What your mouth says about your health
When you open your mouth the dentist can deduce a lot about your health, and not only if you are flossing regularly or if you have a toothache. Your gums, teeth, mouth, tongue, breath and throat provide clues about your overall health. According to new research from Johns Hopkins University, less than half of adults 65 and older have consulted with a dentist in the past year but regular screenings are important to maintain more than dental hygiene. If you are a man with a chronic gum disease your dentist may tell you that your sex life may also be affected.
An analysis of five studies of 213,000 patients between the ages of 20 and 80 years published in the International Journal of Impotence Research, found that erectile dysfunction was almost twice as common in men with periodontitis a chronic bacterial infection than in men who did not have the infection. Because of the inflammation it causes gum disease has also been linked to a higher risk of heart disease. The good news is that a study published in 2013 found that treating gum disease seemed to lessen the symptoms of erectile dysfunction after three months.
You might think it is just a little indigestion but your dentist may be the first to tell you that suffer from a more serious disease condition called gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), and you should get a medical checkup. When there is a leak of stomach acid in the esophagus, and sometimes in the mouth, it can erode the enamel of the posterior teeth as well as cause bad breath and swelling in the throat, says Noreen Myers-Wright of Mailman School of Public Health At Columbia University. GERD cannot only make teeth more susceptible to deterioration but may also cause esophageal cancer.
If you have bad breath, swollen gums or bleeding, dry mouth, ulcers and loose teeth, this could be a sign of diabetes especially if the symptoms remain even when you take good care of your mouth. As part of your routine dental checkup, your dentist should examine your face, neck, lips, mouth, tongue, throat, salivary glands and lymph nodes for abnormalities that could indicate cancer according to the American Dental Association (ADA).
Government data show that these HPV-related cancers are increasing, especially among men. Sally Cram, representative for the ADA and periodontist in Washington DC, adds that patients should not ignore swelling or red spots on the tongue that do not go away within two weeks. If you smoke chew tobacco or drink more than two alcoholic drinks a day you could be at increased risk of developing oral cancer she says. You should also let the dentist know about any problems you have in swallowing, chewing or moving your jaw which could be connected to the cancer.
Chewing ice is something you should never do, and your dentist can deduce that you have this bad habit by seeing the small fractures and cracks in your teeth. The same applies to chewing popcorn kernels or fruit bones like peaches plums or apricots or using your teeth as a tool to open bottles or plastic bags all of which puts too much pressure on the delicate edges of your teeth and can Cause breakage. If you do, any of these things stop doing them.
Those with bulimia or anorexia may try to hide their disease, but a dentist can detect it because frequent vomiting can cause stomach acid to erode the inner enamel of the upper front teeth, says Myers-Wright. Your dentist can also determine if you are not eating a healthy diet. Poor nutrition can be found in dry mouth and bleeding gums.
Our bones become less dense and more vulnerable to fractures as we age. Dental X-rays can show signs of loss of bone density in the jaw and in the area of bone that holds the teeth. The loss of teeth is also a symptom: women with osteoporosis are three times more likely to lose teeth than those who do not have the disease according to the National Institutes of Health. Bisphosphonates, a type of medicine to treat osteoporosis have been linked to a rare but severe disease that can cause damage to the jaw, which can also be detected with dental X-rays.