The ABCs Of Medical Conditions Your Dentist May Discover

Imagine this: you are in a dental chair, with your mouth wide open while your dentist is checking out your teeth. Your dentist gets very quiet for a few minutes then, suddenly, recommends that you get a physical by your family doctor to check for a serious medical condition. Would you find that odd and do a double-take?

Due to how various medical conditions can affect the oral cavity, dentists are often able to determine when a check-up with a medical doctor is warranted. Here are a few medical conditions that your dentist may discover before you or your family doctor notice there is a problem.


Anemia is a disorder caused by an iron deficiency and it affects the blood. If you have this condition, your blood will not coagulate, which means your blood will be thinner than usual. Your dentist may notice that your blood is thinner than it should be when he is examining, treating or cleaning your teeth. Also, anemia can cause your tongue to swell, which your dentist will likely notice.

Other symptoms: You may feel run-down and have no energy. Your skin may be pale and feel out of breath. Your heart may feel like it skips beats occasionally.

Medical tests: Your medical doctor will likely order a CBC (complete blood count). If you are found to have anemia and the doctor suspects you may have internal bleeding, he or she may order a fecal occult test and a pelvic ultrasound.

Dental care: It's highly recommended that you use antibiotic mouthwash and medication prior to and after professional dental care. Depending on the seriousness of your anemia, you may be prescribed an antifibrinolytic drug to reduce the risks of uncontrolled bleeding.

Bone disorders

Bone disease can affect teeth. If your teeth constantly break or are very fragile, your dentist may recommend that you see your doctor to check for low bone density. Low bone density simply means that your bones are not as strong as they should be. And, since your teeth are essentially bones, low bone density may explain higher-than-normal visits to the dentist for broken teeth.

Other symptoms: One huge red flag of a bone disorder is the obvious shrinking in height that tends to happen to the elderly. Other symptoms of bone disorders may include aching and broken bones that take longer to heal than they should. The aching is not the same as arthritis, which is a joint disorder.

Medical tests: A bone density scan can be ordered by your medical doctor. A CBC should be ordered to rule out other medical conditions.

Dental care: Medication and nutritional supplements can help increase the bone density of your bones and teeth, which should help reduce your risks of breaking and/or losing any more teeth. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may want to consider pulling some of the more fragile teeth and getting cosmetic dental treatments for a new smile you won't have to worry about.

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is a gastrointestinal disorder that occurs when gluten is digested. Gluten damages the small intestines, which makes the organ unable to pull nutrients from the food you eat. Without the necessary nutrients, your teeth may be more susceptible to decay and damage. Also, gluten causes a systemic autoimmune response, which may include vomiting. Excessive vomiting can destroy the dental enamel, which can cause an increase in cavities.

Other symptoms: Other symptoms of celiac include digestive problems such as bloating, gas pain and weight loss. You may develop skin rashes, musculoskeletal problems, and anemia.

Medical tests: Your medical doctor will order several blood tests, including tTG-IgA. This stands for Tissue Transglutaminase Antibodies, which tests positive in 98% of people who eat gluten-containing food and have celiac disease.

Dental care: The nutritional deficiencies of celiac disease will likely cause dental enamel defects that cannot be repaired without cosmetic treatment. Once the enamel is destroyed, it's gone. Since it's important for you to avoid gluten, you'll need to make sure your dentist's office provides gluten-free dental care.

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