How a Dental Checkup Can Save Your Life?
Your dentist may be the most important doctor you see this year. He or she can diagnose a multitude of illnesses simply by looking in your mouth.
Your dentist can save your teeth—but she can also save your life by diagnosing diseases you may not even know you have.
Detection of Cancer
Dentists can recognize signs of cancer, including lymphoma, leukemia and particularly oral cancer. Did you know One American dies every hour from oral cancer; a death rate that has remained virtually unchanged for more than 40 years.
The Deadly Statistics
- Every hour of every day, one American dies of oral cancer.
- According to American Cancer Society, the mortality rate associated with oral cancer has not improved significantly in the last 40 years.
- The death rate in the Unites States for oral cancer is higher than that of cervical cancer, Hodgkin’s disease, cancer of the brain, liver, testes, kidney or ovarian cancer.
- More than 30,000 Americans will receive an oral cancer diagnosis this year. In five years, less than 57% will still be alive.
- 8,000 Americans will die each year of oral cancer.
To screen for it, a dentist thoroughly checks the tongue, palate, gums, inside of the cheeks, lips, face and neck, for any bumps or unusual sores. If a person mentions pain or discomfort in their jaw or teeth—that gets a dentist’s attention, too.
Oral pain can also be a sign of a dental infection. These can crop up quickly and spread like fire through the mouth and the rest of the body. Dental infections can spread into the deeper tissues of the neck, leading to obstruction of the airway, kidney damage, brain abscesses or heart-valve infections. Dental infections have also been known to eat through the skin in jaws, faces and necks, burrow into brains and, yes, even kill people.
Gingivitis and Periodontitis
Mild gum infections, called gingivitis, may lead to red and swollen gums, but are not especially dangerous. Unless they worsen into periodontitis, chronic gum infections that can degrade bony sockets and ligaments that hold teeth in place. Gum-disease bacteria can enter the bloodstream and move to the heart, creating life-threatening infections in previously damaged heart valves.
Scientists also believe the resulting inflammation releases infection-fighting compounds that can damage other tissues, such as the arteries. People with periodontitis are twice as likely to die from a heart attack and three times as likely to die from a stroke, according to a study that examined the medical histories of 1,147 people.
Gastrointestinal and Other Diseases
Dentists can also spot signs of gastrointestinal problems, such as Crohn’s disease, skin diseases, autoimmune diseases and more. Looking at your mouth may alert your dentist to the fact that you have diabetes. A lot of changes happening in the body are easier to see in the mouth. Many changes in the body’s health cause colour changes, small sores and a change in saliva that a dentist can identify, sometimes with just a look.
Healthy teeth and gums let us talk, smile, laugh and kiss without embarrassment. That’s reason enough to take care of our oral health. But as medical science reaffirms that head and body are indeed connected, there are more reasons than ever to brush twice a day, floss daily, get dental checkups every six months and see a dentist promptly when you have a problem.