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8 Health Risks Detected During Routine Dental Cleanings

It's likely that you already know routine dental checkups and cleanings can help prevent damaging tooth decay, detect cavities early, and reduce your chances of developing gum disease. You may not realize that dentists are trained to detect certain chronic conditions and potential health risks during your exam. 

Dental cleanings are essential for maintaining good overall health, and dentists are often the first to spot these eight health risks during routine cleanings.

Bruxism and TMJ

TMJ is a painful condition that affects the temporomandibular joint. It can leave you experiencing difficulty opening and closing your jaw, mouth pain, and increasing infrequent headaches. TMJ is often a result of bruxism or teeth grinding. Injuries to the jaw or misalignment are also common causes of TMJ. A skilled dentist can detect visual indications that a patient is suffering from TMJ or bruxism. A nightguard can be an effective solution for preventing teeth grinding while you sleep. 


Bad breath, also known as halitosis, can be controlled by practicing good dental hygiene at home and getting regular dental cleanings. Certain health conditions, like dry mouth, diabetes, acid reflux, and issues with your kidneys or liver, are all linked to bad breath. Additionally, bad breath can also be caused by harmful bacteria that feed off of food particles when you eat. A routine exam may be your first clue that your body is suffering from an acute or chronic condition that needs treatment. 

Risk of Heart Attack and Stroke 

Chronic gum disease can increase your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Studies have shown that those who have their teeth regularly cleaned and scaled by a dentist decrease their heart attack risk by 24% and 13% less likely to experience a stroke. 

Oral Infections

Gingivitis and periodontal disease can quickly develop if your teeth are not regularly cleaned at home and every six months by a dental professional. Gum disease creates pockets between the teeth and gums where bacteria can flourish. This often results in a painful abscess, which is entirely preventable with routine dental cleanings and exams. 

Oral Cancer

An essential step during dental exams and cleanings is a visual check for oral cancer or abnormalities in the mouth. Like all cancers, the earlier it is detected, the better chance for recovery. Wounds that aren't' healing and white or red spots are all indications of oral cancer. If your dentist does suspect oral cancer, additional testing can be administered to determine if any sores or lesions are critical health issues. 

Misaligned Bite 

Regardless of your teeth and gums' health, a misaligned bite can still negatively affect your speech and ability to chew. Bad bites are commonly accompanied by things like frequent headaches, TMJ symptoms, and mouth pain. Routine exams can help monitor your teeth to ensure your smile isn't shifting in a harmful direction. 

Risk of Dementia 

It's a proven fact that individuals with poor dental hygiene have a 65% increased risk of developing dementia than those with great oral care. Excellent hygiene is defined as brushing the teeth at least 2-3 times per day and flossing. The risk for dementia increases in men who are missing all of their teeth and do not wear dentures to chew food properly. These individuals are said to have a 91% increased risk of developing dementia. 

Facial or Neck Abnormalities 

During exams, your dentist will be examining your entire face and neck, in addition to the inside and outside of your mouth. If you have swollen lymph nodes or swollen thyroid, your dentist may be alarmed. An appropriate medical professional should examine these types of abnormalities to rule out cancers.

Tompkins Dental offers exceptional general dentistry in addition to caring for every patient's health and well being. If it's been longer than six months since your last dental cleaning and exam, contact us today to schedule an appointment. 

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