Most people go to the dentist every 6 months (or more often) for dental cleanings and a checkup, and everybody knows to see a dentist for a sudden tooth problem or pain. Not only is the dentist the main defense for protecting your teeth, but a dentist is also often the first person to spot indications of certain underlying illnesses – which can manifest symptomatically in the teeth and mouth.
When dentists come into the room following a patient’s dental cleaning, they are doing far more than merely examining the patient’s teeth. They are looking for signs and symptoms of any health issues with the teeth and elsewhere in the body.
Many life-threatening illnesses have symptoms that manifest inside a person’s mouth. A primary care physician may look inside a patient’s mouth and throat, but it is the dentist who is poring over the inside and outside of a person’s mouth, head (such as the jaws), and neck area to check for signs of illnesses.
There are a number of oral signs that may reveal underlying health conditions, including the following:
Osteoporosis – Changes in the amount of bone in the jaw and loose teeth may indicate osteoporosis in the body.
HIV – Oral thrush, or candidiasis, can be a sign of HIV infection. It manifests with creamy white lesions on the tongue, gums, and tonsils.
Diabetes – When a dentist sees gums that are bleeding and sensitive, accompanied by bad breath, it may be a sign of diabetes.
Cancer – The presence of red and white lesions (that don’t heal) on the tongue, the floor of the mouth under the tongue, and the back of the tongue may be signs of cancer.
Crohn’s Disease – Circular, dime-sized lesions with white centers surrounded by red halos and swollen lips may signal Crohn’s disease.
GERD – If the back teeth show signs of tooth erosion (losing enamel) and/or other lesions are in the back of the mouth, this may be a symptom of GERD.
Heart Disease – Swollen, red, bleeding gums can place a person at risk for heart disease, as bacteria can detach and travel through the bloodstream to the heart.
Dentists may see some patients only where there is a problem. If a person waits until they have a very infected tooth before seeing a dentist, the patient can die of the infection – especially due to the proximity of the mouth to the brain.
When a tooth becomes infected – if treatment is not obtained in time – a pocket of pus can form in the mouth and result in an abscess. However, abscesses do not heal on their own. They can become septic (toxic), or the infection can travel through the body and affect the brain with potentially lethal consequences.
Therefore, yes, your dentist may save your life by preventing toxic infections from spreading and by discovering signs of an underlying illness which you may not know about.
Seeing a dentist regularly is important in maintaining your oral health and overall health. If you haven’t been to a dentist in a while, or if you have a fear of dental work, then see Dr. Ernie Soto.
With IV sedation dentistry, even nervous patients can relax as Dr. Soto and his team take good care of your teeth and mouth. Call us today at (954) 368-6264 or request an appointment right now. We look forward to serving you and your whole family.