7 Health Screenings Your Dentist Can Do

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Chris Illiades, MD on July 5, 2021
  • dentist examining a woman's mouth
    Health Screenings Beyond Your Teeth and Gums
    When you go to the dentist, you expect to get your teeth and gums checked. However, your dentist can check for many other health problems during your dental exam. Your dentist can tell a lot about what's going on in the rest of your body by checking your mouth and asking about symptoms you may be experiencing. Your dentist automatically performs health screenings for certain conditions like oral cancer. Others you may have to request from your dentist. 
  • Throat Exam
    1. Oral Cancer
    One of the first things your dentist will do is check for any signs of oral cancer. This could be a bump or a sore. It also could be what's called a patch. That's a thickened area that looks white or red. These signs may be on your lips, tongue, the roof of your mouth, or your gums. They also may be inside your cheeks or under your tongue. A dentist will look at these areas and feel around with a finger. Let your dentist know if you have noticed any signs like these that lasted for more than two weeks. 
  • Dentist Appointment
    2. Osteoporosis
    Osteoporosis is bone thinning that affects older men and women. Your dentist may suspect osteoporosis if you have loose teeth or a loose denture. Dental X-rays may show thinning of your jaw bone. Thinning of the jaw and loose teeth are strong signs of osteoporosis in the rest of your body. Insurance covers most dental X-rays. Some policies have an extra copay. If you don’t have insurance, ask your dentist how much dental X-rays will cost. 
  • Dentist in exam room with patient
    3. Sleep Apnea
    During your exam, your dentist can tell if you have been grinding your teeth at night. This could be a sign of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea involves loud snoring and brief periods of not breathing. It's a dangerous condition. It can increase your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. Your dentist may ask you about other sleep apnea symptoms. These include frequent headaches and daytime sleepiness. 
  • Dentist Standing in Exam Room
    4. Diabetes
    If you have serious gum disease, called periodontitis, your dentist may warn you about diabetes. Studies show that people with diabetes are at higher risk for periodontitis. Having this gum disease could be a sign of diabetes. Signs of periodontitis include gums that pull away from your teeth, loose teeth, bleeding gums, and bad breath. If you have diabetes, periodontitis may be a sign that your blood sugar is not under control. 
  • Young Woman Patient and Dentist
    5. Eating Disorders
    Eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating are common in teenagers and young women. Your dentist may be the first person to find signs of an eating disorder. Eating disorders may cause poor nutrition and poor mouth health. One eating disorder—bulimia—may involve frequent self-induced vomiting. Your dentist may suspect this if the enamel of your teeth has been eaten away by stomach acid. 
  • Jaw Pain in Older Man
    6. TMJ Disorders
    TMJ stands for temporomandibular joint. TM joints are located just below your ears. They are the joints you use to move your lower jaw. Your dentist can detect TMJ problems by checking for pain, tightness, clicking or popping in these joints. Your dentist may suggest some treatments, like a soft diet or jaw exercises. Dentists can also make a night guard to prevent grinding or clenching that can lead to TMJ disorder. The night guard may be an extra charge. 
  • Heart Check
    7. High Blood Pressure
    High blood pressure is often called the silent killer. That's because you can have high blood pressure without any symptoms. High blood pressure needs to be found early and treated before complications develop. If you are like lots of people, you probably see your dentist more often than your doctor. Studies show that dentists can play an important role in early detection of high blood pressure. If your dentist does not offer to take your blood pressure, you can ask for a blood pressure screening. 
7 Health Screenings Your Dentist Can Do

About The Author

  1. Canadian Dental Association: Your Oral Health. http://www.cda-adc.ca/en/oral_health/talk/exam.asp
  2. Oral Cancer. American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/o/oral-cancer
  3. Oral Health and Bone Disease. National Institutes of Health.  http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/bone/bone_health/oral_health/default.asp
  4. Obstructive Sleep Apnea. American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, Dental Association. http://www.aadsm.org/sleepapnea.aspx
  5. Teeth Grinding. American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/teeth-grinding
  6. Diabetes and Oral Health problems. American Diabetes Association.  http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/oral-health-and-hygiene/diabetes-and...
  7. Eating Disorders. American Dental association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/e/eating-disorders
  8. TMJ. American Dental Association. http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/t/tmj
  9. Efficacy of screening for high blood pressure in dental health care. BMC Public Health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21450067
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jul 5
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