Getting a routine dental cleaning and exam isn't simply about keeping your pearly whites healthy. Your dentist is part of your overall health and wellness team. It's their job to check for red flags, and warning signs of chronic diseases, just like your primary care physician (PCP) does for you. Read on to learn about the top three health reasons you should keep up with your dental cleanings.
1. Diabetes Detection
Dentists are notorious for detecting early warning signs of prediabetes and undiagnosed diabetes. This chronic condition leads to abnormally high blood sugar levels, which can cause several issues in your mouth. Diabetes can lead to:
- Reduced saliva production
- Excessive amount of cavities
- Delayed wound healing
- Inflamed and bleeding gums
If your dentist notices these issues, they may suggest that you follow up with your PCP for additional screening to see if you have prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes.
2. Oral Cancer Screening
When you visit your PCP for an annual wellness exam, they often overlook your mouth, throat, and neck. Your dentist checks these areas during oral cancer screenings when you have a routine dental cleaning and exam. Early signs of oral cancer include:
- Tongue pain or lump
- Jaw pain or stiffness
- Difficult or painful swallowing
- Mouth sores that won't heal
- Growth, lump, or skin thickening in or around mouth
Because oral cancer develops gradually, early detection is key to a full recovery.
3. Heart Disease Prevention
Regular dental cleanings are important for your heart health, too. Having a thorough dental cleaning and tooth scaling can lower your risk of heart attack by as much as 24%, according to research conducted by the American Heart Association. The researchers found that when you have a buildup of plaque and tartar in your mouth, inflammation-causing bacteria not only thrives, it spreads to other areas of your body, including your heart.
The only way to remove stuck-on germ-filled biofilm from plaque and tartar is through regular dental cleanings twice a year. In the same study, researchers also found that by minimizing inflammation-causing bacterial growth through routine dental cleanings, you can also reduce your risk of stroke by 13%.
Generally, your dentist wants to see you twice a year for routine oral exams and dental cleanings. But if you already have a chronic health condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, they might want to see you more regularly just to ensure your oral health isn't affected.