The American Dental Association estimates that more than 164 million work hours are lost every year due to oral health problems and dental visits.
While regular visits to your dentist are essential to dental health, it is also important to give yourself an oral check up from time to time — to help prevent the more serious dental visits. It takes just a minute or so, but this quick self-check can yield invaluable clues to the health of your mouth, teeth and gums.
Here is how to do a dental exam in the comfort of your home:
Stand before a well-lit mirror and open your mouth wide. Check your gum line and the lines between your teeth. There should be no brown lines here. If you see some, this is a sign that there is tartar build-up. Time to go to the dentist. Once the brown lines are cleaned up at the clinic, regular flossing will keep tartar away.
Stick out your tongue. What does the surface look like? If it is coated with white, it can be an indication of poor digestion. This coating also results in bad breath. Use a stainless steel scraper to clean out your tongue every morning. A healthy tongue should be pink.
Are there ridges along your tongue? This is often a sign of tooth grinding. Sometimes, people may not be aware they grind their teeth, but it can happen when they’re stressed. If you wake up with an aching jaw, you should see a dentist.
Take a look at the inside of your cheeks. Do you see white patches? These can occur if you chew the inside of your mouth when you bite and chew your food. These should definitely be checked up by your dentist, because a wound inside the cheek can not only get infected, but also be a sign of pre-cancerous changes, especially in smokers. An ulcer that does not heal within three weeks should also be investigated.
How do your gums look? Are they pink and rosy? If yes, relax—your gums are in good health. But if they are red, it is a signal that gingivitis or gum inflammation has turned into gum disease. Another clue: gums that bleed when you brush your teeth. Your dentist can help you with a course of antibiotics and dental hygiene guidance on how to rebuild gum health.
Pale gums can indicate iron deficiency — a warning sign of anemia. Up your intake of green vegetables, tofu, chickpeas, lentils and dried fruits such as raisins and prunes.