Dental InspectionThere’s a lot we can learn from looking into your mouth during a routine oral exam. Not only is the oral cavity a mirror of your overall health—it’s a sort of early warning system that helps diagnose everything from malnutrition to diabetes to cancer.

If you’re not getting enough Vitamin C or B complex in your diet, there’s a clue: tiny cracks in the lips. Insufficient iron? A burning sensation in the tongue. A painful red tongue is a tip-off to lack of Vitamin B12.

It used to be part of every visit to the family doctor to “Open your mouth and say ‘Ahhh’.” Today, while physicians have highly sophisticated ways of testing for disease, the mouth remains one of your body’s most sensitive indicators.

Routine dental exams could help you get the drop on diabetes—which strikes some 600,000 new Americans every year. Early indicators are a sore tongue and tender gums. Which is why, more often than not, the dentist—not the physician—makes the earliest diagnosis.

Mouths can even signal a celebration: pregnancy evokes significant changes in the mother-to-be’s gums. So it’s possible we can confirm that a blessed event is in your future. Your mouth can tell us a lot about your health without saying a word.