Your smile speaks for you without you ever having to say a word. Did you know that your smile can also speak volumes about your overall health and may even provide silent clues to hidden health problems? Your dentist is often the first to know what your body is trying to tell you. The professionals at Implant and Comprehensive Dentistry in Champions Gate, Florida are experts at “listening” to your smile.
When you are in great health overall, your mouth usually shows it. The reverse is equally true. So many factors affect oral health in ways we might not expect that your mouth may be giving you early warning signs you are missing.
Oral Health Is a Great Indicator of Overall Health
There is no question that the body is all connected and that good health tends to be noticeable everywhere in the body. A healthy person will naturally have a healthy mouth. Pink gums, strong white enamel, and a healthy tongue are strong indicators of a person with a healthy body and lifestyle.
Not surprisingly, the reverse is also true. A generally unhealthy person will most likely experience oral symptoms associated with ill-health. Halitosis, bleeding gums, and tooth decay are often blamed on simple poor hygiene. However, other conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease, that aren’t necessarily associated with “oral health” often show identifiable signs in the mouth.
Some oral health issues can even be contributors to other conditions, a fact well known to anyone that has ever suffered endo-carditis. The inflammation associated with gingival bacteria may even be a prime cause of heart disease. Although the connection is murky and complex, and often cause for debate among researchers, it is clear that oral health and heart health are inextricably connected.
If You’re Healthy and You Know It, It Will Show
Your gums need a good blood supply to stay healthy. In turn, good circulation will be obvious in healthy pink gum tissue. The tooth itself also has a blood supply and requires oxygenated blood. The better the circulation, the better the mouth.
A balanced diet that incorporates nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables and heart-healthy fats correlates very highly with healthier gums and fewer lost teeth. Healthy fats, like those in avocado and olive oil are an important component of an anti-inflammatory diet that promotes oral health.
Fruits and vegetables with bright or dark colors are high in antioxidants that reduce inflammation. Beans, almonds, and leafy greens alone can provide the recommended daily amount of calcium. Studies have shown that people with sufficient calcium intake are far less likely to develop gum disease.
Hydration is essential to a healthy mouth, and drinking enough water is one of the best habits you can have. Our bodies are up to 60% water, for starters. And just the act of drinking water benefits teeth both directly, by rinsing the mouth, and indirectly, by supporting healthy tissue through circulation and cell respiration.
Sometimes the best habit is no habit, as in the case of smoking. Your dental care team can definitely see the effects of smoking. “Are you flossing?” You are probably asked that every time you visit the dentist. But your dental practitioner can tell if and how often you floss just by looking at your teeth and gums. Gingivitis is a dead giveaway. Flossing is a habit we all need to keep.
An Unhealthy Mouth Is an Unhappy Mouth
Your mouth is like a microcosm of your body. Virtually everything that you do on a repeated basis leaves its mark on your teeth and gums. Poor circulation, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and bad habits are all contributors to poor oral health.
Your dentist is trained not only to identify existing dental problems, like cavities and gum disease, but also to know how to identify other problems that you may not think are necessarily related to “oral health.”
Health Problems Can’t Hide From Your Dentist
There are so many ways that ill-health can manifest itself in oral health that a comprehensive list would consume many pages and take years of training to recognize and treat. That is why your dentist is your partner in good health.
Following is a brief discussion of some of the medical conditions that are directly related to oral health and/or are frequently diagnosed by dental professionals.
Pale gums, tongue, and lips are the hallmarks of anemia. This condition is most often caused by iron deficiency. And, don’t forget that low iron has its own direct negative effect on oral tissue.
Autoimmune diseases causes the body to attack its own tissues. The causes of most auto-immune conditions are still debated, but it is undeniable that they have a detrimental effect on the mouth.
Celiac disease, most often associated with the small intestine, causes frequent canker sores and can affect tooth enamel. Lupus can be the cause of not only increased incidence of cavities but also candidiasis or thrush. Sjogren’s syndrome causes the body to attack the saliva glands, causing dry mouth, a contributor to tooth decay.
Just as your healthy habits are apparent in your mouth, your bad habits are equally apparent. Smoking is the single most significant factor in the risk of developing periodontal disease. Not only does the inhalation of the smoke itself expose the tongue, teeth, and gums to heat and chemical vapor, but nicotine directly affects circulation, thereby affecting the gums.
