You may not think about your oral health beyond brushing your teeth.
But it can pay to realize it.
From bleeding gums to cracked skin, your mouth and gums can tell you a lot about your overall health.
Here, with the help of Melanie Dixon, Registered Nutritional Therapist at Vitaminology, Lucy Gornall reveals five things your smile can tell you.
BLEEDING, PALE OR RECREATED GUMS
Your gums can reveal a lot about your health.
Melanie warns: “If your gums are pale, receding or bleed when you brush, it could be a sign of periodontal disease, which can lead to other health problems.”
Scientists at Harvard University found that people with gum disease are two to three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
Although the link is not concrete, experts believe that inflammation, which is a big part of gum disease, can also lead to hardened arteries, which makes it harder for blood to flow to the heart.
Gum problems can also be caused by poor oral hygiene, smoking or a diet low in nutrients. See your dentist if you notice these signs. Cut down on sugary foods and get the right nutrients.
Melanie says, “Taking a multivitamin and omega-3 fish oil could be a good way to support any nutritional deficiencies.”
A SLIGHT white coating on the tongue is normal, and white patches or spots are usually harmless.
But in some cases they can be a sign of an infection or something more serious.
Melanie warns: “Unusual white spots can be cancerous and should be investigated and treated.”
In addition to mouth cancer, they can be a sign of oral lichen planus, an inflammatory condition, oral thrush, geographic tongue, or syphilis.
But the most common and harmless causes include poor oral hygiene, dry mouth syndrome, mouth breathing, dehydration, smoking or excess alcohol.
Melanie adds: “Minimize the risk of a white tongue by practicing good oral hygiene, drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding smoking and alcohol and addressing the problems that may be causing mouth breathing.”
OPEN WIDE PLEASE
TO help keep your smile healthy, visit your dentist regularly and maintain good oral hygiene, brushing and flossing twice a day.
If you are concerned about any unusual symptoms, see your dentist or GP.
IF you have ever been affected by a mouth ulcer, you will know how painful they can be.
Melanie says: “They are small red sores with a pale centre, which develop in the mouth.
“Bite inside the cheek, ill-fitting dentures, toothpastes containing sodium lauryl sulfate, food sensitivities, infections, hormonal changes, deficiencies of B vitamins, zinc and iron, or certain diseases can cause ulcers.”
Although most are harmless, in some cases they can be a sign of mouth cancer if they are painful and do not heal after several weeks.
They can also be a sign of foot and mouth disease, as well as conditions that cause inflammation of the digestive tract, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis. In most cases, over-the-counter topical anesthetics can help relieve symptoms.
Otherwise known as halitosis, bad breath affects many people for a wide range of reasons.
“It could be due to poor diet, poor oral hygiene, periodontal disease, tooth decay or disease,” says Melanie.
A common culprit is acid reflux, when stomach contents flow back into the throat.
“These acidic contents cause a bitter taste, heartburn, nausea and bad breath, sometimes associated with a recurring cough, hiccups or a hoarse voice,” he adds.
“Being overweight, stressed, smoking, eating too fast, eating large meals, drinking alcohol, eating spicy or fatty foods, and even taking certain medications can increase your risk of acid reflux and bad breath.”
Try simple changes like eating smaller, more frequent meals. A local pharmacist can advise on medicines called antacids.
Cracks on the sides of the mouth can be sore or even painful.
Melanie says they could be due to the condition angular cheilitis.
“This can be associated with low levels of nutrients such as some B vitamins, iron and zinc,” he tells Sun Health.
“People with inflammatory digestive disorders, such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, which affect nutrient absorption, are at greater risk.”
Eat foods rich in B vitamins, such as eggs, green leafy vegetables, fish, beef, chicken, and dairy products.
Iron can be found in liver, red meat, nuts, fortified foods and dried fruit, while zinc is found in whole grains and chicken.
Other causes include low protein in the diet, smoking, aging, rapid weight loss, infection, and diabetes.
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