Dental checkups may reveal more than you realize
“People think we’re only looking at teeth,” says Gigi Meinecke, DMD, spokesperson for the Academy of General Dentistry and a dentist in private practice in Potomac, MD. “But typically we’re looking at all of the soft tissues in the mouth.” This access can allow dentists to identify a number of surprising conditions—from diabetes to GERD—possibly before you or your doctor are aware of them. Here are the most common diseases your dentist might be able to detect. (Here are the 13 things every dentist wants you to know before your next appointment.)
Up to 20 percent of patients with this inflammatory bowel disorder develop lesions in their mouth that may even precede abdominal symptoms such as cramps and diarrhea, according to a 2010 study from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Dr. Meinecke says that she’s seen swollen lips and dime-sized ulcers on the inside of cheeks and lips—a white center with a red halo circling it. If she suspects Crohn disease, she’ll do X-rays to rule out gum disease and ask about medical history and medications. “If I can’t find a reasonable explanation for the symptoms, I’ll recommend they see their regular doctor,” she says.