Sugary drinks and food are not your friends, either, as they promote tooth decay and cause the pH of your mouth to become more acidic. The opposite of flossing is not flossing. This bad habit shows up in your gums, where gingivitis wreaks all kinds of havoc including:
- Red or bleeding gums
- Gums receding from the teeth
- Swollen or tender gums
- Bad breath
Red or white spots, ulcerations, or lumps, bumps, and swelling can alert your oral care provider that you might have certain cancers. Many cancers of the head and neck are also identified during a routine dental checkup, as your provider may notice swelling or limited mobility that points to something beyond the mouth.
Chronic Kidney Disease
Healthy kidneys quickly and cleanly rid the body of waste products. Unhealthy kidneys cause toxins to build up and cause trouble throughout your body, including your mouth. Your breath, for instance, may smell like urine or even have a sweet odor. Dry mouth is also common.
Poor oral hygiene is sometimes the first indicator that a formerly well-groomed friend or loved one may have the onset of dementia. This effect is usually attributed to the growing confusion and lack of cognitive function of dementia in general.
However, poor oral hygiene is also a risk factor in developing dementia, with one study finding that daily tooth brushing was associated with a 35% reduced risk of developing dementia.
With its detrimental effects on circulation, healing, and so many other body processes, diabetes inevitably leaves it mark inside your mouth. Gums may be swollen or sensitive. The consistency of saliva may change, contributing to tooth decay. Also, when blood sugar is very high, the breath smells fruity.
Vitamin A is essential for the maintenance of the mucous membranes of the mouth as well as for the healing process. Practically everyone has been unfortunate enough to burn the roof of their mouth on something hot or bite into something just a little too crisp against the gums. Luckily, a healthy diet helps your mouth heal like a champion.
Vitamin C deficiency is a known enemy of the human mouth. Scurvy causes severe gingivitis, leading to bleeding gums and loose teeth. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphate in teeth and bones. Vitamin K deficiency can slow down your body’s healing process and make you more likely to bleed. It also results in lower production of osteocalcin, a protein that promotes bone growth.
Iron deficiency is apparent in several ways, including sores in the corner of the mouth, tongue infections, and “burning tongue” syndrome. Details of that are hardly necessary. The name alone tells you it is bad.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) makes itself known through erosion of enamel from the insides of teeth, especially the upper back molars. Reflux of stomach acids often occurs at night. You may not be aware of it until your dentist sees its effects on your dental health.
The relationship between the heart and the mouth might surprise you. Heart disease can result in changes in gums and bone that alert your practitioner that something may be amiss.
However, the effect of good oral health on heart disease is an even more profound connection. Bacteria that live in plaque can infiltrate your bloodstream through your gums, causing inflammation of the entire circulatory system, up to and including endocarditis: a life-threatening condition that can be prevented in part by maintaining good oral hygiene.
Stress shows up in the condition of your teeth and gums, too. Grinding the teeth or clenching and unclenching the jaw are common reactions to stress, and you may not even be aware of them. Wearing, chipping, and minute fractures in tooth enamel, and eventually, bone loss, speak loud and clear about that jaw tension.
The testing to confirm a leukemia diagnosis is often prompted by an unusual condition known as gingival hyperplasia, or the overgrowth of gum tissue. In the most severe cases, the teeth may be completely obscured by swollen gum tissue. This condition often has a sudden onset and is an indicator that something serious is wrong.
Many women first hear that they have osteoporosis at the dentist. Loose teeth in an otherwise healthy mouth are an early predictor of osteoporosis, as they are the result of bone loss.
The hormonal fluctuations of pregnancy are legendary, and their effect on the mouth is undeniable. In the Middle Ages, it was often said, “a tooth for a child,” meaning that most women experienced significant enough gum disease during pregnancy to cause one or more teeth to fall out during or shortly after pregnancy. The first symptom of pregnancy might be bleeding gums.
But, like so many conditions within the body, the connection goes both ways. Pregnancy may cause gum disease, but research also suggests that the bacteria that cause gum disease can actually get into the bloodstream and target the fetus.
Give Yourself Something to Smile About
Taking care of your mouth is one of the most important steps you can take to maintain or restore overall health. Your dental care plan can play a huge role in you having not only the smile you want but the health and happiness to back it up.
Contact Implant and Comprehensive Dentistry in Champions Gate, Florida to see how much better you can feel when your mouth is healthy. That’s something to really smile about.