Since our mouth is the gateway to our health, it only stands to reason that our dentist may be the first to notice something’s wrong. In fact, a dentist can detect signs of more than 100 diseases during a routine oral exam. That’s one reason dental professionals and the American Dental Association encourages everyone to get them every six months.
It’s been suggested that over 90% of all systemic diseases have symptoms that appear in the mouth, such as ulcers, swollen and bleeding gingiva, dry mouth, discolored teeth, or bad breath. A couple examples include bone loss found during x-rays, sour jaw could hint at an oncoming heart attack, or crumbling teeth can be a sign of malnutrition or an eating disorder.
Some of these diseases or conditions and their symptoms include:
Diabetes – fruity bad breath, gum disease, or bleeding gums.
Leukemia – swollen or bleeding gums, oral lesions. (Source: IMAB.)
Oral cancer – oral lesions, oral inflammation.
Pancreatic cancer – high levels of certain types of oral bacteria, swollen gums. (Source: Center4Research.)
Heart disease – inflamed gums or loose teeth.
Kidney disease – dry mouth, bad breath, and mucosal pain. (Source: NCBI)
Dementia – general poor oral health.
Osteoporosis – receding gums, loose teeth.
Eating disorders – Crumbling teeth, sensitive teeth, bad breathe.
Acid Reflux – molar enamel erosion, damaged oral and throat tissue. (source: EveryDayHealth.com.)
Crohn Disease – Swollen lips and oral ulcers. (Source: ReadersDigest.com)
Anemia – an unusually smooth tongue.
Stress – tooth grinding, tooth fractures.
Hodgkin’s Disease – swollen lymph nodes.
Addison’s Disease – discoloration of oral tissue and gums. (Source: EvolveDental.)
HIV – oral ulcers, swollen tonsils, gum disease, fungi infections.
Celiac Disease – Enamel defects and discoloration (Source: RDH Magazine.)
If you have any of these symptoms or are worried about your health, asking your dentist at the next exam is perfectly acceptable. Their professional opinion or recommendations can lead to catching diseases and disorders before they progress to destructive stages and treating them with less intrusion or pain.
As with all health issues, the best medicine is prevention. Keeping yourself in good overall health will not only prevent these diseases but keep your mouth in good standing as well. A regular oral care routine includes brushing for two minutes twice daily, flossing once daily, and seeing your dentist twice per year. In addition, rinsing with fluoride-based mouth rinse and chewing sugar-free gum can help keep your mouth clean between brushings and prevent the symptoms above.