It is not without purpose that dentists repeatedly herald the fact that your mouth tells us a great deal. Yes, it will communicate — and without words — whether you have been brushing or flossing. But it will also tell us a story of your overall health.

For centuries, even the physician began his examination of the patient with a look at the head, ears, eyes, nose and throat. He would ask you to “Say aah.”

U.S. Navy Lt. Chris Young performs an oral exam on Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) Airman Quiera Peek aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) Aug. 26, 2013, in Norfolk, Va. The Dwight D. Eisenhower was in port at Naval Station Norfolk preparing for a scheduled maintenance at Norfolk Naval Shipyard. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Jermaine M. Ralliford/Released)Ever wonder why?

The specific reason is that the sound you make elevates the soft palate and allows for a clearer view of the back of the throat, but it also tests the function of the vagus and glossopharyngeal nerves. Doctors have an abbreviation they use to describe this evaluation: HEENT (head, ears, eyes, nose, throat). More recently, health professionals have been pushing for a modification to that standard evaluation, changing it to “HEENOT” instead (head, ears, eyes, nose, oral cavity, and throat).

Thus, health professionals can work together in the best interest of their patients. By performing a thorough oral exam, the dentist will often spot systemic problems and refer their patient to a physician for further evaluation. The family doctor can, in turn, evaluate oral health and alert the patient to the fact that it is time to see a dentist in order to get better.

Anyone following our blog or newsletter for any length of time has already been acquainted with the fact that what goes on in our mouths can affect the health of the rest of our bodies. Studies continue to show the links between oral and general health. By way of review – periodontal disease has been linked to complications with diabetes and pre-term labor in pregnancy. There is also a strong connection between poor oral health and rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, strokes, and Alzheimer’s.

The fact that we perform an oral (and oral cancer) examination during your bi-annual checkups and “cleaning visits” does not excuse you from seeing your doctor for general health problems, and vice-versa. We are professionals in oral health and regular maintenance in our office helps you to stay healthy. So you want to be certain that each time your family doctor ask you to “say aah,” they then say “good job – everything looks great!”

If you have any questions about your oral health, please contact us! We love hearing from you.