Dental exams not only reveal problems such as gingivitis, cavities, gum recession, overcrowding, and impacted wisdom teeth, but they can also alert your dentist to certain medical problems. Some of the first signs of certain health conditions manifest in the oral cavity. When your dentist sees something unusual during your examination, he or she may refer you to your physician for further evaluation and treatment. Here are some ways dental exams can uncover medical problems.
Tiny Pinpoint Dots
During your examination, your dentist will examine your teeth, gums, the lining of your cheeks, tongue, hard and soft palates, and the floor of your mouth. If he or she sees tiny pinpoint dots inside your oral cavity, the dentist may suspect that you have a blood platelet disorder.
These small dots are also known as petechiae and can mean that your platelet count is low. This condition is known as thrombocytopenia, which may be caused by viral or bacterial infections, certain medications, autoimmune disorders, and pregnancy.
Your physician will order a complete blood count to evaluate your red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. After the cause of your low platelet count has been determined, your doctor will implement a treatment plan. After your physician has diagnosed you with thrombocytopenia or other platelet disorder, be sure to tell your dentist because these disorders can cause abnormal bleeding during dental exams.
Loss Of Tissue Color
If your dentist notices that the mucous membranes inside your mouth are pale, he or she may suspect that you have anemia. Oral pallor, especially gum pallor, can also be the result of bleaching products used to whiten your teeth; however, if the pallor extents to your tongue, hard palate, the floor of your mouth, and the lining of your cheeks, anemia may be the more likely cause.
Other symptoms of anemia may include dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, headache, a fast heart rate, and pale nail beds. Anemia can be caused by nutritional deficiencies, medication side effects, heavy menstrual bleeding, and bleeding inside the gastrointestinal tract. If your physician determines that you are anemic, he or she may prescribe iron supplements and recommend that you eat iron-rich foods. Once your anemia has been effectively treated, your symptoms will resolve and your oral tissues will regain their normal color.
Make sure to see your dentist on a regular basis. Not only will doing so help ensure that your teeth and gums stay healthy, but it may also help identify early symptoms of health problems that can be treated before they progress.