We know that your dentist’s main priority is to look for signs of tooth decay and periodontal disease when doing an oral exam. But what you may not know is that your dentist is checking all parts of your mouth for signs of other issues. The mouth is vulnerable to countless different types of lumps and bumps and can show symptoms of diseases that originate elsewhere in the body. Here are a few things your dentist may be able to diagnose by merely examining your mouth.
One component of dental exams is the early detection of oral cancers. Your dentist will examine multiple areas, including all sides of the tongue and inside the cheeks for common warning signs or suspicious areas. These include red or white patches, sores that don’t heal, firm lumps or bumps, or rough areas where tissue appears damaged.
GERD (Acid Reflux)
Acid reflux, usually known as heartburn, is a condition that affects many people. In most cases, the sufferers of GERD realize they have it, as the symptoms can be very uncomfortable. Some people, though, may be unaware that they have acid reflux until their dentist informs them. Dentists can detect reflux based on the erosion of the inner sides of teeth, particularly the front teeth and lower back teeth. The damage to the enamel occurs when stomach acids enter the mouth and eat away at tooth structure.
Dentists can often be the first health care provider to detect diabetes. Swollen and inflamed gums, severe dry mouth, and teeth that have become loose are often associated with diabetes. Furthermore, rampant cavities that seem to develop in spite of good oral hygiene can be a sign of diabetes. If your dentist notices these symptoms, he or she may recommend blood work to test for diabetes.
If at your next dental checkup your dentist does notice any signs of a potential health problem, schedule a consultation with your primary care physician to get tested. Most oral diseases can be managed or eradicated with early detection and treatment.