What Is Your Mouth Telling You?

By: Chie Li Ee DMD and Gina Pratta

Let’s face it; the dentist isn’t typically at the top of anyone’s list of fun places, however, you might want to think twice before skipping your next dental visit. Routine dental visits aid in keeping teeth and gums healthy, and may actually help you live longer.  Recent studies have shown there is a possible correlation between periodontal (gum) disease and heart related problems like heart disease. Your dentist is a crucial member of your health care team because not only do routine dental visits help prevent and diagnose oral health problems, but they can also help detect other medical conditions such as diabetes and cancer that may first present orally.

Periodontal (gum) disease is the disease of the gums and bone that support teeth. These bacteria can cause inflammation in gums, which could travel to the heart or other parts of the body.  Studies show that over half of all adults in the United States have some form of periodontal disease.  Some of the signs of periodontal disease include bleeding or swollen gums, shifting teeth and chronic bad breath.  Luckily, periodontal disease can be prevented or maintained by regular dental visits and a daily oral hygiene regimen which includes brushing, flossing and an antibacterial rinse.

In the United States there are over 25 million people living with Diabetes. Diabetes lowers resistance to infection and increases the chances of gum disease, tooth decay, taste impairment, inflammatory skin disease, persistent bad breath and changes in teeth position. Those with diabetes are also more likely to experience oral fungal infections such as thrush.

In addition to the millions of people living with diabetes, more than 40,000 people are affected by oral cancer every year. During routine dental visits, your dentist will check for signs of oral cancer.  These signs include; sores that bleed easily or do not heal, crusted, rough areas of skin, lumps or thick hard spots, red, brown or white patches, changes in lymph nodes or other tissues around the mouth or neck and tenderness, pain, or  numbness inside the mouth.  Those at increased risk include anyone ages 40 and over, ages 18-39 combined with tobacco use (smoked or smokeless); chronic alcohol use, sun exposure, and oral HPV infection.  Although risk factors play a major role in the development of oral cancer, one in four people that develop this cancer had no risk factors when diagnosed, reinforcing the importance of regular dental visits.

The importance of regular dental visits goes well beyond a person’s oral health. We at Cape May Dental Associates welcome new patients and are committed to providing quality and comprehensive care for all our patients.