Whether you realize it or not, your teeth can tell your dentist a lot about you. Like the investigator on a good crime show, your dentist can look at your teeth and almost instantly identify a host of indicators about your health and lifestyle. Oral health and overall health go hand in hand, and how you take care of one can affect the status of the other.
So, what exactly can your dentist glean from your grin? Turns out, a whole lot.
What Your Dentist Can Tell About Your Habits and behaviors From Your Teeth
Your daily routine directly impacts the condition of your teeth and mouth, from what you eat and drink to what you do—or don’t do. Here are a few of the things your smile says about your day-to-day.
- You drink a lot of sugary beverages. The acidity in soft drinks and energy drinks can soften your teeth, eroding the enamel and making them more prone to chipping. Cleaning all of that excess sugar from your teeth every day can also be challenging, leaving more food for cavity-causing bacteria in hard-to-reach places and increasing your chances of tooth decay.
- You smoke. Not only does the nicotine in tobacco stain your teeth, but the cigarette smoke is absorbed by the soft tissues of your mouth, lingering long after you’re done smoking even if you’ve brushed, chewed gum, or even used mouthwash.
- You don’t brush or floss enough, or you brush too hard. Infrequent flossing and brushing allow tartar to build up on your teeth and gums, leading to gums that are puffy, swollen, and red. When you go in for your regular checkup, your gums will be tender and sensitive to the touch and will begin bleeding almost as soon as the hygienist begins cleaning. If you’re brushing too hard, your dentist will notice worn enamel and gum recession.
- You used to suck your thumb, especially past the age of seven or eight. While orthodontics will correct a lot of issues, prolonged thumb-sucking can result in misaligned or protruding teeth that are difficult to completely reset.
- You drink heavily. In addition to its high sugar content—which promotes cavity formation—alcohol also causes dry mouth and poor saliva production, saliva which neutralizes the harmful acids that help prevent cavities, putting you at even greater risk of developing tooth decay.
Your Teeth can Show Signs of Conditions or Illnesses
Problems with dental and oral health can also be harbingers or symptoms of other more serious health concerns. Judging by your teeth, your dentist may be able to tell if:
- You are under a lot of stress. Stress can have a serious impact on our bodies and our unconscious behavior, and that includes biting your nails, grinding your teeth, or clenching your jaw. All of this puts additional wear and tear on your teeth, weakening them and making them more prone to fracturing, chipping, or tooth decay. Biting your nails can cause your front teeth to flatten and level off, while any of this additional pressure can make your teeth uneven and shift them out of alignment, causing jaw pain and discomfort.
- You have an eating disorder. The malnutrition caused by eating disorders in general can result in dry mouth, a distinct pattern of tooth wear, and bleeding gums, while the stomach acids produced by bulimia specifically can cause tooth erosion on the tongue-side of the front teeth, increasing the risk of cavities.
- You may be diabetic or pre-diabetic. Imbalances in your blood sugar can cause a rapid decline in your oral and gum health, producing swelling, bleeding, or sensitive gums; sudden bone loss; increased decay; inability to fight bacterial infections effectively; and/or frequent oral abscesses. Uncontrolled diabetes can also produce a “fruity” smell on your breath.
- You have a sinus infection. Because the roots of the top teeth are in the same area as the sinuses, pressure from a sinus infection can cause discomfort in the jaw and teeth that resemble a toothache. Your dentist can tell which one is responsible for sensitive, achy teeth.
- You have a vitamin deficiency. Increased infections—including bone infections—prolonged healing or recovery, changes in the tongue, burning tongue syndrome, and sores in the mouth are all symptoms of vitamin deficiency. Iron deficiency, in particular, can cause the small papillae—the rough bumps on your tongue—to fall off, leaving your tongue flat and smooth.
- You may have oral cancer. Oral cancer has several telltale warning signs that your dentist will notice right away, such as small spots in the back of your mouth or under your tongue; unexplained bleeding in the mouth; speckled, red, or white patches in the mouth; lumps, bumps, or eroded areas on gums, lips, or other areas inside the mouth; and swelling or thickening of oral tissue.
Here are a few other ways your mouth gives your dentist insight into your health:
- Receding gum lines and loosened teeth from a weakened jaw bone can be a sign of osteoporosis
- The increased progesterone during pregnancy encourages bacteria growth, leading to gingivitis in nearly 50% of pregnant women.
- Acid reflux or the use of antidepressants or mood-elevating drugs can reduce saliva production and cause damage to tooth enamel.
The Teeth Don’t Lie…
…and neither should you. The most important thing you can do to preserve or improve your dental health is to be honest so your dentist can make sure you receive the best care and treatment possible. No matter what has kept you from better dental health—from financial issues or a busy schedule to anxiety or embarrassment—the compassionate team of dental professionals at Dental Depot Arizona is here to help you get back on track.
At Dental Depot Arizona, we’re more than the routine cleanings, checkups, and exams every member of your family needs—we’re also preventative dental care like fluoride treatments, dental sealants, and deep cleanings as well as restorative treatments like fillings, crowns, and dental implants. Your family’s oral health is our number one priority, and it’s never too late to take better care of it.
Scheduling your next dental appointment is easy with Dental Depot Arizona. Request an appointment to find out which of our four locations is most convenient for you. We take appointments six days a week and are always accepting new patients. We can’t wait to see you!