Amazing Mouths: 3 New Ways Your Mouth And Teeth Can Be Used As A Window Into Your Overall Health

The separation that used to exist between oral health and overall health was shattered many years ago. Most people now know that good oral health is the key to heart health and contributes greatly to having an overall healthy body. Now, there have been three new discoveries about how a person's teeth can actually be used to determine their risk for many diseases. Here are the three recent discoveries that show you just how amazing mouths and teeth really are.

1. Panoramic Oral X-rays Can Be Used to Detect Future Strokes

Dentists take many x-rays of their patients' teeth on a periodic basis to detect dental problems not visible to the naked eye and get further insight into problems they know a patient is having. One type of x-ray dentists take regularly is called a panoramic x-ray, which allows them to look at the mouth and jaw as a whole and not just one portion of it.

Not only does this x-ray show teeth and jaw bones, but it often also captures an image of a patient's carotid arteries, which are large arteries in the neck. The images can also show calcification of the arteries, which is a blockage that signals a patient is at risk for a stroke.

Many dentists are now paying careful attention to not only teeth problems that are revealed on these x-rays, but also how these arteries look. If they see calcification, they can alert a patient and suggest they see a primary care physician for treatment that could prevent a stroke.

2. Chemical Makeup of Teeth Can Be Used to Predict Disease

Researchers have discovered a way to determine many of the contaminants a person was exposed to as a young child just by examining their teeth. Since teeth begin to grow when a person is just a baby, they can be used to detect many aspects of their past diet, including the infant formula they were fed and chemicals that were in their food as a young child.

Considering that there are many diseases today with no known cause, such as dementia, researchers are hoping that studying the teeth of people with these diseases can help them find out if any of them may have been spurred by a specific chemical or other component of diet or environment that appears within their teeth.

If scientists do find that many people with a specific disease each have a similar component of their teeth, such as exposure to a certain food contaminant, that could help others find out if they are at risk for the disease and help future generations avoid the disease entirely.

3. Rheumatoid Arthritis May Soon Be Diagnosed Using Saliva

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disease that can cause severe joint pain and nodules on joints. Like many chronic inflammatory diseases, it has no known cause and no cure. It is often misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all until a person begins getting the severe symptoms that signal they have it. That can make early interventions to prevent disease progression difficult.

Scientists recently performed a study on the organism makeup, or microbiome, of saliva and fecal samples of people with rheumatoid arthritis. They compared them to the gut microbiome and saw that there were similar deficiencies and over-populations of certain bacteria that were consistent throughout all samples in each person.

Not only does this help in finding effective treatments for rheumatoid arthritis, but it also means that the disease may be able to be diagnosed and a treatment plan even created just by studying a saliva sample of a suspected sufferer and determining that they have the same over- and under-populations of healthy bacteria as other RA sufferers.

Your teeth and mouth are important on their own, but they are becoming even more important every time scientists discover new ways that they can help diagnose diseases of the entire body and possibly even aid in cures for those diseases being found. For more information on how your or your children's teeth may indicate a hidden health issue, contact your family or children's dentist.