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Could Your Family Dentist Save Your Life?

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Most people avoid visiting their family dentist unless they absolutely have to. If you brush and floss, and aren't suffering from any pain or signs of tooth decay, you don't really have to see a dentist, do you? If you aren't getting regular dental checkups, you may want to reconsider. Dentists can actually do a lot more than just take care of your teeth. Your dentist is trained to look for signs in your mouth that could indicate a deeper problem, and in some cases, your family dentist could save your life.

Regular Checkups Matter

Regular checkups and cleanings (every 6 months) are not only good for your teeth, but they give your dentist a chance to look inside your mouth and even on your face for signs of trouble elsewhere in your body. Some serious health conditions have symptoms that manifest themselves in your mouth or face, and your dentist could spot them before they ever worry you enough to contact your primary care doctor.

Gastrointestinal diseases, such as Crohn's disease, chronic liver disease, and ulcerative colitis, all have oral symptoms in addition to their gastrointestinal symptoms, and your dentist could sense that you have a problem before you know you are sick. Mouth ulcers are symptoms of both Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis, while jaundice, both in the tissues of the mouth and in the eyes, is a common first symptom that something is wrong with your liver.

Because your dentist is literally "in your face," they may spot these warning signs and let you know something is wrong before you even know it yourself. A dentist in Edmond, OK, noticed signs of jaundice in a pediatric patient, and saved her life by simply recommending that she visit her primary care doctor. The jaundice turned out to be a symptom caused by a tumor on her pancreas. Had she skipped her checkup, the otherwise symptomless tumor could have ruptured and killed her.

Untreated Problems Can Be Deadly

It may seem drastic to state that untreated dental problems can be lethal, but it's a true statement. Sadly, the Center For Disease Control estimates that 7,800 Americans die each year from cancers of the mouth and throat. Many times, cancer can be treated if it is detected early enough. Your dentist is trained to look for signs of cancer at every visit, and he can compare any changes in your mouth that could indicate that cancer is present, but only if you get regular checkups. 

Even cavities and gum disease can cause serious health problems, including death, if left untreated. In 2007, a Maryland twelve-year-old died from an infection in his brain that was caused by bacteria in a diseased tooth. Children aren't the only ones vulnerable to bacterial infections that spread to the brain; anyone can die from a serious, untreated dental infection. 

Heart attacks can also be caused by bacteria from diseased teeth entering the blood stream. If you know that you have a problem with a tooth, it's important to see your dentist, and undergo any recommended treatment, in order to prevent a bigger problem from developing. A trip to the dentist may seem unimportant, but a heart attack won't. Don't let your bad tooth lead to a visit to the emergency room or worse, the morgue. Get dental problems treated as soon as you can, so you can stay healthy.

Regular dental checkups and treatment for any existing dental problems aren't a luxury that should be taken lightly. Good oral health goes hand-in-hand with good overall health, so make sure that you include adequate dental care in your health care regime. You'll benefit from a healthy smile, and you might even find that your dentist could play a role in detecting other health problems, potentially saving your life.

For more information, contact a local dental clinic, like Knellinger Dental Excellence.