As more focus is put on the body’s interconnected systems, the more apparent it becomes that your oral health (how healthy your teeth, gums, tongue, and the rest of your mouth is) often serves as an early warning system for serious conditions affecting other parts of the body.
Take these well-known health issues, for example:
Diabetes is one of the most widespread health problems affecting Americans, and its complications can lead to poor quality of life, and even death.
Diabetes results in excess sugar in the blood, which in turn causes inflammation throughout the body. Compounding the problem, diabetics have a harder time than most people fighting inflammation, so the issue feeds on itself.
Warning Signs: Bleeding gums, dry mouth, gum disease
Because of the close link between diabetes and inflammation, one of the first places where symptoms of diabetes can be seen is in the gums: red, inflamed, or even bleeding gums can be a sign of widespread inflammation caused by diabetes. Another common symptom is increased thirst due to a very dry mouth.
Condition: Heart Disease and Stroke
Like diabetes, heart disease is a major cause of suffering and death today. Among the primary contributing factors for developing heart disease and increasing the chances of a stroke are the thickening and hardening of arteries and blood clots caused by plaque in the blood vessels.
Warning Signs: Plaque buildup, gum inflammation
"The same plaque that can clog blood vessels can form on teeth"
The same plaque that can dangerously clog blood vessels can form on teeth that are not properly cared for and routinely cleaned by a professional.
Studies have shown that if this plaque dislodges from the teeth and enters the bloodstream, it can add to the problem.
Osteoporosis, a disease that results in a decrease in bone density, is notoriously difficult to diagnose before it has progressed and caused damage. Often people with osteoporosis, usually older women, are unaware of its presence until an unexplained fracture brings the situation to light.
Warning Signs: Tooth loss, receding gums
People who are suffering from osteoporosis may experience unexplained tooth loss or loosening of teeth along with receding gums before the disease progresses to larger and stronger bones in the arms, legs, and back.
And much more…
There are many other examples of serious health conditions affecting other parts of the body that become apparent in the mouth.
The health of your mouth has direct links to your overall bodily health.
- GERD and acid reflux disease can cause tooth decay
- Chronic mouth sores can be a sign of oral cancer
- Misshapen and ground-down teeth can indicate stress
- Pale gums are an easily-recognized symptom of anemia
- Inflammation of the gums can worsen rheumatoid arthritis and vice-versa
- HIV/AIDS often presents through oral symptoms including thrush, warts, fever blisters, canker sores, and dry mouth
The main takeaway, however, is not just that our bodies are so interconnected and can help us identify a health problem. Rather, it is to not neglect routine visits to the dentist for cleanings and examinations at least twice a year.
Ultimately, your dentist serves as a line of defense who can identify many serious health concerns early, leading to early diagnosis and early treatment in many cases.