Your dentist does more than you think.

Most people associate a visit to the dentist with regular cleanings and maybe a filling, but today’s dentists offer services that go well beyond these simple appointments. You might be surprised to learn that a trip to your dentist could help you detect cancer or sleep better. Here are 5 little known services that you can take advantage of at the dentist.

1. Oral Cancer Screening

As with any type of cancer, early detection can be the key to effective treatment. Dentists will look for any sign of cancerous or precancerous lesions that may need to receive further testing. While cancer cells can go undetected, a visual screening is the first line of defense and can easily be performed during a routine visit.

If there are any abnormalities, the dentist may recommend that you return for a follow-up visit to track whether lesions have changed. A biopsy may also be ordered. This procedure involves removing a small sample of cells that can then be sent to a lab and definitively tested for cancer.

About 48,000 people per year are diagnosed with oral cancer. Certain patients are at a higher risk of this type of cancer. Factors to be aware of include tobacco use, heavy alcohol use, a previous cancer diagnosis, or a history of significant sun exposure.

If any of these factors pertain to you, it is a good idea to speak with your dentist about oral cancer screenings.

2. Night Guards

Night guards are commonly used to treat a condition known as bruxism, which involves teething grinding and clenching during sleep. This is a common condition that can result in a sore jaw, tooth pain, and even headaches. If you are waking up in the morning with mouth pain, you may have spent your sleeping hours grinding your tooth enamel away.

Dentists will often recommend using a night guard, which provides a thin layer of plastic to protect your teeth and prevent them from making contact. This will make it difficult to crack or chip your teeth and will help relieve jaw pain. You can purchase a night guard at your local pharmacy, but a dentist will be able to provide a custom fit for maximum comfort. They will also be able to recommend the appropriate type of night guard and thickness, so you can sleep better.

3. Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea can be a serious sleep disorder that not only prevents you from feeling fully rested, but can also be tied to major health problems, including heart conditions. Patients with sleep apnea actually stop breathing for periods of time throughout the night. Sometimes this is caused by a glitch in the throat muscles, misfired signals to the brain, or a combination of the two.

If you are known to be a loud snorer, you find yourself gasping for breath at night, you wake up with a dry mouth, or you don’t feel rested after a night’s sleep, you may be dealing with sleep apnea. Once you have been officially diagnosed with sleep apnea, your dentist may be able to help. An oral appliance, which is a form of night guard, can be used to provide an unobstructed airway and help you breathe better at night. The dentist will work with you to provide a customized solution that is highly portable, easy to wear, and a lot less cumbersome than a CPAP machine.

4. Financing

Many people avoid the dentist, even when they know there is a problem, because they don’t have the finances to pay for treatment. Fortunately, most dentists offer financing programs, so everyone can get the care they need. CareCredit is one popular option that allows you to make monthly payments with little to no interest. You won’t have to worry about paying for the entire treatment upfront or having to finance it through a personal credit card with a high interest rate.

5. In-Office Whitening

It is natural for your teeth to lose their whiteness and brightness over time, especially if you love to drink coffee, tea, and wine. While there are many at-home whitening products that can help you enjoy a better smile, these treatments aren’t always the best option. In-office whitening uses stronger bleaching products along with ultraviolet light to provide better results. Your dentist will also be able to protect your gums from bleaching products for a safe treatment.

At-home whitening can be tricky because you can end up with inconsistent results. Often times, traumatized teeth become discolored and require professional treatment. If you are trying to whiten a dead or damaged tooth, you aren’t addressing the larger issue by taking care of your oral health. In addition, teeth that have received crowns or bonding may not whiten the same as your natural teeth, resulting in a smile with differing shades. A dentist will be able to take care of all these issues and provide you with a whiter, healthier, and consistent look.

At Allred Family Dentistry, we offer a wide range of services that go beyond routine cleanings. We can help you protect your oral health, enjoy better, more restful sleep, and whiten your teeth. With financing options, it is more affordable than ever to get the treatments you need to feel and look your best. Make an appointment at one of our conveniently located Georgia offices and get started today.