It’s quite obvious that a visit to the dentist might diagnose dental issues and diseases, but it’s often overlooked that dental specialists can also observe symptoms for underlying health issues that might not be directly connected with periodontal health.
Here, we will discuss some examples to keep in mind:
Your dentist might spot signs of oral infections, which can occur in your gums, root of a broken tooth, tongue, and mouth tissue. Oral infections might be caused by trauma, bacteria,virus, chronic canker sores, and various other reasons.
Symptoms that might indicate oral infections are pain (mild to severe), redness, swelling, fever (including spots in your mouth that are hot to the touch), and pus drainage. Oral infections can spread to other areas of the body—and might cause terminal diseases— so it’s important to treat them immediately.
Diabetes (Type 1 and 2)
Various oral conditions like loose teeth, gum inflammation, and bleeding gums might indicate diabetes type 1 and 2. A strong indicator, however, is when there is consistent dryness in the mouth, which is a symptom of overly high or overly low glucose levels.
When a dentist observe these symptoms, they might recommend the patient to take a test for diabetes—if the patient hasn’t diagnosed with one—. This can allow an early detection for diabetes or prediabetic condition that hasn’t progressed to type 2, allowing earlier treatment for the patient.
Oral condition can indicate the presence of various heart diseases. When a good number of teeth are loose, combined with gum inflammation, the patient might have an underlying heart condition, or at risk of developing one. In fact, oral health and cleanliness might be the cause of various heart conditions, when too many bacteria accumulates in the mouth, the bacteria can enter the blood flow and get carried to the heart.
Patients with loose teeth and gum inflammation/abscess should get themselves treated immediately to avoid risks of heart diseases.
Bulimia is a term of serious eating disorder characterized by self-induced vomiting to compensate the previous binge-eating.
Bulimia can be life-threatening due to the serious emotional damage, and can severely damage the teeth. Repeated self-induced vomiting allows acids from the stomach to linger on your teeth and gums, and also exposes the gums and teeth to stomach bacteria. These can allow wears and chips on the tooth enamel.
Dentists might recognize the damages caused by bulimia, and the patient might be referred to a doctor or psychiatrist.
Reflux issues, including nighttime reflux can damage the teeth. This will especially affect the upper back molars, causing worn enamels, cavities, and weakened tooth in general.
Reflux issues might also increase the risks for stomach and esophagus cancer. So, in the case when your dentist see severe damages caused by reflux issues, they might refer you to a physician.
Osteoporosis is a health condition where the bones are gradually weakened, and often happens to elderly people as well as women who have gone through menopause.
A good sign for osteoporosis is the receding gum line, indicating that the bone that supports your teeth are weakened. Osteoporosis might also cause loose teeth.
When the dentist see these symptoms on those with a higher risk for osteoporosis, they might recommend getting a bone density test and will refer you back to your physician.
In pediatric patients, overly dry mouth might be caused by the swelling of the salivary gland. The presence of virus-induced oral lesions like herpes (simplex and zoster), oral candidiasis, and HPV, among others in child patients might indicate HIV.
Adult patients with HIV might have various oral conditions like colored spots on the tongue, lesions, oral warts, and severe oral ulcers.
Obviously having these symptoms alone might not necessarily mean you have HIV, but when a dentist spot these signs on patients with risky lifestyles (or children with HIV parent), the dentist might recommend getting an HIV test.
Dementia is a medical term referring to memory loss and mental confusion where the patient is unable to properly remember time and events. Poor dental hygiene is often linked to dementia, because the patient might not practice proper oral hygiene habits due to memory loss, and might not be able to follow suggestions.
On the other hand, a recent study at the University of California have suggested that not brushing your teeth regularly—at least once a day, but ideally twice a day— might increase dementia risk by up to 65%. Therefore, it is wise to maintain proper oral hygiene practices since earlier in life.
High level of stress might show in your mouth, where one of the most common symptoms is damages due to frequent grinding of your teeth—called bruxism—-. We often grind our teeth subconsciously during high level of stress, and this might occur during our sleep.
In this case, the dentist might recommend a night guard to protect your teeth, and might refer you to a psychologist or psychiatrist in severe cases.
Consistent and high level of mouth dryness can be a sign of Parkinson’s disease development. Saliva helps break down various bacteria, which can include bacteria that will cause Parkinson’s disease. Mouth dryness can be the side effect of various medications, but if you are not currently taking one, the dentist might recommend some sort of saliva substitute to counter the issue.
Regular visits to your dentist can help in finding early signs for various health issues beyond dental and oral diseases. The dentist might provide health recommendations, or refer you to physicians and health specialists before the condition becomes more severe.