The mouth can manifest a range of health issues, including gum disease and caries. But links are now recognised by professionals between these problems and conditions including heart disease, dementia and diabetes. A huge 75 per cent of UK adults agree that poor oral health can have a significant impact on general health and 63 per cent agree that signs of serious disease and illnesses can be detected in the mouth by a dentist, according to the 2019 Simplyhealth Consumer Oral Health Survey.
Links are now recognised by professionals between oral health and conditions including heart disease, dementia and diabetes
Dually qualified doctor and dentist Dr Chet Trivedy, said: “Oral health is incredibly important, and your mouth and teeth can also act as an indicator of the health of the rest of your body.
“If you’ve already been diagnosed with, or if you’re at high risk of developing, a serious health condition like mouth cancer, diabetes, stroke or heart disease, it’s important that we pay close attention to any changes in your mouth.”
As an expert in both overall physical health and specific dental health concerns, Dr Trivedy shares thing things your mouth could be telling you about your overall health – one of these being mouth cancer.
Mouth cancer affects 8,300 new cases in the UK every year, and worryingly it can affect anyone regardless of gender or lifestyle.
Contributing factors including smoking, chewing tobacco, drinking excessive alcohol, poor diet, the human papillomavirus (HPV) and chewing Betel nut can all increase the risk of developing the disease.
Dr Trivedy said: “Signs of mouth cancer can be spotted at a routine dental visit. In the last few years, I’ve diagnosed nine cases of mouth cancer from routine health checks which may have gone unnoticed if the patient hadn’t seen a dentist for a while. Four out of five adults (79 per cent) say they wouldn’t know what to look for when checking their mouths for signs of mouth cancer, and could therefore be unaware of early warning signs.
“Always seek advice from your dentist if you notice any red or white patches in the mouth, mouth ulcers that don’t heal within three weeks, and any unusual lumps or swellings in the mouth, head or neck.”
Mouth cancer can be difficult to spot and even manifest with few symptoms, so it’s vital your dentist checks you during a routine visit.
The symptoms of diabetes, a metabolic disorder related to blood sugar, are varied, but some of them can be identified in the mouth. A very dry mouth, and more noticeably serious symptoms such as bleeding gums, and abscesses, can all be indicators of diabetes.
Dr Trivedy said: “Diabetes is a serious but manageable disease that requires proper diagnoses and treatment. It is important that if you suspect you have diabetes, or any diabetes symptoms, you see a doctor. During your routine check-ups, your dentist can check for symptoms if you a worried.
“Diabetics are at a higher risk of developing oral health issues such as dry mouth, gum disease, and mouth infections, but these can be managed with the help of their dental practice team.”
While ‘dry mouth’ might not sound like a serious health concern, and can be due to common factors such as not drinking enough water or feeling anxious, frequent and noticeable dry mouth could be a sign of an underlying problem.
Dry mouth can be an indicator of many conditions such as diabetes or Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, or Sjogren syndrome, as well as a side effect of common medicines such as blood pressure tablets or anti-depressants.
Dr Trivedy said: “If you get a dry mouth from time to time, it could be normal, but if your mouth is consistently so dry and uncomfortable it becomes noticeable, it may be trying to tell you something.
“There is no harm in checking with your dentist on your next visit, or if you are concerned, visit your doctor. For most people, however, regularly drinking water (around two litres a day) and minimising your consumption of dehydrating drinks such as alcohol and coffee will help.”
Many agree we live in an age of chronic stress, including the World Health Organisation who have recently categorised “burnout” – or chronic workplace stress – as a formal syndrome.
Stress has an effect not only on your mind, but also on your body too – from tense shoulders to an increased heart rate – but can also be identified in your mouth.
Dr Trivedy said: “A key oral health indicator of stress or anxiety in patients is grinding of the teeth and jaw clenching – known as bruxism – either during the waking hours, or more commonly, when asleep. Tension in the face and jaw causes people to bear down on their teeth and can lead to headaches, jaw and neck pain and even damage to the teeth themselves over long periods.
“It’s definitely worth speaking to your dentist about options, for example a mouth guard, to protect your teeth, and minimise the effect that bruxism has, and also check it’s not a symptom of something more serious. Of course, you should also combat the source of stress.”
To read the full report and to find out more visit: https://www.simplyhealth.co.uk/cohs
The inside of the mouth isn’t the only place serious health conditions can be detected. Dry lips can be a sign you’re getting too much of a certain vitamin.
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