A Window to Your Health
When you visit the dentist, you’re doing more than taking care of your teeth. The health of your mouth can tell your dentist a lot about the health of your body.
A number of health problems can show symptoms in your mouth, including:
Nearly 7 million Americans have diabetes and don’t even know it. Bleeding gums can be the first sign. A dry and irritated mouth can also be related to diabetes.
- Oral cancer
Red or white lesions in and around the mouth that do not heal on their own may be a sign of oral cancer. Your dentist is the healthcare professional most qualified to assess these areas for possible disease.
Is gum disease a sign of other health problems?
By seeing your dentist regularly, you can help prevent periodontal (gum) disease, which is one of the most common infections in the world. The CDC estimates that more than 64 million Americans over the age of 30 have gum disease. You should see your dentist for an exam if you have bleeding gums and/or bad breath, which can be signs of gum disease.
Gum disease may be the result of poor brushing and flossing habits as well as health conditions. Studies also show that gum disease may make health problems in other parts of the body worse. For example:
- Heart disease
Research by Harvard University Medical School shows there is a strong association between heart disease and gum disease. Because gum disease is an infection that causes inflammation (swelling), that inflammation can spread throughout the body. You can help reduce this inflammation and improve your health with good dental care.
- Delivering babies too early (pre-term birth)
Pregnant women are more likely to have gum disease because of hormonal changes during pregnancy. Research also suggests that serious gum disease may be linked to babies being born too early and/or at a low birth weight. That’s why it’s important for pregnant women as well as women who want to become pregnant to see their dentist regularly. Pregnant women who have both BCBSRI medical and dental coverage can receive an extra cleaning during their pregnancy at no additional cost.
Tips for a healthy mouth
Good dental health is important to keeping your entire body healthy. These tips can help protect your teeth and mouth.
- Brush twice a day, and floss daily.
- Eat a healthy diet (low in sugar and high in vegetables).
- Avoid crackers and chips, which can break down easily into sugars.
- Use a mouthwash that does not contain alcohol
- See your dentist twice a year for a cleaning and a checkup (three or more times if you have gum disease).
While you’re at the dentist, make sure to tell them if:
- You are being treated for medical conditions.
- There have been changes to your health.
- You are taking prescription medications.
- You or your family member has heart disease.
- You or your family member has high blood pressure.
- You are borderline diabetic.
- You are pregnant or planning to get pregnant.
- You snore or wake up at night gasping for air.