Despite its rather obvious connection, many people don’t realize how much their oral health can say about their overall health. Our mouths act as a portal to the body, and just as what we eat and drink can affect our health and weight, problems with your oral health and can be indicative of several serious conditions that can negatively affect the body. While tooth decay, gum disease, bad breath, and tooth loss rank as some of the most common oral health problems, some less common problems with your oral health could be one of the first noticeable symptoms of a more serious underlying condition. Here are a few things your mouth could be trying to tell you.
Gum disease is caused by a buildup of harmful bacteria in the mouth that can lead to a variety of oral health problems, including periodontal disease and tooth loss. However, the red, swollen, and bleeding gums that are common symptoms of the disease could also point to such health problems as diabetes and heart disease.
When bacteria infect your gums they become inflamed. Occasionally, the harmful bacteria that cause inflammation in your mouth can enter your bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body, which then causes an inflammatory reaction to occur elsewhere. Failing to treat gum disease can increase your risk of developing a variety of conditions linked to inflammation, such as heart disease, arthritis, and cancer.
One of the clearest examples of a mouth/body connection can be seen in the relationship between gum disease and diabetes. When a person develops diabetes, they have a difficult time managing their blood sugar levels. Suffering from imbalanced blood sugar levels increases a person’s risk of developing gum disease. Individuals who have gum disease have an even harder time keeping their blood sugar levels in check. As you can see, these two conditions feed off of one another, and help contribute separately to making the other condition worse.
When you suffer from dry mouth, your body no longer produces enough saliva to keep your mouth sufficiently moist. While a number of conditions can cause dry mouth (wearing ill-fitting dentures, taking certain medications, and undergoing cancer treatments such as chemotherapy), the condition is also a symptom of Sjogren’s syndrome. An autoimmune disease, Sjogren’s causes the immune system to turn against the body’s saliva glands and tear ducts, which leads to individuals suffering from the condition to experience chronic dry mouth and dry eyes.
Whenever you eat or drink something that contains sugar, harmful bacteria that lives in the mouth known as plaque begins producing acids that damage the health of your teeth. Saliva acts as your body’s natural defense against these acids. However, when your body fails to produce saliva, your mouth has no way of neutralizing these harmful acids. This means that individuals who suffer from frequent dry mouth have a higher risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease.
While these two symptoms are bad enough, Sjogren’s can also cause serious damage to vital organs in the body. What begins as dry mouth can quickly escilate as Sjogren’s progresses, causing blurred vision, recurrent mouth infections, debilitating joint pain and fatigue, and as well as trouble eating, swallowing, and talking. If you suffer from persistent dry mouth, you need to discuss your condition with your dentist or doctor.
Individuals who find themselves anxious, depressed, or frequently stressed have a higher risk of developing oral health problems. One of the most common problems highly stressed individuals experience is teeth grinding, which wears down their teeth’s enamel. This can lead to the frequent chipping, cracking, or breaking of teeth.
Individuals who suffer from stress also produce excess levels of cortisol, a hormone that destroys the health of the gums and wreaks havoc on the body. Furthermore, individuals who suffer from high levels of stress are also less likely to properly care for their oral health. Studies have shown that 50 percent of people fail to brush of floss regularly when stressed.
Individuals who experience pale and sore gums, or whose tongue has become smooth and swollen (a condition known as glossitis) may be suffering from anemia. Generally the result of an iron deficiency, anemia causes your body to produce an insufficient amount of red blood cells. Without enough red blood cells, your body as a difficult time delivering oxygen to all of its organs and tissue, which can also cause you to experience chronic fatigue and headaches.
As discussed earlier, tooth loss is most commonly the result of gum disease. However, tooth loss can also be a sign of a much more serious condition. Osteoporosis, a disease the causes bones to become brittle, can affect the jaw bone, resulting in tooth loss. Research has also shown a link to exist that makes adults without teeth more like to develop chronic kidney disease when compared to adults who still possess their teeth. While researchers are not entirely sure the cause of this connection, they suspect that chronic inflammation may explain the link.
Timothy Lemke blogs about how to keep your mouth healthy for Dr. Timothy Harbolt, a Salem OR dentist at Smiles Dental.
Incoming search terms:
- hairless body