It might sound crazy, but your dentist might be the first one to let you know of a serious health problem you may have. Why is that? As it happens, the mouth is the body’s tattle-tail. A dentist can notice unusual or unhealthy conditions in your mouth, which may be a sign of larger health concerns.
A similar situation happened to a young 11-year-old who went to the dentist. As a result, the dentist discovered signs that something wasn’t quite right. When the girl was taken to the doctor a week later, they found a grapefruit-sized tumor on her pancreas. They were able to remove it, saving her life! Find out more on this story here.
Oral Conditions That Can Point to Other Health Problems
Hopefully, your dentist has a keen eye and will be able to recognize and inform you if they notice anything unusual. These conditions may include:
- Bad Breath. Not all bad breath is caused by lack of oral hygiene. If you brush and floss every day and visit the dentist regularly, bad breath can be caused by a stomach issue. Also, if you have diabetes, bad breath could be the result of a liver issue, which means your diabetes is not as under control as it needs to be. In this case, talk to your physician about further steps to take.
- Bleeding Gums. Bleeding gums could mean you have one of the following:
- Diabetes – People who are diabetic are more likely to have sensitive or swollen gums, which may eventually lead to gum disease.
- Eating Disorder – People who have anorexia or bulimia usually have very poor nutrition. Because of this, their gums may bleed more than usual or their mouth may be dry.
- Hormonal Imbalance – For the ladies, if you are pregnant, going through menopause or your regular menstrual cycle, your hormone levels are different than normal. Though your gums may bleed more than normal, there is nothing unusual going on if this is your situation.
- Canker Sores. Canker sores can be a sign of a mineral deficiency (such as zinc) or gluten intolerance. Some dentists have been known to give patients a zinc supplement if they notice canker sores. If the supplements do not work, it would be good to get checked out to see if you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease (a disease where proteins damage the small intestines).
- Cracked Teeth. Signs of a condition called GERD (Gastroesphogeal Reflux Disease) – in which stomach acids come up to the mouth. Because of this, the teeth are more worn from the acid and can be sharp.
Gum Disease. If you have gum disease, it is possible you also have:
- Diabetes – As we mentioned before, people who have diabetes are more susceptible to develop gum disease. The reason being is their lessened ability to fight infections in the mouth. When they develop a gum disease, however, it also makes controlling their blood sugar much more difficult.
- Heart Disease – There is a definite correlation between the health of your mouth and body. The bacteria and plaque in the mouth is the same bacteria and plaque that can cause a heart attack or stroke. Whether you realize it or not, cleaning your teeth, gums, and mouth goes a long way for your overall health.
- Poor Oral Health. Especially for the elderly, having poor oral health could point to early stages of dementia. Along with confusion and memory loss, an unhealthy mouth may be a symptom – especially if the person had trouble keeping up a good dental health routine.
- Receding Gum Line/Loss of Teeth. Symptoms like a receding gum line and tooth loss can point to osteoporosis – a common condition where one has weak bones. It is most relevant for elderly women.
- Red Mouth/Fat Tongue. Having a red mouth or fattened tongue can mean you have a nutritional deficiency. A B6 vitamin deficiency can be characterized by red corners of the mouth. An iron deficiency can be characterized by a red or beefy tongue.
- Sores. Unlike the occasional canker sore, if you develop persistent sores of an unhealthy pink or white color, you might be at risk for oral cancer. If so, talk to your doctor immediately to take steps of action.
Next time you go to the dentist, ask them if they noticed anything unusual. You never know what symptom they might suggest you check out – it could save your life! Also, if you have any concerns, do not hesitate to ask them. After all, they are there to help you improve your health – even if it’s not “dental” health!
When was the last time you asked your dentist about other health concerns?