Common Illnesses That Will Impact Your Dental Health
If you have any of these seven health conditions, be aware they can affect your smile and ruin your teeth.
What are the pre-existing conditions that could affect some 130 million Americans and their oral health?
Christina Gregg of AOL.com published an article on May 5, 2017, regarding a revised version of the American Health Care Act submitted for review. It’s a bill that sadly sets the stage for the loss of coverage for some 24 million Americans. If approved, it could mean increased healthcare costs for an estimated 130 million Americans. So, basically, the sicker you are – the more you pay.
Folks diagnosed with alcohol abuse, drug abuse, cancer, etc. because of this possible bill change are at risk for paying more when it comes to their health – even if they have since taken steps to improve their health and quality of living.
Some of the preexisting conditions (just to name a few) such as eating disorders, obesity, heart disease and diabetes can also be a sign of dental issues or oral diseases. As we delve deeper into these pre-existing conditions and what are dentists are trying to tell us it is evident that our mouths truly are the gateway to the overall health of our bodies.
Warning signs from the mouth that something is wrong
When you visit the dentist, they aren’t just looking at your teeth. They are also carefully inspecting the soft tissue areas of your mouth including the tongue, cheeks, gums, and lips. Examining and assessing these areas of the mouth are crucial and can give your dentist many clues as to what is going on overall inside not just your mouth, but your body.
Your dentist when examining the soft tissues of the mouth looks for several signs that can lead to a variety of overall health issues. Any one of these symptoms can signal to the dentist cause for concern and that more testing may be in order
- Dry mouth
When speaking of cancer, 2.9% of all cancers found in Americans here in the U.S. are discovered in the mouth and the middle region of the throat. One American dies every hour from oral cancer – how scary is that?
Cancer is the rapid growth of cells that can attack anywhere in the body and damage surrounding tissue. Because of the lack of control in cell growth and attacks, it is essential to keep up with regular dental check-ups to be proactive in any diagnosis or necessary treatment.
Some signs and symptoms of oral cancer are similar to the symptoms listed previously in this article, but there are others that can reveal a bigger issue.
Common symptoms of oral cancer include:
- Swelling, lumps, rough spots, and eroded areas
- Smooth white, red or spotted patches (white or red)
- Unexplained bleeding
- Numbness in any portion of the face, mouth or neck
- Sores that don’t heal and bleed easily
- Soreness or a stuck feeling in the throat
- Difficulty chewing, swallowing or talking
- Hoarseness, chronic sore throat, or change in voice
- Ear pain
- A change in the way your teeth fit together
- Dramatic weight loss
If you notice any of these above conditions mentioned, contact your dentist immediately. As with any illness – the earlier you can detect and treat it the better.
So, who gets oral (mouth) cancer? The American Cancer Society claims that men face twice the risk as women and men over 50 are the most at risk. Studies estimate that over 35,000 Americans received a diagnosis of mouth cancer in 2008.
There are certain risk factors to be aware of and those include:
- Smokeless tobacco (gums, dip, snuff, etc.)
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Family history of cancer
- Excessive sun exposure
Maybe you think this doesn’t apply to me, but even if you don’t smoke or drink alcohol on a regular basis, keep in mind that over 25% of mouth cancers occur in people who don’t smoke or who just drink occasionally.
Regular dental visits and why they are so important
Do you like going to the dentist? Probably not many of you, but regular visits are crucial. Maybe you have anxiety, fear, or maybe you just don’t have the money and can’t afford what you think the dentist is going to tell you. However, you should consider weighing the consequences of what happens if you wait.
Here are a few reasons why you should not wait. Why you should keep your appointments and go even when you don’t feel like or are fearful of what you might find out.
Oral cancer – This is a biggie. Mouth cancer is nothing to play with as we’ve previously pointed out, and it can show up in your mouth in so many ways that it might be difficult for the ever day ‘Joe’ to notice. It can also multiply quickly, but if you are keeping up with your regular check-ups – an early diagnosis is most often treatable.
Dentist professionals are highly trained in detecting mouth diseases – especially cancer and going the extra step to have an oral cancer exam is a no brainer. For example, a VELscope exam is non-invasive, it’s designed to detect any signs of mouth cancer quickly and pain-free. Also, it’s covered by the Multi-State Plan Program (MSP) in most cases, and it only takes two minutes at the most. The exam is crucial because it catches invisible signs of dead tissue caused by tumors just beginning to form that may not be noticed with the naked eye.
