Most problems with your mouth, teeth, and gums are dental problems, but according to some dental experts, sometimes they could also be a sign you shouldn’t ignore.
A trip to the dentist is not something most people look forward to, yet it could save your life as well as to detect tooth decay and gum disease.
“What most people don’t know,” says Neil Sikka, the chief dental officer at Bupa Dental Care, “is your dentist can be your first line of defence in spotting symptoms of wider health problems in the rest of the body.”
So, what are the red signals that you should always be aware of?
Blue lips warn POOR CIRCULATION
Lips that have a blueish tinge to them can indicate more than just being cold.
“Any unusual appearance of blueish lips could indicate many things, for example, poor circulation or anaemia,” adds Neil.
“I would always encourage a patient with very pale lips, lining of the mouth or tongue to visit their doctor and get a blood test and a heart check.”
Gum disease may indicate DIABETES
“It’s well documented that people with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing gum disease,” says the expert. “Now, research is starting to show that the link works both ways.
“Gum disease and infection can lead to an increase in your blood sugar levels and influence your risk of developing diabetes.
“Dentists aren’t just looking for issues they can physically see, they are trained to identify odour coming from the teeth and gums – for example the smell of pear drops is often indicative of uncontrolled diabetes.”
Worn-down teeth can be STRESS
Stress can cause us to grind or clench our teeth, which can lead to considerable damage over time.
“It can lead to problems with your jaw joint and bite,” warns Susie Lloyd, dentist at Holt Dental Care in Norfolk.
“Damaged or worn-down teeth, sensitive teeth, broken teeth and broken fillings are all symptoms of teeth grinding or clenching, which can be caused by stress or anxiety.
“Your dentist might recommend a mouthguard to prevent sleep-related teeth grinding or urge you to see your GP for help managing stress.”
Excess plaque could suggest A LUNG CONDITION
Dr. Neil says: “If your mouth contains a lot of bacterial plaque, medics believe the bacteria could potentially spread to the lungs, causing infection or aggravate existing conditions such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
So if a patient has poor oral health and there is evidence suggesting it has potentially triggered lung issues such as a persistent cough or chronic mucus production, we advise them to see a doctor.”
Worn enamel could be a sign of BULIMIA
Dentists can usually identify if a patient is bulimic by looking at how their enamel has worn away.
“A distinct pattern of tooth wear can be due to repeated episodes of vomiting, indicating someone with bulimia, which can contribute to increased cavities,” adds Neil.
“This is because vomit contains stomach acids, which are corrosive and strong enough to wear away the enamel that protects your teeth. In sensitive cases like these, where we feel like someone has an eating disorder, we would ask if we can refer them for help.”
A persistent mouth ulcer could indicate CANCER
Mouth ulcers are fairly frequent and can be caused by a variety of factors such as ill-fitting dentures, erupting wisdom teeth, infections, drugs, nutritional deficits, or brushing damage.
If your mouth ulcer isn’t healing, seek medical attention.
“Ulceration that hasn’t healed after two weeks could be a sign of something more serious,” adds dentist Susie.
“It could signify mouth cancer so it’s important to speak to your dentist who can refer you to a specialist for further tests.”
Tongue white patches can indicate THRUSH
“If you find that you have white patches or spots on the tongue it can indicate a fungal infection, such as oral thrush,” adds Neil Sikka.
It’s normally painless and can be simply cured with pharmacy mouth gel.
However, if you notice a firm, flat, white patch that won’t go away, it could be leukoplakia, a cancer-related condition.
“It’s important to let your dentist know about any white patches you see on your tongue which haven’t gone away after a fortnight.”
A croaky voice could indicate NERVE INJURY
Surprisingly, your dentist examines more than just your teeth and gums to maintain your overall wellness.
“Even something like a patient with a croaky voice would concern me as it could be a sign of nerve damage or even oral cancer,” according to Neil Sikka.
“As part of any routine oral cancer screening, which I perform during every check-up, I always check a patient’s lips, tongue, cheek, the floor of their mouth, hard and soft palate, and throat.
“If a patient had a persistent croaky voice that had lasted longer than two weeks it shouldn’t be ignored.
Dry mouth may be MENOPAUSE
“Many women may not be aware their oral health can be affected during menopause,” according to Faizan Zaheer, periodontist and implant dentist.
“Falling oestrogen levels cause the body to reduce saliva production, leading to a dry mouth.
“When your mouth is dry, bacteria can grow and levels can lead to tooth decay and gum disease.
“Menopause can also lead to a weakness in the jawbone as well as, in rare cases, burning mouth syndrome where you feel pain or a burning sensation on the tongue, gums, lips, inside of the cheeks or at the back of the mouth and throat.”
Image Credit: Getty
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