Did you know your dentist can frequently spot the first warning signs of many major health problems? Issues like leukemia, heart disease, diabetes and more may all have oral manifestations, and can potentially be spotted by your dentist during a routine check-up even before you’re experiencing any symptoms.
One of the first signs of leukemia can be gingivitis; or swelling and bleeding gums. Doctors and dentists hypothesize gingivitis can be the result of how leukemia alters the immune system. If a dentist notices gingivitis in their patient’s mouth, and the patient affirms that they’ve been feeling weak and losing weight for no apparent reason, the dentist can run initial blood tests for leukemia. If the tests come back positive, the dentist should refer the patient to an oncologist for confirmation of the diagnosis.
Diabetes is another health concern that can first be detected in your mouth. Oral health issues like gums that bleed easily, swollen gums, permanent teeth that are separating or becoming loose, even persistent bad breath can be the first warning signs of uncontrolled diabetes. Likewise, when diabetes is not controlled properly, high glucose levels in saliva may help promote bacteria, causing more plaque and tartar, which will eventually create conditions that lead to chronic inflammation and infection in the mouth. The most common diabetes dental problems are tooth decay, periodontal disease that can lead to tooth loss, and compromised immune response to mouth and gum infections.
Gum disease and inflammation of the gums have also been shown to have a link to a higher risk for heart disease or a stroke. Patients with a family history of heart disease or other risk factors such as high blood pressure, history of smoking, etc. should contact their dentist and share with their dentist any issues with their gums, such as signs of swelling or infection.
Dentists can even spot indications of stress. While stress may not seem like a serious issue compared to leukemia or heart disease, too much stress can have detrimental effects on both your mental and physical health. Dentists will notice if you grind your teeth or clench your jaw, which are signs of stress. If left untreated, these problems can lead to more severe issues like worn down and chipped teeth or even bone loss. It also could be a wake-up call to work on reducing stress in your life.
Your mouth is one of the first places in your body that can indicate underlying health problem. Regular dental check-ups are an important part of maintaining health and wellness. ASBA has dental plans that offer comprehensive coverage with an excellent network of dentists who are dedicated to helping you stay healthy, throughout your entire body. Learn More.