What Your Dentist Knows About Your Health
Learn why a dental exam can reveal more than just the condition of your teeth and gums.
The first sign of oral cancer is often a small red or white spot or sore in the mouth. It can appear on your lips, gums, tongue, cheek lining, or in other parts of your mouth.
"Often, the patient does not notice it because it starts as a small spot toward the back of the mouth or under the tongue and they don't have any symptoms," Cram says.
Your dentist, dental hygienist, or periodontist will typically screen for oral cancer as part of a routine dental exam. By scheduling regular check-ups, you can increase the chances that any potentially cancerous or precancerous lesions will be caught early and successfully treated. Also, be sure to tell your dentist if you've noticed symptoms like a sore in your mouth that doesn't heal, a lump, or pain or numbness anywhere in your mouth or on your lips.
Your teeth may be worn down or chipped if you've been unconsciously grinding or clenching them. This grinding -- also known as bruxism -- can eventually cause bone loss that your dentist may detect on your X-rays.
Bruxism is usually caused by stress but can also occur because the top and bottom teeth aren't aligned properly. You may or may not be aware that you've been grinding your teeth, but your dentist can spot the signs.
To prevent damage to your teeth and keep them apart so your jaw muscles can relax, your dentist can fit you with a custom mouth guard to wear while you sleep.