During a comprehensive dental examination, dentists usually examine your teeth and gums, as well as the tongue, jaw, salivary glands, neck, head, and other areas of your mouth, neck and head. They check for any abnormalities such as cracks, lumps, bleeding, swelling, ulcerations, discolorations, and so on. If need be, they may even recommend further diagnostic procedures such as biopsies to check for oral cancer.
What you may not realize is that the health of your mouth is a direct reflection of your overall health and wellbeing. Through an oral examination, your dentist can not only detect cavities, gum disease, and other oral issues, but also spot early warning signs of other diseases in your body, including diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Your Mouth as a “Window” to Your Overall Health
Many scientific studies have found a close relation between oral health and a range of general health conditions. Your mouth can provide signals for various health disorders. For instance:
- Mouth lesions are one of the early signs of HIV infection
- Changes in the appearance of your teeth can be a sign of anorexia or bulimia
- Pale and bleeding gums are associated with blood disorders
- Aphthous ulcers can be a sign of Crohn’s disease or Coeliac disease
- Lower jaw bone loss can be an early sign of skeletal osteoporosis
Moreover, poor oral health can adversely affect your overall health. Studies show that harmful bacteria in your mouth get into your bloodstream and cause infections in other body tissues when your immunity has been weakened by disease or harsh treatments. Conversely, systemic conditions and their medications or treatments can also affect your oral health, like reduced saliva production and bad breath.
Proper Oral Hygiene for Optimal General Health
Many studies have shown that some oral conditions share common risk factors with major chronic disease, like the connection between gum disease and heart disease and cancer.
Although the association between oral diseases and certain medical conditions is not well understood, the awareness that your oral health and your general health are connected is vital for devising proper oral health care routines.
A dental professional who understands the importance of integrating general health care policies into your oral health care plan can help to improve your dental health and overall quality of life.