Having regular dental check-ups is incredibly important – and not just to take care of those pearly whites. There’s a whole host of health conditions your dentist can spot – and some of them might surprise you.
From heart conditions to diabetes, dentists can identify signs of.
1. Heart conditions
Tell-tale signs of gum disease, such as inflamed gums and loose or missing teeth can also be a warning sign of heart disease. Bacteria in the mouth that forms as a result of gum disease such as periodontitis can, in rare cases, travel to the heart and lead to coronary artery disease.
In addition, increased levels of bacteria in the mouth can also lead to the formation of clots or plaque build-up in your arteries. This in turn can impact the blood flow to the heart – ultimately resulting in heart problems.
Diabetes is the fastest growing health threat and it is estimated that more than 5 million people are living with the condition today. Associated with an unhealthy lifestyle and a poor diet that is high in sugar and fat, the condition has life-long implications and requires daily management.
Patients suffering from gum disease, bleeding gums, loose teeth and severe enamel erosion could be displaying key symptoms of diabetes. Excessive consumption of sweet, sugary and acidic food and drink has a detrimental impact on a person’s teeth – as well as their wider body. So in a patient suffering from some or all of these conditions, alarm bells start to ring.
Of course, these issues can develop without being linked to diabetes at all, but for dentists it is important to raise this with patients and recommend they consult their GP for further testing.
3. Stress and anxiety
A lot of patients have a condition known as bruxism– otherwise known as teeth grinding. This is where a patient, consciously or unconsciously, grinds their teeth and excessively clenches their jaw. In most cases, it’s something they are totally unaware of and it tends to happen during sleep.
Bruxism is often an unwanted by-product of stress and anxiety and if it happens continually over a prolonged period of time, it can cause the enamel to wear down on teeth leading to increased sensitivity, infection and sometimes even tooth loss. Some studies have also shown that in rare cases stress can lead to gum disease too.
4. Eating disorders
Eating disorders, and specifically bulimia, are issues that patients often desperately try to hide from others – yet dentists can be some of the first people to spot the signs. Erosion on the inside of the teeth can be a sign of forced vomiting in a person with bulimia. This is because stomach acid brought up when being sick wears away enamel and makes teeth weaker and more sensitive.
Plus, poor nutrition and a lack of key vitamins and minerals – found in the majority of people suffering from an eating disorder – can mean that gums start to bleed and patients also develop dry mouth.
Anaemia is a condition where the body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells to circulate round the body, leading to excessive tiredness, a weakened immune system and a shortness of breath. If the lining of a patient’s mouth is very pale or a light shade of pink – as opposed to a darker fleshier colour – it could be a warning sign of anaemia.
Other signs, such as a smooth-looking tongue, rather than a normal slightly bumpy texture can also be a key indicator.