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Your Teeth Tell All

Better make friends with your dentist, because he knows all about you. By looking at your teeth, he can tell what's going on in your life and in the rest of your body. A good dentist can spot diseases like heart disease and diabetes in their early stages. They know if you have AIDS, osteoporosis or leukemia. And no matter how much you deny it, they know if you're under stress.

Your dentist may ask about your saliva quality, what medications you're on, the date of your last physical, and other questions that don't seem to have anything to do with your teeth. Bad breath or bleeding gums can be a symptom of adult onset diabetes, and so can dry mouth or receding gums. Dentists can tell you're stressed if they see signs of bruxism, the grinding or clenching of your teeth.

Dentists often hear that patients have a burning or sour taste in their mouth, which points to gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, which can eventually lead to cancer of the esophagus, if untreated. "Occasionally, the tissues of the mouth will change. Patients may have red spots on their tongue, which can point to immune-related disorders," says Dr. Glenn Clark. "If you are immunosuppressed, have leukemia or AIDS, you will have things in the mouth that don't look right, such as ulcerative lesions or gum inflammation."

A dental X-ray can reveal osteoporosis. Valentine says, "If I see bone loss on the X-ray of a tooth, it could be they have plaque around the tooth. But bone loss could be the result of osteoporosis. If so, I send them in for a bone density test."

Some dentists say people who have gum disease also have heart disease. "There's been a lot of controversy," says Dr. Craig Valentine. "My feeling is, if someone is not taking good care of their mouth they will have gum disease problems and they are probably not taking good care of the rest of their body, either."

So it's no use lying to your dentist?they know everything about you. There are other people who can find out everything about you too?if they want to.

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