What your mouth can tell you about your health

We all know to pay attention to our oral health: brush, floss, and regular cleanings at the hygienist. But did you know that symptoms that appear in your mouth can also tell you about what is going on in the rest of your body? It’s most likely that your symptoms won’t be a big deal, but it’s important to talk to your dentist who can diagnose you or refer you to a specialist if needed.

Red, swollen, bleeding gums

Most commonly this is a sign of gingivitis, a type of gum disease. However, if it never goes away, it could signal:

  • Diabetes — Diabetics have a greater inflammatory response to oral bacteria, according to the Cleveland Clinic.
  • Blood disorders such as leukemia and neutropenia — The lack of inflammation-fighting white blood cells causes mouth sores (ulcers), inflammation of the tissues that surround and support the teeth (periodontitis), says the National Organization for Rare Disorders.

Non-healing white or red sore spots or hard swellings or lumps

On the tongue or mouth walls, these can signal oral canceror autoimmune diseases (lichen planus, lupus, pemphigoid, pemphigus) or diabetes, which affect the body’s ability to fight chronic periodontal infection.

Eroded teeth

  • Bulimia — Purging brings up very acidic vomit, which erodes tooth enamel. Patients and their loved ones can get more information at National Eating Disorders Association.
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) — Again, when stomach acid is chronically flowing back up the esophagus, the acid breaks down enamel. Figure out your food triggers and avoid them.

Dry mouth

The desert in your mouth can be due to certain medications for depression and cardiac disease, but it can also signal an autoimmune disease such as diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, scleroderma, systemic lupus erythematosus, and Sjogren’s syndrome, says The Arthritis Foundation.

Mouth feels like it’s on fire

This can be cause by several reasons, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research: A, C and D vitamin deficiencies, hormonal changes, allergies to dental products, or certain medications (such as blood pressure drugs) or acid reflux.

White lesions

Creamy, white lesions on tongue, palate or inside cheek is a type of fungal infection called Candida albicans, also known as thrush. It is usually doesn’t affect you if you are healthy but it can become dangerous to your health if you are immunocompromised, on certain medications or if it travels to your esophagus or lungs, says Cedars Sinai Medical Center.

Loss of taste, dry mouth, blistering

These are key symptoms of COVID-19, reports a study published in the March 25, 2021 issue Nature Medicine, If you experience these alone or together, go for a COVID test immediately. Isolate yourself until you get the results.

Lump on tongue

A lump can be a sign of oral cancer. It often looks grayish- pink or red, and bleeds easily. says Cedars Sinai Medical Center. This type of cancer tends to spread fast because the tongue is so vascular, so see a doctor as soon as you find a lump.

Listen to your mouth!

If you experience any of these, start with your dentist. They may refer you to another healthcare practitioner who can better handle your particular issue. Whatever you do, don’t ignore what your mouth is trying to tell you!

If you want more information on what mouth symptoms can indicate, check out the American Dental Association’s s consumer website

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