Taking good dental care of your mouth, teeth and gums is not only beneficial to preventing tooth decay, cavities and bad breath, it can also help prevent certain medical conditions like cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis, and help identify eating disorders, sleeping problems, anxiety and stress. The case for good oral hygiene keeps getting stronger. The more you understand the connection between good dental care and overall wellness, the more likely you are to implement and maintain a proper oral hygiene regime. Below are some of the things dentists can see about your overall health and wellness just by looking into your mouth.
1. You may have diabetes
Poor gum status has been shown to be associated with diabetes. Ailments like ulcers, infections, inflammation of your gums, thrush, bad breath, and tooth decay, can all point to diabetes. While the relationship between periodontitis and gum disease is still being researched, studies in Diabetologia suggest that diabetes increases the risk of gum disease, and gum inflammation negatively impacts the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar.
2. You may be at a greater risk for stroke, heart attack, or cardiovascular disease
A national study of Canadians between the ages of 36 and 69 found that those with severe gum disease had between three to seven times the risk of fatal coronary heart disease. Similarly, a university study found that those with cavities and gum disease suffered strokes twice as often as those with good oral health. Periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease often couple each other as the bacteria from inflamed gums can enter the bloodstream and travel to the arteries and the heart. This can drastically increase your risk for heart attack or stroke.
3. You may have sleep apnea
Your teeth could be a clue to any distress you might be feeling as stress, anxiety or a sleep disorder can cause teeth grinding. The first sign of sleep apnea is often tooth grinding (also called bruxism). Your dentist will look for worn tooth surfaces, and will either offer treatment or refer you to a specialist who helps provide treatment for sleep apnea.
4. You may have signs of human papillomavirus (HPV)
Lesions in your mouth can be one of the earliest signs that you may have HPV. By your dentist looking at your lips and the salivary gland areas in your mouth, there are a lot of things they will be able to detect, even before you visit the doctor.
5. You may have an autoimmune disease
Your dentist might be the first one to notice and set you on the path to managing conditions like lupus, Crohn’s and colitis, celiac disease, and others. These all can look like many other things and sometimes present as inflamed lesions or sores in your mouth.
6. You may have kidney problems:
A study in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology states that people with kidney disease and those on dialysis are more likely to have periodontal disease and other oral health problems than the general population. The reason is because not only does bacteria grow in your mouth, your mouth is also a breeding ground for bacteria breeding in your bloodstream. People with kidney disease have weakened immune systems and are more susceptible to infections.
7. You may suffer from an eating disorder
Certain types of eating disorders (i.e. anorexia or bulimia), can be apparent to a dentist if they notice acid from purging which can erode both tooth enamel and dentin.
Just like you would keep abreast of trends and best practices to keep your body healthy, it’s best to keep tabs on what might not feel right and to stay curious about what is happening in your mouth. That includes looking for pain, swelling, bleeding gums, broken or loose teeth and/or enamel erosion. If you have any questions, call to speak to one of our dental specialists.
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A version of this post was first published on Altima Dental Blog