While your dentist may not be able to treat conditions outside of dentistry, he/she can be a first line of detection of a serious illness. Staying on top of dental hygiene, as well as routine dental appointments keeps the mouth healthy and can help screen for potential complications.
“The mouth-body connection is strong.” Says Dr. Leslie Renee Townsend, DDS., Regional Dental Director for Jefferson Dental Clinics. “Many diseases and illnesses show symptoms in the mouth, often before other symptoms appear in the body.”
Diabetes can manifest in the mouth in several ways. One major sign that a patient has diabetes is that their gum disease may be difficult to treat and not respond to treatment attempts. Patients with type 1 and 2 diabetes are more likely to develop gum disease because they have a decreased ability to fight infections.
Acid Reflux (GERD):
Your dentist may have a first look at the eroding effects of acid reflux, by simply taking a look in your mouth. Acid reflux is a condition where stomach acid backs up into the esophagus and even into the mouth, due to an improperly functioning esophageal sphincter. The stomach acid erodes the bottom teeth over time. Substances with a pH of 5.5 and lower can dissolve tooth enamel, gastric acid can be as low as 1.5. Up to 36% of adults suffer from heart burn at least once a month.
Gum disease may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. One potential link is the inflammation in the gums that can increase inflammation in other parts of the body. Patients with a family history of heart disease should be particularly vigilant of swollen gums. Treating inflammation in the mouth may reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.
Crohn’s Disease + Bowel Diseases:
One sign of Crohn’s manifestation in the mouth are granular ulcers inside the mouth. These lesions can be deep, and occur frequently within the folds of the cheeks and gums. Another very telling sign is a swelling in the lips called orofacial granulomatosis. This inflammatory condition can manifest in the face and lips, most commonly in early adulthood.