Humans have been storytellers since before recorded history. And word-of-mouth is by far the most popular form of storytelling that has carried on through centuries.
But did you know your mouth can tell an in-depth and powerful story without using any words at all? The only catch is, it’s told in a language only dental professionals understand.
Oral health as an indicator of overall health
When your dentist examines your mouth at the end of a routine cleaning visit, it’s not just a formality. In fact, although the examination may be brief, your dentist is intently absorbing the story of your overall health by reading the visible signs of your oral health.
A number of visible oral health conditions can serve as valuable indicators that a larger systemic issue exists. In fact, one recent study suggests as many as 40% of the patients who are diagnosed with serious gum disease have another chronic health condition related to it.
Here are a few notable examples of signs your dentist can read as indicators of your overall health:
Periodontal disease and inflammation
"A number of visible oral health conditions can serve as valuable indicators that a larger systemic issue exists."
Gum disease, infections, and inflammation of the gums can be signs of poor oral hygiene. However, they can also be signs that another condition is weakening your immune system. Similarly, periodontal disease that resists treatment can be the cause of more serious problems elsewhere in the body.
This is because gum disease is a result of natural bacteria that overcome a normal balance maintained by saliva, a healthy immune system, and standard oral hygiene self care (such as brushing, flossing, and using mouthwash.)
If you brush and floss regularly, but suffer from chronic and serious periodontal disease anyway, it’s possible your immune system is being compromised by another condition such as diabetes or any number of immune system disorders.
Likewise, other systemic infections and conditions can be caused or worsened by bacteria that normally stays in the mouth entering other parts of the body due to gum disease. One example of a serious condition that has been traced to mouth-borne bacteria is endocarditis, an inflammation of the lining of the heart.
If you haven’t experienced any significant trauma to the mouth or jaw and your oral hygiene self care habits seem to be adequate, it’s abnormal for adult teeth to loosen or fall out. If your dentist notes even a slight weakening in your teeth or movement in the sockets, it can be a notable sign that an underlying condition is affecting bone density and strength.
Osteoporosis is among the most common causes of loss of bone density, and studies suggest the inflammation caused by gum disease could potentially lead to osteoporosis developing elsewhere in the body. Osteomyelitis is a similar condition that can result in tooth loss and can therefore be diagnosed by your dentist.
Cancers of the mouth are common, especially among those who smoke cigarettes, and are among the most treatable forms of cancer today. Early detection and aggressive treatment are vital to successfully curing oral cancer, so visual examination by your dentist is essential to remaining healthy.
It turns out that inflammation that starts in the mouth may spread via the blood vessels to other parts of the body. Because of this, the vessels themselves can become swollen and inflamed, which may result in increased blood pressure and even potential blockages.
Considering this, the most common cause of death in the U.S, cardiovascular disease, can be directly linked to poor oral health, and can potentially be diagnosed by your dentist during a routine examination.
While there are many other lesser-known conditions that have been linked to oral health, these few examples serve to prove an overarching point:
It’s important for your overall health and longevity to care for your oral health. This means seeing your dentist at least twice a year to examine your mouth and note any symptoms of other health conditions that present orally.
If locating affordable dental care is a challenge to make this happen, a discount dental plan can remove this barrier and help you receive the oral care you need. Find out more about how you can save on dental care today.