Top 3 Things a Dentist Can Diagnose and Treat Besides Your Teeth and Gums

When you think of dental care, you likely envision routine cleanings, fillings, and perhaps even orthodontic treatments. However, many dentists have special training and a broad scope of practice that extends beyond cavity prevention and oral hygiene. In fact, there are several threats to your overall health that a dentist can diagnose, treat, or manage. In this blog, we’ll explore three conditions you might not realize a qualified dentist can address.

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TMJ Dysfunction Diagnosis and Treatment

Too often, many take oral health and overall health for granted, but it turns out both are closely linked. Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction, also known as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMD), is a common condition that affects the joints and muscles of the jaw. Symptoms of TMJ dysfunction may include jaw pain, clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth, difficulty chewing or speaking, and facial pain or jaw discomfort. While TMJ dysfunction can have various causes, such as jaw misalignment, muscle tension, or arthritis, most dentists are well-equipped to diagnose and treat this condition.


Dentists can assess the health and function of the temporomandibular joints through a comprehensive examination, which may include:

  • Evaluating jaw movement
  • Palpating the jaw joints and muscles
  • Diagnostic imaging to visualize the TMJ anatomy.


Depending on the severity and underlying cause of TMJ dysfunction, the following treatment options are available:

  • Conservative measures: Lifestyle modifications, stress management techniques, and jaw exercises may reduce muscle tension and improve jaw function.
  • Orthodontic treatment: Orthodontic appliances such as braces or clear aligners may be recommended to correct bite misalignment and relieve TMJ-related symptoms.
  • Customized oral appliances: Dentists can fabricate custom oral appliances, such as night guards or splints, to help reposition the jaw and alleviate TMJ pain and discomfort.
  • Physical therapy: Referral to a physical therapist specializing in jaw rehabilitation may be beneficial for addressing muscle imbalances, improving jaw mobility, and reducing pain.

Sleep Apnea Screening and Treatment

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep. This leads to fragmented sleep patterns and inadequate body oxygenation. While sleep apnea is often associated with snoring and daytime fatigue, it can also have serious implications for cardiovascular health and overall well-being.

Dentists often play a crucial role in diagnosing and managing sleep apnea, particularly obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), the most common form of the condition.


Dentists can screen for signs of sleep apnea during routine dental examinations by assessing factors such as

  • Dental and facial anatomy
  • Oral airway patency
  • Symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing

Patients exhibiting signs or symptoms of sleep apnea may be referred to a sleep specialist for further evaluation, which may include overnight sleep studies or home sleep apnea testing to confirm the diagnosis.


Treatment options for sleep apnea may include:

  • Oral appliance therapy: Dentists can fabricate custom oral appliances, such as mandibular advancement devices (MADs) or tongue-retaining devices (TRDs), to help maintain a patent airway and reduce the severity of sleep apnea symptoms.
  • Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy: This treatment option involves wearing a mask connected to a machine that delivers a constant flow of pressurized air to keep the airway open during sleep.
  • Lifestyle Modifications: Weight loss, positional therapy, avoidance of alcohol and sedatives before bedtime, and sleep hygiene practices can help improve sleep quality and reduce the severity of sleep apnea.

Oral Cancer Screenings

Oral cancer encompasses malignancies that affect the mouth, lips, tongue, throat, and salivary glands. These cancers can have serious consequences if not detected and treated early.

Dentists are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of oral cancer and play a vital role in screening for this potentially life-threatening condition during routine dental examinations.


Dentists perform visual and tactile examinations of the oral tissues to identify abnormal changes that may indicate the presence of oral cancer, such as:

  • Sores
  • Discoloration
  • Unusual lumps or bumps

Additionally, dentists may use adjunctive screening tools such as oral cancer screening devices or tissue biopsies to further evaluate suspicious lesions.


Treatment for oral cancer may involve:

  • Excision: Surgical removal of cancerous lesions and surrounding tissues to eliminate the tumor and prevent its spread to adjacent structures.
  • Radiation therapy: High-energy radiation beams target the tumor site to destroy cancer cells and shrink tumors.
  • Chemotherapy: Administration of powerful medications that kill cancer cells or inhibit their growth and spread throughout the body.
  • Immunotherapy: Immunotherapy drugs that boost the body’s immune system to recognize and attack cancer cells more effectively.

By recognizing the signs and symptoms of conditions such as TMJ dysfunction, sleep apnea, and oral cancer, a qualified dentist can be a valuable partner in your quest for ideal oral health and overall well-being.

TMJ Care, Sleep Apnea Treatments, and Oral Cancer in Chicago

Dr. Vlad Fedin and the entire team Chicago Dental Arts, are committed to helping our patients live their best lives by offering comprehensive dental treatments and specialized services in Chicago, Illinois. To learn more about TMD, sleep apnea, or oral cancer, call 312-642-6631.