Open wide and say, “aah.” Doing so allows your dentist to check for more than cavities and gum disease. “A dental visit could also reveal signs of other serious health conditions,” says LVHN dentist Michele Pisano-Marsh, DMD, who also practices at her private dental practice.
5 Surprising Health Concerns Your Dentist Might Detect
Your oral health can indicate problems ranging from osteoporosis to diabetes and more
These might include:
Each year, more than 50,000 Americans are diagnosed with oral and throat cancers. Your dentist may spot red or white patches, lumps or thick tissue, or a swollen jaw. “If they linger for two weeks, your doctor or clinician may do a biopsy or refer you to a specialist,” Pisano-Marsh says.
Gum disease and diabetes often go hand in hand. If you have severe gum disease and other risk factors, such as a family history of diabetes, your dentist may advise you to see your doctor or clinician for diabetes screening tests.
“If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, your dentist can alert you to potential signs that your condition isn’t under control,” she says. Symptoms like a dry or burning mouth, bad breath, slow-healing wounds, infections or enlarged salivary glands can point to problems.
3. High blood pressure
Although half of all Americans have hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, many don’t know it. But when blood pushes hard against artery walls, like it does when you have high blood pressure, it raises your risk for stroke and other serious health problems.
Your dentist may take your blood pressure before a cleaning or treatment. If your numbers are high, you should see your doctor or clinician.
Because human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) damages the immune system, it makes you prone to other infections and can advance to AIDS. Early diagnosis is critical so that you can start medical treatment right away.
Mouth sores are among the first signs. “If your dentist points them out, get tested, especially if they’re accompanied by muscle aches, sore throat or other flu-like symptoms,” Pisano-Marsh says.
X-rays help your dentist see cavities, gum disease and other problems that aren’t visible when looking in your mouth. They might also spot bone loss in your jaw, which could be an early warning sign of the bone-thinning disease called osteoporosis. If your dentist has concerns, you should talk with your doctor or clinician about having a bone mineral density test. Getting treatment can also prevent fractures.
The bottom line: Keeping up with your dental visits can really pay off. Investing a little time in the dentist’s chair helps keep your teeth and gums healthy – and may also unmask other medical issues earlier to help keep you well from head to toe.