While the importance of self-exam has been advocated by breast cancer organizations and physicians, it is time for the dental community to encourage the public to regularly perform a self-exam on their teeth and gums.
The connection between oral health, aka gum disease, cavities and loose teeth and medical issues such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer is well-researched. Your oral health mirrors your physical health.
While most of us do not own the “mirror on the wall to identify the fairest of us all,” there is no doubt the mirrors that populate our homes can become our greatest ally.
In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, here is a checklist of activities you can do in the privacy of your home to ensure you are proactively caring for your teeth and gums.
• Spaces between your teeth? While we all need “space,” changes in the areas between teeth can be a sign of gum disease. The good news is with a regimented oral hygiene routine, perhaps antibiotics for infection and scheduled deep cleanings, your space issue will be “lost.”
• Bleeding gums? While gums occasionally become red, swollen and bleed due to vigorous brushing or flossing, regular occurrence can be a sign of gingivitis, a mild and treatable form of gum disease.
• Bad breath? Not exactly something you see in the mirror, but feedback from friends and family can act as a mirror effect. Try brushing the back of your tongue with a spoon or schedule a deep tissue cleaning.
• Loose teeth? You may be losing bone which stabilizes teeth. While loose teeth are normal for kids, this is no job for the tooth fairy. Instead head straight for the periodontist and explore the root cause.
• If your gums seem to be moving “down” from the bottom teeth or “up” from the uppers, you may be experiencing recession. While recession destabilizes the economy, it can do the same for teeth. A quick peek in the mirror can help monitor your gum status.
• Tooth pain is generally a sign most do not ignore. But even if the pain subsides, see a dental professional. Though your body may have fought off the infection, the “root” cause of your pain may remain.
• Sensitivity to hot or cold foods or drinks may get on your nerves, both literally and figuratively. As tooth decay advances, it makes its way to the center of the tooth where the nerve is located. Sensitivity could mean you need a cavity filled or your roots are exposed.
• If your mouth is singing “How dry I am,” it may be your medications or “age.” Try sugar-free lemon drops or over-thecounter dry mouth rinse. If dry mouth persists, it could indicate bacteria growing, a telltale sign to head for the dental chair.
Patients often postpone visits to their dental professionals. But ignoring an emerging problem just postpones treatment. Good oral care involves teamwork. Together, we can ensure total mouth care, help you keep your teeth forever, and maybe save some other body parts as well.
David G. Genet, D.M.D. is an Aventura periodontist and dental specialist. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call Monica at 305.933.8700.