From bleeding gums to plaque buildup, dental problems can be surprisingly good indicators of other serious health issues.Dentists are trained to spot more than just cavities: These red flags of dental problems in your mouth may signal a health issue happening elsewhere in the body.Red, swollen gums that may bleed are the hallmarks of periodontal disease—an incredibly common condition that affects more than 47 percent of Americans 30 and older and more than 70 percent of adults 65 and older, according to the CDC. Periodontal disease is brought on by bacteria in the mouth that infect the tissues and create plaque. “Diabetes makes periodontal disease worse,” says Paulo Camargo, DDS, professor of periodontics and associate dean for clinical dental sciences at UCLA School of Dentistry. “Periodontal disease can also make the blood sugar more difficult to control.” Research shows that diabetes is a major risk factor for periodontitis, a more serious form of periodontal disease that can damage soft tissues and destroy the bone that supports teeth. In fact, people with diabetes are three times more susceptible to developing periodontitis than those who aren’t diabetic.
“If gums bleed a lot and are swollen or the patient is having frequent abscesses or infections, the dentist might start to question if you have a family history of diabetes,” says Sally Cram, DDS, a periodontist in Washington, DC, and a spokesperson for the American Dental Association. Diabetes isn’t the only health problem associated with periodontal disease: The disease, which triggers a harmful, inflammatory response, is also linked to a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. These are other type 2 diabetes symptoms you shouldn’t ignore.Eating garlic knots and forgetting to brush your tongue aren’t the only causes of bad breath. In some cases, especially if you already have a solid brushing and flossing regimen in place, a lingering case of halitosis can signal a health problem, such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). You may not even know you have it since GERD is sometimes a silent condition and can occur during sleep. But over time, GERD can wear away your teeth. In fact, research shows that 24 percent of people with GERD have tooth erosion, which a dentist can easily spot. These are other silent signs of acid reflux you might overlook….