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Oral health and overall wellness as you reach middle age

People in their 40s and older looking for warning signs of diseases may be overlooking key symptoms in their mouth. According to a survey commissioned by the Academy of General Dentistry, 63% of those aged 45-64 with an oral symptom considered to be a key indicator of a serious health condition were unaware of the link.

It's not uncommon for people not to seek regular dental treatment unless they're experiencing pain. Regular oral exams can catch some diseases in their earliest stages when they're most treatable.

Oral health reflects overall health

New research suggests that the health of your mouth mirrors the condition of your body as a whole. For example, when your mouth is healthy, chances are your overall health is good, too. On the other hand, if you have poor oral health, you may have other health problems. For example:

  • Bad breath and bleeding gums could be indicators of diabetes.
  • Dental x-rays show the first stages of bone loss.
  • A sore and painful jaw could foreshadow an oncoming heart attack.

Your dentist may be the first to know

Starting with middle age, people may find themselves especially vulnerable to developing diabetes, osteoporosis and heart disease. Research shows that more than 90% of all systemic diseases (diseases involving many organs or the whole body) have oral manifestations, including swollen gums, mouth ulcers, dry mouth and excessive gum problems. Such diseases include:

  • Diabetes
  • Leukemia
  • Oral cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease

Since most people have regular oral examinations, their dentist may be the first health care provider to diagnose a health problem in its early stages.

What you can do

Seeing a dentist regularly helps to keep your mouth in top shape and allows your dentist to watch for developments that may point to other health issues. A dental exam can also detect poor nutrition and hygiene, improper jaw alignment and signs of developing oral problems. Share your complete medical history with your dentist and inform him or her of any recent health developments, even if they seem unrelated to your oral health.

Last updated March 17, 2022

The oral health information on this website is intended for educational purposes only. Always consult a licensed dentist or other qualified health care professional for any questions concerning your oral health.