It’s more than just nagging when the dentist says, “Brush and floss daily. Get your teeth cleaned. Get a good dental exam.” Dr. Perry Patel, the family dentist in Avila Beach, reports that a dentist’s primary concern during a dental checkup is making sure there are no cavities, damaged teeth, gum disease or other oral health issues. However, there are other conditions that might appear in the mouth that are signs of other health problems.
Taking care of our teeth and gums is important for our overall health. Our nutrition and hydration come through our mouths first. The ability to chew our food properly is part of how food is digested. Drinking enough water not only hydrates our entire body but also helps wash away residue from other beverages, bits of food and keep the teeth, gums, tongue and inside of the mouth clean. Regular brushing and flossing are necessary to remove bits of food, plaque, and bacteria that might otherwise lead to tooth decay and gum disease that lead to infections.
A dentist is often the first to discover the signs of some conditions and diseases and will refer a patient to their doctor for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. Along with regular, daily oral hygiene practices, some health conditions may require additional oral hygiene care and more frequent visits to the dentist along with monitoring by a medical doctor.
These conditions include:
- Dry mouth
- Eating disorders
- Depression and anxiety
- Heart conditions
Saliva helps protect teeth and gums from bacteria that cause cavities and gingivitis. So a perpetually dry mouth is more susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease.
Some medications such as antihistamines, decongestants, painkillers, and antidepressants can cause a dry mouth. When you are taking medications that lead to a dry mouth be sure to stay as hydrated as possible and discuss the matter with both your dentist and doctor.
Sjögren's syndrome, suffered by 4 million Americans, causes the immune system to mistakenly attack tear ducts and saliva glands. The Sjögren's Syndrom Foundation reports Sjögren's is a systemic autoimmune disease that affects the entire body. The syndrome can be treated and your dentist will refer you to your doctor if he or she suspects Sjögren’s syndrome.
The brittle bone disease osteoporosis affects all the bones in your body and can cause tooth loss. Be sure to tell your dentist if you have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and which medications you are taking.
Anemia can cause your mouth to be sore, pale gums and a swollen and smooth tongue.
When you have anemia, your body doesn't have enough red blood cells, or your red blood cells don't contain enough hemoglobin. As a result, your body doesn't get enough oxygen. There are different types of anemia, and treatment varies.
Be sure to tell your dentist if you have been diagnosed with anemia and what treatments you are receiving. Certain dental procedures may need to be postponed and your dentist may suggest additional hygiene practices.
A dentist may be the first to notice signs of an eating disorder such as bulimia because the stomach acid from repeated vomiting could erode tooth enamel. Purging can also trigger swelling in the mouth and throat as well as bad breath. Anorexia, bulimia and other eating disorders can also cause serious nutritional problems that affect overall health.
When a dentist suspects an eating disorder, the patient is referred to the appropriate mental health and medical resources.
Depression and anxiety
If you are stressed, anxious, or depressed, you may be at higher risk for oral health problems. People under stress produce high levels of the hormone cortisol, which wreaks havoc on the gums and body. Stress also leads to poor oral care because people may not pay as much attention to healthy habits. In addition to neglecting personal hygiene, other stress-related habits can include smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, poor eating habits, and clenching and grinding teeth.
Certain heart conditions
Some heart conditions may require that the patient take antibiotics before a dental procedure. Patients at risk of developing a heart infection include those who have received artificial heart valves, those who have certain congenital heart conditions, cardiac transplant patients with certain heart valve issues. Cardiac patients who might need antibiotics are not limited to these few conditions.
It is important to discuss any heart conditions and dental procedures with both your doctor and your dentist.
This discussion should include your history of antibiotic use because of the overuse of antibiotics has caused an increase in the number of bacteria that are now resistant to them. Any history of antibiotic use might affect the type of antibiotic prescribed for you. If antibiotics are indicated, be sure to take them exactly as prescribed.
Colds, flu and contagious diseases
If you are contagious, postpone your dental appointment until it’s safe. You don’t want to expose others to any bug you might have, plus being sick might cause temporary changes in your mouth, tongue, and throat that will clear up as soon as you are well again.
Some early signs of a disease often appear in the mouth, such as some cancers, changes in the appearance of the tongue, or warts indicating sexually transmitted diseases. Even chronic gum inflammation despite good brushing and flossing habits can be an indicator of disease such as diabetes.
Your dentist is trained to know the difference between a healthy mouth and one that isn’t, and to notice changes in the mouth that might indicate problems elsewhere in the body.
If your Avila Beach dentist, Dr. Perry Patel, informs you of any concerns and refers you to your doctor, take the referral seriously and see your doctor. Your dentist cares about your complete health.