Check out this short video about the VELscope exam:
Gum disease – Excessive plaque and tartar cause cavities – yes, but they can also harm the gum tissues and result in a severe condition known as gum disease (a.k.a. gingivitis). The buildup of tartar or plaque causes an infection where the gum and tooth meet. The beginnings of gum disease or gingivitis are when the gum tissue starts to pull away from the tooth because of the infection. As the tissue pulls further and further away from the tooth, the tooth begins to break down making it weak and susceptible to cracks and chips.
You may notice swelling in the gums, bleeding, and soreness. In addition to the tooth becoming damaged, the bone that secures the tooth becomes damaged as well making things a whole lot worse. Teeth affected by this, most likely will become loose and fall out.
X-Rays – X-rays alert your dentist to what is happening under the surface. X-rays occur about every six months as part of regular check-ups. X-rays can reveal impacted teeth, wisdom teeth, jawbone damage, bone decay, swelling, cysts or tumors. Without taking a deeper look into your mouth using x-ray imaging – you might never know what’s going on and your dentist may not have a chance to catch those issues early on, preventing further damage.
Head, neck and lymph nodes – Did you know that your regular visits should include a neck, jaw and lymph node exam? Yes, dentist professionals are trained to examine in the areas below your jawline to keep an eye out for any abnormalities such as swelling, lumps, etc. If something is detected, it could be a sign of a serious health issue. Routine visits to your dentist will help them in early detection and just might save your life and your wallet.
The scary thing is that the lymph nodes are tricky when it comes to detecting an issue. They don’t carry symptoms like other areas of the mouth or throat such as soreness or swelling. However, dentists know what to look for and the questions to ask you when feeling your nodes that may help them when they are ready to diagnose.
Bodily Diseases and The Havoc They Wreck on the Mouth
Dentists on average spend about eight years in school before becoming either a D.D.S. (Doctor of Dental Surgery) or D.M.D. (Doctor of Dental Medicine). Physicians spend about the same amount of time in school which goes to show that dental professionals are not just learning about teeth. Dentists have significant roles in keeping their patients’ health in-check. By examining the soft tissues of the mouth (as we mentioned earlier in this article), this allows good dentists to identify other conditions within the body such as diabetes, osteoporosis and so on.
Here is a list of a few medical conditions most dentists typically uncover from performing regular check-ups. This list might make you think a little more serious about scheduling that appointment.
Diabetes – Dry mouth, gums, loose teeth, bleeding or receding gums are all a sign of a possible diabetes diagnosis. Although many of these symptoms are a result of inadequate dental care, diabetics are more prone to gum disease than others. If your dentist is feeling questionable about your symptoms and the signs revealed by your exam – they will likely suggest you get a blood test from your general practitioner. Although people who take better care of their teeth may have improved blood sugar control the opposite is the case with those people that may have less control and be suffering from gum disease.
Reflux disease (a.k.a. GERD) – Disappearing tooth enamel and erosion lesions near the back of the mouth will alert dentists that their patient may be suffering from GERD. Often, folks who suffer from this condition experience a burning sensation in the esophagus or throat and heartburn. After eating or drinking, stomach acid regurgitates back up into the esophagus and mouth which causes damage to your teeth and enamel. However, some patients only experience GERD when they’re laying down napping or sleeping. More often than not, they complain of being woken up not knowing why and suffering from sleepiness. If your dentist suspects you may be suffering from GERD, they would recommend a proton-pump inhibitor as a first step treatment option.
Chronic stress and depression – Ever notice your jaw feeling sore in the morning or your teeth extra sensitive when you get up in the morning? Grinding or clenching your teeth is typically a sign that you are having anxiety or experiencing stress. It doesn’t sound too bad, but over time grinding your teeth can cause significant damage, pain, and sensitivity, TMJ (temporomandibular disorders), bite height – even teeth fractures can occur. The worst is that most people don’t even realize they are doing it.
Depending on what your teeth clenching is related too, your dentist may prescribe seeking a counselor or therapy group to dissolve the stress you are experiencing. They may also recommend getting a mouth guard to wear at night – something like what a boxer wears when they’re in the ring. Another option may be a type of medication like Prozac or Valium.
Osteoporosis – Those that are suffering from osteoporosis are three times more likely to lose their teeth, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). They suggest being diligent about attending your regular dentist visits to get the typical six-month x-ray. X-rays may show low bone density which might be a sign of osteoporosis.
