Dentists are able to assess a patient’s overall oral health and may recognize symptoms of serious diseases, including diabetes, cancer, and eating disorders, which often manifest as signs and symptoms inside of the mouth.
More than 25 million people in the United States alone suffer from diabetes.
“Because diabetes reduces the body’s resistance to infection, the gums are at risk for gingivitis, an inflammation usually caused by the presence of bacteria in plaque,” says Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) spokesperson Julie Ann Barna, DMD, MAGD. “Additionally, those with diabetes can experience high incidences of oral fungal infections and persistent bad breath.”
Oral cancer is one of the most common cancers, with approximately 35,000 new cases reported annually in the United States.
“Indicators of oral cancer may include bleeding sores, lumps, or thick, hard spots, as well as changes in the way teeth fit together,” says Dr. Barna.
Oral cancer is sometimes difficult to self-diagnose, so routine dental exams are recommended. A dentist will feel for lumps or irregular tissue changes in your neck, head, cheeks, and oral cavity and thoroughly examine the soft tissues in your mouth, specifically looking for any sores or discolored tissues.
“Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, can rob the body of much-needed vitamins and minerals,” says Dr. Barna. “Without proper nutrition, the gums can lose their healthy pink color and become increasingly soft and tender, bleeding easily.”
Disorders that involve excessive vomiting, such as bulimia, can cause discoloration and erosion of the teeth due to constant contact with acid from the stomach. People who have eating disorders also may experience swollen salivary glands, dry mouth, sensitive teeth, and loss of tooth enamel.
Diseases negatively impact your general health, but they also can damage your oral health. Regularly scheduled dental exams allow dentists to detect or monitor your health.
“Patients should inform their dentists about any and all medical conditions and medicines that may affect their oral health, as well as any changes in their medical history,” says Dr. Barna. “Remember, maintaining a healthy body includes taking care of your oral health.”
To learn more about your oral health, visit www.KnowYourTeeth.com.
The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) is a professional association of more than 35,000 general dentists dedicated to staying up to date in the profession through continuing education. Founded in 1952, the AGD has grown to become the second-largest dental association in the United States, and it is the only association that exclusively represents the needs and interests of general dentists. More than 772,000 persons in the United States are employed directly in the field of dentistry. A general dentist is the primary care provider for patients of all ages and is responsible for the diagnosis, treatment, management and overall coordination of services related to patients’ oral health needs. Learn more about AGD member dentists or find more information on dental health topics at www.KnowYourTeeth.com.
Contact: The AGD public relations department at 312.440.4346 or [email protected]
Note: Information that appears in General Dentistry, the AGD’s peer-reviewed journal, AGD Impact, the AGD’s newsmagazine, and related press releases do not necessarily reflect the endorsement of the AGD.