We all know that regular dental checkups are vital for maintaining our overall dental hygiene, but these visits can also provide incredibly helpful information regarding your body’s health overall: how you take care of your teeth is a good indication of how you take care of the rest of your body. In some instances, a visit to your dentist for a simple oral examination can end up saving your life.
An astounding 90% of all systemic diseases have oral manifestations, which can show in the forms of swollen gums, mouth ulcers, dry mouth, and excessive gum problems. A dental exam can also reveal potential problems with your bones, heart, and even digestion. A recent study by the American Heart Association revealed that, “those who received regular teeth cleanings and scrapings had a 24% lower risk of heart attack and 13% lower risk of stroke compared to people who didn’t get such dental care.”
Here are just a few of the health concerns that your dentist can look out for and potentially spot while you are getting your regular check-up:
People in the early stages of dementia may show signs of poor oral hygiene, as the disease is often characterized by confusion, disorganization, and loss of memory, as the individual gradually loses their cognitive functions. In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatric Society, poor oral hygiene may, in fact, be a risk factor for dementia, as gum disease bacteria could enter the brain and cause inflammation.
Alyson Hope Koslow, DDS, has stated that loose teeth and inflamed gums could be two warning signs of heart disease. Much like how the bacteria in gum disease can travel to your brain and potentially cause dementia, the bacteria in gum disease such as periodontitis could travel to your heart and contribute to coronary artery disease. This bacteria can also be a factor in the formation of clots and plaque build-up in the arteries of the heart, two dangers that lead to heart disease. In addition, symptoms such as a sore and painful jaw could foreshadow an oncoming heart attack.
Not only is gum disease the most common dental health condition for diabetics, but bad breath, loose teeth, and bleeding gums could also be early indicators of diabetes. Any infection at the gum line can also worsen your diabetes and in turn, contribute to your risk of having a stroke or developing heart disease.
Osteoporosis is characterized by the weakening of your bones, and while it doesn’t affect or change your teeth specifically, it does affect the bone that supports your teeth. You can see this effect as evidenced by a receding gum line and loosening teeth. Thankfully, dental x-rays are able to identify the first stages of bone loss.
Dentists are oftentimes the first people who are able to notice an eating disorder, such as anorexia or bulimia, in an individual. Eating disorders often lead to poor oral conditions such as bleeding gums and a dry mouth due to poor nutrition. Koslow has also pointed out that “erosion on the insides of the front teeth may be a sign of forced vomiting in a young person with bulimia, [as the] stomach acid wears away at enamel and also makes teeth more sensitive.”
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