Medical conditions indicated by oral health

From an early age the importance of oral health is instilled into most of us, from brushing to flossing and everything in between. But oral health isn’t just about maintaining a pretty smile – about 120 medical conditions, some of which are life threatening, can be detected in the early stages in the mouth.

The mouth can be thought of as a window that allows us a glance of our body’s general health and wellbeing. As a result, poor oral health and untreated oral diseases can have a drastic impact on many other areas of the body as well as our overall quality of life.

Here are some of the most serious medical conditions that your dentist may be able to detect just from an inspection of your mouth.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide according to the World Health Organisation, killing about 3 out of every 10 people in the world. Research indicates that those with moderate or advanced gum disease are more likely to have heart disease.

However, these studies have no yet established if either disease causes the other. It is difficult to make this distinction because many of the risk factors for both gum disease and heart disease are the same.

Another affliction of the heart, endocarditis, can be caused by oral infections. An infection of the inner lining of the heart, endocarditis is typically triggered by bacteria from another area of the body, such as the mouth, spreading through the bloodstream. Brushing teeth for two to three minutes twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste can help to prevent it. Focus should be placed on brushing the gum line, where most bacteria thrive on lodged food particle.

Diabetes is a chronic disease which is split into two types. Type 1 occurs when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, and Type 2 occurs when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that controls the blood’s sugar level.

People with diabetes are at higher risk of suffering from tooth loss. Because diabetics generally have a blood sugar level that is unnaturally high, an ideal environment is provided in the mouth for bacteria to rapidly multiply by feeding on the sugar. As they do so, they produce an acid that eats away at the gum and will weaken the grip of teeth.

Not only this, diabetes tends to slow down the body’s capability to heal itself through a weakening of the immune system. This means that oral infections can thrive. To prevent this, brushing with a fluoridated toothpaste and flossing daily to remove plaque is recommended.

Oral cancer can occur anywhere in the mouth and throat. It can occur in anyone, but your risk is increased if you are a male, are aged 40 and above, smoke, drink alcohol often, or have a history of head or neck cancer. Survival rates greatly increase the earlier oral cancer is discovered and treated, so if you think you may be at risk then be aware for potential signs such as:

  • Sores persisting longer than two weeks
  • Swellings anywhere in or around the mouth and neck
  • White or red patches in the mouth or on the lips
  • Persistent bleeding from the mouth or throat area
  • Difficulty swallowing or lingering hoarseness

Anaemia arises due to a decrease in the number of red blood cells, or less than the normal quantity of haemoglobin, in the blood.

There are several types of anaemia. One of the most common is hypochromic anaemia, which often occurs in young and adult women thanks to a deficient absorption of iron, a main component of haemoglobin. The lining of the mouth may look pale and the gums may bleed.

Seeing a dentist every six months can assist in not only maintaining good oral health, but also identifying medical conditions in their earliest stages. Remember to give your dentist a complete medical history and inform them of any recent problems, even if they seem unrelated to your mouth. Call us here at Dental Care Partnership on 0121 354 1922 to book an appointment with one of our friendly team.