, it could be an early warning sign that would prompt your dentist to suggest that you visit a doctor to have your blood glucose levels checked as the sooner diabetes is diagnosed and treated, the healthier you will be.
Your dentist may spot an infection inside your mouth which requires the use of antibiotics when checking your teeth. Whether you have had some kind of mouth trauma, a dental procedure or some other problem, an oral infection could be the result. Some of the symptoms of an infection include swelling, redness and severe pain in the affected area together with fevers, skin which is hot to the touch and drainage seeping from the tooth or wound. Since infections can spread around the body, including to critical organs such as the heart and lungs, it is essential to seek immediate treatment to prevent the problem from worsening.
Oral cancer is the USA’s sixth most commonly diagnosed form of cancer, and there are over 30,000 cases reported every year. During your regular checkups, you dentist can look for any signs that might indicate that you should have further oral screening tests. These symptoms usually include white or red lesions which are often found on the palate, tongue or floor of the mouth. People who drink a lot of alcohol, those who smoke or those who have been exposed to the human papillomavirus (HPV – the virus which also results in some cases of cervical cancer) are most at risk of oral cancer and should make sure to have regular checkups.
There are a few oral conditions which might be an indicator that a patient is HIV positive. In pediatric cases, the patient may have swelling to the salivary glands and a dry mouth, and may also have more oral viruses and lesions like herpes zoster, herpes simplex, oral candidiasis and HPV. An adult with HIV could have symptoms such as oral lesion, warts, or brown, purple, white or red spots in the mouth or on the tongue as well as other infections. Periodontitis and necrotizing ulcerative gingivitis may occur in as many as 6% of adult patients with HIV. While these symptoms do not mean that you necessarily are suffering from HIV, if you have several of these signs together, you may need to see your doctor to get a blood test.
Lymph Node, Neck and Head Checks
As well as checking the tongue, gums and mouth for symptoms of oral cancer, dentists can check the jaw, lymph nodes and neck for any lumps or swellings which could indicate an underlying health problem. If your dentist finds an abnormality, they may refer you to your doctor for further testing. Swollen lymph nodes could indicate some types of cancer, and the sooner treatment is sought, the better the outcome is likely to be.
Pregnant women are advised to always attend regular checkups, since their dentist may spot signs and symptoms which could indicate the health of their pregnancy. Women who suffer from severe gum disease (known as periodontitis) have been shown to be more likely to give birth to a low birth weight or premature baby. This is because the bacteria contained in a pregnant woman with gum disease’s mouth may trigger the release of extra prostaglandin as well as other inflammatory harmful molecules. This may induce an early labor and could impair the growth of the fetus. Although it would be best for a woman to be treated for gum disease before she gets pregnant, she should also be treated as quickly as possible if the problem is discovered after she has conceived.
Gum disease has been linked to and increased chance of having a stroke or a heart attack, and therefore it is very important to inform your dentist if you have been diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or your close family members have suffered from this condition. It is believed that when there is inflammation inside the mouth, inflammation is increased across the body, including inside the arteries and this inflammation could have a role to play in strokes and heart attacks. If your dentist spots signs of gum disease and inflammation, they can treat the problem thus lowering the risk of suffering from either of these seriously medical problems.
The human body responds in a number of ways to stress, and if you are having a stressful time at work or at home, there may be symptoms found in your mouth. One common physical manifestation of stress is bruxism. This is when the patient grinds their teeth together. Sometimes, patients do this consciously when stressed, however other people may be affected on a subconscious level and may only grind their teeth in their sleep. Teeth grinding can cause severe damage to teeth, and therefore your dentist is likely to recommend a bespoke night guard to protect them during the night. If you are stressed, you should also get counseling and make some lifestyle changes to reduce the amount of stress you are experiencing.
Patients who are eating badly or who have eating disorders will probably have some signs in their mouth that all is not well with their diet. People who have bulimia may be able to hide the condition from their friends and family, however their dentist will be able to spot the telltale signs, including bleeding gums, a dry mouth and eroded patches on the inside surface of the front teeth. The enamel which covers the teeth can be eroded away by stomach acid and therefore forced vomiting will wear it away causing extra sensitivity when eating hot or cold foods.
Although osteoporosis is most common in women who have gone through the menopause, other people may suffer from this condition too. Causing weakening of the bones, osteoporosis may result in loose teeth and a receding gum line, indicating changes within the bones which support the teeth. If your dentist spots these symptoms, they will usually make a referral back to your doctor to have a bone density test.
Attending regular checkup appointments offers many advantages, and not just for the health of your teeth and gums. Your dentist will be able to look out for any unusual changes inside your mouth and will be able to spot potentially serious problems. If they catch conditions early, you will be able to obtain earlier treatment for a more successful outcome.