High blood-sugar doesn’t cause cavities, but it can still screw up your teeth – and, worse, lead to diabetes. In a 2011 study, Columbia University scientists in the US were able to correctly diagnose pre-diabetes and diabetes in 73 per cent of people just by looking for a combination of gum trouble and four or more missing teeth. The reason: High blood sugar is high-octane fuel for oral bacteria.
Condition: Sleep Apnoea
If you don’t have a wife to kick you, that may mean you’ll never know that you’re a hardcore snorer. That’s risky, because snorers are more likely to suffer from sleep apnoea, a condition in which the airway is cut off by an obstruction. Fortunately, during a dental exam, your head is tilted back, allowing your dentist to see if your tongue slips back or if your soft palate might collapse during sleep, says Dr Young. Some dentists are trained to help manage sleep apnoea, but most will refer you to a sleep specialist.
Dental X-rays can be a valuable window into the overall state of your skeleton. Specifically, studies have linked the bone-mineral density of a person’s lower jaw to that of his spine and hips. “Because patients come to see us once or twice a year, we can compare X-rays and catch bone loss early,” says Dr Young. And before you dismiss osteoporosis as an old lady’s problem, consider this: As many as one in five men will develop the condition, according to a 2008 Mayo Clinic review. If caught early, bone loss can be stopped – and even reversed – with strength training and a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D, adds Dr Young.