Dental hygiene is just as important as any other form of personal hygiene and health care. No one likes to have bad breath or cavities. Most people know that the best way to avoid this is to brush and floss your teeth every day and visit your dentist and hygienist regularly.
By paying attention to your dental hygiene, you can lessen your chances of developing long-term dental problems and even catch early occurrences. Did you know, though, that your dental check-up can do more than just keep away bad breath and decaying teeth? Yes, your dental health is significantly linked to your overall health. To date, it is widely known that several conditions, even potentially fatal ones, can be diagnosed through oral examinations.
During your check-up, your dentist will work through a number of stages to help them understand your dental condition and any treatment you may require. Your dentist will:
An oral examination, however, can go beyond checking for stubborn plaque or tartar, decaying teeth and halitosis. Just by looking into a patient’s mouth, a dentist is able to pick up on other health-related red flags.
Below are some health problems linked to oral hygiene, and how a seemingly mundane dental check-up can help diagnose them and save you from a potentially serious medical problem.
Temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders, otherwise simply known as TMJ, are a group of medical conditions associated with painful and dysfunctional jaw joints and the muscles that assist with the movement of jaws. Although jaw joint and muscle pain aren’t a big problem for most people, and tend to go away quickly without treatment, for others the problem can persist and affect their quality of life.
During your dental check-up your dentist can check for TMJ by examining your bite and teeth alignment, and listening to and feeling your jaw and ear as you open and close your mouth. If you are diagnosed with TMJ, your dentist will then refer you to a specialist to begin treatment and avoid long-term pain and discomfort. Come to Elmsleigh House to discuss this further if you suspect that you may have jaw problems.
Gum disease, also referred to as periodontal disease, is common in both children and adults, and is normally a result of poor oral hygiene. Conditions such as gingivitis (which is less acute, with symptoms such as red, swollen, tender and bleeding gums) can be prevented, caught early and reversed before escalating into periodontitis, a more serious and potentially devastating condition. With periodontitis, the infection spreads to the underlying gum tissue and bone and may lead to unstable teeth and even loss of teeth.
Periodontal disease has another health implication—heart disease. When periodontitis is left untreated over time, it can cause cardiovascular disease, making a regular dental check-up even more essential.
While occasional acid reflux is relatively common, it can be a persistent condition in some patients. This is called acid reflux disease, or gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD). Acid reflux disease is defined as a chronic irritation of the oesophagus lining caused by acid from the stomach. In as much as 80% of cases, this condition goes unnoticed by patients; if left untreated, it can lead to oesophageal cancer. Fortunately, “silent GORD” can be diagnosed by a dentist during a dental check-up.
Your dentist will enquire about the frequency of your heartburn, any unpleasant taste in your mouth, your sleeping habits and check your teeth for additional signs such as the erosion of dental enamel. If the dentist positively identifies signs of acid reflux disease, then they will refer you to your GP for treatment.
Unfortunately, all too often, oral cancer is diagnosed in its late stages, contributing immensely to its high mortality rate. Thus, going for your periodic dental check-up is essential for early detection and prevention. During a dental check-up, your dentist may examine your whole mouth, neck, head and regions of the pharynx, and perform a mouth cancer screening to check for oral cancer symptoms.
Generally, it is good practice to go for a dental check-up twice a year, but because each patient’s case is unique, how often you should see your dentist will be established during your visit based on your medical records and risk factors.
The importance of early detection of oral cancer, gum disease and GORD—and the role that a dental check-up plays in this—cannot be emphasised enough. With the high mortality rates of conditions such as oral cancer, the last thing you need is to overlook your dental health.
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Make an appointment with one of our highly experienced and professional dentists or hygienists at Elmsleigh House Dental Clinic for more personal health advice, dental check-ups and treatments.