The very last place most people want to spend the day is in a dentist’s chair. So it’s not uncommon for retirees, who have shifted their mindset to a life of relaxation and freedom, to resist dental checkups and procedures. But there are some surprising reasons why visiting your dentist is not only just as important now, but perhaps even more important than it ever has been.
Did you know that dentists are frequently the healthcare professionals who first notice the signs of many serious diseases? That’s right; many diseases present early warning signs in the mouth, meaning a dental checkup can save more than your teeth!
- Up to 20 percent of people with Crohn’s disease (an inflammatory bowel disease) will experience sores in the mouth – often before more obvious symptoms appear
- Dry mouth, bleeding gums, receding gums, and loose teeth are common in patients with diabetes… Plus, once you get your blood sugar under control, your gum disease will likely improve
- Oral cancer is the sixth most common cancer in the US, and early detection (usually by a dentist) can lead to survival rates of more than 80 percent
- The lining of your mouth and appearance of your tongue can lead a dentist to suspect anemia, and refer you to a general practitioner for further care
- Gastrointestinal Reflux Disease (GERD) produces tell-tale lesions in the back of the mouth, often before the patient realizes they’ve developed a problem
- Osteoporosis may be detected during a routine dental visit, when the dentist notices a weakening in the jaw bones
- The early signs of rheumatoid arthritis often appear in dental patients
Those facts provide compelling reasons to attend regular dental checkups, but consider one last, surprising discovery: A recent study from the University of California found that senior citizens who exhibited poor oral hygiene were up to 65 percent more likely to develop dementia. Researchers theorized that this might be due to bacteria from gum disease traveling into the brain and attacking there.
Along with brushing and flossing your teeth twice daily, use an antiseptic mouthwash regularly. And of course, schedule a checkup with your dentist every six months. Attending these visits can keep more than just your smile healthy.