Turn on the TV, and what do you see? A bunch of ads for products promoting pearly white teeth. You’d think that’s all your chicklets have to offer. But white teeth don’t just give off the perception of a healthy smile. Your teeth, to a trained eye, can send all kinds of signals about overall health.
When it comes to oral health, most people focus on gingivitis, periodontal disease, and tooth decay. But sometimes, deeper problems can manifest through your mouth. So along with brushing, flossing, and eating a healthy diet, an essential component of oral care is visiting the dentist at least once a year.
Your teeth can tell a story that only a dentist can read. Some common tales told include your blood sugar and diabetes risk, whether you may have an unnoticeable type of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), low bone-density, nutrient deficiencies, and Crohn’s disease. Your teeth may offer some of the first noticeable signals of serious illness.
For example, swollen gums are a hallmark of periodontal disease. But diabetes can make the condition worse, and if periodontal disease goes untreated, it may make blood sugar control even more difficult. And if you have swollen, inflamed gums that bleed or become abscessed, it could be a sign of both heart disease and type-2 diabetes.
Sometimes you can have GERD and not even know it—unless you get your teeth looked at. Sometimes GERD only occurs during sleep, and sufferers are not even aware of it. Your teeth, however, will be slightly worn down. Another oral symptom of GERD is that despite all your brushing, flossing, and mouthwash, you just can’t kick the bad breath.
Like your bones, your teeth are made up primarily of calcium. If you have weak teeth, there is a good chance your bones are too. If your teeth chip easily, become loose, or your gums experience a lot of recession, a dentist may be able to identify a more significant problem.
Taking care of your teeth extends beyond smile whitening and plaque removal. Diet and activity play a role, as well. But going to the dentist for assessments every year can help you identify problems you might not see otherwise, and is a good idea to include in your oral hygiene and overall health regimen.