When dentists poke around inside your mouth while simultaneously asking you questions about how often you floss, it’s not just cavities they are looking for — and there’s a lot more than tooth decay that they can see.
The health of your mouth, particularly your gums, has major implications for your general health.
It’s probably no surprise that dentists look for signs of oral cancer when examining the mouth. But some far less obvious health conditions show up in your mouth too.
“If the eye is the window to the soul, the mouth is the window to the body,” says Dr. Stuart Froum, the president of the American Academy of Periodontists — dentists who focus on gum disease — and a practicing periodontist in Manhattan.
Medical conditions are more likely to show up in the gums and mouth than the teeth themselves, though ignoring those gum conditions and not flossing can lead to some pretty nasty teeth issues.
People ignore periodontal, or gum, disease with surprising frequency.
“I see people coming in who are meticulously dressed, women and men, who have their hair and nails done, are very interested in health — and these are patients who haven’t seen a dentist in years,” he says.
Almost 50% of adults have some form of gum disease, which is the leading cause of tooth loss and a sign of many other health issues as well.
Here are seven things that a dentist can tell from looking in your mouth.
1. You are pregnant. Small red growths on the gums and between teeth, frequently referred to as pregnancy tumors, show up in about 5% of pregnant women. They aren’t dangerous, but can be associated with increased sensitivity in the mouth, which means that some people need extra dental care while pregnant. “I diagnosed a pregnancy on a women before her obstetrician once,” says Froum.
2. Light pink pale gums can be a sign of anemia, according to Dr. Sally Cram, consumer advisor for the American Dental Association and a periodontist in Washington, D.C. When people are iron deficient, their gums can lose the normal red color and turn pink or even white.
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