How amazing would it be to find out why you have headaches every week when everyone else has maybe one or two a year?
What if there was an answer to why you wake up with numb fingers?
Wouldn’t it be great to finally figure out why your neck and shoulders are always sore?
Or why you can’t remember the last time you slept all the way through the night?
Can you even remember the last time you had a dream?
These are exactly the kinds of things that should be uncovered at your routine dental screenings and is a big part of why we also do 6 screenings during your new patient experience and at your routine re-care visits with the hygienist! Obviously, not everything in the body is related to the mouth, but these 6 screenings can not only shed some light on things that medicine can’t get a handle on, but in some cases it may actually save your life! We will talk through the first four of them below. The last two are your teeth and your gums; the kind of things all dental offices try to do a great job of.
Your Risk Assessment Screening
Clues to your health are often found in the medical history, which is the foundation of your risk assessment screening. Some great keys to look for are the number and kinds of medications and the impact they have on the health of the mouth. There are some significant risk factors such as smoking that aren’t a surprise at all. Smoking is bad for you. You are 50% more likely to lose a tooth if you smoke. Well, and get lung cancer and die younger…
There are also less obvious issues such as diabetes. People who are dealing with diabetes are significantly more likely to also have periodontal disease. People with periodontal disease are up to 700% more likely to have pregnancy issues or heart disease or respiratory issues and there are even links to cancers, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. For a lot of people, the dental visits are a perfect opportunity for a bird’s eye view of overall health.
The other issue that we screen for is the impact of medications on the mouth. We know it is much easier to keep the mouth and gums healthy than to get them healthy again. One significant risk factor in keeping your teeth and gums healthy is the quantity and quality of your saliva. It functions to lubricate and buffer your mouth and protect your teeth and gums, and the saliva is essential to optimal health. Unfortunately, of the top 200 most prescribed medications in the United States, all 200 of them can cause dry mouth!
Your Head & Neck Cancer Screening
One person every hour dies from head and neck cancer in the US alone because it wasn’t caught early enough. We use both manual palpation exams and visual screenings to search for lumps and bumps at their earliest stages, because there is never a better time to treat them. We also utilize advanced screenings when there is a concern and have a referral network built if there is something that is a concern. Unfortunately, oral cancers aren’t necessarily related to smoking or alcohol use, and can attack anyone at any time. In fact, 30% of the time, there is no history of tobacco or alcohol use! Early treatment is essential, so routine screenings are your best protection.
The reality is the function of the mouth and jaw has never been isolated from the rest of your body. It makes it easy for dentists to focus on the teeth or ignore the complications of the body, but that isn’t how our body actually works. We have a human tendency to simplify systems, but in the case of the mouth and teeth, nothing about it is simple! Your teeth should land on more than 100 curved surfaces simultaneously on the right and left side and from your canines back to your back molars. Each tooth has multiple contact points and all of them should land precisely when you close and should clear each other as you open and when you chew and speak.
Usually, this doesn’t happen! For a whole host of reasons, our bodies don’t always reach their full potential. Sometimes it is diet or some environmental issue like allergies, and sometimes it is trauma or even well intended changes like braces. Then, 15 years later, the teeth don’t line up the way they should. Then, the body still has to bring them into contact 3000 times a day or more, and this puts a ton of strain on the muscles. Now the muscles have to work harder than they should all day long and they build up lactic acid and the result is pain. In fact, 85% or more of the pain in our bodies is from muscles!
If this pain were in your leg, you could grab it and call it a charlie horse. In your face, it is often called a migraine or a headache. It can also be in your shoulders and neck and sometimes even create pressure on a nerve that causes your fingers to be numb when you wake up in the morning.
There are a lot of different signs of a poor bite, and we screen your bite to make sure it is stable and comfortable, because we know what happens with a bad bite. The symptoms can be anything from mild headaches to migraines that take days to settle down. In our experience, not every headache is directly from the bite, but most are directly related to how your teeth and muscles fit and function. If you’re curious about your bite, please feel free to ask more about it during your next bite screening at your hygiene visit!
Your body is an amazingly intricate and complex system with a lot of early warning systems built into it, if only we knew what to look for! Fortunately, the airway screening is designed to help uncover some things that may be normal, but aren’t healthy. Since the mouth and nose are where we start our breathing, they are massively important to supporting health. If you aren’t able to breathe as you should, your body systems start having all sorts of issues. One of the early problems is hypertension or high blood pressure. In fact, if you are taking more than one blood pressure medication, there is a very good chance you are dealing with an airway or sleep issue!
There are a lot of red flags or early warnings that can be seen in the mouth, and a lot of damage to your body and teeth if airway issues are left untreated. One of the most common is the grinding or bruxism that often happens with airway issues. If you are “a grinder” there’s a decent chance the problem isn’t simply that you grind your teeth.
Another red flag is a scalloped border of the tongue. If you can open your mouth and see dents on the side of your tongue from your teeth, you have what is called a scalloped border of your tongue. You also have a 70% chance of having some level of sleep apnea or airway issue. Even more of a red flag is snoring. While not everyone who snores has sleep apnea or airway issues, 90% of the people who snore loudly do. If you have ever been woken up by snoring or can hear it from another room, it’s loud snoring! The problem with sleep apnea is it only gets worse and more dangerous over time, and for some people is fatal!
What Do You Do From Here?
As with any of the options discussed with us, it is totally your choice how you want to deal with the information. Our job is to let you know what we see and offer you options for the best dental care available. Your job would be to decide how to use that information. While we will always treat your mouth as we would our own, and give you the same options we would want, we also want to make sure you can decide what makes most sense for you.
If you haven’t been to the dentist for a while and know it’s time, give us a call and we will help you set up your New Patient Experience and get you back to health and wellness!