Not many people look forward to a visit to the dentist – but not only can they detect tooth decay and gum disease, they can also save your life.
“What most people don’t realize is that your dentist can be your first line of defense when it comes to identifying symptoms of broader health problems in the rest of the body,” says Neil Sikka, chief dental officer at Bupa Dental Care.
So what are the red flags to always look out for?
Bluish lips could signal POOR CIRCULATION
Lips with a bluish tinge can mean more than just being cold. “Any unusual occurrence of bluish lips can indicate many things, such as poor circulation or anemia,” says Neil.
“I would always advise patients with very pale lips, oral mucosa or tongue to see their doctor and get a blood test and heart check.”
Gum disease could be a sign of DIABETES
“It’s well documented that people with diabetes have a higher risk of developing gum disease,” says Neil. “Now research is starting to show that the connection works both ways.
“Gum disease and infection can cause your blood sugar levels to rise and affect your risk of developing diabetes.
“Dentists not only look for problems that they can physically see, they are also trained to recognize odors from teeth and gums – for example, the smell of pear candies is often an indication of uncontrolled diabetes.”
Worn teeth can be STRESS
Severe stress can cause us to grind or clench our teeth, which can cause serious damage over time. “It can cause problems with your jaw joint and bite,” says Susie Lloyd, a dentist at Holt Dental Care in Norfolk.
“Damaged or worn teeth, sensitive teeth, cracked teeth, and cracked fillings are all symptoms of teeth grinding or clenching that can be caused by stress or anxiety.
Your dentist may recommend a mouth guard to prevent sleep-related teeth grinding, or may ask you to see your GP for help with stress management.”
Excess plaque could signal a LUNG CONDITION
Bupa’s Neil says: “If your mouth has a lot of bacterial plaque, medical professionals believe the bacteria could potentially spread to the lungs and cause infections or worsen existing conditions such as emphysema and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
So if a patient has poor oral health and there is evidence that they may have triggered lung problems such as a persistent cough or chronic mucus production, we advise them to see a doctor.”
Worn tooth enamel could signal BULIMIA
Dentists can often tell if a patient has bulimia by how the enamel has worn away.
“A pronounced pattern of tooth wear can be due to repeated vomiting, which is indicative of someone with bulimia, which can contribute to increased tooth decay,” says Neil.
“That’s because vomit contains stomach acids that are corrosive and strong enough to destroy the enamel that protects your teeth. In sensitive cases like this, where we feel someone has an eating disorder, we would ask if we can ask them for help.”
A mouth ulcer that doesn’t heal could signal CANCER
Mouth ulcers can have many causes, including ill-fitting dentures, erupting wisdom teeth, infection, medication, malnutrition, or tooth brushing damage, and they are very common.
But if you have a mouth ulcer that won’t heal, seek help. “An ulcer that hasn’t healed after two weeks could be a sign of something more serious,” says dentist Susie.
“It could mean oral cancer, so it’s important to speak to your dentist, who can refer you to a specialist for further testing.”
White patches on the tongue could signal SORUSH
“If you find that you have white patches or spots on your tongue, it may indicate a fungal infection like oral thrush,” says Neil Sikka.
It is usually harmless and can be easily treated with oral gel from the pharmacy.
However, if you see a hard, flat, white area that can’t be scraped off, it could be leukoplakia, which is associated with cancer.
“It’s important to let your dentist know about any white spots on your tongue that haven’t gone away after two weeks.”
Raspy voice could signal NERVE DAMAGE
Surprisingly, your dentist doesn’t just check your teeth and gums to make sure you’re in good health.
“Even something like a patient with a raspy voice would worry me as it could be a sign of nerve damage or even oral cancer,” says Neil Sikka.
“As part of any routine oral cancer screening, which I do at every exam, I always check a patient’s lips, tongue, cheek, floor of the mouth, hard and soft palate, and throat.
“If a patient has had a persistent raspy voice that lasted more than two weeks, it should not be ignored.”
Dry mouth could signal MENOPAUSE
“Many women may not be aware that their oral health can be affected during menopause,” says Faizan Zaheer, a periodontist and implantologist.
“Declining estrogen levels cause the body to reduce saliva production, leading to 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 weakening of the jawbone and, in rare cases, burning mouth syndrome, which is when you experience pain or a burning sensation in your tongue, gums, lips, inside of your cheeks, or in the back of your throat. “
https://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/oral-health-warning-signs-you-26965094 Oral Health: Warning Signs You Shouldn't Ignore As They Can Save Your Life