During a preventative dental exam and cleaning, your dentist will be looking for signs of inflammation, infection, and tooth decay. During a thorough oral examination of the mouth, it is not uncommon for dentists to be the first to identify warning signs of serious, chronic health conditions including heart disease and diabetes. Here’s how the condition of your teeth, gums, jaw, and tissues in the mouth can signal underlying health conditions.
Symptoms of Heart Disease Dentists May Find in Your Mouth
Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that develops on your teeth as the result of certain enzymes in food interacting with saliva. Everyone develops plaque, which is why dentists encourage all patients to brush twice a day for two minutes and to floss thoroughly each day. When you brush your teeth you remove a lot of this plaque. Harder to reach plaque is removed during your regular cleaning and exam with your dentist. However, when your dentist examines your mouth and finds an unusually large amount of bacteria on the teeth, it can sound an alarm.
Bacteria in the mouth can travel elsewhere in the body, including to your heart valves, and your arteries, because it travels through the bloodstream. When this bacteria multiplies and spreads across the inner lining of the heart, it leads to an infection known as endocarditis.
In addition to an abundance of plaque, inflammation of the gums is also a warning sign that the body is fighting an infection. If left untreated, a severe infection of the gums (periodontal disease) can spread throughout the body, inflaming other organs as it spreads. Should your heart become inflamed, you’ll be diagnosed with myocarditis, which can significantly reduce your heart’s ability to function properly.
Symptoms of Diabetes Your Dentist May Find in Your Mouth
Diabetes is a chronic condition affecting millions of children and adults. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the developing condition until they see a dentist. Undiagnosed diabetes often presents as swollen gums that bleed easily. In addition, white patches in the mouth caused by a fungal infection known as thrush are a common sign of diabetes. More than 20% of people living with diabetes are eventually diagnosed with periodontitis, and cases may be recurring. Frequent infections in the gum may prompt your dentist to recommend screening for diabetes.
Preventative Exams Include Screening for Oral Cancer
As your dentist conducts your oral exam, they will also be looking for any signs of tissue changes in the mouth that may be a symptom of oral cancer. Likewise, they will be looking for lumps, lesions, and tumors, if they need to be biopsied. Digital x-rays are also taken to view the structures not visible to the naked eye, which can also indicate abnormal growth or infection.
Oral Health is Essential to Overall Health
Your oral health plays an integral role in your overall health and wellness. Twice yearly oral examinations and comprehensive evaluations are essential to maintaining excellent oral health. Contact Kensington Natural Smiles in Kensington, MD today to schedule a dental exam and screening with Dr. Susan Ho today by calling 301-933-3903. For your convenience, you may also request an appointment online.