Sjogren’s syndrome – Sjogren’s syndrome is a disease that affects your autoimmune system. Does your mouth feel dry? If you are not on a medication that causes dry mouth, Sjogren’s syndrome may be what you are experiencing. This disease is known to affect women over 40. Signs of the disease include dryness in the mouth and eyes – creating room for increased risk of developing cavities, because of the disease attacking the saliva glands. There isn’t a cure, but there are treatments and medications available that can help to reduce the symptoms.
Anorexia and bulimia – Tooth decay, gum disease, canker sores and dry mouth are all symptoms experienced in the mouth by patients with eating disorders – anorexia and bulimia to be specific. Also, cuts along the roof of the mouth or on the fingers and hands can also be a signal to dentists that something is wrong. Redness and swelling of the soft tissues in the mouth are also a possible sign of an eating disorder since healthy folks have a clean and average looking soft tissue.
Anorexics are severely malnourished depleting their bodies of vital bone building vitamins like calcium, iron and B vitamins. On the other hand, those that suffer from bulimia vomit what they ingest and the stomach acid that comes along with that, over time erodes the tooth enamel and causes tooth decay and weak teeth – ultimately integrating tooth loss.
Celiac disease – Dental enamel defects can be a sign to dentists that their patient may be suffering from celiac disease – an autoimmune disease in which gluten (found in white bread, crackers, flour, etc.) creates gas pain and damages the small intestine. The disease can cause tooth discoloration – white, yellow, or brown spots appearing on the outside of the teeth. The discoloration shows up more often on the incisors and molars. Other symptoms of the disease include canker sores, a smooth red tongue, and dry mouth.
If your dentists’ examination brings them to the conclusion that celiac disease may be at work – they will suggest you schedule a visit with your family doctor. To remedy discoloration, they may also recommend a bleaching gel, color-matched composite covering such as a crown or a veneer.
Other Diseases That Your Dentist May Diagnose
There are a handful of other conditions that may be detected by your dentist as well.
- Anemia – Pale lining of the mouth (or a light shade of pink) and a smooth tongue can signal this condition where the body does not have enough circulating red blood cells.
- Crohn’s disease – Or inflammatory bowel disorder can often cause lesions in the mouth, swollen lips, and small ulcers on the inside of cheeks and lips. Dr. Gigi Meinecke, DMD, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry says that she’ll do x-rays first to rule out gum disease and ask the patient about their medical history and medication. If it’s not gum disease, she will suggest they make an appointment with their family doctor.
If you want more information regarding other infections and their impact on your dental health, check out this short video/podcast that talks about Weston Prices’ focal infection theory. Weston Price as an American dentist who researched support of his theory which claimed that root canal therapy creates hidden infections that spread toxins or bacteria to the rest of the body to cause systemic diseases like arthritis, heart disease, etc.
Best Practices for a Healthy Mouth You May Have Never Heard Before
We all know the typical advice for proper dental care, brush your teeth after every meal, floss, chew sugar-free gum, etc. However, let’s make things a little more interesting and talk about some unique tips on how to keep your mouth healthy and teeth happy!
Brush your tongue – Use a tongue scraper or your tooth brush to remove any plaque build-up on the tongue. Yes, it forms there too.
Eat teeth cleaning foods – Dense and crisp foods like apples, celery, carrots, popcorn, etc. can clean your teeth. If you can, try to eat these foods as your bed time snack.
Swish apple cider vinegar – I know, it sounds odd, but actually, vinegar removes stains, whitens teeth and kills bacteria inside your mouth and even on your gums. Swish before brushing in the morning.
Baking soda scrub – Scrub-a-dub-dub with baking soda. If you have any unwanted stains or maybe you just want to brighten up your pearly whites – baking soda is your answer. It whitens and removes stains. Don’t swallow! Remember to spit it out when done. Do this once a week.
Use color – Alright ladies this one’s for you (sorry gentlemen). The next time you go lipstick shopping pick up a coral or red color lipstick. Either of these colors will make your teeth look whiter – without having to bleach them. Lighter colors enhance any yellow-ish tint your teeth may have.
So, the final story is still out there ready to be told in the depth to which your dental health routine can damage that of your overall health, but with all the evidence in this article, it’s hard to ignore that there has to be something to it.
In the meantime, we hope you find this information helpful. For now, keep doing the basics of keeping your mouth clean and don’t skip those regular check-ups. They are essential. Peninsula Dental can help!
For more information, or to schedule an appointment, give us a call at (302) 297-3750 or contact us today!