Medical Conditions

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It’s important to realize that your dentist sees much more than just your teeth! Some health-related conditions that show up in the mouth include:

Communication with your dentist is vital. During your visit, talk to your dentist about your ongoing health concerns so that he or she may help you.

Your dentist may adjust your treatment if you have certain medical conditions, use certain prescription drugs or are currently undergoing medical treatment, such as radiation or chemotherapy.

Diabetes
Research shows that gum disease and diabetes may affect one another. For instance, gum disease can intensify the complications associated with diabetes by increasing blood sugar levels. High blood sugar levels over an extended period of time are associated with premature degeneration of eyes, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels.

Studies have also shown that people with diabetes face a greater risk of developing oral infections and gum disease than those who do not have diabetes. The good news is that the treatment of either gum disease or diabetes can lead to improvements in the other.

Your dentist has the training and experience necessary to assess your oral health, and to determine a course of treatment that is best for you. Some of the most common oral health problems associated with diabetes are:

If you are a diabetic, speak to your dentist about the best course of treatment for you. Make sure to let him or her know:

Oral Cancer
Your dentist can play an important role in the early detection of oral cancer. Dentistry is about prevention and the dental exam is the foundation of good oral health. A dentist may notice subtle changes in the mouth that a patient won’t.

The oral cancer examination performed by your dentist during a routine dental exam is fast, easy and painless – and it could save your life.

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TMD (temporomandibular disorder)
The jaw joints and groups of muscles that let us chew, swallow, speak and yawn are known as the temporomandibular. When there's a problem with how the joints and muscles work, you may have a temporomandibular disorder or TMD.

The symptoms of TMDs are:

The cause of TMD is not always clear, but in most cases stress is a major factor. Here are some of the things that MAY cause it:

Other things that MAY lead to TMD are:

What you can do:

  1. Relax. Be aware of when you are clenching your teeth. Try to relax your jaw muscles and keep them relaxed. If you need help learning to relax, there are courses that can teach you. Ask your dentist or doctor.
  2. Watch what you eat. Stay away from hard or sticky foods. Do not chew gum. Eat a soft diet and cut food into small pieces. Try not to open your mouth too wide, even when you yawn.
  3. Massage and exercise. Rub (or massage) and stretch (or exercise) your jaw muscles. This may help ease stress, just like it does with other muscles in your body. But be gentle. Too much stretching or exercising could make the problem worse.
  4. Use a compress. Your dentist may suggest putting a cold or warm compress on your sore jaw muscles, then rubbing (or massaging) them gently to help ease tense muscles. For a cold compress, use ice cubes wrapped in a towel, or a bag of frozen vegetables such as peas. For a warm compress, use a hot water bottle or heating pad wrapped in a towel, or a hot, damp cloth.
  5. Remember the saying, "Lips together ... teeth apart." When you are relaxed, your teeth should be slightly apart, your tongue should be resting gently against the roof of your mouth and your lips should be relaxed and barely touching or slightly apart. Try to keep your upper and lower teeth apart, except when you are eating or swallowing.
  6. Think positively. Almost all TMD patients get better, but there is no "easy cure." For some patients, once they know that they clench their jaws, they make an effort to relax. They can ease their symptoms in a few days or weeks. For others, it may take several weeks or several months before they feel better.

How your dentist can help

To judge your condition, your dentist will do a detailed exam, and may take x-rays.

Depending on what your dentist finds, he or she may suggest a plan to treat your TMD. Your dentist may also refer you to a dental specialist with extra training in TMDs. This could be an oral surgeon (also called an oral and maxillofacial surgeon), an oral pathologist, an orthodontist, a periodontist or a prosthodontist. If your dentist refers you to a dental specialist, he or she will explain what that specialist does.

Treatment may include:

Source: Canadian Dental Association

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Bulimia & Anorexia Nervosa
Both anorexia and bulimia are serious eating disorders. They occur when men or women have an extreme fear of becoming overweight. This can lead not only to excessive dieting, but sometimes, death.

Both conditions have implications for your teeth because your body is not getting the minerals, vitamins, proteins and other nutrients that are needed to maintain good oral health and good overall health.

In addition, a person who is bulimic may binge eat and then vomit. When this occurs the acids that break down your food eat away at the tooth enamel and may wreak havoc on your mouth. Translucent and worn teeth, bad breath or a swollen mouth, throat and glands may result.

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Your Dentist Sees More Than Just Your Teeth
Your dentist plays a very important role in your health-care team. Dentists have the skills and the expertise — not only to treat oral health disease — but to help you with all of your oral health needs.

It’s important to keep your dentist up-to-date on your health and medications. Let’s say you have a heart murmur, or have just had a hip or knee replaced. You may need antibiotics before dental work to reduce the risk of infection.

Many dental procedures involve some bleeding of the gums and healthy blood clotting is important to recovery. Conditions such as liver disease and medications such as aspirin, blood thinners, and some herbal remedies may affect the ability of the blood to clot normally.

Your dentist can also spot emerging medical problems. For example, the onset of bleeding from your gums may suggest the beginning of gum disease that could also be related to adult-onset diabetes if your gums have otherwise been healthy.

Speak to your dentist about the relationship between good oral health and overall health.

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