It's easy to assume that your dentist will spot information about your cavities, gum disease and whether or not you floss and that you and your primary healthcare provider will detect all other health concerns. However, you might be surprised to discover that sleep apnea can often be determined by your dentist, as can the possibility of developing cancer of the pancreas in the future. Therefore, if you're tempted to skip your next dental checkup, it's best to remember that your dentist might be able to spot troubling, early symptoms of serious health problems during a regular exam.
Sleep apnea occurs when there is an unexpected and unhealthy pause between breaths while sleeping. That pause can last for a few seconds or as long as a few minutes and results in a poor quality of sleep. In addition, it is associated with a higher chance of strokes and heart attacks. Shockingly, more than 38,000 deaths occur each year that are associated in some way with cardiovascular issues resulting from sleep apnea.
As you can see, sleep apnea is a very big deal and many sufferers never know they have it. Fortunately, dentists might be concerned about the possibility of sleep apnea when you mention that you wake up with a headache, are often exhausted without cause and experience a dry mouth first thing in the morning. Your dentist won't be able to diagnose the issue but can rule out dental issues that are causing those problems and suggest that you see your physician right away to confirm his or her suspicions.
In 2017, it is thought that more than 53,000 people in the United States will be diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and more than 43,000 people will die from it. In addition, just one out of five patients diagnosed with pancreatic cancer survive to the first anniversary of their diagnosis and a mere seven out of every one hundred patients are alive five years after diagnosis. Although those numbers are based on the total numbers on all stages on pancreatic and therefore differ from statistics seen elsewhere, it's obvious that pancreatic cancer is a serious and life-changing diagnosis.
Fortunately, there are often some early indicators that can permit you to be aware of your increased risk of developing pancreatic cancer, which can often improve your chances of survival. For instance, your dentist might suspect that you are at a higher risk of developing pancreatic cancer in the years to come due to the presence of a specific type of bacteria in your mouth known as P. gingivalis. Patients who have P. gingivalis are 59% more likely to develop cancer of the pancreas that patients who are free of that bacteria. The same is true of another bacteria known as Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans, as it's associated with a 50% higher chance of developing that deadly cancer.
While both of those types of bacteria are associated with pancreatic cancer, it doesn't mean that you have that disease now. Instead, knowing about the presence of one or both types of bacteria can permit you to be pro-active with checkups. You will also have time to change any unhealthy concerns that might put you at further risk of pancreatic cancer, such as smoking and obesity.
In conclusion, it is important to remember that a dentist, like Little Peoples Dentistry, has had medical training and is a doctor in their own right. Since he or she focuses on infections, cavities and other abnormalities of the mouth, it is often possible for a dentist to spot alarming symptoms of possible, serious diseases during a routine visit. Therefore, it is a good idea to be aware of the above facts.