Consistent Dental Visits Could Save Your Life!

A Seattle dentist was in the news recently because she made a life-saving discovery on a young child. Many people have a tendency to forget that routine dental visits are an important aspect to your overall health. It’s stories like this that remind us of the truth that dental care can save your life!

How Can a Dental Exam Save Someone’s Life?

During a dental exam, we thoroughly evaluate all of the tissues in and around your mouth.  This evaluation typically involves three aspects:

  1. Visual examination by the dentist
  2. Measurements of gum attachments by the dentist or dental hygienist
  3. Evaluation of x-rays by the dentist

Each of these steps gives us vital information about the health of your mouth and of your entire body!

Dental Evaluation

During a dental evaluation, your dentist is not just looking for cavities and gum disease. We also confirm the overall health of the entire mouth and spot warning signs that other problems could be occurring. In the case cited above, the dentist noted that the child had an unusual and untimely looseness of multiple teeth.  Knowing this was not normal, she was able to investigate further.

Many disorders and diseases in the body have visual manifestations in the mouth. Multiple autoimmune disorders leave signs in the soft tissues lining the inside of the mouth. Malnutrition, as well as certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies, causes changes inside the mouth.

When a dentist spots erosion of the enamel of teeth during an evaluation, he or she knows to look further and investigate the possibility of GI problems like acid reflux and GERD.  Severe wear from teeth grinding is a sign that there could be a condition of sleep-disordered breathing like sleep apnea.

Of course, one of the most important aspects of the dentist’s examination is an oral cancer screening. Studies have been conducted that indicate that dental health providers are crucial for early detection of oral cancer. Your dentist looks for any sign of oral cancer at each evaluation because early detection is the key to beating oral cancer.

Your dentist can see all of these things in a visual examination of the inside of your mouth!

Gum Measurements

Measuring the gums seems like a way to just check for gum disease. And while that may be the main reason, it is not the only reason. Gum disease that persists and proves resistant to traditional treatment may indicate an underlying health problem.

Periodontal disease and diabetes flowchart
Unmanaged diabetes can lead to periodontal disease, and periodontal disease can also impact glycemic control.

One of the most notable links is between periodontal disease and diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes causes resistance to gum treatments, so sometimes the dentist or dental hygienist is the first to catch a problem with your blood sugar. There is evidence of a two-way relationship between diabetes and periodontal disease, so that each can worsen the other.

Large bony defects around the teeth are also an indication of a problem with important vitamins and minerals like calcium, B12 and magnesium.

Respiratory diseases that decrease the body’s uptake of oxygen can lead to aggressive gum disease.  Even the body’s response to a gluten allergy in celiac disease can lead to periodontal problems.

X-ray Evaluation

Dentist discussing x-ray with patient
A dental x-ray is an important way we can diagnose underlying health issues.

Dental x-rays show more than just teeth. The reason the dentist in our news story was able to save this little girl’s life was because she ordered an x-ray to look into the cause of the loose teeth.

Dental x-rays allow us to evaluate the health of all of the hard tissues in the mouth. There are masses, tumors and cysts in both teeth and the jawbones that appear on x-rays. Many of these masses are benign, and some do not require any intervention at all.  However, in the case of this young child, the mass was a dangerous cancer called neuroblastoma, and it was visible on the dental x-rays.

Why is Consistency So Important?

Many problems are visible the first time we see them in a patient’s mouth. However, there are some that we “catch” as a result of tracking changes.  By seeing the same dentist and dental hygienist consistently, you establish patterns and “norms” for your specific, unique oral condition. By this, your dentist and hygienist more quickly note something that is out of the ordinary.

Chronic inflammation flowchart
Chronic inflammation can result from poor dental health, and can actually cause additional health problems.

Another reason consistency benefits you, the patient, is that it establishes a higher level of awareness and intervention and lowers your overall risk for disease. People who do not seek consistent dental care typically have chronic dental disease, which is always accompanied by chronic infection and inflammation.  Both chronic infection and inflammation overtax your body’s system and put you at a higher risk for other systemic disease like heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Therefore, people who do not see a dentist regularly not only miss out on the early detection of problems; they are actually at a higher risk for diseases.

Do You Have More Questions about How your Dental Health Affects Your Whole Body?

We have the answers! Call today to schedule a consultation with our doctors.  They will assess your current oral health state and any particular risk areas you have, as well as educate you into how you can lower those risks and live a longer, healthier life!