You likely know that you should visit your dentist for every six months for a dental exam to help keep your teeth and gums in good health. However, you may not realize that when inspecting patients' mouths, dentists are often the first healthcare providers to notice the symptoms of many diseases that affect oral health.
In fact, over 90 percent of all systemic, or whole-body diseases, affect oral health or display signs of the disease in the mouth, called oral manifestations.
Read on to learn about just a few of the diseases dentists often notice first during a routine dental exam.
An estimated 10 million people in the United States suffer from osteoporosis, but many people do not realize they have this disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle until they fracture a bone. This is likely because this disease displays no symptoms in its early stages and can only be detected through x-rays and bone scans that are not routinely performed when visiting a primary care provider for a checkup.
However, because dentists x-ray patients' teeth and jaws on a regular basis, dentists are often the first to notice a loss of bone density in the jaw that signals a person is developing osteoporosis. Sufferers of osteoporosis also often experiencing loosening of teeth and receding gums, and dentists may suspect osteoporosis based on these symptoms as well.
About 780,000 people in the United States suffer from Crohn's Disease, which is an autoimmune disease that can cause ulcers to develop in a person's entire intestinal tract or just part of it. Because the first symptom many people experience can be diarrhea, Crohn’s disease often goes undiagnosed until symptoms progress further. Other symptoms include abdominal cramping, intestinal bleeding, and weight loss.
About 20 percent of people suffering from Crohn's disease develop mouth lesions that are typically red in color with white centers. Other oral manifestations of Crohn's disease include frequent canker sores and unexplained gum bumps.
Because some sufferers of Crohn's Disease develop these oral health symptoms before other symptoms of the disease, dentists are often the first to spot the signs of this disease.
While an estimated 30.2 million adults in the United States live with diabetes, about 7.2 million do not know they have the disease. Sufferers of diabetes need to begin treating it as soon as possible to prevent extensive body damage that can occur due to elevated blood glucose levels, such as heart disease, kidney damage, glaucoma, and more.
Oral health problems diabetes can cause include gum disease, dry mouth, tooth loss, frequent oral infections, and mouth ulcers. Because diabetes can cause many oral health problems, dentists often spot signs of the disease first.
You may not realize that every time you visit your dentist for a check-up, they examine your mouth and throat for the signs of oral cancer. By the end of 2017, researchers project that about 50,000 people will have been newly diagnosed with some form of oral cancer, and oral cancer rates have been increasing for over a decade.
While, thankfully, the oral cancer survival rate nears 90 percent for cancers found in their early stages of development, unfortunately, most people do know that they have oral cancer until it has reached its late stages when it is more likely to turn deadly. This has led to about 43 percent of people diagnosed with oral cancer passing away within five years of diagnosis in recent years.
Because all forms of oral cancer are most treatable in their early stages, you should never skip a dental check-up.
According to the American Dental Association, your dentist examines your mouth for the following signs of oral cancer: unexplained sores in your mouth (especially those that bleed or are crusty), hard lumps or masses, red or white patches, and areas of unexplained rough skin.
Dentists will look for these oral cancer signs on your lips, tongue, gums, the inside of your cheeks, the roof of your mouth, and the floor of your mouth. Your dentist will also examine your neck and the area under your jaw for suspicious lumps that may signal cancer development.
Other signs of oral cancer you should report to your dentist include a sore throat that seems to have no cause, difficulty chewing or swallowing, or unexplainable pain in your ear.
If your dentist notices a sign of oral cancer in your mouth or on your neck, they will refer you to an oncologist for an official diagnosis and treatment.
While you likely know that you should visit your dentist every six months to ensure your teeth and gums stay in good health, you may not realize that many diseases are first detected by dentists due to the oral manifestations they display. Schedule an appointment for a dental check-up with All Valley Dental today.